Genesis Invitational

Riviera Country Club



Hot List

Best Irons: Innovation

The best clubs in each category of the Hot List reflect excellence in an array of criteria. That’s not limited to our player testing. For Innovation in irons, our editors and academic panel spend months in meetings with manufacturer R&D teams to understand what companies are doing from an innovation standpoint and why. In irons, faces designed through machine learning are prevalent, as are cup or L faces in which part of the face wraps around just the sole or around the sole and topline to add springlike effect. Impact patterns were studied as well, allowing designers to zero in on spots where players make impact most often. Tungsten weighting is freely used to help drive center-of-gravity locations low and deep to foster a higher launch, too. These individual lists provide a way to identify the innovation within the category. Here you’ll see how our editors evaluated irons, based on their interpretation of the criterion of Innovation, with each achieving a minimum of 4.5 stars from our players in that area.  

Callaway Apex CB
$215 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$215 per iron

With its effective mix of classic looks and contemporary technology, the Apex CB is made for the demands of elite players. This is an iron that gets the details right, especially the features better golfers appreciate, like an improved sole design for more effective turf interaction, tweaked centers of gravity via the use of tungsten weights that are dialed in for each individual iron, and hitting the trifecta of shape, sound and feel that better players require.

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Callaway Apex Pro
$215 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$215 per iron

For close to a decade now, driver technology has trickled down into irons, particularly springy faces. The problem is that irons are smaller than drivers, making it a more difficult task. To achieve optimal performance in the Apex Pro, engineers used a hollow-body construction with a thinner, more flexible cupface (in which the face wraps around part of the sole and topline) on the 3- through 5-iron to provide more ball speed and a higher launch to enhance distance. The remaining irons have a 1025 forged-carbon-steel face insert designed for precision, accuracy and repeatability in the clubs where distance isn’t as crucial.

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Callaway Big Bertha
$171 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$171 per iron

With a name like Big Bertha, you expect features like a wide sole and the kind of offset that is sure to tame a slice. However, it’s the guts of this club that delivers the goods. This iron’s cupface technology in which the face wraps around part of the topline and sole helps improve flex and distance. Tungsten weighting is generously used as well, including 43 grams inside the head to bolster forgiveness on mis-hits. Progressive center-of-gravity locations help with launch in the long irons and control in the short irons.

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Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke
$143 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$143 per iron

The game-improvement category is probably the most expansive of any and requires an iron that works for a variety of swing speeds and swing paths. To achieve this, Callaway leaned into its history of using artificial intelligence to run through thousands of possible designs. The result is a hollow-body iron featuring micro-face deflections (think tiny moguls behind the face ranging from 1.14 millimeters to 3.40 millimeters thick). The purpose is to produce faster ball speeds off the 17-4 stainless-steel cupface.

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Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke HL
$143 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$143 per iron

The Paradym Ai Smoke is designed for players with faster swings. This model is made for players who swing a little slower and carry their 7-iron less than 130 yards. That player needs help achieving a healthy ball flight. Using real-player data, the company’s supercomputer simulated tens of thousands of impacts to arrive at a design that improves launch and spin and would keep the ball in the air longer—something that can be the difference between fixing a pitch mark on the green or fishing the ball out of the water.

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Cleveland Halo XL Full Face
$128 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$128 per iron

Cleveland believes helping players achieve more distance, forgiveness and launch starts with the face, specifically making it lighter and more flexible to produce maximum yards. The face here underwent a proprietary face blast and laser-mill-line process to enhance surface roughness to optimize spin. The grooves that stretch all the way across the face are purposeful, too: They increase consistency and reduce the chance of flyers.

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Cleveland ZipCore XL
$128 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$128 per iron

On the surface this iron looks standard, but the real improvements are on the inside. The face in the 4- through 7-irons is similar to that of affiliated company Srixon’s irons with channels and cavities on the back of the face to save mass and increase ball speed. This iron goes a step further, borrowing the groundbreaking ZipCore technology from Cleveland’s wedge line in the 8-iron through the wedges. ZipCore takes steel out of the hosel and replaces it with a lighter material, allowing for optimal CG placement and greater forgiveness.

