Best Players Distance Irons 2023: Power machines for lower handicaps

What are the best players’ distance irons? Our test team puts 15 leading models through their paces to find out which 2023 iron tops the data charts for lower handicap golfers wanting some distance.

If you’re a consistent ball striker looking to prioritize distance then the players’ distance irons category should be on your radar. Models of iron in this category are typically aimed at low handicaps to elite-level golfers, yet aren’t quite as intimidating as blade irons and offer a little more forgiveness and distance-boosting technology.

If you think players’ distance irons might be the best irons for you, here’s our list of the top performers from 2023, and for our most up-to-date selections, hop over to our up-to-date best players’ distance irons guide.

Best Players’ Distance Irons 2023:

An all-round classy iron that can be combined beautifully with the ZX7 and/or ZX4.

Price: £999 (S) £1099 (G)
Cast your eye over the winners in each of our iron categories and you’ll quickly spot how highly we rate Srixon’s three new ZX MK II irons very highly. Like its siblings, the ZX5 is an absolute beauty, oozing classic subdued and understated Japanese gorgeousness. Nothing about this model is in-your-face bling or trumped-up tech, which is just what proper players are usually after.

As solid as the model was, there’s no hiding it produced a fraction less spin, shot height, descent angle and carry distance than our test average. So it’s important to point out our test sample came with a Nippon Modus3 Tour 105, which is ordinarily the stock shaft for the slightly more lofted ZX7. Consequently, our numbers are a little skewed, but they’d typically be corrected by the stock lighter, higher launching and higher spinning KBS Tour Lite.

We love the ZX’s combination of forged head with a thin, fast and springy face for excellent speed and distance; it’s a great marriage for what is a pretty weak loft in the players’ iron category.

The ZX5 is one of the best Srixon irons and the ability to buy individual irons and combo any of Srixon’s three ZX models together make them a brilliant buy.

Read our full Srixon ZX5 MkII irons review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: KBS Tour Lite (s) UST Recoil Dart (g)
7-iron loft: 31°

A hugely consistent performer that will take some beating if you get fitted.

Price: £1,199 (S) £1,299 (G)
Thanks to their Apex iron marquee (launched in 2014), Callaway can legitimately claim to have invented the modern Players’ Distance Iron category we know today. The Apex and Apex Pro back then were forged players’ sized irons, but came with cavity backs, stronger lofts and thin, fast face tech built in. Between 2015 and 2017, though, PXG and TaylorMade, having spotted the trend, muscled in on exactly the same target golfer, introducing their super popular forged hollow body iron designs. With golfers going gaga for forged hollow body irons, Callaway’s new Paradym aims to swing sales back in their favor, and based on our test results they’ve got an excellent chance of fulfilling their brief. The Callaway Paradym is one of the best Callaway irons you can buy.

Our test data has the Callaway Paradym down as our second longest Players’ Distance iron of 2023, just a single yard behind the Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal Pro. The Paradym produced the 3rd fastest ball speed, while dropping just 6 yards between on and off-center hits meant the model racked up a 3rd best performance for protecting carry distance too.

With the numbers being so impressive, it’s great the head shape, size and feel doesn’t let the side down, and we love how Callaway have chosen the lighter, higher launch and higher spin True Temper Elevate shaft for this model. We have a sneaking suspicion this slightly more lofted set-up will be a better fit for more average-speed players than the stronger lofted Paradym X, so get fitted to help you choose wisely.  

Read our full Callaway Paradym irons review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: True Temper Elevate MPH 95 (s) Aldila Ascent PLK Blue or Project X HZRDUS Silver (g)
7-iron loft: 29°

The P790 takes some beating in the players' distance category, but you may want to wait for a new model later this year.

Price: $1499.99
Now in its 3rd generation, the P790 is the iron that completely changed the landscape of TaylorMade’s iron business and remains one of the best TaylorMade irons available. The original sold to golfers with +4 – 24 handicappers, and the P790 marquee is now so widely known it can be dropped into a sentence without even needing to mention TaylorMade.

