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OUR JOB IS YOUR GAME
2020 has been one hell of a year. Not the least of the pandemic’s impact was that it disrupted our Most Wanted Testing.
Don’t despair! The final installment of 2020 Most Wanted Testing is finally here so that’s a little good news.
The 2020 Most Wanted Super Game Improvement Iron- a category that markets to the mid- to higher-handicap golfer.
Within this category, you receive forgiveness, which is a phenomenal selling point to beginners and golfers in the mid to higher handicap range. In general, even the best super game-improvement irons probably won’t blow you away with aesthetics. However, forgiveness, consistency and playability strongly outweigh winning a beauty contest.
If you are looking to enhance your game, to enjoy your game and can put aside your ego for a better game, this test is for you!
Most Wanted: Cobra F Max Airspeed
Below is a breakdown of performance grades by iron length. The percentages displayed for each iron represent the frequency at which each was among the best super game-improvement irons for each tester across the test pool. For more information about how we arrive at these results, see our How We Test page.
Performance should be your primary concern when buying new irons but there are some additional considerations you may want to think about before you make your purchasing decision.
Throughout Most Wanted Testing, we encourage attentiveness to set make-up. This test is no different. A majority of super game-improvement iron sets do not include a 4-iron. Most stock sets include 5-PW with the addition of a gap wedge in some instances. In others – like the Cobra T-Rail – a 4-hybrid is part of the offering.
Distance gapping and control are critical elements of the best super game-improvement irons. Pay close attention to these factors as they are a ticket to success when determining your set make-up.
Super Game Improvement irons tend to feature lighter shaft options compared to other iron categories. While graphite shafts dominate the field, there are steel options. When steel is the option, the best super game-improvement irons typically feature shafts that weigh less than 100 grams.
The whole purpose of super game improvement irons is to enhance playability primarily for mid- to high-handicap golfers who struggle with speed and playable launch angles. Thus, you see the strong presence of lighter-weight, higher-launching shafts. This feature intertwines with another feature, low and back CG (center of gravity) within the clubhead. With the combination of these two components, forgiveness and optimum launch angles are obtainable. Discovering and implementing the appropriate shaft will increase the chance of having more playable irons.
DISTANCE VERSUS FORGIVENESS
In this category, forgiveness should be your primary objective. With each passing year, it is evident that super game improvement irons are the champions of forgiveness. But what about distance? For those who believe distance is a key element of the best super game-improvement irons, the Tommy Armour 845 Max, Callaway Mavrik Max and Epon AF-706 set the standard. The Wilson Staff Launch Pad and Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo may be better choices for those seeking ultimate forgiveness.
Even the best super game-improvement irons tend to be less expensive than their counterparts in other categories. For example, a set of Tour Edge HL4 Irons is an exceptional value at just $489.99. Premium options do exist, however. The PING G710 at $1,137. A plethora of options exist between those two extremes. If you plan to invest in a new set of irons, be sure to get fitted by a professional.
Best Forgiveness – Wilson Staff Launch Pad
The Wilson Staff Launch Pad bested the field in the forgiveness category. Like most of the best super game-improvement irons, the Launch Pad isn’t going to wow with its looks or feel. but it absolutely performs. If you want a tighter dispersion, this is the club to consider.
During each test, we look for insight into where the market as a whole is moving. Furthermore, we analyze noteworthy changes manufacturers have made to improve year-over-year performance. Throughout testing, we solicit feedback from our testing pool. Although the testers’ subjective feedback can be enlightening, it has zero impact on the overall rankings.
Trends and Tweaks
- The Cobra F Max Airspeed, our pick as the best super game-improvement iron, blew away the competition in this year’s test from a strokes-gained standpoint. A key intriguing point is that it is exceptionally shorter than the rest of the field. Is this due to loft? Loft can certainly play a factor. In the end, the club performs and provides outstanding consistency across the board. That being said, if you’re looking for more distance, this isn’t the one for you.
- Much like the 2019 Most Wanted Super Game Improvement Iron test, the “hybrid” style iron is thrown into the mix as is hollow-body construction. Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo, Wilson Staff Launch Pad, Cobra T-Rail and Tour Edge HL4 all feature a “hybrid” style design throughout the set. Why? The center of gravity is repositioned even lower and further back in the clubhead versus a traditional iron. The results: more forgiveness, better launch and potentially higher ball speeds.
- Technology is constantly changing. Over the past couple of years, Callaway has pushed the envelope with AI-powered designs. The Callaway Mavrik featured this in our 2020 Most Wanted Game Improvement Iron test. In this test, Callaway Mavrik Max continues the utilization of artificial intelligence. By using AI, Callaway creates their Flash Face Cup Technology that boasts unique performance for each individual iron.
- The PING G710 comes stock with Arccos Golf. This is quite the offering in a set of irons and can provide excellent on-course feedback for golfers of all skill levels. If the PING G710 isn’t for you but you love tracking data on the golf course, the Arccos Caddie Smart Grips are a great alternative.
Best Distance – Tommy Armour 845 Max
The Tommy Armour 845 Max brought plenty of firepower to this year’s test. Testers continually praised the product throughout the testing process. The consistent distance it displayed was one of the many positives surrounding the club in this year’s test. If you are searching for more distance, this is one of the best super game-improvement irons available right now.
Notes from the Testing Pool
The following section details subjective feedback from our pool of 20 testers. While it is meant to highlight some of the feedback during the test, it is important to note that what a tester feels is the best super game-improvement iron, doesn’t always correlate with the data.
