What Are the 6 Best Irons for Distance?Published on 09/11/2023 · 16 min readLooking to add distance to your golf game? Explore this guide from Golf Expert Brendon Elliott on the top 6 irons designed to maximize your shots!
Photo by Matt Aylward on Unsplash
Ah, the pursuit of happiness in golf is often connected to how far a golfer can hit the ball. Most of the time that push for distance takes place on the tee box; however, many golfers long to hit a much shorter iron into the green than they currently do.
My name is Brendon Elliott, and I am a PGA Golf Professional based in Central Florida. I have worked in the golf industry for the past 27 years. I have held positions in management, such as a Head Golf Professional and General Manager, a Golf College Academic Instructor and Career Development Director, a Tournament Director, and a Youth Golf Academy Owner and Coach. This year marks 15 years that our Little Linksters Golf Academies and non-profit organization has been in business.
Additionally, as a freelance golf writer, I have found another passion that has grown into an exciting secondary career over the last two years. This allowed me to share my expertise and passion for the game with a broader audience. Beyond Curated, I write for outlets such as PGA.com, PGA Magazine, Golf.com, Sportskeeda, and many others.
Today, I will share some of the game's best irons for distance. Before I start, I wanted to offer up some perspective and insight to you on distance in golf so you have a true understanding of how far people really hit the ball. This information will be essential to your understanding of what better, distance-oriented irons are truly capable of in helping your game.
To do this, I will give you some helpful information, including the following:
- Average distances various ability levels carry each of their irons
- Factors that provide distance in your game from a technique standpoint
- Iron design aspects that can help you gain a little more distance
The Average Carry Distances for Various Abilities
In my teaching and coaching, I often refer to a very useful chart that TrackMan provides. This chart breaks down the carry distances that PGA Tour and LPGA Tour Professionals carry each of their irons. I use this so my students can see what the best ball strikers in the world are capable of and what any golfer's ultimate potential could be.
I will share that with you in the chart below, but combined with it will be the average carry distances of other various ability levels. This will give you more insight into what is normal for various golfer types.
|PW||9 iron||8 iron||7 iron||6 iron||5 iron||4 iron|
|PGA Tour Ave. Carry||136 yds||148 yds||160 yds||172 yds||183 yds||194 yds||203 yds|
|LPGA Tour Ave. Carry||107 yds||119 yds||130 yds||141 yds||152 yds||161 yds||169 yds|
|Shory Male Am||85 yds||100 yds||110 yds||120 yds||130 yds||140 yds||145 yds|
|Short Female Am||55 yds||65 yds||75 yds||95 yds||105 yds||115 yds||125 yds|
|Average Male Am||105 yds||120 yds||130 yds||140 yds||150 yds||160 yds||170 yds|
|Average Female Am||65 yds||85 yds||105 yds||110 yds||125 yds||135 yds||145 yds|
|Long Male Am||130 + yds||140 + yds||150 + yds||160 + yds||170 + yds||180 + yds||190 + yds|
|Long Female Am||90 + yds||110 + yds||120 + yds||130 + yds||140 + yds||150 + yds||160 + yds|
Many may look at this chart and say, “I hit it pretty far if this is true.” Still, the reality is, much like has been proven through multiple studies on driver carry distances, most amateurs greatly exaggerate their true capabilities where distance is concerned. Additionally, many golfers are far too concerned about distance regarding their short iron play. The purpose of a short iron is accuracy over distance, a point worth noting.
What Factors Provide Distance In Your Game From a Technique Standpoint?
There are two ways a golfer can hit the ball further. The first, which we will look at first, is through proper swing technique characteristics. The second, which we will cover next and is the basis of this article, is what equipment design can offer.
- Clubhead Speed: This is how fast you swing the club. Of all the factors that influence distance, how fast your club is moving has the most. While this is the most important factor, you really can not have any of the other factors out of whack, even if your speed is satisfactory. That will not equate to your maximum potential with your carry distance.
- Ball Speed: Your ball speed is how fast it travels once it leaves the clubface. Clubhead speed is only part of the equation for maximizing your ball speed; where you hit the ball on the face of the club, what your launch angle is, and other factors also contribute to it.
- Efficiency of Strike (Smash Factor): How efficiently you strike the ball in terms of your clubhead speed, where on the face you hit the ball, your attack angle, or how you come into the ball at impact, and the ball speed you produce from that, is known as the “smash factor.” According to TrackMan, the smash factor reading is calculated by dividing the ball speed by the clubhead speed. The PGA Tour average on a 6-iron is 1.38, and the LPGA Tour average is 1.39.
- Angle of Attack: This is the angle at which your clubhead approaches the ball at impact. With iron shots, you want a downward or negative angle of attack. The amount at which you will want to do this varies slightly with the club you are hitting and its loft. For reference, according to TrackMan, the PGA Tour average attack angle on a 6-iron is down, or -4.1°. The LPGA Tour average is down, or -2.3°.