The model has performed brilliantly for us before, so it’s absolutely no surprise it did so again. At 188 yards, the P790 was our 3rd longest (3 yards back from the Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal Pro) and 2nd fastest Players’ Distance Iron of 2023. The current model was first released in 2021, so if you’re sensitive to owning the latest equipment, we’d probably put off buying a set for a bit, as there’s likely to be a new model announced later this summer. 

As has been the case since the first P790s in 2017, this is a cracking hollow body forged face iron, the shaping, profile and attractiveness at address will inspire confidence in reasonable ball strikers, while sat in the bag they’re just plain gorgeous.

Read our full TaylorMade P790 iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: Dynamic Gold 95/105 VSS (s), Mitsubishi Chemical MMT (g)
7-Iron loft: 30.5°

With the fastest ball speed and longest carry distance in the category, the JPX923 Hot Metal Pro will be a popular choice among golfers with the speed to launch it effectively.

Over recent years Mizuno have worked really hard to change golfers’ perceptions of the company just being a forged iron brand. Strangely, this year it’s Mizuno’s cast, not forged irons that are grabbing the headlines for us.

The JPX923 Hot Metal family launched at the back end of 2022, and the intention of the Pro is cramming whatever speed and distance Mizuno can muster into a players’ sized iron chassis.

Based on our test results, 2023 is the year the cast JPX923 Hot Metal Pro absolutely delivers, throwing a shadow over Mizuno’s more expensive forged models and making it one of the best Mizuno irons. Our data has the JPX923 Hot Metal Pro down as our longest (191 yards) and fastest (128.9 mph) Players’ Distance Iron of 2023, which could be argued should be the case as it has the strongest loft (28.5deg 7-iron) within the category. But, in an arena driven by distance, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t highlight outstanding performers.

Just bear in mind the more compact and less offset Pro isn’t for everyone, as you will need decent levels of speed to launch this model successfully. We’ve seen how the same loft standard Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal iron, thanks to having more offset, a wider sole and deeper cavity back typically flights shots with more spin (500 RPM), and a steeper descent angle (1deg), which is important if you’re borderline on speed. If speed is not your issue, fill your boots; the Pro is a totally modern Mizuno iron that will be every bit as good in a few years’ time as it is today. 

Read our full Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal Pro review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shafts: Choose from 21 premium options
7-Iron loft: 28.5°

Hugely accurate iron with custom fitting options above and beyond the competition.

Price: £249 per club
We’d hope nobody buying irons within this category does so without being properly fitted. The correct shaft, at the correct length, lie and swing weight really can be the difference between excelling with your new set and not quite reaching your full potential. And if you’re talking fitting, PXG deliver over and above the rest.

We’ve seen previous generations of PXG P irons excel for ball speed, carry distance, accuracy and forgiveness, and the gorgeous GEN5 performed in a very similar way, earning it a spot among the best PXG irons.

A 32° 7-iron loft is 3.5° weaker than our longest iron (the Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal Pro), which means the model gives up 6 yards of carry distance to the very longest. But every other metric was significantly better than our test averages. Throw in a 2nd place ranking for protecting ball speed on mis-hits combined with the 2nd smallest shot area and you’ve got a fantastically powerful and forgiving players’ distance iron on your hands. It goes without saying we love the head shape and profile, and the fitting options are second to none.    
Read our full PXG 0311 P GEN5 iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Sttock shafts: True Temper Elevate (s), Mitsubishi MMT (g)
7-Iron loft: 32°
Cast an eye over the data sheets and you’ll see the Mizuno JPX923 Forged is a top performer for distance (187 yards carry; fourth longest), which is very much a prerequisite within this category. Apart from that, its numbers are very close to our averages, which tells us that unless you’re especially turned on by this specific model, there are probably slightly better alternatives available out there. We do feel it’s one of the best Mizuno irons available, though.

