Updated Jan. 2021
You’re starting to see some improvement in your game and your handicap is showing it. Reaching that mid-handicap level (10-18 or so) is the perfect time to upgrade your irons.
As you improve your swing, you might be playing with irons that are designed for less-skilled players or you may even still be using that starter set or hand me down clubs that you began with.
Picking up a new set of irons is a great way to break through that next scoring barrier and get more control over the golf ball.
So here are our top picks for the best irons for mid handicappers.
Top Pick | Callaway Mavrik Pro
Callaway has a history of forgiveness technology built into their clubs, but the Mavrik Pro irons will give mid-handicappers both playability and forgiveness.
Click below for prices and customization options…
They are less chunky than most game improvement irons but still pack the kind of distance and forgiveness that Callaway is known for.
Compared to the regular Mavrik and the Mavrik MAX, the Mavrik Pro has an overall smaller clubhead, thinner topline, and less offset. They also have a flatter lie angle which is common as you get into clubs designed for the better golfer.
But don’t be scared of the “Pro” moniker, you don’t need to have your name on your bag to game these sticks. Actually, this club sits in that perfect middle ground between high handicap iron and players iron.
While the Pro model is more workable than the other Mavrik irons, you won’t lose much distance on off-center hits unless they are significantly off-center, so you don’t need to be an exceptinal ball striker to take advantage of this club.
One of the benefits that comes with this is that your shots will be more consistent. Better players don’t use those super-forgiving clubs because, in general, hotter and more forgiving the face, the more variation in distance you’ll get even on sweet spot hits. So with these irons you’ll narrow down that distance dispersion a little bit while still holding onto enough forgiveness to save those bad swings.
The standard Mavrik irons are probably going to be the farthest, but they might be a little too chunky for most mid-handicappers. Overall, I really liked the Mavrik Pro irons. They are the perfect club for a player that is improving and wants to move away from the big chunky game improvement irons but isn’t ready for the punishing players irons.
Runner-Up | Mizuno JPX 921 Forged
You can’t beat the feel of a Mizuno iron, but the JPX line has shed the notion that they are only for advanced players and brought the Mizuno feel to mid-handicappers that need a little forgiveness as well.
Click below for prices and customization options…
The JPX 921 Forged sit right between the more forgiving Hot Metal irons and the better players Tour model. Comparing them to the Mavrik Pro irons above, I these are a little smaller and slightly less forgiving which is why they came in at the runner up spot.
Compared to the more bigger JPX 921 Hot Metal these are smaller to the tune of 2mm of blade length and 1mm of top line thickness.
What I liked most about these irons was the consistency and feel that you don’t often get in a club this forgiving. Mizuno use a process called grain flow forging. I’m not a metal expert so I have no idea what that means other than it let’s them control the grain of the metal which results in a softer “buttery” feel off the face that is very uniquely Mizuno.
This attention to detail also results in a very consistent club so you’ll get less of those surprise hot shots that fly over the green.
These clubs don’t fall short in the forgiveness department either. The perimeter weighting design means that small mishits will not be punished.
Mizuno irons usually go with more traditional lofts and have (so far) opted out of the distance chasing game that other manufacturers have created by putting 6 iron lofts on their 7 irons and claiming distance gains. These irons will have the closest to traditional lofts on this list, but you should know they have made them 1 degree stronger than the previous JPX version.
Let’s talk about looks. If the way an irons looks is important to you then you’ll be very happy with these irons. They are beautiful looking clubs and sit nicely behind the ball at address.
Budget Pick | Taylor Made M2 Irons
One of the best ways to get high-value clubs at a great price is to look at the best options from the previous year’s models. And the Taylor Made M2 Irons are just that. The average mid handicapper will not be able to tell the difference between the latest model irons and the previous generation. In fact, there is often very little measurable difference between the two.
Even though the Tayloe Made M2 Irons are not the latest generation from the company, they are still very high-quality irons that are perfect for mid handicappers and are available at a very good price now.
The Taylor Made M2 Irons made our list as the best value clubs in this category because a year or so ago, they would have been one of the top picks overall and now you can find them for a fraction of the cost of the other sets on this list.
Like the Callaway irons above, the Taylor Made M2 irons pack a lot of game improvement technology into a slim form factor that will be appealing to mid handicappers.
