Are you a golfer searching for the holy grail? Do you get tempted by the latest technology? So how do you get the best bang for your buck?
The answer is that you should consider the cost over time for the club. The best irons for the money could have a good balance of performance and functionality to stay in the bag for longer.
We reviewed some golf irons and wanted to see what and where you may get monetary value within a set.
Here we have the best value winner, along with alternatives for extra forgiveness and then overall performance.
- Best Value: Callaway X-Hot Iron Set
- Most Forgiving: Cleveland Golf Men’s Launcher HB Iron Set
- Best Performance: Taylormade SIM Max OS Irons, Graphite Shaft
Taylormade M2 Golf Iron Set – Great set of irons with all round performance in mind. Designed for faster ball speed, high launch and low spin. Aimed at the average male golfer looking for distance and forgiveness.
Callaway X Hot Iron Set – Very forgiving iron set with good choices in set makeup. Weight positioned for higher ball flight and help on off-centre strikes. Designed for the average male golfer looking for forgiveness and ease of use.
Cleveland Golf Men’s Launcher HB Iron Set – The ultimate forgiveness for the male golfer in these hybrid design irons. Larger heads and faster faces to aid the off-centre hits and launch the ball high and far.
Strata Women’s Golf Package Sets – These are aimed at the lady golfer getting into the game. With the option of an 11 piece or 16 piece set, this is great to have a choice. All the clubs needed to get out and play.
Taylormade SIM Max OS Irons, Graphite Shaft – Extremely forgiving and packed with technology. These oversized (OS), lightweight clubs are designed for the male golfer to get maximum distance and height.
What to look for in the best budget irons?
How soon would the clubs need to be replaced? Golfers improving or regressing will often buy clubs to match their changing needs.
If there are gaps in the clubs like missing wedges or fewer irons, will they need more additions?
Not every golfer is the same height so some may need to have clubs adjusted, this can add small costs to the equation.
Older models can be a great way to get good technology at a better price. With new models being released, old stock gets reduced to make room.
Newer models also bring new technology to justify higher price points. I’ve always waited 4 years or so from each brand to expect significant improvements.
With more pricey materials tends to come more pricey clubs. Some may think the extra cost feels like you are getting less value in a purchase. The premium materials allow premium performance and often durability.
Some of the really low cost clubs out there will be so low in cost because there has been a compromise in materials. This can reduce the lifespan of the club as the paint chips or grip wears out quicker.
There is a happy medium to get the best value for new golf clubs made with good materials. It will vary depending on your budget.
The brand of the clubs can change the value. Bigger brands can charge more money for the same technology and performance as others. They will still sell.
Best Golf Irons for the Money
These fantastic irons were released in 2017 and are packed with technology to help with ball speed from good and bad ball striking.
The low centre of gravity launches the ball higher and reduces spin. This reduces curvature and helps the ball go further overall. That is great for golfers that need that from their irons.
Those that feel they will progress quickly on golf, will need this kind of forgiveness now. But may want to change to something that spins more later in the game.
Being a 2017 model, the value in price is fantastic compared to the newer updated models in 2021.
Iron category: Game improvement irons
- Thin face and slot technology = faster ball speeds
- Geocoustic technology = reduced vibrations
- Wide sole = Easy from the rough
- 4-PW Only
- Some may need to assess distance gaps above 4 iron and below PW.
Callaway designed these clubs specifically to fill a price point.
There was a line of clubs called the “X Hot” and “X Hot 2” that lived their lifespan as any model would. These were released after these product lines with a specific purpose of price, through reduced choice.
Custom fitting options were reduced with the lie angles but here we have an option of +1”. Ideal for the taller golfer (above 6’2”) to maintain posture.
With a matching GW, continuity of distances is much easier to achieve. Can be more relaxed with choosing a SW or 56 from other sources.
Iron category: Game improvement irons
- Fast ball speeds and high flight
- Wider sole = Easier from the rough
- 4-PW, AW (an extra wedge compared to some others)
- 1” long optional
- Limited to Regular Graphite or Stiff Steel.
- May need a separate SW
Hybrids were originally a bridge between the long irons and fairway woods. The forgiveness of a larger head and consistency of a shorter club.
The performance of these clubs is fantastic and very much an easy club to use. Great value for the golfer with the need for forgiveness.
The value is reduced for those that may need to change soon after using them. Harder to shape the ball and manipulate the flight.
Adjustments may need to be made in length for those outside of 5’6” to 6’0” to maintain good posture but the cost of these adjustments is reasonable in most corners of the world.
Overall a fantastically easy club to use at a fantastic price. Cleveland is not as dominant in the market and prices themselves lower to attract customers.
Iron category: Super game improvement irons
- Hollow construction = faster ball speeds
- Low CG = High launch and low spin
- Widest sole = Easiest from the rough
- Graphite shaft only
- Not everyone needs the extra forgiveness
Here we have a package set with the choice for more or less clubs. The 11 Piece option is a great way to reduce the cost for those that are in the early stages of the game.
Fewer clubs can make it less confusing and easier to have bigger distance separation between each club.
Looking at the 11 piece set, If the golfer were to progress and feel the need to add extra clubs, it is difficult to fill in the gaps with the same brand and model.
Advanced woods and wedges are easier to add to the fuller set of irons in the 16 piece set. This is sometimes looked at around 6-18 months into playing.
No extra clubs would be needed to go and play on the golf course but some may be desired soon after the golfer improves. This brings a lot of value to the 16 piece set.
The 16 piece package set has more value as it has the potential to last much longer with more of the missing pieces present.
Club category: Women’s Beginner Package
- Covers clubs needed for a beginner
- Ready to go and play
- Choice of 16 or 11 piece set
- Hard to replace the missing irons on the 11 piece set
- Quality may wear quicker than premium products
You may think this is an odd selection to look at when considering value. Seeing as it is a higher price point. The value here is with the amount of time a club like this may stay in the golf bag.
