Best Players Irons 2023: Our data-informed choice of the best irons for high-level golfers

What are the best players’ irons? We put 23 models through their paces to find out which 2023 players’ iron is the best for low-handicap golfers.

If you’re a consistent ball striker then the players’ irons category should be on your radar if you are looking to upgrade your golf clubs. 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.

If you think players’ irons might be 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’ irons guide.

Best Players’ Irons 2023:

A fantastic iron that can also be used as part of an excellent combo set.

It’s been a very long time since a Cobra iron bagged top honors in a TG players’ iron test, but the simple and elegant new Cobra King Tour is well worthy of such lofty ranking. The Cobra King Tour is the iron that’s helped nurse Rickie Fowler’s game back into shape, it’s a model the brand haven’t really offered for a few years, but we think it’s one of the best Cobra irons available.

The five-times forged heads of the Cobra King Tour irons feel super soft. There’s a tiny bit of tech built in, with variable depth milled pockets in the shallow cavity back, which add a fraction more playability on the long irons and increased flight control on the scoring clubs.

Like any good players’ iron, the head shape is really attractive and there are no awkward areas that unduly draw the eye; this is an understated model for decent players who are happy to let their golf do the talking.

Data tends to be less important within this category, as decisions are more often made on subjectives such as looks, sound and feel. That said, the Cobra King Tour iron does itself no harm by producing our joint-fastest ball speed (123.1mph – tied with the Titleist T100 S) and joint 2nd longest carry distance (177 yards – tied with the Titleist T100 S).

Cobra are now proper players in the forged iron market. The Cobra King Tour iron sits alongside the new King MB blade and tour-level CB, plus there’s a hollow body Forged Tec and Forged Tec X, all of which can be mix-and-matched to create your own perfect combo set. If you’re considering forged irons in 2023, make sure you check out Cobra’s cracking line-up.

Read our full Cobra King Tour iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: KBS $-Taper
7-Iron loft: 32°

Stability and distance in a beautiful package will help good golfers score better.

With 23 different models within the category, it could be said the players’ iron market is burgeoning with talent. That’s more models than we’ve ever tested, and it’s models like the TaylorMade P770 challenging the category’s boundaries. It wasn’t that long ago some thought players’ irons couldn’t have thin fast faces or hollow body constructions. Anything other than traditional lofts were frowned upon, and if the profile wasn’t sleek, slender and classy, models were instantly laughed out of the room. Things have changed significantly.

The TaylorMade P770 is tough to categorize, but thanks to its players’ profile (and weak 34° 7-iron loft), which TaylorMade cram with as much ball speed and forgiveness-enhancing tech as they can, we see this as the modern-day players’ iron. And if you’re happy to accept tech within the players’ iron arena, the TaylorMade P770 is just about as good as they come.

For those that question what hollow body constructions and thin fast faces bring to the party, comparing the P770 to TaylorMade’s P7MC gives a great explanation of what tech can do for the category. Thanks to tungsten weighting inside and a hollow body construction, the P770 irons have a slightly higher MOI, which is good for hitting straight shots, but less attractive for golfers who like shaping shots onto the flag.

In our test, the TaylorMade P770 produced a ball speed 0.8 mph faster than the same loft P7MC. Shots launched 0.6° higher, with a fraction less spin (341 RPM), yet peaked out higher (1 yard), and the ball hit the green at a steeper angle (0.4deg), whilst also adding 3 yards of additional carry distance. All seriously impressive stats that will help decent club golfers score a fraction better, more often. Whichever way you look at it, the TaylorMade P770 is a modern beauty and one of the best TaylorMade irons going.

Read our full TaylorMade P770 iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: KBS Tour
7-Iron loft: 34°

The forgiveness you expect from Ping, now in a package that looks and feels like a true 'better player' option.

