Best Irons for Mid Handicap Players 2023
We test and review dozens of golf irons every year. This year I created our top 8 picks that we found to be the best mid handicap irons in 2023. Our TOP PICK and recommendation for this year is the Srixon ZX5 irons.
As a former mid handicap player now playing off a 1, I can apply my experience to help sort through the complicated weeds surrounding where to invest your hard-earned money in a set of irons.
OUR TOP PICK
Taylormade SIM 2
While most mid handicap golfers I find myself playing with consistently surprise me with their abilities throughout a round, there are still occasional misses that could be improved upon or even completely eradicated with new technology.
With modern technology, the best irons for mid handicappers make it FAR easier to achieve a straighter ball flight as well as more distance. If you can achieve both the things I listed previously, you WILL see lower scores in 2023. But as we all know, each golfer is different from one another, and for that reason we have a set of irons in this list for all different types of mid.
Listed below are our picks for the 8 best mid handicap irons in 2023.
Our Best Golf Irons for Mid Handicappers
- Srixon ZX5 (Best irons for mid-handicap players)
- Taylormade SIM 2 Max (Best for more ball speed with inconsistent contact)
- Titleist T200 (Best for a mid handicapper transitioning to a low handicapper)
- Callaway Apex 21 (Best for controlling spin)
- Mizuno JPX 921 Forged (Forged feel in a forgiving package)
- New Level 902 (Attention to detail from a smaller manufacturer who cares and decent price point)
- Taylormade Stealth (Newest irons available for preorder)
- Cleveland Launcher XL (Best for a higher mid handicapper)
According to the USGA nearly 50% of players operate in the low 80’s to low 90’s range (assuming the courses they typically play are par 72).
This low 80’s to 90’s range is what we shall deem a mid handicap golfer is for the sake of this article.
That statistic also makes mid handicap players the life force of golf and the majority of players playing the game.
In what follows I’ll be breaking down what golf irons technology will truly help improve a mid handicap golfers game, whether that be allowing more forgiveness, increasing ball speed, larger sweet spots or just achieving more consistent strikes, there’s something for everyone in 2023.
TOP PICK: Srixon ZX5 Irons
The most well rounded iron in the mid handicapper category
One user of the Srixon ZX5’s noted,”Another big brand for me felt like running teeth first into a brick wall. ZX5 felt like melted butter on top of a prime rib.” While I can’t attest to that notion on either front, I do believe that the ZX5’s will surprise some mid handicappers and become their improvement iron selection of choice.
With the angular nature of the cavity the clubs can look somewhat unique and will definitely draw some second glances from new playing partners, but at address the ZX5’s look clean and traditional. The blade length is a little longer to cater to a mid handicapper, and the sole is a little larger as well but doesn’t look drastically bulky at address.
Technology in the Srixon ZX5 irons
The big technology leap Srixon makes with their ZX5’s is their use of “mainframe construction.” This is an artificial intelligence designed club face that has variances in thickness. The thickest part of its construction being behind the sweet spot allows for a controlled launch pattern and fantastic feel. While less thick, theres still extra internal padding around the toe, at the top of the club face and along the bottom groove for forgiveness on the occasional poor strike. These variances in thickness around the club face produce exceptionally high ball speed for any mid handicapper with even an average swing speed.
The sole of the Srixon ZX5’s is designed using a Tour VT Sole, where it’s shaped like a V to allow the club to make consistent impact with the golf ball. Some users have noted in relation to turf interaction that the ZX5’s tend to feel like they “bounce” through impact, which will help users that tend to hit heavy shots or play in softer conditions.
The ZX5’s also have a progressive groove system where long irons have more shallow grooves that are spaced further apart for better launch angles and longer distance, while the short irons have tighter, deeper grooves that allow for more spin and control when hitting out of the rough. Some other clubs in this “mid handicap golf irons” category use this same progressive groove system but I’ll touch on that later.
Lastly, Srixon is using a multi material construction on the mid irons and long irons of the ZX5’s where they introduce tungsten weighting. By introducing the tungsten weight’s Srixon is able to manipulate where the center of gravity is as well as produce a higher moment of inertia, resulting in a more stable and forgiving golf club.
Overall these ZX5’s are no slouch in any category across the board. Many people play a split set of Srixons and I would encourage any golfer looking to upgrade soon to at least give these a try. Here’s a link to a more in-depth review of the Srixon ZX5 irons from the founder of Independent Golf Reviews, Ryan Heiman.