Read our full Mizuno JPX923 Forged iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: KBS S-Taper Lite
7-Iron loft: 30°
Price: £792 (S) £882 (G)
Wilson’s tech-loaded D9 Forged was an attractive players’ distance iron package last year, and not much has changed. Expect a traditional head shape and profile plus a very shiny chrome-plated finish. From a slightly weaker loft than many players’ distance irons (30.5° 7-iron), it produced a decent 180 yards of carry and, thanks to Wilson’s Power Hole tech, above-average levels of ball speed.

Read our full Wilson D9 Forged iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold VVS (s) / Mamiya UST Recoil Dart (g)
7-Iron loft: 30.5°
Since its launch, midway through 2021, the hollow body Mizuno Pro 225, which looks very much like a muscleback blade, has won many fans and secured a spot as one of the best Mizuno irons.

The model is sublime to look at, both in hand and sat behind the ball at address, and it’s just the sort of iron that helps golfers feel like a player without compromising everything in terms of forgiveness.

For our test, the model turned in decent results right around the test averages, so it should certainly be on the radar of decent golfers seeking great-looking irons this year.

Read our full Mizuno Pro 225 iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shafts: Choose from a variety of premium options at no upcharge.
7-Iron loft: 30°
Price: £164 (S) £178 (G) per club
While Titleist might be renowned for being a players’ brand, many might be surprised to hear that for the second year in a row the T200 has thrown up some very good dispersion numbers.

Yes, the model was seven yards back from our longest, but with a 2.1mph drop-off between on and off-center shots, and thanks to hitting balls into our tightest dispersion area (65.6 square yards), this was the most accurate model of them all. If you’re a fan of the brand, the T200 is one of the best Titleist irons in their range.

Read our full Titleist T200 iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shafts: True Temper AMT Black (s) / MCA Tensei Blue (g)
7-Iron loft: 31°
Price: £180 (S) £190 (G) per club
We love the styling of the Ping i525, we love how focus has been poured on eliminating the no-spin knuckleball that some golfers experience with fast face irons, and we love how the extra face grooves give this iron a proper players’ feel.

Ball speed, backspin and carry were all bang on our test averages, shot height and descent angle were higher and steeper, so control and playability on the course is likely to be better than some. We feel the Ping i525 is one of the best Ping irons, which in itself is some accolade.

Read our full Ping i525 iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shafts: Project X 10 or Ping AWT 2.0 (s) / Ping Alta CB Slate, Alta Distanza Black 40 or UST Recoil (g)
7-Iron loft: 30.5°

Best Players’ Distance Irons: Test Data

The best players' distance irons

The test data of the best players' distance irons

How we tested the best players’ distance irons

We invited major equipment manufacturers to submit their entire 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.     

The Srixon Z-Star is our test ball for 2023

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.

Neil Wain is the Today's Golfer golf test professional.

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.

Who are players’ distance irons for?

From our experience, many players who use blades or players’ irons would actually be better suited to players’ distance irons. They’re certainly not a wonder drug for all golfers, but if you’re anything from a 12-handicapper to a low single-figure player then they’re well worth your attention.

In many instances, the clubhead size in the players’ distance category will be a little larger to inspire more confidence at address. The toplines are reasonably thin and shaft weights tend to be a little lighter than those found in blades. And don’t expect too much hosel offset, either.

The rapid growth of the players’ distance iron category can not only be attributed to aspirational aesthetics but faster ball speeds and more distance than traditional players’ irons.

SUBSCRIBE TO TODAY’S GOLFER: Print and Digital access, discounts and rewards!

About the author

Simon Daddow

Simon Daddow – Today’s Golfer Equipment Editor

Having tested and played more than 10,000 clubs in his life, what Simon doesn’t know about golf clubs isn’t worth knowing.

He spent a large part of his career as a golf club maker and product development manager, and has worked in the golf industry for more than 30 years. He joined EMAP Active (now Bauer Media) as Equipment Editor in 2006 and has worked for both Today’s Golfer and Golf World.

You can contact Simon via email and follow him on Twitter for loads more golf equipment insight.

- Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us.