Last month, we asked you take our Iron Satisfaction Survey. The questions were basically the same as our Driver Buying Survey because the objective was the same. We wanted to understand if buyers of some brands were more satisfied than those who bought others and, based on the results of the driver survey, what role fitting plays in satisfaction. Along the way, we found plenty of other interesting tidbits which we’re excited to share with you today.

In total, more than 10,000 (10,073 to be precise) of you took the survey. Here’s what you told us.

The Demo Experience

There are a few things of note in the results.

  • As was the case with drivers, golfers will most typically demo three iron models before buying.
  • Nearly 15 percent of you bought irons without demoing anything. It’s a lower percentage than we saw with drivers but it’s still shocking (to me anyway).
  • More than 15 percent of you tried more than five irons before buying. That’s kind of awesome.

Top Demoed Brands

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the brands you tried before buying.

  • As was the case with our driver survey, TaylorMade and Callaway are the brands you tried most often.
  • Among our readers, Mizuno is tried more often than PING and Titleist.
  • Srixon is perhaps a bit of a surprise to some in the sixth position. It shouldn’t be. If you know, you know.

The bigger picture mirrors what we saw in the driver survey results. The biggest brands are tried more often (each of the top five brands is demoed at better than two times the rate of the sixth and seventh most popular brands). Ultimately, this again shows that smaller brands, with the exception of Mizuno (among our readers, anyway) often aren’t given the opportunity to earn a spot in golfers’ bags.

What You Bought

Knowing what we know about who is in the demo conversation, we would expect conversation rates to be higher for the bigger brands. Here’s what you bought most recently.

  • While Callaway is the current market leader as a whole, Mizuno is the most popular iron brand among our readers.
  • This isn’t surprising as Mizuno has over-indexed in absolutely every iron survey we’ve ever done. Our readers have a strong Mizuno bias (and that’s OK).
  • TaylorMade and PING hold their own.
  • Despite the relative success of its ONE Length offerings, COBRA trails PXG and Srixon among our readers.
  • Sub 70 not only tops the list of direct-to-consumer brands but also outperforms several mainstream brands including Tour Edge and Cleveland.
  • Worth a passing mention: an astonishing 41 percent of you reported buying new irons within the last year.

Who is Playing What

As a slight aside from the focus of our survey, we decided to look at the category of irons purchased by handicap. There’s some good stuff to be found here.

  • Way too many of you are playing blades, including almost 10 percent of 5-10 handicaps and five percent of 10-15 handicaps.
  • For the most part, iron category selection follows a logical progression. As handicap increases, golfers rightfully choose more forgiving clubs.
  • Player’s distance irons are the exception as they follow a normal distribution (bell curve).
  • Player’s distance irons were chosen most often by golfers in the 5.1-10 and 10.1-15 ranges, with usage rates falling as handicaps both increase and decrease from there.
  • This suggests that player’s distance irons, while not as popular with better players, work well for average golfers.

Iron Satisfaction

Now that we understand what you bought, it’s time to move on to the meat of the survey. Ultimately, while what you bought is important, this survey was about understanding how satisfied you are with your purchase.

To arrive at those answers, we asked a series of questions.

First, we asked about the extent to which your irons have met your expectations. To keep charts clean, we’ve limited the display to the top 10 most popular brands.

  • Direct-to-consumer brand Sub 70 tops the chart with the most satisfied customers with fewer than 1.5 percent of buyers saying the irons have not at all lived up to expectations.
  • This isn’t particularly surprising given the company’s reputation for outstanding customer service with a personal touch.
  • This is similar to what we saw with our golf ball survey. Purchasers of direct-to-consumer golf products are often exceptionally brand loyal.
  • Mizuno leads among mainstream brands with 69 percent saying the irons met or exceeded every expectation.
  • Only Callaway had less than 55 percent report having expectations not met or exceeded. This likely says less about Callaway than it does the off-the-rack buying experience.

When we asked in what way irons failed to meet expectations, the most common complaint is simply that the performance gains don’t justify the cost. Forgiveness was next on this list. Other common complaints included inconsistent distance (fliers and on mis-hits) and launch characteristics not being quite right.

If You Had It To Do All Over Again …

Next, we asked how likely you’d be to buy the same set of irons.

  • As you might expect given the results of the previous question, Sub 70 buyers were most likely to buy the same set of irons.
  • Srixon was next followed by PXG and then Mizuno.