- Super game improvement irons are not renowned for visual appeal. However, there was a handful of irons that stood out in terms of looks. Testers praised the Callaway Mavrik Max, the Epon AF-706, the XXIO Eleven and the Cobra F Max Airspeed.
- Three specific clubs threw the testers a curveball in terms of looks: Cobra T-Rail, Tour Edge Exotics EXS 220H and PING G710. All three featured a dark finish. Testers had mixed feelings regarding the finish as a whole. Collectively, they thought the bottom white line highlighted on each iron assisted in alignment and squaring the face at address.
- Is a rebirth coming? Well, testers were certainly pleased with the Tommy Armour 845 Max for feel and looks. “Phenomenal across the board,” commented one tester.
- Among the best super game-improvement irons are “hybrid style” irons like the Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo, Wilson Staff Launch Pad, Tour Edge HL4 and Cobra T-Rail. While some testers conceded that designs made the clubs easier to hit, some couldn’t get over the looks. On a positive note, a handful of testers said the Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo was the best looking of the hybrid group.
2020 Most Wanted Super Game Improvement Iron Data
To filter and compare by club, use the drop-down list and checkboxes to select the only the clubs you wish to compare.
EXPERT TIP – SHAFT MATERIAL
Although steel shafts dominate the testing pool, graphite shafts are becoming more suitable for higher swing speed players. The perception is steel shafts are for stronger, faster swinging players. Whereas, graphite shafts are not. Be open minded towards the shaft material in your next set of irons. The appropriate shaft material can lead to tighter dispersion and tighter launch conditions, and graphite shafts might just be the ticket to those attributes.
2020 Most Wanted Super Game Improvement Product Specs
* denotes measured value versus manufacturer’s stated spec.
BUYING NEW IRONS
Q: How often should I buy new irons?
A: While on rare occasions there are quantifiable year-over-year breakthroughs, typically it takes three to five years for manufacturers to make any significant performance gains. With the USGA further tightening restrictions on manufacturers, it’s possible, even likely, that it will take longer still moving forward. Our recommendation is to buy new irons only when they appreciably outperform what is already in your bag. Of course, if you want new irons just because you want new irons, be our guest.
Q: How do I determine the right category of irons for me?
A: The four categories of irons we test are player’s (cavity backs), player’s distance, game improvement and super game improvement. While there is some overlap between categories, your search should begin with an honest assessment of your skill level (handicap), as well as what you need in your game. If your handicap is above 10 and ball-striking is not a legitimate strength, consider game improvement or super game improvement. For more skilled players who hit the ball more consistently, a set of player’s irons or player’s distance irons may benefit your game the most. For those on the bubble, especially for those seeking a few more yards, the player’s distance category could be ideal.
Q: Does the shaft matter?
A: Absolutely. Shaft changes frequently lead to improved accuracy, tighter dispersion and greater overall consistency.
Q: What should I look for when testing irons?
A: While golfers have been conditioned to consider distance to the exclusion of nearly everything else, even within the super game-improvement category, we recommended looking at the little numbers and looking for small circles. When comparing metrics like distance and ball speed, be sure to look at your standard deviations (the small numbers usually found under the big ones on the data screen). Smaller numbers mean better consistency, which will usually mean more than an extra yard or two on the golf course. Similarly, look for tighter dispersion ellipses (small circles). We can’t overstate the importance of consistency with irons.
Use The Shaft to Improve Accuracy
While golfers typically think of the shaft as a means to optimize launch and spin, the reality is the shaft will often have a greater impact on accuracy and dispersion. Factors like weight, stiffness, and torque all play a role in how the club-head bends and twists as it’s delivered to the ball. Consider these factors while getting fitted for a new set of irons.
Q: How are the irons in the test fitted to each golfer?
A: We use a fitting process that we call fit from stock. Irons are fitted to each tester using the stock, no up-charge options from each manufacturer. We test one short iron, one mid-iron and one long iron from each set. While there are no irons in our testing that feature adjustability, we fit to flex for each tester in the pool. Occasionally, manufacturers will send multiple sets with different stock shafts that we can utilize to improve launch conditions.
Q: How do you determine in which category to test a given set of irons?
A: To ensure we’re testing irons as alike as designers allow for, in addition to the design of the head itself (profile, sole width, etc.), we sort by length and loft. Our goal is to keep differences as minimal as possible within any test cohort. When an iron reasonably fits in more than one category, we defer to the manufacturer’s category choice.
Q: How is the Most Wanted- Best Super Game Improvement Iron 2020 determined?
A: To determine our rankings, we collect key performance metrics with Foresight GCQuad Launch Monitors. After eliminating outliers, we use a utilize a proprietary methodology to calculate Strokes Gained values for each combination of tester and golf club. The iron that produces the highest Strokes Gained values relative to the field average is our Most Wanted.
Q: How is the “longest” iron determined?
A: The process to determine the longest game improvement iron is similar to how we arrive at our overall rankings. For distance, our critical metric is Total Yards. We identify the iron that produced the most total yards with the long and middle irons relative to the field average.
Q: How is the “most forgiving” iron determined?
A: We’ve taken a practical approach to forgiveness. The club for which Strokes Gained values for the best shots are closest to the Strokes Gained value for the worst shots (relative to the field average) is the Most Forgiving.
Q: You discuss subjective feedback for things like looks, sound and feel. How much do those ratings factor into your rankings?
A: ZERO. Our rankings are based purely on launch monitor data and quantifiable performance metrics.