Outside of your putter, irons last longer than any other piece of golf equipment. But, like everything in golf, irons do have a shelf life.
On average, a good set of irons can last from 5-10 years with regular play. Replacing them more frequently than that will help you keep up with modern club technology but the gains will be minimal from year to year.
There is no specific indicator that says you need to immediately buy a new set of irons. There are however, some “warning” signs.
We want you to play your best golf. It’s nice to see other people succeed—except when you’re playing directly in competition. Even then, it’s nice to see good shots rewarded and a genuine back and forth with quality play. Golf isn’t like other sports where you can only be as good as your gear. With that said, having modern clubs in good condition doesn’t hurt.
As long as you keep up by using the information we lay out, your clubs won’t be the reason you’re missing greens or not making solid contact. If you have the latest and greatest and you’re still struggling, well, we have a section on this site for that too.
When to Upgrade Golf Irons
You do not want to upgrade your irons before it’s necessary. It’s a comfort thing and a cash thing. No one really likes adjusting to a new set of irons, but you know destination is worth the journey. The cash thing is pretty easy to understand. If you you’re replacing your irons every season, you’re wasting money and abandoning clubs that have plenty of life left in them.
Despite what the marketing campaigns tell you, club companies aren’t adding 5 yards every year to their irons (or their drivers for that matter). Plus, more yards with your irons isn’t even the most important thing because accuracy is more important. So you would be better off taking the time to get fitted properly rather than chasing new irons every year.
You should consider your irons every 5-10 years if you play frequently and making sure you check your fit, especially lie angle, every year or two. That will help you keep up with modern technology without wasting your money.
There are obvious things, such as bent shafts and having replaced your grips four times that make replacement the only solution. For these instances though, you can replace a single shaft or get the grips done again if the clubs still look alright. The main reason to replace irons is having worn out grooves.
As the grooves on your irons wear out, it begins to affect your ball flight, distance and accuracy. When a club has worn out grooves, a ball that should have flown right at the flag might come up short or miss the green entirely. For an accurate ball striker, this happens quicker than someone who tends to make contact everywhere but the sweet spot.
If you always strike the ball in the same place, a mark wears into the club. As this spot continues to grow, the effectiveness of your striking begins to decrease. If you make contact all over the club face, it will take longer to wear out your grooves. But, once it happens, it will be across the entire club face.
Since this happens over time, it might not be easy to pick up. Easiest way to tell? Take a look at a new club and then back at yours. If there’s a noticeable difference in groove depth (and not because your clubs are dirty), they’ve started to wear out.
Regardless of where on the face your grooves wear out, when this happens, it means you need to go shopping.
Do New Golf Irons Make A Difference?
I hate to be that guy, but if new golf irons did not make a difference, why would anyone ever buy a new set?
So, just to be very clear, yes, new golf irons do make a difference, but not as much as you might think.
Suppose you stepped away from golf for a while, but want to get back into it. Even if the clubs you had from 10 years ago are in good shape, technology has improved. This means that using newer clubs will automatically make you a better player.
Never in the history of golf has there been such a variety of quality golf brands and lines. From blades to super game improvement irons, your options are near limitless. Especially if you haven’t played in years, take the time to read about what’s out there—it can only help you.
Sometimes deciding whether or not to buy new clubs comes down to your ability, rather than how good of shape your current set is in. A lot of deciding when to upgrade irons comes down to what type of player are you now, and what type of player you were when you bought your irons.
If the most recent set of irons you bought are from when you first started playing and you’ve improved a stroke per hole, you’ve outgrown them. When someone is new or improving, they need game improvement clubs. As your skills increase, your needs change and you essentially become too good for some clubs. When you make the jump to simple cavity back or blades (don’t jump straight to blades), you can see the difference. You’ll see an increase in distance, ball flight consistency and your ability to shape the ball.
Besides iron heads, one area of golf clubs that has improved considerably is shafts. Transitioning from a regular or stiff set to senior clubs will provide a golfer with a slower swing speed more distance and better launch. In general, senior clubs are slightly shorter and will help you get square upon contact. Without transitioning to a new set, you will be fighting off unnecessary challenges that are easily solved by a new set of irons.
Which Clubs Should You Upgrade Before Irons?
If everything was bought at the same time, your driver and wedges will need to be replaced before your irons.
For as many shots as you hit with irons, the frequency is less than you might think. Now you’ll have certain irons that you hit more than others. But, for the most part, each club is only hit a couple of times per round. On the contrary, your driver gets hit at least a dozen times and wedges get used more frequently than anyone cares to admit.
With a driver (woods and hybrids, too), technology improves at a faster pace. As a result, these clubs need to be replaced more frequently. For these clubs, wear is more noticeable and who wants to be losing yards off the tee? Individually, these clubs are more expensive than everything else (except maybe a putter). Due to use, they need to be replaced the most often.
Not to mention, when we spend some time on the range, it’s not unusual to hit 50% of the balls you have with your driver. Eventually those hits add up and cause the club wear down more quickly than a club that only gets hit a few times on the range.
Also, don’t warm up with the same club every time you play. Nobody wants a worn out 7-iron when the rest of their clubs look brand new.
With wedges especially, groove depth and “sharpness” are important. These things matter with longer irons, but when you’re around the green, there is a much smaller margin for error. From 150 out, you’re trying to hit the green. From 15 yards out, you’re trying to land and stop a ball all within a few feet.
Any way you look at it, you need as much spin production and stopping power as possible. Fresher grooves help and is a main reason wedges do not last as long as irons.