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Cobra Darkspeed
$143 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$143 per iron

You’ve heard the phrase “pound for pound, the best”? That would apply to Cobra’s R&D team. Although outnumbered and out-budgeted by the biggest companies, Cobra continues to innovate in meaningful ways, and this iron is the latest example. The face of the hollow-body irons, designed with the help of a supercomputer, is 1.5 millimeters at its thinnest, providing explosive ball speed. Inside the cavity is a soft polymer (used in underbody coatings in cars) to dampen vibrations. It’s also available in the One Length shaft option, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of Cobra’s iron sales.

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Cobra King Forged Tec
$171 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$171 per iron

Sometimes multiple materials are used to mask deficiencies in one area, but not so here. By mixing materials, Cobra brings the kind of raw power irons in this category need. The neat trick, however, is doing so in a pleasing shape that doesn’t scrimp on feel thanks to a light, soft foam inside the 1025 carbon-steel clubhead. The muscle-back shape belies the hollow construction and the thin face delivers significant ball speed with a higher launch. A 20-gram tungsten toe weight is positioned so that the center of gravity is more in line with the center of the face to deliver a sweet feel on center strikes.

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Cobra King Tour
$185 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$185 per iron

Most traditional irons use a two- or three-step forging process, but these irons use a five-step process that more effectively aligns the grain structure of the metal and reduces the number of voids. This process allows for tighter control of the weight specs and reduces the amount of hand polishing, leading to a more precise clubhead. The grooves are milled into the face so they can be manufactured closer to the USGA limit. A channel behind the hitting area is filled with a thermoplastic urethane to keep the feel just right.

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Mizuno JPX923 Forged
$188 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$188 per iron

If these irons took human form, they might just give Patrick Dempsey a run for “Sexiest Man Alive.” Just like with the actor, there’s more here than good looks. The speed on this iron comes from the thinnest face on a forged iron in the company’s history—just 2.2 millimeters thick. The distance chase doesn’t stop there. Micro-slots in the sole cavity (wider in the 4- through 6-irons and slightly narrower in the 7-iron to smooth the transition to the scoring clubs) provide plenty of heat.

Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal
$138 | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$138

If you’re a player seeking raw distance, you might be drawn to an iron named Hot Metal. The achievement in this club is that it’s able to bring high ball speeds through metallurgy. Mizuno used Nickel Chromoly 4335—a remarkably strong steel alloy used in military aircraft—to create the thinnest face of any Mizuno iron ever. Of course, a hotter face brings with it a powerful sound. In this case, Mizuno was able to neatly walk the line of producing audio that was pleasing and have others in your foursome take notice.

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Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal HL
$138 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$138 per iron

In the chase for ball speed many companies have opted to strengthen lofts—not so here. In fact, Mizuno’s research shows that golfers with average to slow swing speeds have a tough time getting a 5-iron up in the air. Mizuno then focuses on increasing launch by staying true to traditional lofts (some 2 to 3 degrees weaker than many in the category) and using a wider sole, which helps drive the center of gravity down. The face is made from a cast nickel Chromoly steel that produces plenty of punch off the face.

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Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal Pro
$138 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$138 per iron

Advancements in golf clubs aren’t always solely driven by design. You need to be able to manufacture them as well. For this iron that meant finding a different steel—Nickel Chromoly 4335—that could be cast to an ultra-thin 1.75 millimeters and still withstand impact with the ball and ground at high speeds. This led to the ability to create a single-piece design that behaves like an iron that has a spring-like face insert. The elimination of weld joints eradicates hot spots on the face.

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Mizuno Mizuno Pro 243
$200 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$200 per iron

Of all the irons in the Mizuno Pro line, the 243 offers the most dramatic change from the previous version. Engineers set out to make the club smaller to appeal to better players yet still add speed. Designing such an iron meant thinning the face, as thin as 2.1 millimeters on the long irons, with those irons having a “microslot” that is wider and deeper than the one used on the 6- and 7-irons to produce the desired distance boost.