Looking at the face of the club, you’ll notice two cut out slots on either side of the hitting area. These increase ball speed on off-center hits according to Taylor Made. I am assuming they help to add some more rebound effect to the sides of the hitting area by letting those areas flex as much as the sweet spot (but I’m no engineer).
They also made the face itself shallower to get more center of gravity below the sweet spot.
One of the more interesting features of the M2 irons is the fluted hosel. The manufacturer basically cut out slots from the hosel to save weight. This removed about 5 grams of weight compared to a traditional hosel, thereby adding clubhead speed.
The ball flight from these irons is a little higher than normal, but they are still able to be controlled when you need to keep the ball down out of the wind.
One thing to keep in mind is that these are made from cast steel rather than forged. This means that you can only adjust the lie angle 1 to 1.5 degrees either way without risking breaking them. Always go to a professional for lie angle adjustments, that is not something you should be doing at home unless you have the training and skills.
If you want to save some cash and still get a very capable iron, then this might be your pick.
If you want even more budget options, Callaway Golf has one of the best pre-owned marketplaces online.
For Better Ballstrikers | Titleist T300
If you are a mid handicapper who strikes your irons well and are looking to transition into a player’s iron but still want some forgiveness, then the Titleist T300 is perfect for you.
They fall somewhere between a “player’s” club and a game improvement club. The T300 is the current replacement for the AP1 irons. Among the T100, T200, and T300…the T300 offer the most forgiveness.
Titleist is one of the most well-known names in golf and their irons are known for great ball control in their player’s irons. But the Titleist T300 is a great move in the direction of game improvement technology for Titleist.
One thing I really like about the T300 is that they scale back a little on the game improvement features (the big cavity back for example) as you get into the scoring irons (the 8 iron, 9 iron, and pitching wedge). This is smart and beneficial to mid handicappers. Titleist gives you the forgiveness where you need it, namely the long and mid irons, and gives you ball control and precision in the shorter irons.
For a mid handicapper that is just starting to take tighter aim with these short irons but still needs a little help on the longer shots, it can be a great combination.
They have also added a little extra bounce in the sole to help you out if you tend to hit the ball a little fat on occasion.
Like most forgiving irons, the T300 is a lower spin club. This can help you a lot in terms of keeping the ball straight and getting a little extra distance out of your iron shots, but it may make holding greens (especially with longer irons) more difficult.
For Slower Swing Speeds | Mavrik Max
If you strike the ball well enough to be in that mid-handicap range but your swing speed means you need a little help getting the ball flying high and far, then the Mavrik Max irons fit your game perfectly.
Click below for prices and customization options…
Technically, these irons would fit in the “game improvement” category, but I think they are still good looking irons and the perfect option for slower swing speeds based on the ball flight characteristics they generate.
The Mavrik Max irons will fly higher and have a little more spin than the standard Mavrik irons, which makes them ideal for slower swings speeds. The lower center of gravity requires less clubhead speed to add lift and spin to the ball. This results in maximizing distance at these speeds.
One thing I liked about it that even though it is very forgiving on off-center hits, you still feel it when you miss the sweet spot. This kind of feedback is important for a player that is working on improving their ballstriking, which is why I chose these irons here over some of the other similar offerings.
Interestingly, the MAX irons tend to launch pretty high so if you have a medium to higher swing speed, you’ll actually see more distance with the Mavrik Pros then the MAX.
A word of caution though, if you already hit a draw, then this club may not be a good idea. It has an offset head (more so on the longer irons) that will promote a draw or exxaggerate it if you already have one. So while the design is helpful for launching the ball high, it may not work for some.
What Mid Handicappers Should Look For When Choosing Irons
As a player that is starting to improve your swing and get some good results, this is a great time to think about upgrading your clubs, especially if you have been playing with clubs designed for players of a lesser skill level.
Adjustability in irons is different than in many modern drivers. You’re not likely to find irons with an adjustable hosel to give you a variety of loft and lie choices.
When it comes to irons, you’ll be better off if you choose clubs that are able to be bent to the correct lie angle. Having the correct lie angle is critical in hitting the ball on a consistent path.
What you may not know is that the correct lie angle for you may change as you improve your swing. A lot of golfers start off with a very steep swing and need an upright lie angle but their swing becomes more shallow as they improve and they require a flatter lie angle.
