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What Should Be the Longest Iron in Your Set?

Published on 11/14/2023 · 10 min readNavigate the ins and outs of golf club selection with Golfing Expert Michael Leonard's article on determining the longest iron you should carry in your set
Michael Leonard, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Michael Leonard

Photo by Eryx V

TL;DR Learn how to identify the longest club in your bag to improve your long game and scoring average. Oftentimes, replacing long irons with more forgiving clubs can make a difference in your confidence. It might be ideal to replace them with alternatives such as high-lofted fairway woods, hybrids, or utility irons.

Do you need long irons or replace them with easier-to-hit driving irons or hybrids? This is a great question we’ll address today so you can figure out what should be your longest iron in the set.

I’ve been playing golf for more than two decades (now a +2 handicap), and while I continually learn more about the game, one thing is for sure: technology has made the game a lot easier. When I think back to my old equipment, I chuckle because, as a +2 handicap now, I doubt I could hit those clubs well when I barely broke 90. I used to play clubs that were too long and unforgiving and didn’t inspire much confidence in my game.

Luckily, technology has replaced most hard-to-hit long irons in favor of high-lofted fairway woods, hybrids, and utility irons. These are better options for 90% of players. As someone who loves making golf easier, I know that understanding equipment, especially long irons, can help make the game a lot more enjoyable.

Breaking Down Different Clubs in a Golf Bag

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The longest club in a golf bag is a driver—typically about 45 inches long for men and slightly shorter for women golfers. The next longest club is a 3-wood, which is about 1-2 inches shorter, followed by other fairway woods (5, 7, 9, etc.).

Then comes hybrids and long irons. Hybrids are part fairway wood, part iron, and a more recent club design meant to replace longer irons in the bag (2, 3, 4, and sometimes mid-irons, too). Hybrids are typically a little longer than equivalent irons but have a different shaft and clubhead design, making them substantially easier to hit.

What to Consider With Longer Clubs in Your Bag

Choosing the right long clubs in your bag can make or break your long game and overall confidence. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have a club that is too hard to hit or doesn’t suit your swing on longer shots, as it’s a confidence killer.

When selecting the right iron for you, consider asking yourself the following questions:

1. What is the longest iron I like to hit?

When determining the right long iron(s) for you, consider the longest iron in your bag you like (maybe a 4, 5, or even 6-iron). Most golfers determine this quickly because they know what clubs lead to some concerns on the course.

For example, I had little confidence with the 5 and 6-iron in my old set of irons. I didn’t hit them much, but when I did, I never had a lot of confidence standing over the golf ball. So I addressed this and switched to a combo set of irons with a more forgiving 5 and 6-iron. The slightly larger blade inspired confidence and lent more forgiveness on mishits. Now, I feel better than ever with these longer clubs, but it started with an honest assessment.

2. Where does my game need help?

If you aren’t playing and practicing consistently, hitting long irons is difficult as they have a small sweet spot and low loft. Even the best players in the world on the PGA Tour are switching to more forgiving long irons, so don’t let ego get in the way of choosing the right long iron for your game.

Identify the clubs that you don’t like and the distances you need to improve from. For example, you might realize that any club longer than a 5-iron isn’t consistent or any distance over 180 yards. Having this type of self-awareness will make it a lot easier to improve a weakness in your game.

3. What is my budget?

You’ll want to consider your budget as you add a hybrid, fairway wood(s), or utility irons to your bag. Fairway woods are the most expensive of the three types of clubs ($250+ per club), while hybrids or utility irons are slightly cheaper, between $150-$225 in general.

Types of Long Iron Replacements

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Here’s a theme I try to tell every golfer: make sure your equipment helps your game. Don’t let your clubs hold you back from playing your best golf.

I find that too many golfers let pride get in the way instead of playing equipment that is right for them. Specifically, most golfers try to hit long irons that are very hard to hit, even for the best ball strikers in the world.

For example, if you hate long irons but love fairway woods, don’t be afraid to use a 3, 5, and 7-wood. Too many golfers worry about what others will think when, in reality, all that matters is the result and score at the end of the round. Or, if you like a hybrid, add 1-2 to replace the longer irons in your bag.

Now, let’s differentiate each type of long iron replacement to see which one will suit your swing the best.

Fairway Woods

Let’s say you don’t like anything longer than a 5-iron but love fairway woods. This might mean adding in a 7-wood or 9-wood to your set. These high-lofted fairway woods are longer than hybrids but also easier to hit.

Higher lofted fairway woods are typically best for higher handicap golfers as they have the most forgiveness. They’re also longer than hybrids, which improves distance as well. Check out my guide about the best fairway woods for high handicappers.

Benefits

Be Aware

  • The longer shaft makes it harder to control than irons or hybrids.

Hybrids

The second alternative to long irons is hybrids, which are common for all types of players. What’s great about hybrids is that they have different models, so if you’re a 25-handicap or a scratch player, there is a design that is right for you.

Golfers who need more forgiveness can use higher lofted hybrids and ones with a larger, more forgiving design, while more skilled golfers can use a compact design hybrid that offers more workability. Plus, most hybrids have adjustability features to change the loft and lie angle to match your swing.