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Mizuno Mizuno Pro 245
$200 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$200 per iron

The traditional blade appearance of the Mizuno Pro 245 says, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” The performance, however, says otherwise. This hollow-body iron is grain-flow forged from 4135 Chromoly steel for the face and neck all the way to the 8-iron. Internal tungsten weighting in the irons up to the 7-iron is 46.4 grams as opposed to 30 grams in its predecessor. A new method of laser welding suspends the tungsten in the head so that it doesn’t touch the sole, allowing the face to flex better and boost ball speed.

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Ping G430
$170 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$170 per iron

When you have success with an iron line, you’re not going to mess with it much. Still, tiny changes here equal big benefits. A proprietary heat-treating process created a super-strong 17-4 stainless steel that allows for more face flexing. This results in the much sought-after combination of increased distance and higher max height. The sole was altered, too. Approximately 1 degree of bounce was added to each iron to promote the kind of clean turf interaction that mitigates the effect of fat shots.

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Ping i230
$205 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$205 per iron

The company famous for forgiveness keeps pushing the limits of how to make a golfer’s worst misses more playable, even in an iron designed for better players. The i230’s elastomer insert saves 21 grams that is repositioned low and toward the perimeter to make it easier to get the ball in the air and foster forgiveness. The elastomer also helps support the face, providing a pleasing feel, even when shots hit slightly off-center. For those particularly severe mis-hits, tungsten toe and tip weights help mitigate loss of ball speed.

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Ping i530
$205 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$205 per iron

Ping realizes off-center hits are part of the game, even for single-digit players. This iron doesn’t ignore that unpleasant reality but places more of an emphasis on a clean aesthetic and more pop than a ball coming off Aaron Judge’s bat. The construction is almost metal-wood-like with a hollow-body design using C300 maraging steel for the face—the same type of metal used in landing gear for aircraft. The sole has an “arcing cascade” that aids in the flexing of the face and combines with strong lofts to ensure the desire for distance is satisfied.

PXG 0311 P GEN6
$180 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$180 per iron

Increasing launch and decreasing spin is a recipe for distance in irons as well as metal woods. The internal groove built into the back surface of the high-strength HT1770 steel face insert helps in that regard. The groove, about ten-thousandths of an inch deep, runs up both sides and across the top of the perimeter to create more give in the face. It also helps promote a gear effect to increase launch and decrease spin. A large weight in the back is more than ornamentation: It allows fitters to dial in the desired swingweight.

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PXG 0311 XP GEN6
$180 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$180 per iron

It’s easy to be drawn in by the lighter and more flexible core material or the interior groove around the face that helps the face bend at impact, but more than doubling the amount of tungsten in the heel and toe areas really gets our attention. Although the heft is a nice bonus in a players or players-distance iron, the game-improvement crowd misses the center of the face more than they hit it. This makes the stability/forgiveness boost received from putting extra weight in those areas noteworthy. It also has the benefit of producing a feel as meaty as a bone-in rib-eye cooked over an open flame, and we like those.

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PXG 0317 T
$180 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$180 per iron

Forget for a minute that this iron almost looks like a muscle-back blade. It plays anything but. The compact head shape has a slightly larger profile for enhanced stability and mis-hit forgiveness. PXG also has taken what it has learned over the years from previous hollow-body designs and brought it to an iron targeted to elite players. However, instead of using the hollow area and the polymer that fills it to enhance distance, polymer is used to stabilize the face. That improves distance and spin consistency, which is what you want when you’re pin-hunting.

