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Our Job is Your Game
The results of the 2021 Most Wanted Player’s Iron Test are in!
At MyGolfSpy, our job is to provide independent, unbiased and objective testing so you can make more confident purchasing decisions. Our 2021 Most Wanted Player’s Iron Test is an indispensable guide for the off-the-rack buyer or for anyone looking for insight before their next fitting.
Player’s irons feed golfers’ egos. Although these irons can possess phenomenal aesthetics, they can be equally punishing in their performance if your game is lacking. But if you are a scratch to low-digit handicap golfer, you fall into the target market.
2021 Most Wanted Player’s Iron: Callaway Apex Pro
In data we trust. This statement holds especially true when it comes to the performance of the Callaway Apex Pro. With a 0.1542 Strokes Gained, it took the 2021 Best Player’s Iron crown. Its Strokes Gained score is 0.081 better than the runner-up. Quite the accomplishment. Here are the noteworthy data points:
- 1st in Strokes Gained
- 1st in Forgiveness
- 8th in Total Distance
Based strictly on performance, the Apex Pro is worthy of your consideration as a must try in the Player’s Iron category.
Below is the 2021 Most Wanted Player’s Iron Test broken down by performance grades for each iron length. The percentages displayed for each iron represent the frequency at which each was among the best-performing irons for each tester across the test pool.
Iron Buying Considerations
Performance should be your primary concern when buying new irons but there are some additional things you may want to think about before you make your decision.
It’s essential to pay attention to set make-up. As with most things in the golf equipment industry, there is no universal standard for set composition. That’s not a bad thing as it allows for almost endless combinations and the ability to mix and match between models when appropriate. In the Player’s Iron category, 3-iron through pitching wedge is the common set make-up. However, there are some manufacturers who do not offer a 3-iron. Thus, 4-iron through pitching wedge and, in some cases, gap wedge are available as set make-ups. More and more OEMs are offering blended sets which you could use to your advantage when building your next set.
The number of shaft options for irons is growing. It can be challenging to navigate the different models, weights and flexes to find the right shaft for you. The answer as to which is the best-performing shaft question stretches well beyond steel versus graphite.
Go through a professional fitting. If for some reason you can’t, the Mizuno Shaft Optimizer isn’t a bad place to start. The optimizer utilizes gyroscopes and strain gauges to measure things like club speed, tempo and how much the shaft is flexing at impact. It then recommends a list of shafts for your swing. It even makes a lie angle recommendation.
DISTANCE VERSUS FORGIVENESS
For the realist, distance is an afterthought in the Player’s Iron category. However, there are some noteworthy distance performers. Titleist CNCPT CP-02, PXG 0311 T Gen4, Srixon ZX7 and Sub 70 TAIII all display distance potential.
This category is notorious for lacking distance and forgiveness. So take these results for distance and forgiveness with a grain of salt.
Player’s Irons are a premium in the golf industry. Therefore, cost is a tremendous factor when considering a new set. At $500 per club, Titleist CNCPT CP-02 is pricey. PXG’s 0311 T Gen4 also boasts a premium cost ($1,925 for a seven-piece set). Aside from these two, a set of seven will run you $1,200 to $1,400. Sub 70’s TAIII and New Level’s PF-2 represent exceptional value at, respectively, $990 and $875 for seven-piece sets. Aesthetics usually play a huge role in the cost of Player’s Irons. Rest assured that craftsmanship is central to your next Player’s Iron purchase.
During each test, we look for trends that provide us with insight into where the market as a whole is moving as well as what noteworthy changes manufacturers have made to improve year-to-year performance. Additionally, we solicit feedback from our testers. We want to understand what they liked, what they didn’t like and why. Although we obtain their feedback, their subjective opinions do not influence, dictate or determine our testing rankings.
Trends and Tweaks
- In this year’s test, the presence of tungsten is strong. The primary goal of tungsten is to optimize the center of gravity placement and provide stability on off-center strikes. Several of the irons feature tungsten to some degree: Cobra KING Tour, Srixon ZX7, Callaway’s Apex Pro, X Forged CB, Wilson Staff Model CB, Titleist CNCPT CP-02 and Sub 70 TAIII.
- For the first time, Callaway implemented their Flash Face Cup design into the Apex Pro. Their A.I. Technology provides uniqueness to each individual iron for faster ball speeds and enhanced spin.
- Metal Injection Molding “MIM” made its appearance this year. Cobra’s “MIM” technology is the first of its kind and is utilized as a forging and casting replacement.
Notes From The Testing Pool
The following section details subjective feedback from our pool of 20 testers. Gathering feedback is an important aspect of any test. We use their feedback as a representation of what golfers like and dislike about the product we test. That being said, the feedback is strictly subjective. It does not play a factor in the rankings.
- In the Player’s Iron category, looks and feel dominate the feedback discussions. Srixon ZX7, PXG 0311 T Gen4, Titleist 620 CB, TaylorMade P7MC and Callaway Apex Pro were all standouts in the looks department. For feel, Cobra KING Tour, Srixon ZX7, Mizuno JPX 921 Tour, Callaway X Forged CB and TaylorMade P7MC were outstanding performers.
- Titleist CNCPT CP-02 caught the attention of testers from the beginning for its looks. However, in terms of feel, there were plenty of testers who described the feel as “clicky” or harsh.
- Both direct-to-consumer products, Sub 70 TAIII and New Level PF-2 impressed testers. With Sub 70 TAIII, testers noted the looks were great but intimidating and it possessed tremendous feel. For New Level PF-2, a clean, pleasing look captured testers’ attention.
- Shiny chrome aesthetics were not in favor. Cobra KING Tour and Wilson Staff Model CB both received poor feedback for their shiny finishes.
