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Our Job Is Your Game
In 2020, Most Wanted Testing hit a roadblock due to COVID-19. It impacted our testing schedules and hindered the completion of four tests. Today, we are releasing the most comprehensive Utility Iron Test for 2021.
At MyGolfSpy, our job is to provide independent, unbiased and objective testing so you can make more confident purchasing decisions. Our 2021 Most Wanted Utility Iron Test is an indispensable guide for the off-the-rack buyer or for anyone looking for insight before their next fitting.
Let’s take a look at the Best Utility Irons for 2021!
2021 Best Utility Iron: Srixon ZX
- 1st in Strokes Gained
- 2nd in Forgiveness
- 7th in Total Distance
With tremendous consistency, the ZX offers reliability as a utility iron. Utility irons may not be most consumers’ first choice. However, the Srixon ZX might be worth your consideration. Whether you are looking for a long iron replacement or strictly a “driving iron,” the ZX might be the golden ticket.
Utility Iron Buying Considerations
Performance should be your primary concern when buying a new utility iron but there are some additional factors you may want to consider before you make your purchasing decision.
Utility Irons Versus Long Irons
Long irons are a constant in the golf world. However, do you struggle to hit your 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-iron consistently? Most golfers will likely answer with an emphatic “yes.” Utility irons offer more forgiveness than long irons. With wider soles and lower and deeper centers of gravity, utility irons can create more optimum ball flights. Be careful, though. With more optimum ball flight, you may see an increase in carry distance. Be sure to pay attention to your lofts to ensure efficient yardage gapping.
Utility Irons Versus Hybrids
For years, hybrids have served as long iron replacements. However, there are still golfers who prefer the traditional “long iron” look. Well, for those enthusiasts, switching to a utility iron may be the best option. Most hybrids are draw biased. For those that hate a hook, a utility iron might be the better alternative. Also, if you are a golfer with a steeper angle of attack, utility irons may serve you well. Their tendency is to produce a lower, more penetrating ball flight. So, be mindful of your gapping since hybrids tend to launch higher and may result in more carry distance than the utility iron.
Utility Irons Versus Fairway Woods
Arguably, fairway woods are most golfers’ kryptonite. They are one of the most difficult golf clubs to hit consistently. Utility irons offer a lifeline replacement for fairway woods. The downside: Most utility irons only offer, at their lowest, 16 degree of loft. Therefore, they are unlikely candidates as a 3-wood replacement. However, they can be used as direct replacements for 5-woods. Golfers with a steeper angle of attack may benefit from a utility iron. A utility iron offers a sleeker look, more workability and, potentially, more forgiveness than a 5-wood. Typically, utility irons will launch lower and fly shorter than a 5-wood so bear that in mind before you consider the switch.
Yardage gapping is a key ingredient throughout your golf bag. Even more so, proper gapping is essential when implementing utility irons. Each manufacturer offers a plethora of loft options for their utility irons. COBRA’s KING Utility offers an adjustable hosel to get even more dialed in. Go through a fitting to determine the appropriate lofts in your utility iron when replacing your long irons. You may want to utilize a utility iron as an “off the tee” option as well. Make sure your “2-iron” or “3 -ron” driving iron produces optimal launch conditions.
Throughout Most Wanted Testing, we emphasize shaft selection. It plays a vital role in the performance of a club. Whether it is steel or graphite, there is a correct shaft for each individual. Go through a professional fitting and thoroughly analyze whether a golf shaft is right for your swing characteristics. Things to consider are shaft flex, bend profile and weighting. Each can play a significant role in the club’s performance.
In this year’s test, there is one adjustable utility iron, the COBRA KING Utility. In our 2019 Most Wanted Utility Iron Test, we saw four adjustable utility irons, quite the change in a few years’ time. Having an adjustable hosel provides a unique opportunity to add or decrease loft and, in COBRA’s case, a draw option.
