OUR JOB IS YOUR GAME
Player’s irons don’t offer the same measure of technology that you’ll find in other iron categories. Instead, the category offers the target golfer a compelling blend of precision and craftsmanship with a side of harsh truth. Well-struck shots are often rewarded, while mishits are punished—often severely. While stronger players can benefit from designs in the player’s iron category, the majority of double-digit handicap golfers will be better served elsewhere.
For our 2022 player’s iron test, we’ve focused on models added to the market since our last test. As will become standard practice, we’ve also included the winner of last year’s test.
MOST WANTED SCORING
We have reformulated our 2022 Most Wanted results to a 100-point scoring system. This new system better identifies golf clubs to potentially help you shoot lower scores.
For player’s irons, we’ve split our key metrics into three categories.
The accuracy category accounts for a significant percentage of the overall score. Our accuracy metrics include:
- Distance to the hole
- Greens in regulation
- Strokes Gained
Forgiveness is a measure of consistency. As such, our Forgiveness metrics seek to identify the clubs that provide the most consistent result. Please note: Consistent doesn’t always mean consistently good. Our Forgiveness metrics include:
- Ball speed consistency
- Spin consistency
- Carry consistency
- Dispersion area
Of the irons we test, we’d like to think that distance matters least in the player’s iron category. It accounts for the smallest percentage of our overall score. That said, we know nobody wants an iron that’s significantly shorter and, when performance is otherwise similar, distance can be the deciding factor. Our distance metrics are simple:
- Carry distance
- Total distance
BEST PLAYER’S IRONS OVERALL
The Top of the Board
- Propelled by its outstanding accuracy result, New Level 623-CB Forged claims the 2022 Most Wanted Player’s Iron title.
- This year’s runner-up is PING i59. While it’s by no means long, it certainly excels at accuracy metrics.
- Last year’s winner, Callaway Apex Pro, rounds out the top three with a solid performance across the board.
BEST PLAYER’S IRONS FOR ACCURACY
- The New Level 623-CB Forged was strong performer across all of our accuracy metrics.
- PING i59 takes the second-best accuracy status largely due to its performance with long and middle irons.
- Again, Apex Pro rounds out the top three, narrowly beating out the Titleist T100.
BEST PLAYER’S IRONS FOR FORGIVENESS
- Fourteen TC-7 displays tremendous consistency in terms of tight dispersion and consistency off the clubface.
- Haywood Player’s CB offers quality dispersion and consistent carry numbers.
- Rounding out the top three for best forgiveness is Titleist T100.
BEST PLAYER’S IRONS FOR DISTANCE
- Distance for a player’s irons shouldn’t be overly expected. Having said that, the Fourteen TC-7 was found to be the longest in the test.
- Following TC-7 is Mizuno Pro 223. It also scored exceptionally well for distance.
- Apex Pro rounds out its performance with a third-place finish for distance.
PLAYER’S IRONS 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.
In the player’s iron category, 4-PW has become the most common stock configuration. For most, that’s not a bad place to start but it’s worth mentioning that some golfers will be better served by replacing the 4-iron with a hybrid or high-lofted fairway wood. Likewise, golfers looking for greater versatility around the green should consider passing on the set-matched pitching wedge in favor of a specialty wedge (e.g., Vokey, MG3, Glide 4.0, etc.).
At this point, every manufacturer offers a reasonable selection of no-upcharge shafts in their iron offerings. There is absolutely no reason why stock should be your only option. Given that the majority of sets in the player’s category are approaching (and even exceeding $1,500), we can’t emphasize enough the additional value that comes from being properly fitted into your irons.
DISTANCE AND FORGIVENESS
The player’s iron category is, by far, the most tightly grouped of the irons we test. Irons are more alike than different but that said, there are clubs that are longer than others. Fourteen’s TC-7 and Mizuno’s Pro 223 are notable for the extra bump in distance they provide while the PING i59 is a bit shorter than the field.
Player’s irons are intended for better players. With that in mind, forgiveness isn’t likely the primary consideration for golfers shopping the category. Nor should it be. Nevertheless, we do see consistency differences between categories. While our recommendation for golfers shopping for new player’s irons is to lean heavily on the accuracy metrics, forgiveness can be a differentiator when other performance aspects are similar. For those looking for more forgiveness from a player’s iron, the Fourteen TC-7 and Haywood Player’s CB topped the category.
Player’s irons generally are the most expensive irons. In this year’s test, there is a wide range of pricing. For value, you can roll with the 2022 Most Wanted Winner, New Level 623-CB Forged at $840 (4-PW). Haywood Golf’s Player’s CB is $799 (4-PW), a solid price point, especially given the performance. On the other hand, you have PING i59 upwards of $1,750 (4-PW).
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
- Tungsten remains a central component of many player’s iron designs. Titleist T100 and Callaway Apex Pro both utilize tungsten weighting. As it always does, tungsten allows for the precise placement of significant mass low and deep in the clubhead. Ultimately, that gets you higher launching long irons and typically a bit higher MOI.
- PING i59 introduces AlumiCore Technology. This distributes weight towards the toe and heel which pushes MOI (forgiveness) to the size comparable to the company’s i210 offering.
- The Mizuno Pro 223 leverages forged chromoly steel in conjunction with a Micro Slot to generate more speed than ever in an MP iron.
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.
- Feel is a good bit of what golfers are looking for in the player’s category. Our testers gave the Fourteen TC-7, Mizuno Pro 223 and Titleist T100 the highest marks for feel.
- Profile and looks are also popular talking points. New Level 623-CB Forged, Callaway Apex Pro, PING i59, Mizuno Pro 223 and Titleist T100 were all highly favored by the testing pool.
- Acoustically, testers were disappointed by PING i59 and Callaway Apex Pro. Both were described as being a bit too clicky.
- Haywood Player’s CB received positive comments regarding feel. However, few testers were fans of the looks. The appreciably thicker topline was frequently cited as a negative.
2022 MOST WANTED PLAYER’S IRON RESULTS
2022 Most Wanted Player's Iron Results
|PRODUCT||OVERALL SCORE||ACCURACY SCORE||FORGIVENESS SCORE||DISTANCE SCORE|
|New Level 623-CB Forged|
|Callaway Apex Pro|
|Haywood Player's CB|
|Mizuno Pro 223|
2022 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, we’d recommend avoiding the player’s iron category. 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 is typically the most versatile.
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. Finding the right shaft and dialing in your lie angles is reason enough to get fitted.
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 2022 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 overall scores for three key metrics: accuracy, forgiveness and distance. The Most Wanted winner is determined by the overall score after weighting these three metrics.
Q: How is the “Best for Distance” 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 metrics are carry and total yards. We identify distance scores for each iron: 5, 7 and PW. From there, an overall score is calculated.
Q: How is the “Best for Forgiveness” iron determined?
A: Forgiveness scores are calculated based on four key metrics: spin delta, speed delta, carry delta and dispersion. A forgiveness score is generated, like distance, for each iron: 5, 7 and PW. From there, an overall score is calculated.
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.
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