RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links


The best players-distance irons of 2019: 11 options to give you a power boost

March 05, 2019

Let’s face it—everyone wants to hit the ball longer. Not just off the tee, but with your irons as well. That’s particularly true of players drawn to clubs in the Players-Distance category. Although low handicappers rarely suffer a power outage, some of them can still use a yardage boost. Today’s Players-Distance irons provide that distance shot in the arm.

In recent years the inclination of designers has been to produce as many yards as humanly possible without sacrificing look or launch angle. Innovations such as cupfaces (first used in drivers) where the face wraps around the topline and sole, boost ball speed by providing more face flex. Others thin the face to create a better trampoline. The use of multiple materials also is prevalent, in many cases tungsten weights to move the center of gravity to help elevate the ball. Of course none of this appeals to the better player if the sound is like a cymbal clashing or a cat having its tail stepped on. Designers have paid attention here as well, using polymers and badges to damp unwanted vibration while protecting ball speed.

Players-Distance irons are their own unique breed. The shape says better player: relatively thin soles and toplines with shapes that flow rather than look angular. The technological aim, however, is to make a player with skills who has dropped a few yards over time get into beast mode again.

Gold-medal winners:


Story: We put the previous Apex on the Mount Rushmore of irons, and this is a worthy follow-up. The body is forged from soft carbon steel, and the cupface—where the face wraps around the sole and topline to create more rebound—extends to the 8-iron. Some refinement to the shaping on the pitching and gap wedges cleaned up our one nitpick from the previous Apex. True Temper’s Elevate 95 steel shaft completes a classy package.

Lofts: 7-iron: 30.5 degrees; PW: 43 degrees

Street Price: $1,400

Story: The Rogue Pro’s key attributes are mostly unseen, but they’re designed to bring power to a compact iron with a thin topline and sole (a look preferred by better players). One significant feature is the use of air-infused microspheres within a urethane compound inside the clubhead. The urethane helps impact feel more cushion- like and provides face-flexing heat to the thin, wraparound cupface. Unseen, yes. But not unappreciated.

Lofts: 7-iron: 31 degrees; PW: 45 degrees

Street Price: $1,000

Cobra King Forged TEC Black/King Forged TEC Black One Length

Story: A nice encore to the original Forged TEC, including a one-length option and the addition of Cobra Connect grip sensors that provide player analytics through the Arccos round-tracking system. As with many of Cobra’s irons, the Forged TEC Black uses multiple materials to bring speed and feel to an iron with a traditional shape. Feel is achieved with a carbon-fiber and aluminum medallion insert. Oh, and we applaud the 5-iron through gap wedge standard set.

Lofts: 7-iron: 30 degrees; PW: 45 degrees

Street Price: $1,100, set of seven

Story: The company is legendary for tour-proven forged irons with an appealing look. That heritage continues here. Infusing boron into the carbon steel strengthens the material, allowing for a thinner face and better weight distribution. Hidden in the sole is a cut-through slot. The slot creates more springlike effect through a larger area of the face and makes room for a deeper undercut cavity. This helps create a lower center of gravity to promote a higher ball flight.

Lofts: 7-iron: 32 degrees; PW: 45 degrees

Street Price: $1,300

Mizuno JPX 919 Hot Metal Pro

Story: Mizuno used its expertise in metallurgy to produce a dynamic club in a pleasing package. The use of a strong but malleable steel alloy allowed engineers to create a new multi-thickness face structure to increase ball speed. The company also devotes a lot of effort to getting the sound it wants. Here, internal ribs have been re- engineered to produce a satisfying sensation at impact. The grooves also have been altered for a better transition to the scoring clubs.

Lofts: 7-iron: 31 degrees; PW: 46 degrees

Street Price: $1,000

Story: If you took the best characteristics of the company’s i200 and G700 irons and melded them, you might get the i500. The iron’s hollow structure and forged, heat-treated, high-strength steel face insert allow for five times the bending of the face at impact compared to a cast iron. This leads to a distance boost with a higher launch angle. A benefit of the thin face insert is saved weight, some of which is used in a tungsten toe weight to mitigate distance loss on mis-hits.

Lofts: 7-iron: 30.5 degrees; PW: 45 degrees

Street Price: $1,300

PXG 0311 P GEN2

Story: You know that guy, the middle-handicapper who insists on using irons designed for better players? Steer that fella this way. The 0311 P has a thinner topline and less offset than the original 0311, so you get that tour-player look. Other enhancements include a redesigned sole geometry and an internal face perimeter with a cutout design to foster speed and forgiveness. Call this a club that gives you all the help you need with a look that says you don’t need any.

Lofts: 7-iron: 31 degrees; PW: 45 degrees

Street Price: $3,200

Story: This second-year iron still gets high marks for finding a way to make a hollow-construction iron feel good and maintaining all the speed benefits in a compact clubhead. A comforting club that doesn’t have the industrial look of some others. The flexible urethane foam filling inside the head damps sound while allowing the face (which wraps around the sole) to flex. Tungsten weights in the 3- through 7-iron add stability on those hard-to-hit clubs.

Lofts: 7-iron: 30.5 degrees; PW: 45 degrees

Street Price: $1,300

Story: The most technologically ambitious of the AP irons brings a multi-faceted approach with three separate constructions within the set, led by a hollow, tungsten-loaded design in the 3- through 7-iron. A thin, L-shape face insert wraps around the sole to provide better face flex, particularly on shots struck low on the face. The 8- and 9-iron have a standard face insert, and the wedges are single-piece construction. An iron for serious golfers regardless of handicap.

Lofts: 7-iron: 31 degrees; PW: 43 degrees

Street Price: $1,300

Silver-medal winning clubs:

Srixon Z 585

Story: Designed with a focus on distance, the Z 585 features a speedy face plate with a groove indented on the perimeter of its interior, creating, in essence, a slot around the entire face. The revised Tour VT sole has a higher bounce angle toward the leading edge that tapers for less bounce on the trailing edge. The shaft, grip and other options (including the ability to sub Z U85 utility irons) are impressive, and a clean look is maintained.

Lofts: 7-iron: 31 degrees; PW: 44 degrees

Street Price: $1,000, set of seven

Wilson C300 Forged

Story: When designing irons for better players, one of the challenges is knowing how much game-improvement is appropriate. Wilson focused on a clean look, then added distance technology. The offset was kept to a manageable level, and the face insert was forged from soft carbon steel. To boost distance, the company again used its “power holes” in the sole, with two rows of the urethane-filled openings up through the 8-iron.

Lofts: 7-iron: 33 degrees; PW: 45 degrees

Street Price: $900