During each test, we look for trends that provide 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
- As mentioned, the COBRA KING Utility is the lone adjustable utility iron in this year’s test. The 3-iron Utility comes stock at 19.5 degrees with eight different hosel settings. A 2-iron utility is available strictly through custom at 17.5 degrees.
- Hollow-body designs are becoming a constant in utility irons. The likes of Wilson Staff Model, COBRA KING Utility, Taylormade’s UDI and DHY, Cleveland Launcher UHX, Tour Edge Exotics EXS 220 TI and Titleist U505 all feature hollow-body construction.
- PING and COBRA both offer Arccos usability with their G425 Crossover and KING Utility. This feature is quite common in both manufacturers’ line-ups.
What's the deal with hollow-body design?
One of the few design characteristics common to every utility iron tested, it's that they're either hollow-body or hollow with some sort of filling. The idea behind hollow-body technology is simple - leverage the most beneficial design properties of metalwoods (hollow, thin face, lightweight) and blend them with something that closely resembles an iron. The multi-piece construction of Hollow-body irons gives equipment designers greater opportunities to increase ball speed and strategically move weight around (Tungsten anyone?) to increase launch angles boost MOI while still retaining the look that many golfers prefer in their long game clubs.
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.
- Not only did Srixon ZX perform well in strokes gained, it received much praise from the testing pool. According to the tester pool, feel and looks are phenomenal. However, many were not fond of the acoustics.
- For looks, testers were greatly surprised by the Ben Hogan UiHi. The traditional iron look is pleasing.
- From the testers’ perspectives, the Callaway 21′ X Forged UT is a wonderful blend of looks, feel and performance.
- Despite exceptional distance performance, testers were not keen on the bulkier design of the TaylorMade DHY.
2021 Most Wanted Utility Irons Data
To filter and compare by club, use the drop-down list and checkboxes to select the only the drivers you wish to compare. Please keep in mind that the averages are from 20 testers across a wide range of swing speeds and ability levels.
EXPERT TIP - A TRUE Utility Iron
The word utility is defined as - "useful, especially through being able to perform several functions." That's exactly what you should expect from a true utility iron. We've stated before, every club in your bag should have a purpose, but that doesn't mean every club needs to be a one-trick pony. A versatile utility iron can serve you well in any number of the conditions you'll invariably face on the golf course.
If you need to hit it low, can you hit a utility low, or hook it around a tree? Conversely, if you need to float one to hit a green, can you do that too? Given the rapidly increasing number and variety of utility irons hitting the market, there's almost certainly one out there that will suit your playing style. Make sure to assess your game to determine which utility will work best for you.
How We Test
Our mission is to help you find the best utility 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 Utility Iron Product Specs
|Product||Stated Loft||Measured Loft*||Lie Angle||Length||Swingweight|
|Ben Hogan UiHI|
|Callaway 21' X Forged UT|
|Cleveland Launcher UHX|
|Cobra KING Utility|
|New Level NLU-01|
|PING G425 Crossover|
|Srixon ZX Utility|
|Sub 70 699 U PRO|
|TaylorMade SIM DHY|
|TaylorMade SIM UDI|
|Tour Edge EXS 220 TI|
|Wilson Staff Model Utility|
* denotes measured value vs. manufacturer’s stated spec.
BEST FORGIVENESS - COBRA KING UTILITY
Utility Irons are multi-purposeful. Whether you are replacing a long iron, a hybrid, or fairway wood, they can be the perfect choice to fill a gap in your bag. With that, you want consistency and accuracy. The Cobra KING Utility is the best utility iron for forgiveness. Accuracy and consistency are great to strive for. Check out the KING Utility.
BUYING A NEW UTILITY IRON
Q: When should I buy a new utility iron?