The height of technology, to encourage faster ball speeds and even keep more speed when you mishit. This sort of technology will be hard to improve on significantly.
If a set of irons is purchased and the next year, that same brand releases a new product that goes 20 yards further, you may feel the need to buy the new ones. Increasing the money you spend per year.
This will not necessarily be the case here. It normally takes 4+ years to see a noticeable difference in performance from an OEM manufacturer. Even then it is mostly changes in loft that increase the yardage.
This type of club will only need to be changed if you feel the need for different performance. Such as improving so much so that a completely different category of club is needed to suit your new game.
This will be down to the user as the clubs themselves will keep performing.
Iron category: Game improvement irons
- Speed pocket and speed bridge = faster ball speeds
- Oversized design for larger surface area
- Wider sole = Easier from the rough
- Good choice in set makeup
- Higher price point
A buying guide for Best Irons for Money
Types of Irons
Generally irons are categorised as Long, Mid and Short irons. Long irons are generally 2, 3 and 4. Mid Irons are 5, 6 and 7. Short irons are 8, 9 and PW. Then lower will be referred to as wedges.
Most of the time, steel shafts are a lower cost than graphite. Graphite shafts are lighter and have more flex, which is good for speed and ease.
The material used to make the heads can play into the value. Some harder metals last longer and are particularly needed in the hollow head constructions.
Forged irons will feel softer and are usually found in more bladed irons, aimed at lower handicappers. The forged irons will wear quicker.
Forgiveness does not correlate to value or cost. Forgiveness can be achieved at many different price points.
Forgiveness is more in the design of the club and how it relates to you as a golfer. How wide the sole is, how big the face is, where the weight is positioned on the back of the club.
Sometimes the forgiveness is infused with the club using different materials in each brand’s own way to justify a price point.
You won’t see carbon fibre on a package set, yet they are plenty forgiving for a beginner.
Comfort of Use
Some golf clubs may feel more comfortable than others. Something that will make striking feel more comfortable with less vibrations in the hands.
Graphite shafts can reduce the feedback you get in your fingertips when you miss-hit a golf ball.
Larger hollow heads will provide the best comfort in the same way. They are almost made to be miss-hit.
Many golf technologies are there to improve the performance of the club.
Some are better than others and if it’s particularly good, it will be patented and branded for marketing.
Other brands will usually try to achieve the same performance gains in their own way.
Thinner faces help to launch the ball faster but too thin and they can break. Often there is a rubber or filler to reinforce the face, allowing it to flex as needed.
Progressive weighting is often used to give the long irons more mass, size and forgiveness. They tend to be harder to hit as they are lower lofted and have longer shafts.
Perimeter weighting can help lower the centre of gravity (CG). Higher flight and lower spin can come from more weight on the bottom of the club. More weight on the heel and toe gives the miss-hit more mass behind it, to reduce loss of ball speed.
Frequently asked questions
When do you use an iron?
All golf clubs are used to create a desired shot. Irons provide a progression of distances as you hit each number. Short irons like 8 and 9 will go higher and shorter. Long irons like 5 and 6 will go lower and longer than the short irons.
Each golfer will have their own hitting circle for each club (dispersion). Most golfers will learn how far each club roughly goes.
Most start by having a favourite club from distance markers on the golf course. Some may use a 9 iron from 150 yards. Some may use a 5 iron from 150 yards. We all differ.
Will a new set of irons improve my game?
Short answer is yes. More drastic changes in the size of the head or the type of shaft will give a bigger contrast in ball flight.
If you are looking for a specific change in performance like hitting less side spin, larger heads and more weight on the sole can help that. Less spin means less curve.
Do expensive irons make a difference?
They usually do!
Expensive irons typically indicate better quality control at manufacturing, which would mean the lofts and lie angles are more uniform.
Stronger materials with more durability for better rebound on the clubface. Lighter materials in place of heavy metals help redistribute the weight to get lower CG, which can help the flight.
Sometimes less popular brands can make clubs that perform like the more expensive brands. They have to price lower to attract purchases.
They may simply pay less for Tour golfers to use their equipment, so overheads are lower to get you that price.
How long do golf irons last?
If golf irons are looked after and not thrown around, they can last a substantial amount of time. 20 year old irons still work, but the performance will be way behind modern technology.
Many golfers may change after 4 years as that is the timespan for enough improvements in technology to justify a purchase.
If a good golfer hits 2,000 balls a week from the same 3 groves for a year, that’s a different discussion.
Forged clubs wear and show marks faster than the harder cast alternatives.
Does a lighter or a heavier iron provide more power?
Let’s change the word power to force for a minute. Force = Mass x Acceleration.
You may have experienced that as the club gets heavier it gets slower. Meaning more the mass less the acceleration.
On the other hand, most data suggests clubhead speed gets faster with lighter clubs. Meaning the lesser the mass more the acceleration.
Putting it back in our equation you get the answer that the force you generate with lighter or heavier iron stays the same since you can either have more mass or more acceleration in your club.
(Worth noting that variation in weight normally comes from the shaft. The head weight and mass stay much the same.)
We had a look at some different factors in the best irons for the money.
The Callaway X Hot Iron set had the best set make up with the included AW. Fantastic performance with great forgiveness from the wide sole and large cavity.
The Cleveland Launcher HB Irons are a fantastic option for those looking for that extra bit of comfort and help from the clubs at this point for such great performance.
The Taylormade SIM Max OS provides the most advances in technology to get the absolute height of performance.
For the Strata Women’s Golf Packaged sets, it may be worth getting the 16 piece set for that extra spend; they will last much longer.