2021 Most Wanted Player’s Iron Data
To filter and compare by club, use the drop-down list and checkboxes to select the irons you wish to compare.
It is important to note that while comparing the performance averages of 20 golfers with varying swing speeds and characteristics is interesting and sometimes useful, it doesn’t tell the complete performance story. For this reason, we look at performance on a per-golfer basis. The overall rankings (listed near the top of this story) reflected the rate at which a club finished in the Top Performing Group for each tester.
Use the dropdown below to switch between long, mid- and short irons. Mobile users can use their finger to scroll through the chart vertically and horizontally.
Expert Tip - Shaft Weight
Heavier steel shafts tend to produce lower launch angles with less spin. Lighter shafts (steel or graphite) tend to produce mid to high launch with more spin. Finding a shaft that matches your swing will help produce the desired launch conditions, and shot shape. Remember to keep an open mind and pay close attention to the shaft's influence on performance during your next fitting.
How We Test
Our mission is to help you find the best players iron for your game.
About our Testers
Over the course of several sessions, each golfer is required to hit 10 to 12 "good" shots with each club. Club order is randomized on a per-tester basis.
Limiting Variables and Gathering Data Reliably
Crunching the Numbers
To determine our rankings, we collect key performance metrics with Foresight GCQuad. After eliminating outliers, we utilize a proprietary methodology to calculate strokes-gained values for each combination of tester and golf club. The iron that produces the highest strokes-gained values relative to the field average is our Most Wanted.
2021 Most Wanted Player’s Iron Product Specifications
2021 Most Wanted Players Iron Product Specs
|Product||PW Loft||PW Length||7 Iron Loft||7 Iron Length||5 Iron Loft||5 Iron Length|
|Callaway Apex Pro|
|Callaway X Forged CB|
|Cobra KING Tour|
|Mizuno JPX 921 Tour|
|New Level PF-2|
|PXG 0311 T Gen4|
|Sub 70 TAIII|
|Titleist 620 CB|
|Titleist CNCPT CP-02|
|Wilson Staff Model CB|
2021 Most Wanted Player’s Iron – FAQ
BUYING NEW IRONS
Q: How often should I buy new irons?
A: While on rare occasions there are quantifiable year-over-year breakthroughs, typically it takes three to five years for manufacturers to make significant performance gains. With the USGA further tightening restrictions on manufacturers, it’s possible, even likely, that it will take longer still moving forward. Our recommendation is to buy new irons only when they appreciably outperform what is already in your bag. Of course, if you want new irons because you want new irons, that’s fine, too.
Q: How do I determine the right category of irons for me?
A: The four categories of irons we test are Player’s (cavity backs), Player’s Distance, Game Improvement and Super Game Improvement. While there is some overlap between categories, your search should begin with an honest assessment of your skill level (handicap) as well as what you need in your game. While there are always exceptions, if your handicap is above 10 and ball striking is not a legitimate strength, consider Game Improvement or Super Game Improvement. For more skilled players who hit the ball more consistently, a set of Player’s or Player’s Distance irons may benefit your game the most. For those on the bubble, especially for those seeking a few more yards, the Player’s Distance category could be ideal.
Q: Does the shaft matter?
A: Absolutely. While changes to spin and launch differences are rarely massive, shaft changes frequently lead to improved accuracy, tighter dispersion and greater overall consistency.
Q: What should I look for when testing irons?
A: While golfers have been conditioned to consider distance to the exclusion of nearly everything else, even within the Player’s Iron category, we recommend looking at the little numbers and looking for small circles. When comparing metrics like distance and ball speed, be sure to look at your standard deviations (the small numbers usually found under the big ones on the launch monitor data screen). Smaller numbers mean better consistency which will usually mean more than an extra yard or two on the golf course. Similarly, look for tighter dispersion ellipses (small circles). We can’t overstate the importance of consistency with irons.
Q: How are the irons in the test fitted to each golfer?
A: We use a fitting process that we call fit from stock. Irons are fitted to each tester using the stock, no up-charge options from each manufacturer. We test one short iron, one mid iron and one long iron from each set. While there are no irons in our testing that feature adjustability, we fit to flex for each tester in the pool. Occasionally, manufacturers will send multiple sets with different stock shafts that we can utilize to improve launch conditions.
Q: How do you determine in which category to test a given set of irons?
A: To ensure that we’re testing irons as alike as designers allow for, in addition to the design of the head itself (profile, sole width, etc.), we sort by length and loft. Our goal is to keep differences as minimal as possible within any test cohort. When an iron reasonably fits in more than one category, we defer to the manufacturer’s category choice.
Q: How is the 2021 Most Wanted Player’s Iron Determined?
A: To determine our rankings, we collect key performance metrics with Foresight GCQuad Launch Monitors. After eliminating outliers, we utilize a proprietary methodology to calculate Strokes Gained values for each combination of tester and golf club. The iron that produces the highest Strokes Gained values relative to the field average is our Most Wanted.
Q: How is the “longest” iron determined?
A: The process to determine the longest Player’s Iron is similar to how we arrive at our overall rankings. For distance, our critical metric is Total Yards. We identify the iron that produced the most total yards with the long and middle irons relative to the field average.
Q: How is the “Most Forgiving” iron determined?
A: We’ve taken a practical approach to forgiveness. The club for which Strokes Gained values for the best shots are closest to the Strokes Gained value for the worst shots (relative to the field average) is the Most Forgiving.
Q: You discuss subjective feedback for things like looks, sound and feel. How much do those ratings factor into your rankings?
A: ZERO. Our rankings are based purely on launch monitor data and quantifiable performance metrics.