A: In most categories, it typically takes three to five years for manufacturers to make any significant performance gains. This is especially true in the utility category where performance breakthroughs are rare. A good bit of what changes comes down to shaping and cosmetics and, while that can alter performance from one iteration to the next, little in the way of revolutionary technology finds its way into the category. Our recommendation is to buy a new utility iron only when it appreciably outperforms what is already in your bag. Of course, if you want a new utility iron because you want a new utility iron, that’s fine, too.
Q: How do I know which utility iron is right for my game?
A: A proper club fitting with a professional will help determine what utility iron will suit your unique game. However, you can assess your own needs by determining what kind of shots you need to hit with your utility iron. Do you use the utility primarily off the tee or mostly off the turf? If you mainly use the utility iron off the tee, a lower-launching, lower-spinning model might help you get the ball running down the fairway. Conversely, higher-lofted, wide-soled, back-weighed utility irons can help you get the ball launching high and landing softly. Make sure to fully evaluate your game in advance of a professional fitting to help the fitter understand what you’re looking for in a utility iron.
Q: Does the shaft matter?
A: Absolutely. While changes to spin and launch are rarely massive, shaft changes frequently lead to improved accuracy, tighter dispersion and greater overall consistency. We always recommend working with a qualified fitter. If that’s not possible, take the time to understand the different shaft profiles offered and how the performance of each might benefit or adversely affect your game.
Q: What should I look for when testing utility irons?
A: While golfers have been conditioned to consider distance to the exclusion of nearly everything else, we recommended 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 data screen). Smaller numbers mean better consistency, which will usually benefit your score more than an extra yard or two. Similarly, look for tighter dispersion ellipses (small circles). We can’t overstate the importance of consistency with utility irons.
No Two Utility Irons Are Exactly Alike
Some of us may be hesitant at the thought of putting a 2-iron in your bag. Some of you may not even carry a 5-iron. It's important to understand that not every Utility Iron is designed for high swing speed, low handicap golfers. Yes, there are designs that favor the lower, more workable trajectory, that typically only benefits lower handicap golfers. There are, however, plenty of utility models on the market today designed for golfers that need a little help getting the ball in the air or who are looking for a bit more forgiveness in the long game.
Utility irons, such as, Titleist U505, Wilson Staff Model, New Level NLU-01, TaylorMade DHY, and Srixon ZX utilities have wider soles and in some cases, higher lofts. That's a combination that can help average golfers find the fairway on a short par-4, or hit the green in two on some par-5s.
Q: What does Most Wanted mean?
A: We define Most Wanted as the best-performing club. Based on Strokes Gained, it’s the club that was shown to be in the top-performing group for the highest percentage of our testing pool. For more detailed information, see our How We Test page.
Q: How is the Most Wanted Utility Iron determined?
A: To determine the Most Wanted Utility Iron, we collect performance metrics with Foresight GCQuad Launch Monitors. To determine our overall rankings, we don’t just focus on averages. With a pool of 20-plus testers across a broad range of ability levels, we find that raw averages often don’t represent the true performance of a golf club. While we do share the raw data, we use a ranking methodology that considers the statistical reliability of the Strokes Gained metric across the entire pool of testers.
Q: How is the “Longest” Utility Iron determined?
A: To determine the Longest Utility Iron, we again look past the raw averages to consider the average total yards across the test pool along with the statistical reliability of that data.
Q: How is the “Most Forgiving” Utility Iron determined?
A: To determine the Most Forgiving Utility Iron, we focus on a narrower set of metrics that includes: Shot Area (dispersion), Radial Distance, Accuracy and the average standard deviation for ball speed and carry yards.
Q: How are the utility irons in the test fit 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 utility irons ranging in loft from 17 to 19.5 degrees. While less so in this category, adjustability is growing in popularity. When movable weights or adjustable hosels are available, we make every effort to optimize each club for each tester. Occasionally, manufacturers will send multiple sets with different stock shafts that we can utilize to improve launch conditions.
Q: How much does subjective feedback like looks, sound, and feel factor into your rankings?
A: ZERO. Our rankings are based purely on launch monitor data and quantifiable performance metrics.
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