What are the most forgiving golf irons? We tested 2023’s best irons for high handicappers head-to-head-on a launch monitor to find the standout models.
Whether you’re just starting out in golf, you’re a high handicapper who is trying to improve, or you simply want irons that will offer you the maximum level of forgiveness on those poor strikes, the models featured here will be the best golf irons for you.
If blades are at one end of the spectrum, these forgiving irons, often called super-game-improvement irons, are firmly at the other. Their big heads are designed to make it as easy as possible for golfers to launch and maximize distance. They traditionally came with very strong lofts, but manufacturers are moving away from this now, having acknowledged that more loft makes it easier to get shots airborne.
Most forgiving irons: top picks
Best High Handicap Irons
Great distance combined with good looks and the stopping power to hold greens
Of course, this model was never designed for our test pro, but our data highlights brilliantly what higher lofts bring to the party in the High-Handicap/Moderate Speed Iron arena.
Compared to Titleist’s ‘most forgiving iron’, the T400, Mizuno’s model launched 2.4° higher, span over 1,000rpm more, flew 4 yards higher and hit the green at a 3.6° steeper angle, all traits that will maximize carry distance and stopping power. Granted, our test pro hit shots 11 yards further with the T400, but even at his speed the Titleist’s super strong 26° 7-iron loft is tough to launch, flight and stop, so it would be nigh on unplayable for lesser speed players.
Read our full Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal HL irons review.
|Stock shaft:||Choose from 21 premium options|
Fantastic levels of help and forgiveness from an iron that still looks the part
We love that TaylorMade have kept the Stealth name for the HD model, it means you don’t feel left out of the cool gang or unfairly labeled as a sub-standard golfer with a different marquee. Yes, the look is much more hybrid iron, than Mizuno’s sleek HL, but everything about the head and shaft selection scream easy launch and forgiveness at sub-75mph speeds.
From a slightly faster ball speed than most, the HD hovered around our test averages across the board, apart from dispersion where it hit shots into a 19% tighter area. For the target golfer, the TaylorMade Stealth HD will be the best TaylorMade iron you can get.
Read our full TaylorMade Stealth HD irons review.
|Stock shaft:||KBS Max 85 MT (s) Fujikura Speeder NX Red (g)|
Perfect for golfers who find hybrids easier to hit than irons
We’ve hit the Launch Pad several times now and our test pro reckons it produces the easiest 180-yard shot he’s ever hit, which is a ringing endorsement of all hybrid irons, and how the Launch Pad’s cleverly disguised wider body doesn’t distract his eye.
If you struggle with ball striking consistency or flighting shots high enough to allow approaches to land and stop on the dancefloor, this is a brilliant option for 2023.
Read our full Wilson Launch Pad irons review.
|Stock shaft:||KBS Max Ultralite (s) Project X Evenflow (g)|
Irons don't come much easier to hit than the Cleveland Launcher XL Halo
With lofts within the category having weakened this year, the Halo hovered around our test averages for launch, shot height and spin, all traits that will help keep shots in the air for longer at moderate speeds. The Halo won’t win any beauty contests, but what it will do is help a mis-hit shot carry a lake, bunker or hazard, which will aid your enjoyment of the game, cut down on lost balls and shave strokes from your game. For those who need this type of club, the Cleveland Launcher XL Halo will be the best Cleveland iron by a long shot.
Read our full Cleveland Launcher XL Halo irons review.
|Stock shaft:||True Temper XP90 (s) Project X Catalyst (g)|
Thanks to a hybrid-width body, our #7 Eleven produced masses of spin and height; exactly what slow speed players need to hit irons effectively. For our pro that meant it produced the shortest carry distance of our test, but that wouldn’t be the case at slower speeds. Throw into the mix the model offering up the smallest ball speed difference between on and off-centre hits, the smallest carry distance drop off (nine yards) and hitting shots into our smallest dispersion area (184.5 square yards), and the idea warrants serious investigation if it fits your game.
|Stock shaft:||Eleven Shaft|
Most Forgiving Golf Irons: Test Data
How we tested the best golf irons of 2023
We invited major equipment manufacturers to submit their entire 2023 ranges for testing. Across seven weeks of testing, we created a controlled environment indoors at Keele Golf Centre and used a premium tour-level golf ball (the Srixon Z-Star). We collected a ton of data from every shot hit, using a Foresight GC Quad launch monitor.
Why did we use a Srixon Z-Star golf ball?
It would be easy to use just one test golf ball brand every year, but that inevitably leads to criticism for being too closely aligned to one manufacturer, especially if that brand’s equipment performs particularly well. To ensure fairness we like to switch manufacturers for the Top Gear test ball each year. For 2023 we’ve used the Srizon Z-Star.
The brand have just revealed their eighth-generation model, and Srixon General Manager Brian Schielke says “finding the right ball for your game is just as important as finding the right irons or driver, it’s the one piece of equipment you use on every single shot”.
Thanks to the previous Z-Star mopping up 31 wins across all tour global tours last year (that’s 15.5% of the wins available) we know the model is trusted by the world’s very best.
Why do we use a pro tester?
Speak to any golf club engineer about product testing and they all talk about needing a repeatable, reliable strike to offer any sort of valuable comparison. So, whilst we accept not all of the equipment included within our tests was designed for our test pro, what our data shows is a great comparison of how clubs in each particular category differ, which is hugely valuable in helping you narrow your choice as a consumer.
We tested 83 different 7-irons, during which our test pro missed a target green at 170 to 200 yards no more than a dozen times. He got a hole-in-one, lipped out, and hit the flag several times, he also loves hitting golf balls all day long. In short, Neil Wain is the perfect club tester due to his consistency in delivering accurate and reliable comparative data.
We would of course always recommend attending a proper fitting session, to ensure any purchase is tailored to your game.
See more about how TG tests golf clubs and other equipment.
What are super game improvement irons?
Super game improvement irons are the most forgiving irons aside from hybrid irons, which we’ll discuss below.
These forgiving irons have either a deep cavity-back or a hollow head and they’re very often the lightest in a brand’s iron range. Shafts are often lighter with softer tip sections to increase launch and spin, which helps maximize distance at lower speeds.
Historically, golfers have traded looks for forgiveness in this category, but modern models have come a long way in recent years. It’s now possible to get your hands on very forgiving and powerful irons that still look good.
Who should use super game improver irons?
Golfers who aren’t afraid to admit that their game needs as much help as they can get will benefit from the most forgiving irons available.
It’s difficult to put a lower-end limit on the handicap range that should be using forgiving irons, but those with handicaps of 20 and above should definitely consider super game improvement irons.
Are hybrid irons good for high handicappers?
Hybrid irons are the most forgiving irons available. They have big wide soles to launch shots high with increased forgiveness, while designers claim they also help prevent digging into the turf, thereby reducing fat shots.
It’s exactly the type of styling that led golfers to fall in love with long iron replacement hybrids/rescues. The center of gravity in hybrid irons is far lower and deeper than a typical cavity-back iron, making them easier to launch.
There has been a growing trend in this area in recent years. Not only are brands showing more interest in producing hybrid irons, golfers are more willing to use them. The extra playability that hybrids have brought to the long game have transformed many golfers’ games in the past decade.
If your game or swing speed have gone south, hybrid irons are a brilliant option.
Golf should be fun and hybrid Irons can turn a frustrating round into an enjoyable one. The extra playability means more shots carry sand and water hazards. Hybrid Irons aren’t just for players with slower swings. They’re for anybody who wants to reduce frustration and have more fun.
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