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Srixon ZX4 Mk II
$171 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$171 per iron

Arguably the most technologically advanced iron in Srixon’s line, the ZX4 Mk II brings all the power one could want. The cast, multipiece hollow-body iron features a forged high-strength steel face insert that has the ball coming out of the blocks like an Olympic sprinter. That’s not just from the springy metal though. Srixon used a supercomputer to simulate thousands of impacts, and a variable-thickness face pattern was milled into the backside of the face insert to maximize ball speed.The long and middle irons—to the 7-iron—have wider and shallower grooves, and the grooves in the short irons are narrower and deeper to optimize spin.

Srixon ZX5 Mk II Irons
$171 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$171 per iron

Some irons in this category go heavy on the distance and light on the players. This one is the right combination of both. A slim hosel provides a pleasing visual at address, and the offset produces a natural flow through the set—both small enhancements better players will appreciate. The face has plenty of sizzle thanks to the use of a forged SUP10 steel plate featuring a variable-thickness pattern of grooves, channels and cavities milled into the back of the iron face to maximize rebound at impact.

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TaylorMade P·770
$186 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$186 per iron

Yes, tour players use this iron, but even average players can enjoy many benefits. Tungsten, for example, is used in the longer irons to make it easier to get shots airborne. Despite its classic looks, this is a hollow-body iron with a face as thin as 1.55 millimeters. The thin face and TaylorMade’s “speed-pocket slot” produce plenty of spring-like effect at impact.

TaylorMade P·790
$200 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$200 per iron

The third generation of TaylorMade’s flagship iron has a thin face that hits harder than T.J. Watt sacking a quarterback. TaylorMade engineers used artificial intelligence to run through some 600 iterations of its clubhead design, leading to the use of different internal weighting: low in the 4- and 5-irons to help increase launch, toward the perimeter to foster forgiveness on the 6- and 7-irons and no internal weighting for the 8-iron and higher. These design gymnastics are not just for performance gains but for improving sound and feel, too.

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TaylorMade Qi
$157 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$157 per iron

TaylorMade’s P-series irons have long overshadowed its game-improvement offerings, but that’s changed over time. The Qi is the latest leap. The iron incorporates a “cap back” that replaces the steel back of the clubhead with a composite badge. The badge provides the necessary reinforcement for the thin, flexing face, along with a pleasant sound and feel. The badge also reduces mass, allowing weight to be moved to dial in the proper center-of-gravity location. To assist sound, a damping system uses a softer polymer blend and multiple contact points across the face to channel away those pesky unwanted vibrations without slowing ball speed. The nickel-chrome plating adds a touch of class, too.

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TaylorMade Qi HL
$157 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$157 per iron

The look is so elegant that you might expect to find this one in the bag of The Golden Bachelor (who does play golf), but substance is plentiful, too. The hard-to-hit long irons have a backbar that lowers the center of gravity and combines with a new slot design to promote higher launch. The short irons, however, have a backbar with extreme heel-toe weighting to boost forgiveness and a different slot to maximize ball speed.

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Titleist T100
$200 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$200 per iron

A proven performer has little need to make drastic changes. This does not mean the latest T100 hasn’t undergone any improvements. The dual-cavity design uses super dense D18 tungsten (which weighs about 1.5 times more than lead), allowing for precise center-of-gravity placement in each iron without sacrificing the premium forged feel and pleasing shape the T100 is known for. Engineers worked with tour pros and the grind experts in its wedge department to smooth and soften the trail edge of the sole to allow the club to move faster through the turf.

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Titleist T150
$200 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$200 per iron

The secret sauce that makes this players iron pack plenty of power is not just stronger lofts than the Titleist T100. A channel behind the face adds the kind of extra zip that is sure to excite better recreational players. Sacrificing feel and forgiveness, however, was not an option: The use of dense tungsten and a slightly thicker topline and sole bolster stability. Also, the lower portion of the face is a shade thicker than the T100 to enhance feel.

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Titleist T200
$200 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$200 per iron

The T100 is the most-played iron on the PGA Tour, so it’s easy to see how some might view the T200 in a lesser light. Nothing could be more wrong. This club has undergone a substantial overhaul. A ball speed boost comes from a face that wraps around the sole for extra flex at impact. A more stable frame, dense tungsten weights and a revamped polymer core and support-bar structure behind the face improve ball-speed consistency on mis-hits, too. It’s no wonder some PGA Tour pros use these for their long irons.

