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Iron faces are nearly as fast as a driver’s. Here's why

Iron faces are nearly as fast as a driver’s. Here's why

We are lucky to have two of the most knowledgable golf gearheads in our Golf Digest family. And they are sharing their golf equipment knowledge with you. Golf Digest's equipment editors, Mike Stachura and E. Michael Johnson, have covered the golf equipment business for decades, and there are few who know the equipment industry better.

Drivers are hit at most 14 times a round while irons are hit 40+ times a round. Plus the average golfer hits less than 20 percent of their greens in regulation. So why not a bigger effort to create more forgiving, longer irons? —@TedWilliams2017

Ahh, the Splendid Splinter, back from cryonics, good to hear from you. Perhaps the fact that you’ve been in the deep freeze for a couple decades might explain your mistaken understanding of the current golf club technology landscape. The good news is the technology in irons is vastly improved over the past 15 years, sort of like how baseball bats are better now that they’re not made of wood anymore.

Of course, the primary reason for better iron designs is that much of the same technologies that have made drivers so awesome have found their ways into irons. Super thin faces? Check. Variable face thicknesses? Check. Multiple materials and dramatic weight savings that allow for a lower centre of gravity and higher flight? Check and double check.

Those technologies came to drivers first, because, well, as has been said, chicks dig the long ball. But secondly, it’s a lot easier to work within the structure of a hollow, 460-cubic-centimetre, pie-plate-faced driver than it is in the oddly asymmetrical shape of an iron. But that hasn’t stopped progress in irons.

We just finished at looking at more than 70 irons for the 2020 Hot List, and we’d guess that at least 95 percent of them have faster faces than they did as little as two years ago. Today, there are a whole bunch of irons with springlike effect very near or in some cases exceeding that of drivers. (OK, technically, no face can violate the springlike effect rules. But some irons are getting pretty spicy hot these days.)

Here’s another key point, not only are irons hotter today, it’s easier to make them fly higher, too. In one of our recent tests, we found that not only did new 7-irons go farther than 6-irons from a decade ago, they flew as higher or higher than many of those old 7-irons, too. Even comparing 7-irons from just a handful of years ago, we saw sometimes as much as a 20-yard distance advantage and on average a three-yard gain in carry distance on mis-hits and two yards higher flight.

In short, today's irons are longer with better stopping power. And we haven’t even begun to address the advancements in hybrids or even utility irons that make your old long irons not even worth saving, cryonically or any other way you might choose.