How to Pick the Perfect Iron Set For You

Louis Pringle
Sep 27, 2022
8 minutes
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Having the right set of irons in your golf bag can make a world of difference when you’re out on the course. Using the right clubs will allow you to not only perform well, but you’ll get to enjoy your day out on the golf course. This guide aims to bring the same sense of comfort on the course to every golfer.

For most golfers, their first set of golf clubs will usually be a hand-me-down, a set of clubs that had been living in the attic for a few decades, or a set you’ve bought for a few bucks at a thrift store or a yard sale.

The following will help golfers who are looking to find an iron set that will be better suited for their needs on the golf course. From blades to game-improvement irons, this guide will help you have a better understanding of the differences between the various type of iron sets on the market.

This guide will help you find the right iron set by:

  • Breaking down the various types of irons and how they differ from one another
  • Identifying which types of irons are better suited for the different skill levels of golfers
  • Providing iron set recommendations for the different types of golfers mentioned in the guide


What is an iron set?

In golf, an iron set is a collection of clubs that can be found in the bag of most players. Irons are designed to send the ball flying high in the air so that it can land and stop quickly on the ground. Some sets include up to 10 clubs, while others will have as little as 5 irons

Clubs in an iron set are usually labeled from 1 to 9 on their sole, with some sets including a pitching wedge as a 10-iron. The lower the number, the stronger the loft and the longer the golf clubs. On the other hand, the higher the number, the shorter your club will be, and the loft angle will be higher.

They are usually meant to be played on approach strikes on par-4s and par-5s as well as when you’re teeing off on par-3s. It must be said that your irons are your most versatile clubs are they can be used in every single situation on the course.

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What are the different types of iron sets?

There are many types of irons on the market, but among the most common ones, you’ll find blade-style irons, muscle-back irons, cavity-back irons, game-improvement irons, and combo iron sets. Each one of these sets is designed to better cater to the players of golfers all around the world.

The different types of iron sets on the market:

  • Blade-style irons
  • Muscle-back irons
  • Cavity-back irons
  • Game-improvement irons
  • Combo iron sets


Blade-style Irons

The blade irons are your typical pro golfer’s set of irons. Most professionals will turn to blades because they allow you to maximize control over your ball’s flight. Additionally, these irons will also provide a lot of feedback in the form of vibrations running up the shaft at impact.

Though they allow experienced players to have a lot of control over the ball, these irons will be lacking in terms of forgiveness or explosion off the club face at impact. These irons are built to allow the players to let their swing do the work rather than have any technological help.

Blade irons will usually stand out because of their thin clubhead and their sleek finish. Models like the TaylorMade P7TW and the Srixon Z-Forged are typical blade irons.

Perks of blade irons:

  • Unmatched control over the trajectory of the golf ball
  • Terrific feel for the ball at impact

Cons of blade irons:

  • Limited forgiveness on off-centered strikes
  • Smaller clubheads


Muscle-back irons

The muscle-back (MB) irons are very similar to the blades in terms of performance on the course. MB’s usually offer a level of control over the trajectory of the golf ball similar to blades and provide just as much feedback through the shaft at impact.

Here again, the level of forgiveness is slim and off-centered strikes will end up more costly than with more forgiving models. The main difference between MB’s and blades can be found on the sole of these clubs. The sole on MB irons will be larger than the blades and will help prevent the clubs from digging in the ground.

Muscle-back irons get their name from the noticeable bump at the back of the club head. Models like the Callaway Apex MB 21 and the Cobra RF Forged MB are perfect examples of MB irons.

Perks of muscle-back irons:

  • Delivers plenty of control over the ball trajectory
  • Larger sole preventing your club from digging in the ground

Cons of muscle-back irons:

  • Does not provide a lot of forgiveness


Cavity-back irons

The cavity-back (CB) irons tend to be more forgiving than the previous two models. MB’s and blades are mostly forged from a single piece of metal as CB’s can also be forged from a single piece, but many of them will be made from different cast iron pieces.

CB irons are often built out of two pieces because of the cavity that is featured between the face and the back of the club head. The cavity serves to provide more explosion off the club face and to offer more forgiveness on off-centered strikes.

Cavity-back irons get their name from the cavity between the club face and the back of the club head. Models like the Titleist T200 and the XXIO Eleven have the typical build of cavity-back irons.

Perks of cavity-back irons:

  • More forgiveness than MBs or blades
  • Slightly more ball speed off the club face at impact

Cons of cavity-back irons:

  • They don’t provide as much control over the ball as MBs and blades


Game-improvement Irons

Game-improvement irons are designed to help less experienced players get the most out of their irons when they’re out on the course. The club heads of these irons tend to be larger and are built to provide as much forgiveness as possible on every strike.

Game-improvement irons are built from multiple cast-iron pieces rather than being forged from a single piece of metal. The larger clubhead will also provide more power off the club face at impact, which can be very helpful for less experienced golfers.

The name “game-improvement” fits well as they are designed to help less experienced, or struggling players, get their game to the next level. Models like the Cobra T-Rail or the Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo have the usual thick club head of game-improvement irons.

Perks of game-improvement irons:

  • Plenty of forgiveness on every strike
  • Provides plenty of power at impact to get the ball off the ground

Cons of game-improvements irons:

  • Doesn’t allow you to shape shots as much as other styles of irons


Combo iron sets

Combo iron sets are a combination between irons and hybrids, or they can also be a mix between two or more different iron models. Blending blades, MB’s, CB’s, game-improvement irons, and even hybrids, these sets are meant to allow players to have more forgiveness with their longer clubs.

