ClubTest 2021: 53 hot new irons tested and reviewed
With the help of GOLF’s research partner True Spec Golf, we asked 40 testers to hit more than 150 different clubs over three days to deliver the most inclusive and in-depth review of new gear in the 30-year history of our ClubTest franchise. Fact: The perfect drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges and putters for you are out there — and working with a custom fitter is the fastest way to find them.
For this installment of ClubTest 2021, our testers tried out all the newest irons from the top manufacturers to help us put together a whopping 53 iron reviews. What did they find? Simply put, today’s tech-packed irons can meet the needs of any player, from newbie to discerning vet.
Check out all the new irons we reviewed below, then click through to read the test results and see photos and videos to help you learn everything you need to know to find the perfect set for your game.
Whichever irons you choose, you can purchase them with one click, or better yet, get custom fit for a new set of irons by GOLF’s sister company True Spec Golf.
Our take: Apex led the way as one of the most requested irons during testing. The new-look Apex Pro had testers gushing over the blade profile and game-improvement forgiveness while Apex and Apex DCB earned high marks for their clean aesthetics and solid feel.
Callaway Apex MB21
Our take: This should be where we offer our take on Callaway’s shiny Apex MB21, but one tester took the words right out of our mouth: “Best turf interaction of the bunch I tested,” he stated. “Sole slices through the ground with impressive precision, and the lack of offset is going to appeal to the guy who likes to work the ball.” Enough said.
Callaway Big Bertha B21
Our take: Owning an iron that keeps mishits on the map is critically important when you’re a 20-plus handicapper because, well, you know bad shots are going to happen. The goal, then, becomes finding ways to mitigate the big miss and helping you even break into the 80s. For our mid- and high-handicapped testers, Big Bertha B21 fit the bill — a smart-looking iron that can help keep the ball in play. The pronounced offset allowed some testers to draw the ball on command (for the first time!) and generate comparable distances on off-center misses.
Callaway X Forged CB 21
Our take: Better players will nitpick the way an iron goes through the ground. If it sticks or impacts the turf in an inefficient manner, a hook is imminent. Based on tester feedback, golfers needn’t worry about this issue with X Forged CB. The subtle sole camber, in particular, received high marks from several eagle-eyed testers who claimed it produced the best turf interaction of any iron they tested. “It’s poetry when club meets golf ball,” said one tester.
Our take: The Launcher irons come in two forms: the ultra-forgiving, hollow-bodied Launcher HB Turbo irons and the versatile Launcher UHX that mix hollow and cavity-back forms in a single set. Said one of our testers about the HB Turbo irons, “You don’t have to do much to get the ball high in the air.” And of the HB UHX irons, “Even though they look like blades at address, they come with as much forgiveness as any golfer could want.”
Cobra King Forged Tec
Our take: Cobra’s King Forged Tec knows how to wow the masses. The compact profile is appealing to a wide range of handicaps but so is the feel. “Smooth as can be at impact,” a tester exclaimed. The otherworldly feel comes from the foam microspheres residing inside a hollow cavity designed to fine-tune sound and soften feel.
Cobra King Tour MIM
Our take: Knowing where the ball impacts the face can tell you a lot about the quality and consistency of your swing. Missing it off the heel or toe could be a sign that your clubs aren’t fit properly (or if a lesson is in your future). Our testers never once had to wonder where the ball was impacting the face on the King Tour MIM. “My favorite by far,” one tester proclaimed. “I’m getting a responsive feel that tells me exactly what’s going on at impact.” A new manufacturing process plays a role in the superior feel. So, too, does a thermoplastic polyurethane insert situated in the cavity that’s built to mitigate vibration.
Cobra King RF Proto
Our take: The RF stamped on the toe lets you know these irons were designed for a certain Cobra staffer. “I can see why Rickie Fowler likes these irons,” commented a tester. “They look so clean. For someone who plays a blade, it fits that handicap range. Easily the prettiest irons I’ve tested.” With sharper edges, a razor-thin topline and almost no offset, the MB RF is built for elite ball strikers, like Fowler, who want to work the ball both ways and demand precise turf interaction.