Taylormade Sim 2 Max
Highest ball speed in the mid handicapper market
I currently use the Taylormade irons (the P770’s) but the SIM2 Max irons are what I wish was around when I was a mid handicapper. They consistently produced slightly higher ball speeds than a lot of competitors in their range, thus leading to more distance for its players.
While the back of these irons may look busy to some players I actually believe Taylormade did a good job by limiting the color on these to a simple dash next to the lettering of the word “MAX”. Some may argue there’s too much lettering with “Taylormade”, “SIM 2” and “MAX” all being included on the rear but honestly these irons just give a look of there being a lot of technology involved in their design and for being almost a year old now they still look sharp in golf bag.
Technology in the SIM 2 Max Irons
As far as technology goes, Taylormade SIM 2 made a leap from the predecessor (the original SIM Max’s) effectively making them slightly less thick by removing the singular “speed ridge” and adding a one piece polymer insert that stretches from the heel to the toe area that supports the entire top line. By switching this key piece on the rear of the club Taylormade claims these irons see improved stability in the club face, allow the club face to flex slightly more resulting in higher ball speeds across the entire club face in comparison to previous models. Golfers in the mid handicap range make mistakes, but the difference is the player won’t pay for those as harshly as with other clubs.
While these are still cavity irons, the cavity is being covered by the polymer insert makes these irons actually appear less “player improvement” than they actually are. The bag appeal on these clubs is still there depending on your taste. In addition, the “Echo Damping” system carried over from the previous model helps to ensure that this cavity back golf iron feels and sounds more like it is a forged design.
The key to lowering scoring in my eyes is to finding equipment that helps turn those mistakes from a double or triple into a par or bogey. If your equipment has not been updated for a few years, the difference you will feel in the SIM 2 Max technology will be a bit jarring.
Best irons for mid handicappers transitioning to a single digit handicap
Titleist heard loud and clear the comments made about previous models of the T series. “IT’S TOO #%&$ BIG!!” I heard many say when they were originally released to the public back in 2019. The newly redesigned T200’s are exactly what lower end of the spectrum mid handicap golfers need. The T200 irons are designed for a player who is looking for extra distance while not having to compromise on look, feel or stopping power.
At address you’ll notice the new T200’s actually have a slightly thinner top line and much less offset than the 2019 T200’s, resulting in the club looking very clean from the players perspective. The sole of these clubs has also been thinned down slightly from the previous model which many report causing a better feeling of interaction with the turf. All drastic improvements to the 2019 T200 model which few players had fully positive reviews of.
Technology in the new Titleist T200 irons
While still producing an executive look, these irons actually include a hollow backing just like the SIM 2 Max’s listed above but have even more bag appeal in my eyes due to the limited lettering and solid brushed steel finish unlike the multi textured and finished SIM’s.
Titleist is using a more dense D18 Tungsten than previous models and a 2000 degree braising process that allows them to move the center of gravity more precisely. This technology gives these irons a better launch angle and faster ball speed with the long irons, with more control, precision and forgiveness in the short irons.
The offset in these new T200’s is actually the same offset as the T100 and T100S’s, allowing a player to potentially blend sets without their bag looking out of place.
The real reason I feel these fall into the better mid handicap golfers category is because of the slightly smaller blade length than its predecessor. For some golfers that can be a daunting look, but for someone looking to break in to the single digit category of handicap range I really believe these could help them get there.
The headline here is that Titleist has made the T200 feel and look better while holding on to a very impressive amount of forgiveness and distance. This is a great iron for a player who wants that classic look but may not yet have elite level speed or ball striking.
Callaway Apex 21
Best iron for mid handicapper to control spin
Many have called Callaway Apex irons some of the better irons ever made so I was curious how they would top their previous models with the Apex 21’s. Callaway didn’t disappoint.
Technology in the Callaway Apex 21 irons
First, Callaway has redesigned the sole of the Apex 21’s to provide better turf interaction than the previous Apex 19’s. Users have reported a “sharper divot” with the 21 model in comparison to previous models.
The feel of the Apex irons is what truly sets them apart from others in the category in many peoples minds. The body of the Callaway Apex 21’s entirely forged from a 1025 mild carbon steel and produces a ridiculously good feel off the face.
The Apex 21’s are the first Callaway irons designed with A.I. technology. Similar to the ZX5’s from Srixon, there are variances in the thickness across the face allowing players to feel more ball speed across the entirety of the face. Callaway also boasts that their new A.I. designed “Flash Face Cup” allows for toe and heel strikes to have less side spin and be closer to the target line.