The sets are usually put together to replace longer irons with more forgiving golf clubs. Some blade sets will feature MB’s as their longer irons, and other types of sets like MB’s, CB’s, and game-improvement models will have hybrids instead of their long irons, which are much easier to hit.

Combo iron sets have a fitting name as they are the result of a combination of different models of clubs. Some manufacturers will sell combo sets that blend irons with hybrids. Models like the TaylorMade Stealth Combo iron set and the Cobra F-Max Airspeed Combo iron set can be considered traditional combo iron sets.

Perks of combo iron sets:

  • Longer clubs are easier to hit and control
  • Combines hybrids and irons in one purchase

Cons of combo iron sets:

  • The hybrids which replace the longer irons will roll out further than long irons


Which types of irons are best suited for beginner golfers?

Beginner golfers will tend to prefer game-improvement irons over any other type of irons. The forgiveness these massive clubheads provide is their greatest perk. Plus, the stronger lofts of gam-improvement irons also help less experienced golfers send the ball further down the fairway.

Generally, most beginners should turn to these golf clubs. A beginner that is trying to use a set of blades, MB’s, or even CB’s will see their ball striking skills improve in the long run, but their overall game will suffer on the course. Combined with helpful iron drills, game-improvement irons should always be the go-to for new golfers.

Why should beginners use game-improvement irons?
  • They provide more forgiveness on impact, especially on off-centered strikes
  • The larger clubheads provide more confidence over the golf ball
  • They are the lightest models available to golfers, providing them more control over the club head


Which types of irons are best suited for intermediate golfers?

Intermediate, or average skilled golfers, will tend to prefer cavity-back or muscle-back irons over any other types of iron models. CB’s and MB’S are better suited to golfers with a few years of experience as these golfers tend to have a more consistent swing than beginners.

Golfers who have made it out of the beginners’ phase will tend to look for more control over their ball flight with their irons. CB’s and MB’s will provide this additional sense of control over the ball, while still delivering some forgiveness on impact, which is crucial for some intermediate golfers who are still working on integrating various iron play tips to their arsenal.

Why should intermediate golfers use cavity-back or muscle-back irons?
  • They provide more control over the golf ball than game-improvement irons
  • They still offer a decent level of forgiveness on off-centered strikes
  • Cavity-back irons will offer slightly more ball speed at impact, but a tad less control on the ball


Which types of irons are best suited for advanced/experienced golfers?

Advanced, or experienced, golfers will look for irons that will allow them to have as much control over the golf ball as much as possible, which is why they should opt for blades or muscle-back irons. The blades will offer unmatched control and the MB’s will prevent the clubs from digging in the ground.

Advanced golfers will benefit from the added feel for the ball that blades provide at impact as these players are usually able to shape the trajectory of the ball in the air.

Blades are ideal for experienced golfers, but for players looking to transition into the “pro-style” irons, MB’s will provide a touch of forgiveness on the ground, while the blades will require clean strikes.

Why should intermediate golfers use blades or muscle-back irons?
  • Blades offer unmatched control over the golf ball
  • They both provide an excellent feel for the ball at impact
  • MB’s will serve best for golfers transitioning to, or away from, blades


Expert recommendations based on your skill level

As you can imagine, some iron sets models are built to cater to a precise type of player, while a variation of that same model can be targeted to a more niche segment of players or an entirely different type of player.

The recommendations offered below are based on the needs of the typical golfer from each skill level.

Irons recommendations for beginner golfers

Beginners tend to look for clubs that offer as much forgiveness as possible on every swing as they are still in the process of working on developing their ball striking skills. Game-improvement irons will provide them with forgiveness and the power they need off the club face at impact.


Irons recommendations for intermediate golfers

Intermediate golfers represent the largest population of golfers. Most weekend golfers who’ve been playing for a few years already will fall into this category of player. Cavity-backs will likely be best for them if they’re looking to move on from game-improvement irons.

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Irons recommendations for advanced golfers

Advanced players are usually all about control and accuracy when it comes to the irons they use on the golf course.  Just like the pros on TV, these highly skilled players should strongly consider blades to maximize ball control, or even muscle-back irons if they want a little forgiveness on impact.

Shop Brand-New Iron Sets


Hopefully, this guide helps you understand your needs better on the golf course. Putting a new set of irons in the golf bag, or simply replacing your golf clubs, can be a daunting task, but with the advice given in this guide, it should become easier for you to make your choice.

Now that you know what you should be looking for when shopping, the last thing you need to do is to make sure that this new set fits your budget. One of the best ways to do so is to choose pre-loved golf clubs as they’ll offer similar performance to the latest models, for a fraction of the price.

Until next time,

The Golf Avenue team

Further reading

Picking a golf ball can be puzzling. Find in this beginner's guide how to choose a golf ball, how they work, their different types, and our expert picks for you.

It can be difficult to find the right golf driver to use off the tee. Lucky for you, Golf Avenue has a complete and detailed guide on how to find the right driver so that you never miss a fairway again.

Our in-house PGA of Canada professional, Nicolas Drozdoski-Richardson, is here to help with some easy irons drills for you and beginners to practice your strikes.