Our take: It’s impossible to miss Cobra’s RadSpeed iron. The electric yellow markings situated in the cavity are meant to make it stand out, and more than a handful of testers confirmed they “absolutely loved the look.” Said one tester, “You can’t miss these irons. They certainly have a look my son and his buddies would embrace.” But looks will take you only so far. What many testers noticed was that the 3D-printed nylon medallion and detailed lattice structure served a dual purpose, enhancing feel and shedding unwanted weight at the same time while upping the iron’s street cred.
Our take: Haywood flies under the radar for some consumers, but none of the testers will forget the brand after their experience at ClubTest. “The ball flies forever, even when I’m missing it,” one tester said. “That’s freakin’ special.” The clean looks of both the MB and CB were also noted, and a crisp sound at impact is the cherry on top of these sticks.
Ben Hogan Icon
Our take: If you’ve seen Ben Hogan irons before, you won’t be surprised by the Icon’s look; if you’ve ever played Hogan irons, you’ll recognize that their design hasn’t changed much either over the years. “It’s classic Hogan through and through,” one tester said. “Old-school look with a validating feel at impact. Could play these all day.” These clean-cut muscle-backs are designed to bridge the gap between gorgeous design and top-tier performance — a better player’s iron for sure.
Our take: Honma’s TR20 iron set can rightfully be thought of as one family with three different children. Each group (P, B, V) features a better player’s sleek profile but can be combined with the others for maximum feel throughout the bag. “As a scratch golfer, this makes it easier to find the best setup,” one tester opined. That means total freedom for you to choose what combo set works best for your game without sacrificing performance.
Honma T//World GS
Our take: The main purpose behind these clubs is right there in the name: GS. It stands for “Gain Speed,” or, in other words, the thing everyone is trying to do these days. From the L-cupface to the flexible pieces built into the sole, each part of this club is about creating extra ball speed.
Our take: Honma’s newest line of irons take various cues from past iterations and combine them into one. Tungsten weighting is tucked deep within the clubhead to aid those mis-hits. And to at least one tester, it really stood out. “Could totally see myself playing these,” they said. “Looks like the TR20 B I liked, but the forgiveness and speed is on another level. Almost feels like cheating on the mishits.” That’s a big-time endorsement.
Our take: For iron aficionados and connoisseurs of exquisite Japanese forgings, Miura’s TC-201 irons prove that a muscular cavity-back design can have it all: world class feel and Tour caliber performance combined with a heaping of forgiveness where it’s needed. Said one of our testers, “This is the best-looking iron I’ve tested, and the shot dispersion is phenomenal. I’m throwing darts out here!”
Our take: Miura’s forging is legendary— the feel is there. But the CB-301 is mostly crafted to deliver high performance for players who want total shotmaking control. The CB-301 represents a new era, being that they’re the longest forged cavity-backs Miura has ever made. Said one tester, “The wider sole prevents it from digging too much, and even though it performs like a game-improvement iron, it oozes with the feel of a forged blade.”
Our take: When Miura develops a new iron design, it’s safe to assume they went all-in in terms of research, development and engineering to ensure they deliver the best possible version of what they have in mind. As is the case with the all-new dual-material PI-401 irons, which are designed to be exceptionally long, forgiving and playable for all player types.
Our take: Better players demand clubs that perform precisely to their shotmaking specifications. They want irons that are controllable, predictable and that generate the trajectories they need to dial in their distances—not to the yard but sometimes to the foot. The MB-101s are engineered to do just that. They are forged and built with extreme craftsmanship unparalleled in the game today.
Mizuno JPX 921 Tour
Our take: Exquisitely designed irons are not new to Mizuno. Neither is it uncommon to find our testers raving about how they look and perform. Case in point: One tester who we thought was literally going to steal them said, “Can I cuss? I can barely describe how beautiful these irons are. They speak to me. I’m in love.” We get the sentiment, having felt the same way about Mizuno’s legendary Grain Flow forging for a long time now.
Mizuno JPX 921 Hot Metal
Our take: Made for players who want irons that pack distance and forgiveness in a traditional shape, the JPX 921 Hot Metal irons are Mizuno’s answer to whether or not the company is serious about game improvement. As one of our tester’s raved, “The ball explodes off the face, and these irons are a club longer than my current set. That’s extra power is something I definitely need.”
