Blades vs. Cavity Back Irons: Which Is Right for Your Golf Game?Published on 03/14/2023 · 7 min readWondering about the difference between blades and cavity back irons? Golf Expert Luke Henry is here to help you find the best set of irons for your golf game.
Photo by Andre Tan
I spent about 10 years doing custom fittings for golf clubs at a local club just outside of Seattle, WA, and some of the things that I was asked most often during that time were things like, What is the difference between a blade and a cavity back iron? I have heard blade irons will help me hit it longer – is that true? Why are cavity backs so bulky and blade irons so skinny? Do cavity back irons really help me hit it better? What is the best set of irons for my handicap? Will cavity back help me launch the ball higher and get a better trajectory? Do I have the consistency to play blade irons as a beginner golfer?
The short answer to all of those is…it depends on your current golf game.
Before we jump into an in-depth analysis on why it depends, let’s look at the physical characteristics of a blade iron vs. a cavity back iron. And don't forget, if you have specific questions around what's best for your game, reach out directly to me or another Golf Expert here on Curated.
Blade or Muscle Back Irons
Considered a classic golf iron, blades have been around since the beginning of golf. Before the introduction of cavity backs in the 1980s, this was the only type of golf iron that was available. The Wilson Staff model irons were all the rage! This type of blade (sometimes you will hear them referred to as a muscle-back or MB irons) iron has a small sweet spot, smaller clubhead with a small amount of offset at the hosel and is generally geared towards lower handicap golfers and PGA Tour Players who routinely hit the center of the clubface. Some examples of these iron sets are the Mizuno MP line and the Callaway Apex MB set, each coming in a nice chrome look. They have an exceptionally clean, traditional design and a thin top line and sole, with far less weighting behind the head than a cavity back iron has. The most recent fear-inducing set of blades that came out from Cobra, the Rickie Fowler Copper blades, were so thin it almost looked like looking down at a sheet of paper!
All of this means that you can work the ball easier to hit a fade or draw on command. In today’s golf world, these are traditionally designed with a better, low handicapper in mind. Players that shoot close to par or even under par on a routine basis, have the capability to easily manipulate the ball, demand ultimate performance, and need less forgiveness because their skill level is higher will do well with this iron. For more on the best blade irons, check out these five options.
- Pros: Great for precision and playability, the ability to manipulate the ball to hit draws and fades. Better feel and feedback.
- Cons: Not forgiving on mishits. Smaller sweet spot. Must have a repeatable finely-tuned golf swing.
Cavity Back or Game Improvement Irons
Cavity back irons, on the other hand, are designed with forgiveness in mind for high-handicap amateur golfers who do not get out to play golf as frequently or beginner players who are just learning the game and developing their swing. These irons have a thicker sole, more offset, and a much larger clubhead. They also have a low CG (center of gravity) to help you achieve a high ball speed and maximize MOI—which all means they are easier to launch and achieve maximum distance! They also help golfers with more inconsistent swings reduce sidespin, so they hit it straighter! As a result, cavity back irons have a much larger sweet spot and perimeter weighting which will help hit the ball not only straighter, but higher as well. Hits on the toe or the heel or the club will be less detrimental with cavity backs vs. blades. Higher ball flight, a larger sweet spot, and being easier to hit mean more ball speed, longer shots, and more accuracy!
Cobra, Callaway, Mizuno, Titleist, and TaylorMade are some of the top brands that consistently drive new technology in game improvement irons. For example, TaylorMade has recently introduced the new Cap Back design in the SIM MAX irons and Stealth irons and Callaway has introduced advanced AI technology and urethane microspheres in their lineup with such clubs as the Mavrik irons. For more on the best cavity back clubs, check out these five options.
Did you know that wedges also come in a cavity back? Learn more about cavity back wedges here!
Now, I know you’re thinking that this sounds perfect. The downside to perimeter-weighted cavity back clubs is that having the weight on the outside of the club-face makes it harder to work the golf ball. Meaning, you will have a harder time trying to hit a fade or a draw on command. Generally, lower handicappers will gravitate away from cavity backs and more towards a player's iron, so they have the flexibility to get the shot shape they desire. But if you are like me and enjoy hitting the ball straight high and consistent, these are great irons for you. The rounded sole radius creates better turf interaction, the speed pocket on many of these allows the ball to launch quickly, and manufacturers are always tweaking the original Ping blueprint. You can always make the switch to blades in the future as your club-face direction and path continue to improve!
- Pros: Forgiving, easy to hit on mishits, more distance, and flies straighter so fewer slices and fewer hooks. There will also be fewer issues with turf interaction because of the larger, wider sole.
- Cons: Not easy for workability, less feedback on mishits, feel may be dampened by the perimeter weighting and the fact they are cast irons.
Better Player or High Handicapper – Are Blades or Cavity Backs Better for Me?
If you are just getting into the game, or perhaps you play infrequently or have a slower swing speed and are looking for a golf club that will help you make the game of golf easier, I would recommend looking at cavity back irons. Golf is a difficult game—don’t make it harder on yourself by using blades that are going to penalize you for a missed swing. Unless your swing is so dialed in that you are hitting the center of the club face on 99 out of 100 shots then why not take advantage of clubs that are designed to make you a better golfer?
If you are a great ball striker and play frequently and competitively for sport, then I would recommend looking at a blade for your new setup! If you are one of those people who feels that they make a consistent impact with center hits on a great majority of your swings, then you will reap the rewards of playing muscle-back irons, such as better distance control, workability, and enhanced feel.
It could also be a good idea to test out a blended set, pairing the "larger head" of cavity backs in the long irons with more traditional blade shapes in shorter irons, allowing yourself to have trajectory control and playability. Giving yourself this option gives you the compact head shape with all the clubs, but gives you the confidence to throw darts with the shorter irons, maximizing spin rates and great feel.
The Most Important Element When Considering a New Set of Irons
Beyond just looking at the club head and whether it is a blade or cavity back, you need to make sure that you are getting a custom fit for your static measurements. The length, lie angle, and grip size are some of the most overlooked aspects of irons. Other aspects of a proper fitting to consider are whether graphite shafts or steel shafts are a good fit for you and what type of set makeup you need. Should you mix in some hybrids to replace the longer, harder-to-hit irons and just have short irons, or do you want a traditional 4-iron to pitching wedge setup? Addressing these different aspects when ordering a new set of irons has the potential to have a huge impact on improving your golf game.
If you have any questions on choosing between blade and cavity back irons, please feel free to reach out to me or one of my fellow Golf Experts here on Curated. We are happy to discuss all aspects of finding you the set that best fits your game. We would look at running through a custom fitting based on your static measurements, as well as compare several different sets, including both blades and cavity back irons. We are happy to be a source of information and free recommendations.
I look forward to chatting with you about your next set of golf clubs soon!