The Best Irons for Beginners

Choose the right irons when you're learning to play golf.
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Many golf courses and driving ranges offer club rentals, but if you’re taking up golf you’ll probably want to own a set of clubs. Your don’t necessarily need a full set to start, but you will need some irons. Irons contain relatively thin, metal clubheads. They are most often used when you’re hitting from the fairway or the rough, although you can also tee off with an iron at many par-3 holes. The right clubs can get your golf game off to a good start and aid your enjoyment of the sport.

Iron Play

There are, technically, nine types of irons, numbered from 1 through 9, although 1-irons are basically a dinosaur from the past. The lower-numbered irons are referred to as the long irons because you’ll hit the ball farther with a lower-numbered iron. The higher-numbered clubs, are called the short irons. For example, an average player can hit the ball roughly 210 yards with a 2-iron, but only 130 yards with a 9-iron. Irons become progressively shorter and include more loft as you proceed from the 2- through the 9-iron. The greater the club’s loft, the easier it becomes to hit the ball in the air.

Beginner Irons

Forget about attempting the long irons yet. Even many pro golfers are ditching long irons in favor of hybrids. In his book “How I Play Golf,” Tiger Woods says only a 4-handicap player or better should play anything longer than a 4-iron. Including a 5-, 7- and 9-iron in your bag offers some versatility because you’ll use the 5-iron for longer shots of approximately 150 yards, and the other two irons for shorter approaches to the green.

Game Improvement Clubs

Irons come in two basic varieties -- blades and cavity-backs. Blades have thinner clubheads and are typically used by professional and low-handicap golfers because they offer more opportunity to control the ball’s spin. Beginners, however, should select cavity-back clubs, which feature extra weight around the clubhead’s periphery, literally creating a cavity on the back of the clubhead. The peripheral weight makes the club more forgiving of off-center hits. Balls hit outside of the clubface’s sweet spot will travel farther and straighter when hit with cavity-back irons. To gain maximum forgiveness, purchase clubs labeled as “game improvement” or, better still, “super game improvement” clubs.


Children should start with even fewer clubs than adults. Very young children, in particular, will have such slow swing speeds that it almost won’t matter which iron they swing. “Golf Digest” recommends that children begin with a set of five clubs, including just one iron -- the 7. Starting with shorter clubs makes sense because they’ll be easier for a child to swing than longer clubs. Even with a short iron, however, make sure the club is an appropriate size for the child’s height. Major golf manufacturers sell age-appropriate children’s clubs and sets.

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