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Titleist T350
$200 per iron | Golf Galaxy
5.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$200 per iron

A shift away from an undercut-cavity design to a hollow-body platform signals a transformational upgrade from its T300 predecessor. The hollow design houses the polymer-core structure (previously on the back of the iron), moving it closer to the face for better performance and feel. Also different from the T300 are super-dense tungsten weights in the heel and toe. This feature not only triggers more stability but contributes to ball speed and helps maintains feel. The high-strength steel face features that same alloy as the T200 and L-shape that overlaps into the sole for extra rebound at impact.

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Wilson Launch Pad
$100 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$100 per iron

Short of a whiff, few things are more distressing than laying the sod over the ball. How to avoid that? Wilson starts with the sole. A thicker, wider bottom on the all-hybrid-style design features more bounce than its Launch Pad predecessor. This sole allows the club to enter and exit the turf more easily. Slicing also can be an issue for this player type, so the Wilson team added weight to the heel area for a little draw bias.

XXIO 13
$220 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.5
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Gold
$220 per iron

The XXIO brand continues to gain traction in the United States as a highly viable alternative for the swing-speed challenged. The X iron (the company’s 13th generation) produces gains in swing and ball speed through two sources: a lightweight, high-balance-point graphite shaft and a face made out of titanium. The weight savings from the titanium face allowed the XXIO team to use 31 grams of tungsten (up to the 7-iron) to get mass low and back to help get the ball airborne. Also, because the average hand size in North America is 10 percent larger than in Japan, larger grips are used.

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Cobra King Forged Tec-X
$171 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$171 per iron

The speed in these irons comes from an almost utility-iron-like design in the 4- through 7-irons. Those clubs are hollow in construction with a 65-gram slab of tungsten that drives the center of gravity down low to assist launch. The face insert is made from a high-strength stainless steel through a multistep forging and machining process, allowing for a face that gets as thin as 1.6 millimeters in the upper pocket area. All that results in the kind of fire off the face middle-handicappers crave.

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Cobra T-Rail
$143 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$143 per iron

Cobra went outside the typical design box with this all-hybrid-like iron set as an alternative to its Air-X iron offering. A stainless-steel face with 15 variable-thickness zones helps generate more ball speed. Then, to mask as many flaws as possible, rails are used on the sole. This reduces the consequences of fat shots, and the front portion of the rails is hollow, adding flex on the leading edge of the face.

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Honma Beres Nx
$350 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$350 per iron

Sometimes you see something so different and cool that you’re immediately intrigued, like Honma’s new resin bar behind the face of this club that stretches all the way to the toe where it is attached via a toe screw. The bar is 90 percent resin, making it super light so that it saves weight while damping vibration. The L-face (in which a lip goes over part of the sole) produces plenty of ball speed, especially on shots hit low on the face.

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Ping G730
$185 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$185 per iron

These irons were built for speed. A proprietary heat-treating process makes the variable-thickness 17-4 stainless-steel face super strong, allowing it to be thinned significantly, resulting in more face bend for greater distance and added height. The lofts are quite strong but when combined with a low center of gravity and additional perimeter weighting bring about noticeable ball-speed gains. The 10-piece cavity badge has multiple flex zones that help generate a higher launch with steeper landing angles to hold the green. Call this one the 12-handicappers secret weapon.

Wilson Dynapower
$114 per iron | Golf Galaxy
4.0
GD SCORE GD HOT LIST SCORE
Hot List Silver
$114 per iron

Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward fixing it, and middle-handicappers tend to hit iron shots on the toe of the club 85 percent of the time (according to data from Arccos). Wilson set out to mitigate that issue by changing the way it uses its “power holes” on the sole of the club. The holes are filled with a polymer and are designed to enhance ball speed. The design team decided the largest of the three holes should be moved to the toe area. Problem solved.

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