Benefits

  • Hybrid shafts are lighter than standard long iron shafts, making them much easier to hit.
  • Different sizes of hybrids for all types of players, and you can add as many as you’d like to replace nearly any iron in the bag.

Be Aware

  • Make sure your hybrid doesn’t have the same loft as a fairway wood so each club has its own distances.

Driving Irons

The final alternative to traditional long irons is known as utility or driving irons. These irons have a much bigger clubhead that makes them significantly more forgiving. A good example is the Mizuno Pro Fli-Hi, which I’ve hit myself and loved. But I started using a Titleist driving iron a few years ago and will never not play one again. The graphite hybrid shaft and clubhead design are ten times easier to hit than a long iron.

These clubs are best for golfers who hit the ball consistently well and prefer a smaller clubhead than a wood or a hybrid. Benefits

  • Different types of utility irons to fit all types of players
  • Hybrid shafts make these clubs significantly lighter and easier to launch than long irons.

Be Aware

  • While easier to hit than standard long irons, they are better for more advanced, consistent golfers as they’re not as forgiving.

Features to Look Out for When Buying a Long Iron Replacement

Photo by Dasha Petrenko

When buying a long iron replacement, you want to consider a few things:

  • Loft: Make sure the loft of a new hybrid, fairway wood, or utility iron is the right one to replace any long irons in your bag.
  • Shaft: These three replacement options come with lighter graphite shafts, making them much easier to hit. But make sure to double-check the flex, weight, and launch characteristics that suit your individual swing.
  • Adjustability: Hybrids and fairway woods offer adjustability, so you can change the loft and lie settings, while utility irons do not. If you want adjustability, you might want to skip utility irons.

How to Choose the Right Long Iron Replacement

Now that you better understand each type of clubhead, let's get into what clubs are best for average golfers.

Fairway Woods: Best For High Handicappers

Nearly every golfer will have a 3-wood, but a 5-wood is another club you might want in your bag. A 5-wood is typically about 19° of loft, which is equivalent to a 2-iron.

A typical iron set from Mizuno, Callaway, TaylorMade, or any other brand does not include a 2-iron, and usually, a 3 or 4-iron is the longest. Higher handicap golfers can benefit from a 5-wood as they're easier to hit from the fairway than a 3-wood (thanks to more loft) and also more forgiving.

You might also consider adding a 7-wood too. These fairway woods are equivalent to a 3 or 4-iron with about 21° of loft.

Paul

Let’s reference Paul, a 20 handicapper who plays a couple of days per month.

Features Paul should look for:

  • A forgiving design
  • An adjustable clubhead or one that is draw-biased for a straighter ball flight
  • A lightweight graphite shaft to make it easier to swing faster and hit longer

Examples to consider: Titleist TSR1 or Cobra Aerojet Max

Hybrids: Best for Mid-Handicappers

Hybrids have a smaller sweet spot than fairway woods but tend to be easier to control, too. The shafts are slightly shorter and paired with a smaller clubhead, leading to fewer big misses that can happen with a fairway wood.

High handicap golfers can benefit from replacing several long irons such as a 3, 4, and possibly 5-iron. Even professional golfers use these clubs, so they work for all types of golfers. It's more about finding the right hybrid for your type of swing.

Max

Let’s reference Max, a 10-handicap golfer who is getting more consistent.

Features Max should look for:

  • An adjustable design to dial in the right loft and distance
  • A mid-size design that offers a mix of forgiveness and playability
  • A 3 or 4-hybrid that will replace the longer irons and give him a lot better launch

Examples to consider: Titleist TSR2 or TaylorMade Stealth 2 Rescue

Driving Irons: Best for Low Handicappers

These clubs are awesome for more skilled amateur golfers and a favorite for Tour pros. The graphite shaft is the biggest difference when hitting these clubs versus a normal long iron in terms of ball speed and improving launch angles tremendously. My Titleist driving iron has a significantly higher launch than my other long irons and is perfect for tee shots on long par 3s and into par 4s or 5s.

In terms of accuracy, the misses are also smaller than a hybrid or fairway wood due to the clubhead and shaft length. But a smaller clubhead also makes them the least forgiving option, so ensure you have a consistent swing with plenty of clubhead speed before choosing them.

Tim

Let’s reference Tim, a 7-handicap golfer who prefers long irons to hybrids or fairway woods.

Features Tim should look for:

  • A lightweight graphite shaft with a mid-high launch
  • A mid-size design that has a mix of forgiveness and playability

Examples to consider: TaylorMade Stealth DHY or Mizuno Pro Fli-Hi

Find the Best Long Iron Replacement for You

Photo by JA Images

Don't make golf even more challenging by trying to hit long irons. Each big manufacturer offers many more forgiving alternatives, has a higher ball flight, and will inspire a lot more confidence.

Use a mix of higher lofted fairway woods, hybrids, and/or driving irons to improve your long game fast. Contact a Curated Golf Expert today if you need more help finding the right clubs to replace long irons.

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Written by:
Michael Leonard, Golf Expert
Michael Leonard
Golf Expert

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