Mizuno JPX 921 Forged
Our take: Mizuno has a knack for shrouding forgiveness and added distance in what look like traditional iron designs, and the JPX 921 Forged does that perfectly. They look like pure scoring clubs but come with a healthy dose of playability and added power hidden within, which according to one of our testers “made these irons feel more aggressive when setup behind the ball.” Feel, looks and tour-caliber performance—what more could a golfer want?
Mizuno MP-20 MB
Our take: Purists who want a blade designed for maximum shotmaking performance, distance control and a responsive feel, the MP-20 MB irons are among the crème de la crème. According to a tester, “The MP-20s are classic Mizuno irons, and the set checks all the look and feel boxes. And surprisingly, they weren’t as penal on off-center hits as I was expecting.”
Mizuno MP-20 HMB
Our take: Mizuno completely hides its cutting-edge technology within the body of the MP 20 HMB irons, making them deceptively easy to hit and more playable that they appear. “I’ve been wanting to play a set of blades but wasn’t sure if I was ready to put them in the bag,” said a tester. “The irons changed my way of thinking in a heartbeat. They feature a blade shape but are loaded with forgiveness.”
Mizuno MP-20 MMC
Our take: Mizuno has proven with the MP-20 MMC irons that even difficult things can be accomplished when done with precision design and top-notch engineering. According to one our testers, these irons “feel amazing, even when shots are hit away from the center of the clubface. Can’t remember using an iron with a compact shape that was so forgiving and had such a flushed sensation — on good hits and even on some that were less than perfect.”
Our take: Not all golfers have full command of their shots, but Ping’s Blueprint irons are for those who do. The blade-style, forged-head Blueprints represent Ping’s smallest iron offering, and the heads are designed specifically for better ball strikers. Due to their compact profiles and thin toplines, these irons provide Tour players and low- handicappers with the shot-shaping capabilities they crave. One low-handicap tester explained that the Blueprint irons “help work the ball both ways on command.”
Our take: Before buying irons, you must first start by assessing your own game. What are your weaknesses and how do you fix them? Ping’s G425 irons fit the bill for those looking for higher launch and more distance. “The higher launch was a sight to behold,” one tester said. Sometimes, tech-packed irons sacrifice in sensory categories, but GOLF testers noted their soft feel and sound.
Our take: GOLF testers found the G710 irons to be mean-looking distance machines. “The ball just goes forever,” said one of our slower-speed testers. The performance comes packaged in a stealthy black look too. As one tester said, “It’s a mean look that could also serve a purpose by reducing sun glare.” Ping offers a range of different iron designs, but if you’re a mid- to high-handicapper searching for the ultimate in distance, the G710s are designed for you.
Our take: For our GOLF testers, the Ping i500 looks were deceiving but in the best way possible. While the irons have blade-style looks that might intimidate a mid- to high-handicapper, they’re actually made for towering trajectories and big distance. “These blew me away,” one tester said. “As a low-ball hitter, these helped me out so much. They just fly into the sky. That’ll certainly come in handy on a lot of approach shots.”
Our take: There’s a lot to love about the 0211 Irons, including some leading-edge tech to make the game easier and, frankly, more fun to play. Our testers seem to agree, with one noting, “These irons feel so good. I wouldn’t change a damn thing about them. No doubt as soon as these are in my bag, I’ll be taking money from my buddies.” Now that’s the kind of confidence we like to see an iron set provide.
PXG 0311 Gen3
Our take: PXG has a knack for being very discerning about the players it designs clubs for, but with the 0311 Gen3 series, the company welcomes a wider range of golfers into its fold. Said a satisfied tester, “Feel is always what gets me with PXG irons. They feel buttery smooth, even when I’m not at my best. What was surprising is how far they go — each iron is about a full club longer than my current set.”
PXG 0311 ST
Our take: Just as many of us can’t help picking up a set of butter-knife blades, PXG couldn’t resist making a Tour blade with the elite pro or amateur in mind. And by the looks of it, the 0311 ST (“Super Tour”) is as pure as it gets, with a bevy of design features that make it an ideal choice for shotmakers who want to work the ball on command and hit a variety of shots into the green. “This is my kind of blade,” said a tester. “It looks mean but certainly delivers in the feel department.”