Price: £180 (S) £190 (G) per club
It took Ping four years to improve on their most played tour iron, the Ping i210. Based on our test pro’s reaction and test results, we can see the new i230 being around for at least a similar amount of time. The Ping i230 sits at the slightly more forgiving end of the players’ iron arena but thanks to the loft it’s not quite a players’ distance model.

Our test pro loved the feel and feedback and is happily playing a set in his own bag. Our test data has the model sat bang in and around our test averages on every metric barring shot area, where the i230 registered a dispersion area 33.6% tighter than our test average.

If you’ve been put off Ping irons before by a longer, boxy blade shape now is the time to reconsider. The i230 is a great-looking iron, and thanks to having elastomer supporting the whole back of the face, you can expect a forged-like feel and impact sound. It’s comfortably one of the best Ping irons available.

Make sure you exploit Ping’s brilliant fitting options. 
Read our full Ping i230 iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 (s), Ping Alta CB Black (g)
7-Iron loft: 33°

A beautiful iron that may even turn the heads of Mizuno devotees.

Price: £999 (S) £1099 (G)
If you’re amongst the group of purists who reckon players’ irons should never have thin fast faces, strong lofts, or anything other than a traditional unfussy one-piece look, then the ZX7 will be right up your street. We’ve sung the praises of Srixon irons for some time and this latest offering is everything proper players could ever want, making it one of the best Srixon irons you can buy.

Golfers choosing irons within this category should never need to factor distance into their buying decision; if you are, you’re buying irons in the wrong category. That said, with a 32° 7-iron, the Srixon ZX7 is on the stronger side of the category, so the model will give nothing up in terms of speed and distance on the golf course.

We never thought we’d say it but Srixon’s thoroughly modern ZX MK II irons are now more than capable of giving Mizuno’s heritage and reputation-steeped models a serious run for their money on looks, feel and desirability.       

At a time when muscle cavity irons are trending up on tour, the ZX7 will be very much at home in the hands of 8 handicappers and below. We love the model’s pure and simple straight-line beauty; there’s nothing here to not like or draw the eye, and the classic non-glare satin finish is just the perfect cherry on top. A gorgeous iron we wish we were good enough to play.   
Read our full Srixon ZX7 MKII iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: Nippon NS Pro Modus3 Tour
7-Iron loft: 32°

Lots of clever technology packed into a head that feels about as good as anything out there.

Price: £249 per club
Since 2015, PXG have created a whole new super premium iron market, one that most other major iron brands have now tried to tap into. But with two wily former Ping engineers at the helm, PXG are somehow managing to stay one step ahead of the competition.

PXG have come a very long way in a short period of time and so long as you don’t have firm beliefs that players’ irons can’t benefit from modern tech, the brand are an absolute must-consideration within the category. The PXG 0311 GEN5 T’s head shape, design and look are phenomenally good. We love how each iron is robotically polished to ensure shape consistency and you won’t hear or feel a better players’ iron on the market.

But for us, like with the other PXG GEN5 irons, the ability to try longer and shorter shafts, lighter and heavier swing weights without changing the center of gravity location is just out of this world good.

Yes, they’re expensive and not everyone will want to buy at this level, but if you’re looking for a great performing players’ iron, that’s utterly tailored to you and your game, the PXG 0311 GEN5 T is one of the best PXG irons and should not be overlooked.
Read our full PXG 0311 T GEN5 review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: True Temper Elevate (s), Mitsubishi MMT (g)
7-Iron loft: 32°
Price: £180 per club
The Mizuno Pro 223 is a former award winner here at TG and it’s every bit as good this year as it was last.

Very much a tour-level muscle cavity back iron, and compared to the newer and 2° weaker JPX923 Tour, the Mizuno Pro 223 generated 2.5mph more speed and five yards more carry, without giving up significant levels of backspin, shot height or descent angle. That’s why it’s still one of the best Mizuno irons and among our favorite players’ irons this year.