Clubs that are made from a casting process are often difficult or impossible to bend without breaking. That means you are stuck with the lie angle you had when you purchased.
Forged clubs tend to be a little more expensive but are easily adjusted at many golf shops.
Your game is improving, but you don’t want to jump all the way to player’s irons with minimal forgiveness.
As a mid handicapper, you’re still going to miss the sweet spot on a regular basis, so while the super game improvement irons may not be right for you anymore, you still want to choose irons with some forgiveness.
As your game is improving, you’ll start to learn that just simply hitting the ball straight every time is both difficult and less effective than being able to curve the ball a little.
You may also want to hit the ball higher or lower depending on the shot you need.
The problem is that very forgiving clubs are designed to hit the ball straight all the time which makes them less effective for controlling your shots.
That’s why the mid handicap level is a great time to invest in some new irons.
The best irons for mid handicappers are a little smaller in size, have a little less forgiveness, but that comes with more ball control.
Most golfers just assume that all irons of the same number are the same loft.
That’s actually not true.
A 5 iron can vary in loft as much as 4 or even 5 degrees from manufacturer to manufacturer and even model to model.
This is particularly important to pay attention to when you already have clubs you like on either end of the irons, such as the wedges on the short end or a hybrid or fairway wood on the long end. You want to make sure that the gap in loft from club to club is not too small or too large.
The trend in modern clubs, especially game improvement clubs, is to make the lofts stronger (meaning lower loft and more distance). There is two reasons for this.
First, manufacturers like it when you pick up a particular club and their iron results in a farther shot than the comparable iron in another set.
Second, game improvement irons typically have a lower center of gravity. This helps you get the ball in the air better with a less than ideal swing. But that lower COG means that the ball will fly higher, so the manufacturer lowers the loft to preventing shots that go too high and not far enough.
When choosing a set, be sure to keep about a 4-5 degree gap between your clubs. That should spread out your distances nicely.
With the stronger lofts of today, that often means dropping a 3 or 4 iron and adding an extra wedge.
Preferred Ball Flight
Somewhat related to ball control, ball flight can vary depending on the model of irons you use.
Some clubs will get the ball up in the air faster and higher while others will give you a lower and more penetrating ball flight. This might be something you never considered before, but as you improve, you’ll realize that ball flight is very important.
When you first start playing, clubs with a low center of gravity that helps get the ball up quicker can be helpful. But as you improve and are able to hit your irons on the sweet spot more consistently, having clubs that will naturally have a lower ball flight will be more helpful.
Yet another reason this is a good skill level to think about upgrading your clubs.
Should I Buy Irons Online?
Buying online is a great way to get the best prices on a set of irons. I recommend buying from a store that has a favorable return policy in the event that the clubs turn out not to be right for you. You can also check out our guide to Online Golf Stores.
There are two things you want to be aware of though. First, forged irons are able to have their lie angle adjusted so you can take care of that after you get them and decide you want to keep them. Second, be sure the place you buy them has a decent return policy in case you hate them.
You can also rent different types of clubs before you buy, just to be certain.
What is considered a mid handicapper?
There’s no strict rule that says when you’re considered a “mid handicapper.” But generally speaking, a mid handicap player has a USGA handicap index of 11-20. Mid handicap players are those that are able to hit the ball solidly on a regular basis and tend to shoot in the high 80s and low 90s. They still need some forgiveness in their clubs but not so much that it prevents them from being able to control different ball flights.
When Should I Consider Buying An Iron Set For Mid Handicappers?
You should consider upgrading your clubs when you are able to shoot rounds in the high 80s on a consistent or semi-consistent basis. Once you reach that scoring level, beginner clubs and starter sets might be holding you back. At that level, you also are likely to have a more consistent swing so getting an iron set adjusted to the appropriate lie angle for you will also give you better results.
Should I Choose Steel or Graphite Shafts For My Irons?
Most players would be better off using steel shafts in their irons. Steel shafts are a little heavier and sturdier and will allow you to have more control over the club. Because clubhead speed is less important in iron shots than drives, you’ll be better off with the steel shafts. However, if you struggle to create enough swing speed to get the ball on a good trajectory, then graphite shafts may help.