Our take: When we see and try an iron that combines the soft feel of a forged iron with the added distance and forgiveness of a multi-material construction, we get all giddy inside. According to a club tester talking about the ZX, “I felt like I mishit a few, but you’d never know it by the ample amount of forgiveness. They aren’t far off from the set I normally play, but with a lot more give.”
Our take: Hollow-body irons are gaining popularity, thanks to a slew of new innovations that have made them more streamlined, compact and attractive to better players. That’s exactly what the ZX4s represent — a hollow-body iron that comes with added forgiveness yet delivering the feel and versatility of a forged blade. “Srixon really nailed it with this one,” chimed one of our testers. “These irons have a consistent feel, performance and a great sound.”
Our take: Lower-handicap golfers tend to gravitate toward irons with smaller shapes, while higher handicaps usually opt for larger game-improvement irons that provide more height, distance and forgiveness. Our GOLF testers found the TaylorMade P770 irons, though, to satisfy both needs. “These look sleek, and I love the towering launch. The ball is going even on misses.”
Our take: Looks can be deceiving, as our GOLF testers discovered after hitting the P790 irons. One tester called them “an ultra-forgiving iron trapped inside of a blade.” Essentially, that’s exactly what the P790 irons are all about: providing game-improvement-style performance in a shape that’s welcomed by even low-handicappers.
Our take: Bag appeal. There’s just something about the way a shiny set of blade irons glisten in the sun, isn’t there? While TaylorMade’s P7MB irons have minimal badging and a classic blade design, there’s a raised triangular mass on the back cavity that gives them more of an “upscale look,” according to one of our low-handicap testers. Of course, looks aren’t everything. Testers also commented on the solid-but-soft feel off the face and ball-flight control.
Our take: Looking down at these irons from address, you might think that the P7MC irons are a traditional blade, thanks to the compact head shape and minimal offset. The P7MCs, however, offer a bit more leeway on shots hit across the face. “These have a traditional look with exceptional feel, even when I didn’t catch it dead center,” a GOLF tester explained. “If you’re a better player who still needs a touch of forgiveness to bail you out, these should do the trick.”
Our take: “It’s Tiger’s iron!” one GOLF tester exclaimed. Surely, you can understand the excitement. Tiger Woods is one of the best iron players of all time, and while none of us can match his finesse with a blade, you can now hit the same P7TW club he does. For one low-handicap tester, the irons lived up to the hype: “Nothing else I hit came close to these from a feel perspective… the most pleasing feeling ever.”
TaylorMade SIM2 Max
Our take: The typical knock on game-improvement irons is that they look too big or feel too harsh. When it comes to the new SIM2 Max irons, though, one tester mentioned how they “look visually smaller” and “feel really good.” And they said, that’s “tough to do with a game-improvement iron.” Looks and feel aside, testers also highlighted the fast feel off the face and the power they produced.
Titleist 620 CB
Our take: We’ve come to expect top-tier player-oriented irons from Titleist. After many years making some of the best you can buy, the 620 CB irons sport both an aesthetic feel and performance that are familiar but also completely new at the same time. “Paint me impressed,” said a happy tester. “They’re actually much more forgiving than they look, and speaking of that, the aesthetics are incredible.”
Titleist 620 MB
Our take: Muscle-back irons are still popular among better players who want the utmost in workability, feel and distance control. Make no bones about it — they aren’t going to be as forgiving on off-center hits as a cavity-back, but if you’re the kind of player who hits the sweet spot more often than not, a muscle-back design like the 620 MB may be just what you need to take your scoring from the fairway to the next level. “I never have to wonder about Titleist’s blades,” said a tester. “They’re always consistent, regardless of the iron I pick up. I don’t ever want to guess if I’m going to hit my number. These are perfect.”
Our take: All three CNCPT irons have cutting-edge tech, materials and construction that are so next level, Titleist has no qualms about slapping a $500 price tag on each one. And it’s not all show. According to our testers, the CNCPTs deliver. “The ball explodes off the face with a towering launch. I now regret my last iron purchase!”
