New game-improvement irons bring forgiveness and visual appeal
Jeff Harris Proshop
| Credit: Jeff Harris

Are blades an endangered species?Not yet—but more and more single-digit players are switching to game-improvement irons as companies continue to upgrade these clubs’ appearance and performance. Here is the latest crop, all of which can help enhance consistency; look for the ones that offer the feel and ball flight you like.

Mizuno MX-950

Long the producer of elite irons for Tour pros, Mizuno has recently struck a surprisingly golden chord with everyday golfers. The three styles of clubhead that constitute this set are a pair of hybrids at the long end, three forged cavity-back mid-irons and a trio of forged scoring irons. The hybrids and mid-irons sport internal tungsten weighting that produces high, razor-straight shots, and the eight-iron through the wedge communicate sheer satisfaction to the hands at impact. Mizuno’s reputation for sweet-feeling irons is legendary, but the playability of the MX-950 should bring a legion of new fans. $1,180/graphite, $1,080/steel. Call 800-966-1211 or visit

Hot Stix Stats

Center Ball Speed (mph): 111; Launch Angle (degrees): 18.6; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,426

Toe Ball Speed (mph): 104; Launch Angle (degrees): 18.4; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,569

Ping G10

The G10 holds true to the Ping look: thick topline, plain-Jane hosel and that distinctive brushed-metal finish. Who can blame the originator of game-improvement irons for continuing the tradition?In the latest version, the stainless steel clubheads feature low toe weighting to increase stability on mis-hits. There’s also progressive offset throughout the set to help encourage a gentle draw. A deep cavity and wide sole move the center of gravity (CG) low and away from the clubface, and its insert—more recessed than on Ping’s previous models—produces a solid feel and sound. $1,080/graphite, $860/steel. Call 800-474-6434 or visit

Hot Stix Stats

Center Ball Speed (mph): 110; Launch Angle (degrees): 19.6; Spin Rate (rpm): 6,069

Toe Ball Speed (mph): 105; Launch Angle (degrees): 18.6; Spin Rate (rpm): 6,199

Srixon I-701

It’s often difficult to find irons that linger between blades and game-improvement models in terms of design, but the I-701 fits the bill. The face is forged from soft carbon steel, and the pocket cavity makes the CG low and deep—enough to produce a higher launch angle and trajectory than many competitors’ irons. The clubhead is large but not oversize and has a wide sole and progressive offset. Low-handicappers will appreciate the clean appearance, thin muted-gray topline and soft feel. In fact, the PGA Tour’s Henrik Stenson plays this set in competition. $999. Call 888-477-4966 or visit

Hot Stix Stats

Center Ball Speed (mph): 110; Launch Angle (degrees): 19; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,313

Toe Ball Speed (mph): 104; Launch Angle (degrees): 18.3; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,359

Nike Slingshot 4D

The original Slingshot irons were so popular that Nike also released Tour and oversize models. The goal with this update is to blend the best qualities of each into one set, from the playability of the OSS long irons to the penetrating ball flight of the Tour version’s short irons. The clubs also have a cleaner look: As designer Tom Stites points out, the 4D’s slingback is now hidden at address. $799/graphite, $699/steel. Call 888-799-6453 or visit

Hot Stix Stats

Center Ball Speed (mph): 111; Launch Angle (degrees): 18.8; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,850

Toe Ball Speed (mph): 104; Launch Angle (degrees): 18.1; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,930

Nike SQ Sumo

The thick yellow vibration dampener lining the bottom of the cavity is an eye-catching feature, but the Sumo irons look fairly conventional at address, if a bit on the boxy side. As an extension of the high-MOI concept behind Nike’s Sumo drivers, these irons have a wide sole and thick topline. In the mid-irons, an ultra-thin plate boosts trampoline effect (COR) across the entire clubface for improved ball speed. $999/graphite, $799/steel. Call 888-799-6453 or visit

Hot Stix Stats

Center Ball Speed (mph): 112; Launch Angle (degrees): 18.6; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,409

Toe Ball Speed (mph): 105; Launch Angle (degrees): 18.1; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,594

Cleveland CG Gold

These also have a yellow cavity insert, but with its thinner sole and topline, the CG Gold is geared a bit more to mid-handicaps than the Sumo is. A traditionally shaped clubhead and progressive offset make setup a breeze. Along with a standard lie angle, they’re also available in flat and upright versions—a handy feature for those who never fit into off-the-rack gear. $699/graphite, $599/steel. Call 800-999-6263 or visit

Hot Stix Stats

Center Ball Speed (mph): 112; Launch Angle (degrees): 18; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,028

Toe Ball Speed (mph): 109; Launch Angle (degrees): 17.7; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,215

TaylorMade r7 CGB MAX

The r7 CGB Max irons have every bell and whistle TaylorMade has to offer, including Inverted Cone Technology, borrowed from its drivers, to increase ball speed on off-center hits. They have an elegant look and feel, too. The topline of the stainless steel clubhead inspires confidence and blends smoothly with the offset. Tungsten weights on the heel and toe help steer shots toward the target. They’re pricey, but the technology makes for high-handicap heaven. $1,560/graphite, $1,376/steel. Call 800-888-2582 or visit

Hot Stix Stats

Center Ball Speed (mph): 115; Launch Angle (degrees): 16.1; Spin Rate (rpm): 4,478

Toe Ball Speed (mph): 108; Launch Angle (degrees): 16; Spin Rate (rpm): 4,664

TaylorMade Burner XD

These irons feel eerily similar to the r7 CGB Max, but they have a slightly thinner topline, a lower toe and a longer blade length. They’re very easy to hit. The ball really rockets off the 2.5-millimeter-thin titanium clubface, which is press-fit to an oversize stainless steel body. Forgiveness is also a staple here, as it is among all of the latest game-improvement irons classified as high-MOI models. That means shots off the toe will likely still find their way down the fairway. $1,344/graphite, $1,104/steel. Call 800-888-2582 or visit

Hot Stix Stats

Center Ball Speed (mph): 114; Launch Angle (degrees): 16.6; Spin Rate (rpm): 4,866

Toe Ball Speed (mph): 106; Launch Angle (degrees): 16.1; Spin Rate (rpm): 5,035