- Launch Angle: This factor refers to the angle at which the ball leaves the clubface right after impact. Your clubhead speed, angle of attack, and where on the face you hit the ball all impact your launch angle. Each club will have its own optimal launch angle based on those factors. According to TrackMan, the PGA Tour average attack angle on a 6-iron is down, or 14.1°. The LPGA Tour average is down, or 17.1°.
- Spin Rate: This is a very important factor to be aware of if maximizing your carry distance is your desire. Spin rate is the amount of rotation or spin you impart on the golf ball immediately after it leaves the clubface. That spin is the backward rotation of the ball. Too much spin is the enemy here, but it is a delicate balance as you must be in the optimal range for each club. Your optimal spin rate results from a combination of proper technique and equipment that matches up to your other swing number tendencies, such as your clubhead speed. TrackMan says that the PGA Tour average spin rate on a 6-iron is down, or 6,230 rpm. The LPGA Tour average is 5,943 rpm.
Other factors will affect your carry distance, some of which still fall under the technique category. Face-to-path and swing direction are both examples. However, these are less critical than those I outlined above.
Outside factors such as wind and temperature will influence your carry distances. These factors are out of your control; all you can do is try to manage your play within these constraints. Another outside influence is the altitude of the course you are playing. Courses at higher altitudes will give you the advantage of longer carry distances while playing courses closer to sea level will not.
What Iron Design Aspects Can Help You Gain a Little More Distance?
Now that you have some insight into the swing technique aspects that can affect your distance, let's look at a few design features that golf club manufacturers whip up to help you.
Many manufacturers look for ways of redistributing the clubhead's weight to areas that will make the ball fly higher and increase the stability of the face. You will hear terms such as the following to accomplish this:
- Cavity Back: This design feature is one where the clubhead is hollowed out in the back section of the club. By doing so, weight is removed from the center of the face and distributed to the club's perimeter. The result is increased forgiveness and distance.
- Hollow Body Design: This design feature has become very popular in recent years, although it is nothing new or revolutionary. In a hollow body design, two pieces of material are welded together, and, as the name suggests, it is hollow inside the head. That is where the weight is taken from and then redistributed elsewhere in the club to allow for more distance and control. It is very similar to the cavity back design concept.
- Perimeter Weighting: As the name suggests, and as was pointed out in both the cavity back and hollow body design descriptions above, this is a redistribution of the clubhead's weight from the back and center to the perimeter. The result is more forgiveness and distance. Using multiple materials is also a way of moving weight around; in many cases, tungsten weights are used to lower the center of gravity (CG) to help launch the ball and create more distance.
- Lower CG: The center of gravity is the point at which the clubhead is most balanced. In most cases, that point is found near the center of the head. However, changing that point slightly may be to the golfer's advantage, based on their swing and tendencies. By lowering the CG towards the bottom of the club and having it back or away from the face as much as possible, you will find shots that launch higher and spin less. This design characteristic also makes clubs more forgiving for those needing that assistance.
Swing weight is a measurement of the overall weight of the club and the balance between the clubhead end of the club and the grip end. Some golfers want more weight towards the head; others like the feel of weight away from the head.
The swing weight will influence the shaft's flex and kick point, or where the shaft will flex. Swing weight will impact the energy transfer of the clubhead into the ball and, ultimately, your launch and the distance you carry shots.
There are no hard and fast rules on what loft each club in the bag should be. Each has ranges but no set degree of loft for any one club. Some manufacturers will juice up the loft or even bring it down to help mitigate the launch conditions for a particular golfer or golfer type.
The flex of an iron shaft is not necessarily a design feature but rather a component to be considered when building a set that is right for your swing tendencies. The standard shaft flexes include the following and are generally recommended based on a player's driver clubhead speed. They can come in stainless steel shafts or graphite shafts. Popular brands of shafts include KBS, Nippon, and True Temper. The standard shaft flexes include the following and are generally recommended based on a player's driver clubhead speed:
- Ladies Flex (Swing speeds under 70 mph)
- Senior Flex (Swing speeds of 75 mph or less)
- Regular Flex (Swing speeds of 75 to 95 mph)
- Stiff Flex (Swing speeds of 95 mph or more)
- Extra Stiff Flex (Swing speeds over 100 mph)
Some of the Best Golf Irons for Distance: Great for High and Low Handicappers
Some of the best irons on the market that help golfers hit the ball further are choices I included in my review of “Some of Golf’s Most Forgiving Irons” and “What Are The Best Irons For Hitting The Ball Higher.”
