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.
Best Players’ Distance Irons
10. Ping i525 Irons
The best players’ distance irons pack a lot of technology into a head shape that still looks desirable and will typically generate more ball speed and distance than blades or pure players’ irons. If you’re not sure what type of iron you should be playing, check out our list of the overall best golf irons.
The TaylorMade P790 is one of the most well-known examples of a players’ distance iron, with a hollow head that looks almost like a blade but packs a huge amount of power. Players’ distance irons don’t tend to spin as much as pure blades, but the high launch they generate helps shots hold greens.
An all-round classy iron that can be combined beautifully with the ZX7 and/or ZX4.
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.
|Stock shaft:||KBS Tour Lite (s) UST Recoil Dart (g)|
A hugely consistent performer that will take some beating if you get fitted.
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.
|Stock shaft:||True Temper Elevate MPH 95 (s) Aldila Ascent PLK Blue or Project X HZRDUS Silver (g)|
The P790 takes some beating in the players' distance category, but you may want to wait for a new model later this year.
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.
|Stock shaft:||Dynamic Gold 95/105 VSS (s), Mitsubishi Chemical MMT (g)|
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.
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.
|Stock shafts:||Choose from 21 premium options|
Hugely accurate iron with custom fitting options above and beyond the competition.
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.
|Sttock shafts:||True Temper Elevate (s), Mitsubishi MMT (g)|
Read our full Mizuno JPX923 Forged iron review.
|Stock shaft:||KBS S-Taper Lite|
Read our full Wilson D9 Forged iron review.
|Stock shafts:||True Temper Dynamic Gold VVS (s) / Mamiya UST Recoil Dart (g)|
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.
|Stock shafts:||Choose from a variety of premium options at no upcharge.|
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.
|Stock shafts:||True Temper AMT Black (s) / MCA Tensei Blue (g)|
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.
|Stock shafts:||Project X 10 or Ping AWT 2.0 (s) / Ping Alta CB Slate, Alta Distanza Black 40 or UST Recoil (g)|
Best Players’ Distance Irons: Test Data
How we tested the best players’ distance golf 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.
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.
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.
– Which TaylorMade iron is right for me?
– Which Callaway iron is right for me?
– Which Mizuno iron is right for me?
– Which Ping Iron is right for me?
– Which Srixon/Cleveland iron is right for me?
– Which PXG iron is right for me?
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About the author
Simon Daddow – Today’s Golfer Equipment Editor
Simon Daddow is the Equipment Editor for Today’s Golfer. Having tested and played more than 10,000 clubs in his life, what he doesn’t know about golf clubs isn’t worth knowing.
He’s a specialist in all things metal having 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. Starting out as a trainee professional at Downes Crediton GC where he learned the art of golf club making, he went onto work for Clubhaus Plc and Tony Charles Ltd as a golf club maker, and running Product Development at Benross Golf.
Simon also spent time working as a Sales Executive in Harrods’ golf department, even helping supply Sir Nick Faldo with personalized shirts in a last-minute emergency ahead of a flight to a tournament.
He joined EMAP Active (now Bauer Media) as Equipment Editor in 2006 and has worked for both Today’s Golfer and Golf World. Working alongside our test pro Neil Wain, Simon has made todays-golfer.com the most reliable source for golf club testing.
Despite his youthful looks, Simon has played golf for more than 40 years and plays to a handicap of 10. A lack of club speed means he’s short off the tee, but very handy from 125 yards and in.
He enjoys excellent relationships with the biggest names in the golf equipment industry, including PXG boss Bob Parsons and TaylorMade’s Tomo Bystedt and Adrian Rietveld.
Away from the course, Simon is a season-ticket holder at Peterborough United Football Club, attending games with his young son. He’s also a keen cyclist and enjoys working (and relaxing) at his allotment.
His favorite ever piece of golf equipment is the Callaway Warbird fairway wood and he considers the biggest technological advancement in the game to have been titanium driver heads.
Simon’s job means he plays regularly around the world, and rates Kingsbarns as his favorite course. He uses a PXG 0311 GEN6 XF driver, TaylorMade Stealth 2 HL (15º), Ping G400 (20.5º), PXG 0317 X Gen2 hybrid, PXG 0311 GEN6 P irons (6–PW), Cleveland CBX2 wedges (52°, 58°), Ping 21 Fetch putter and a TaylorMade Tour Response golf ball.