We again shouldn’t be surprised by what at first glance looks like a poor result for industry leaders Callaway and TaylorMade. Those are the brands purchased most often by off-the-rack buyers and so the lack of satisfaction is almost certainly traceable to a lack of fitting.

Overall Satisfaction

Finally, we asked the classic Net Promoter Score Question: How likely are you to recommend your irons to a friend or colleague?

  • The trend continues. DTC brand Sub 70 leads the pack followed by smaller brands Srixon and Mizuno.
  • The Net Promoter Score for PXG was more favorable than both PING and Titleist.
  • Among top-10 brands, Callaway, TaylorMade and COBRA had the lowest satisfaction ratings.

Fitting

As we learned from the driver survey, there are other factors beyond brand that contribute to consumer satisfaction. Many of the most interesting insights can, again, be found around fitting.

Were You Fitted?

Early in the survey, we asked about the level of fitting associated with your purchase.

  • 22 percent of you report buying irons without trying. While I think that’s too high, it’s seven percentage points lower than it was for drivers.
  • 21 percent of you report demoing clubs but not going through a fitting. The number of DIYers is about seven percentage points less than reported with drivers.
  • 56 percent of you report being fitted for your irons. This is 13 percentage points higher than it was for drivers.

Next, we look at your iron purchases based on your level of fitting.

  • Among non-DTC brands, COBRA had the highest percentage of “no fitting” buyers. This certainly helps explain the lower satisfaction rates.
  • Mizuno, PING, Titleist and PXG have a higher percentage of buyers who were fitted than not.
  • Callaway and TaylorMade are bought most often after demoing without a full fitting.
  • If you’re buying a brand we didn’t list, you’re probably not getting fitted for it.

Circling back to our question about irons meeting (or not meeting) expectations, there are a few additional insights to be gleaned, though they mostly mirror what we learned from our driver survey.

  • Golfers who were fitted for their irons are more likely to say they met or exceeded expectations.
  • The likelihood of purchasing the same irons again is roughly the same for golfers who demoed and golfers who bought without trying.
  • Golfers who went through a fitting process are significantly more likely to purchase the same clubs again.
  • Finally, looking again at Net Promoter Score, golfers who get fitted are almost twice as likely to recommend their irons than those who didn’t.

Does the Fitting Location Matter?

Next, we took a closer look at what role fitting location may play in golfer satisfaction.

First, we needed to know where golfers got fitted for their irons.

  • While we added two new options (Golftec and 2nd Swing), the results suggest buying locations don’t vary much based on the club(s) being purchased.
  • While it’s still at the end of the chart, we did see a slightly higher percentage of golfers fit at TXG.

To get a sense of your satisfaction with your fitting experiences, we asked how likely you would be to recommend your fitting locations. (Note: We’ve limited the results to those locations which were listed more than 30 times.)

  • While the sample size is just large enough to be included, the bottom line is that golfers fitted at TXG are the most satisfied with their irons.
  • Golfers fitted at manufacturer facilities like TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) and PXG are also extremely satisfied, though perhaps not TXG-satisfied.
  • Among custom-fitting chains, Club Champion shoppers are the least satisfied. This was the case in the driver satisfaction survey as well.
  • Big Box retailer customers were so dissatisfied that the Net Promoter Score is actually a negative number.

Lastly, based on fitting location, we looked at how likely golfers were to buy same irons again.

  • Golfers fit at OEM facilities were the most likely to buy the same irons.
  • Cool Clubs and True Spec led among premium customer fitters.
  • Those two, along with TXG, had very few buyers who said they definitely wouldn’t buy the same irons.
  • Club Champion had the lowest likelihood of repeat buyers among the custom-fitting chains.

Other Insights

Here are a few other interesting nuggets from the survey.

  • More than 20 percent of respondents spent between $1,000 and $1,200 on their irons.
  • “Pleasant Sound and Feel” was listed most often among factors influencing the purchasing decision.
  • Forgiveness was the performance factor cited most often, followed by accuracy.
  • Sixty-eight percent of fittings were done indoors. Outdoor fittings have higher satisfaction rates, though it’s not substantially higher.
  • As was the case with the driver survey, golfers who spend the most money (more than $2,500) are most likely to be satisfied.
  • Satisfaction rates are generally lowest below the $600 price point.
  • As we saw in the driver survey, the better the golfer, the more likely they are to be fitted for irons and, ultimately, to be satisfied with the purchase.