Read our full Mizuno Pro 223 iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: Choose from 16 premium options
7-Iron loft: 32°
If you’re somebody who sees value in investing in Japanese craftsmanship and forging expertise, Vega will be right up your street. The beautifully part-milled Vega VDC iron is a stand-out performer, not just because its 31° 7-iron produced the third-fastest ball speed and longest carry distance within the players’ iron category (178 yards), but because its dispersion area was 26% tighter than our test average.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: Vega Stellify
7-Iron loft: 31°

Sub 70 659 CB Irons

Price: £670
Decent but price-sensitive golfers are spoilt for choice within the players’ iron arena this year. The Sub 70 659’s milled sole and back are very classy. At address, the model isn’t quite as refined as the Takomo 301 CB, but in the current market they are an absolute steal.

From its relatively strong 32° 7-iron loft, the 659 was the fourth longest, with launch, spin, shot height and descent angle a fraction lower than our test averages.

Read our full Sub 70 659 CB iron review.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: KBS Tour
7-Iron loft: 32°

Takomo 301 CB Irons

Price: £525
Takomo have stormed our players’ iron category this year, as they sent two lovely-looking models (the 301 CB and 201), both of which turned in outstanding performances considering their price tags. Choosing between the two we’d plump for the slightly sleeker, less angular and more traditional satin-clad 301 CB; it’s 2° weaker in the 7-iron, which means it was four yards back from the slightly more powerful 201.

The Takomo 301 CB produced the tightest left-to-right dispersion (10.9 yards) of any players’ iron and the third-tightest shot area (10.9 square yards).

Only available from the brand’s US-based website.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: KBS Tour
7-Iron loft: 34°

MORE Golf MOD/1 Irons

Price: £349
More’s freethinking founder, Bruce Sizemore, is the first to take a modular approach to irons, and he’s managed to eliminate 50g of inefficient weight from the hosel. Thanks to building in premium milled pieces, rather than being constrained within the box of traditional iron designs, he’s moved the hosel (and shaft axis) closer to the center of gravity, so his irons don’t want to open or close as much at impact, which reduces dispersion… by 19% in our test. Bingo!

The MORE Golf MOD/1 also produced an average carry distance of 176 yards, just two yards behind the longest players’ iron in the test.
  • Forgiveness rating:
Stock shaft: KBS Tour
7-Iron loft: 32°

Best Players’ Irons: The Test Data

Best players' irons test data

Best players' irons test data

How we tested the best players’ irons

We invited major equipment manufacturers to submit their entire iron 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.

Best Players’ Irons: FAQs

What are players’ irons?

Players’ irons are typically aimed at low handicappers to elite golfers, with many tour pros choosing to use models from this category. They have many similar characteristics to blades (small heads, weak lofts, nice looks) but often have a little more technology packed in to boost distance and/or forgiveness slightly.

Who are players’ irons for?

Golfers who strike their irons consistently well and don’t need much help with distance or forgiveness should look to the players’ irons category. For those golfers wanting ultimate workability and control, then blade irons could also be worth considering. Both players’ irons and blade irons are considerably less forgiving than models aimed at mid and high-handicap golfers.

What is the difference between players’ irons and players’ distance irons?

Players’ distance irons will typically create more speed and distance than blades or players’ irons, and while they may not generate quite as much spin, the high launch helps with stopping power on the greens. TaylorMade P790 irons are one of the best players’ distance irons and has set the standard in this category for a number of years.

What irons do Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy use?

Both Tiger and Rory game TaylorMade irons. Tiger uses TaylorMade P7TW irons (4-PW) with True Temper Dynamic Golf Tour Issue X100 shafts, whereas Rory opts for the brands’ P760 4-iron and P730 Rors Proto irons (5-9) with Project X Rifle 7.0 shafts. Bear in mind, however, that these are two of the best ball strikers of all time, and you should consider which TaylorMade iron is best for you before splashing the cash on your idol’s exact model.

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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.

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