Our take: If you’re a golfer who appreciates an iron with a classic look and feel but also wants to take advantage of new innovations and fresh technologies, the T-Series from Titleist may be precisely what you’re looking for. “Just looking at these irons you can see they’re loaded with new technology,” stated a club tester. “I love being able to see what I’m getting. It lets me know it’s worth the price of admission. And when you hit one on the screws, you’ll get the same joy I did. Boy, do these go.”
Our take: Catering to competitive players who want the best of everything, the T100 irons have quickly become popular for their stellar performance. They’re designed to be more forgiving in the long irons, but you wouldn’t know it by how compact and streamlined they look, and how easily maneuverable the short irons are.
Tour Edge Hot Launch
Our take: “Please forgive me, Golf Gods, for I have swung. The Tour Edge Hot Launch E521 and C521 irons have answered my prayers,” according to one tester during GOLF’s ClubTest. “As a high-handicap golfer, I’ll take all the heel-toe forgiveness I can get,” the tester said. “The sound was especially good for an iron at this size.” Amen.
Tour Edge Exotics EXS Pro
Our Take: If looks could kill. One tester during GOLF’s ClubTest was sold before they had even picked up the Tour Edge Exotics EXS Pro. “Sexy look,” a tester said. “As someone who weighs appearance heavily, I’d totally take these for a test spin.” And once they did? It was Goldilocks. “Overall feel was pleasing,” a tester said. “Not too hard, not too soft. Just right.” A club that looks good and you can bring home to Mom? Hard not to love.
Wilson Staff D9
Our take: If you’re looking for higher ball speeds and distance gains in a super-game-improvement package, you’ll be thrilled with Wilson’s follow-up to the popular D7 iron line. The new D9s boast a straight, clean top line and ultra-thin face, giving the club a player’s-iron aesthetic. But mid-to-high handicappers should fear not, because Wilson’s lowest-ever center of gravity in an iron ensures ease of launch as well as a steeper angle of descent for increased greenside control.
Wilson Staff CB
Our take: Better players will appreciate the power and consistency of Wilson’s top-tier irons. “Best turf interaction by far,” enthused one tester. “Club never caught during the swing. It’s a neat sensation.” Turns out, that’s by design. Twenty grams of tungsten weighting in the toe of the long and mid irons enhances head stability at impact and lowers the center of gravity for reliably consistent shots. Nickel-chrome plating and a high-end mirror finish completes the premium package.
Wilson Staff Blade
Our take: It’s hard to overstate the positive feedback these irons received from our testers. “Best set of blades Wilson has ever made,” said one. “It’s like they wrapped up all the best features and jammed them into one iron.” Those lauded features include supreme forgiveness, top-notch feel and a super-slick, modern look. Dozens of shaft options and 11 grips to choose from (in addition to personalization options) enable you to make your set your own in myriad ways.
Wilson Launch Pad
Our take: Wilson’s super-game-improvement irons “live up to the name,” says one tester. “These things launch into the stratosphere. They’re effortless.” If the sight of an extra-wide sole at address gives you some much-needed confidence, you’ll love the look of the Launch Pad, which boasts a sole design that gets progressively wider as the clubs get longer, enabling them to essentially “float” above the turf to help eliminate embarrassing chunks and unintentional divot-digging.
Our take: We like XXIO’s clear messaging: The Eleven irons are designed simply to make the game easier. According to our testers, they do just that. “These irons are a breeze to hit. Just get it somewhere on the face and the ball is going.” Distance comes easier, too, especially for golfers with moderate swing speeds. Sounds exactly like the kind of stuff we all need.
Our take: Packing a lot of technology into an iron can be a tall order for club designers. But rest assured, XXIO’s Prime irons are able to heap on loads of tech without cluttering its looks. Our testers agreed. “I couldn’t put them down,” said one. “I nearly wore myself out.” These irons have the marks of a luxury product for sure, but they’re super-friendly for golfers who have moderate swing speeds and want to hit the ball farther, straighter and with more forgiveness on off-center hits.
XXIO X Black
Our take: Color one tester impressed: “These are definitely irons for a better player,” he said. “But they have just enough offset to help with mishits and still deliver that silky feel.” No wonder Ernie Els plays them—they’re as smooth as he is.