The characteristics that made the following some of the best forgiving and highest launching clubs in golf also make them exceptional for distance:
- TaylorMade Stealth HD Irons
- Callaway Rogue ST Max Irons
- Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal Irons
- Cobra AeroJet Irons
- Wilson Dynapower Irons
- Srixon ZX4 MKII Irons
These irons have design specifics that aid in getting the ball to launch higher as they come off the face and go further in their carry distance.
TaylorMade’s Stealth HD Irons are a great distance iron, especially for those with more moderate swing speeds.
- Because the design of the heads allows for forgiveness and launch, increased distance is possible
- Golfers with moderate swing speeds will notice how hot the face is as ball speed numbers will likely rise
- Distance irons are basically your more forgiving irons, which means bigger and bulkier clubheads, and could be a turn-off to golfers.
- Weaker lofts than other distance clubs
- Are more the expensive side of the distance iron segment
Callaway’s Rogue ST Max irons are one of the longest irons on the market. In addition to their distance prowess, they are also very forgiving.
- The hollow body design allows for more distance
- They allow for a higher launch, which means more distance
- Moderately expensive side for game improvement irons
- The hollow body design can take some time to get used to for first-time users
Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal HL Irons are super long thanks to their higher launch characteristics. Additionally, they are also very forgiving, which is always nice. What makes these irons pop like they do? It is Mizuno’s new 4335 Nickel Chromoly material, which is 35% stronger than the original. This material produces an 8% thinner clubface and helps in giving golfers faster ball speeds off the face.
- With distance being the key factor in this review, these irons have some giddy-up
- Very hot off the face thanks to an intuitive and unique thinner clubface
- Their higher launch properties ensure more carry distance; they are called HL or high launch for a reason
- These irons are pretty pricey, which is not great for budget-conscious golfers
- The thickness of the clubhead may not be a great look to some golfers
Cobra’s AeroJet is a great option for golfers who need some assistance from their irons. They provide many benefits that go way beyond the distance that they offer.
- Cobra’s forged PWRSHELL face insert and H.O.T. Face Technology offers explosive distance.
- These are some of the most forgiving irons in the industry, and forgiveness helps create more distance on off-center strikes.
- Nobody will disagree that golf equipment can be expensive; these irons prove that.
- The middle and long irons don't provide the same launch conditions as other distance, launch, and player-improvement irons offer.
Wilson’s Dynapower Irons have gained much praise for their ability to bring golfers more distance. Their additional benefits go beyond being a pure distance club as they are forgiving and launch well. This is a familiar name in golf, too, as an original model of the Dynapower was the club Alan Shepard swung on the moon in 1971.
- As with many on this list, the clubface is designed to help compensate for the lack of speed in a middle-to-high handicapper swing.
- The distance gains are excellent; you might not be able to hit off the moon like Alan Shepard did with these, but you can near hit it to it.
- Reasonable price point
- Not ideal for players who want to work the ball, but that is a common thing in the distance iron segment of the market
I am a lifelong Srixon and Cleveland staff professional. I am not only a fan of the products they make, but I am also a dedicated user. In fact, I currently use the Srixon ZX4 MKII Irons despite my being a single-digit handicap.
Most think game improvement or forgiving irons are intended for middle-to-high handicap golfers. That is not always the case. I chose the Srixon ZX4 MKII Irons to take advantage of their design features. With a more moderate swing speed, I was a good candidate for these clubs.
- Great distance thanks to the hollow head design with extra-strong lofts
- A very cool feature is their variable grooves that change with the lofts to offer maximum spin and performance.
- Ideal clubs for better accuracy, and the offset makes these irons great on mishits, including heel and toe strikes.
- Despite having some bulk in the head, these irons have a nice thin topline look that is very appealing when you look down at them.
- Great sole design helps for excellent turf interaction.
- Has a premium forged iron feel
- Hard to work the ball with this design, but this was a compromise I was willing to make
- The ZX4 MKIIs are indeed pretty pricey
Wrapping It up and a Best Players Distance Irons Preview
I am limited in sharing all the great options that exist. In this review, I focused primarily on options intended more for middle-to-high handicap golfers. More skilled players can use some options, such as the Srixon ZX4 MKIIs.
However, many great options exist that are considered more of a players iron for distance. Be on the lookout for my “Best Players Distance Irons” review!
In the meantime, please check out some of the best players distance irons in the game:
- Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal Pro Irons
- Callaway Paradym Irons
- Callaway Apex Pro Irons
- Cobra King Forged Tec Irons (X)
- Titleist T200 Irons
- Srixon ZX5 MKII Irons
Find the Best Distance Iron for You
Everybody wants to hit the ball further; that is one attribute that almost every golfer chases. In most cases, the swing is the thing that helps you pick up more distance with your irons.
However, you can get some assistance from the technology in today's irons. I hope this guide has helped increase your understanding of distance in golf and the best distance irons available.
If you want to explore further, your next best step would be to contact a Curated Golf Expert for free, more personalized advice.