Also a first for Callaway, they’ve implemented their “Tungsten Energy Core” into an Apex Iron. This effectively means 5 times the tungsten in the Apex 21’s construction compared to the Apex 19’s, allowing Callaway to precisely position the center of gravity to improve launch conditions throughout the set, add more forgiveness as well as more spin to hold more greens.
Some players have called them bulky. While they won’t be the “bulkiest” irons on this list I will say if you enjoy a thin looking club at address you may be disappointed here. These irons aren’t designed to be the thinnest clubs on the market though, they are designed to help improve a players game. I encourage everyone to hit some balls with these if they get the chance because the feel really is very impressive.
Mizuno JPX 921 Forged
Forged feel in a forgiving package
Mizuno is a brand that has built a name on consistency and feel. Year after year they turn out products that a golfer “in the know” will be eager to try. This sentiment is no different with the JPX 921’s.
The JPX 921 Forged come in a beautiful brushed pearl finish with only a small amount of chrome and black in side the cavity of the irons. Personally, I feel having a club that instills confidence when looking at it is very important, and these 921’s will do exactly that. Bag appeal is definitely there with this set.
Technology in the Mizuno JPX 921 Forged irons
The 921 Forged are the first iron completely forged from Chromoly 4120 material combined with Mizunos “Grain Flow Forging HD” process. While that may sound like a lot of jargon, essentially Mizunos Grain Flow forging process allows more density of material (in this case Chromoly 4120) in the same sized package, allowing Mizuno to precisely place weight increasing distance and maintaining maximum forgiveness.
The face of the JPX 921 Forged is also half a millimeter thinner than previous models. While this may not sound like a lot, Mizuno states this decrease in thickness increases ball speeds of shots across the entirety of the face, meaning strikes from the heel, toe or right out of the sweet spot will all come off faster than previous models.
Lastly, Mizuno really outdid themselves with their changes to the perimeter weighting of the club. They added slightly more weight to the toe of the club resulting in a small toe bias, meaning that off-center hits will still come off the face cleanly and more towards target.
I played with JPX 800’s for years in my younger days and would be elated if more golfers chose to play these as their set. Mizuno has done nothing but impress me since I was a teenager!
New Level 902
Attention to detail you can feel, a price that won't hurt
New Level isn’t a brand that everyone has heard of yet, but I imagine that will change soon. While the company only began in 2017, their products feel like they’ve been crafted by decades of trial and error.
New Levels 902’s aren’t entirely traditional looking while in the bag, but at address the top line, minimal offset and shorter blade length all signal to these being a players iron which instills confidence in me and I believe it would you as well. When you turn them over you see they are in fact in the game improvement category with their small cavity. These clubs may make the ball look slightly larger than other game improvement irons for mid handicappers, but this is just our eyes playing tricks on us due to the thinner top line and slightly narrow sole. I believe that after you have a few center strikes with these irons, you’ll add to your confidence by feeling like you’re looking down at a players iron.
Technology in the New Level 902 irons
The New Level 902’s have what has been described as a “pocket cavity” which is something not entirely seen for this sleek looking of a forged iron design. This small cavity includes a slightly deeper groove closer to the sole of the club to increase ball speed and ball to face interaction. Working in that slightly deeper groove also means theres a little more flex in the face, resulting in some users seeing increased ball speeds.
The design of the sole of New Levels 902’s has a small amount of leading edge relief, not to the severity of other brands but enough to enhance the turf interaction and leave the player with a feeling of good consistent contact strike after strike.
The forged nature of the 902’s results in a soft and muted sound off the club faces but an INSANE amount of feel and reactiveness in the hands to tell you where you hit the ball on the club face.
For a price of 720$ for a new set on New Levels site, they’re actually pretty modestly priced compared to others on this list. I believe that for a newer company, New Level is doing top class work and their irons will become more and more relevant in the serious golfer market in years to come. The ONLY downfall of these irons is the fact they are only manufactured for right handed players (sorry lefties).
Taylormade Stealth Irons
Newest irons available for preorder
In comparison to the look of the SIM 2 Max irons, I personally think the Taylormade Stealth irons have exponentially more bag appeal. They’re sleek with only gray and black tones through out the entirety of the head. They boast a smaller, more compact head than the SIM 2 Max’s but a slightly thicker top line to inform players these are still a game improvement iron.
Technology in the Taylormade Stealth irons
To start, I believe Taylormade designed these clubs for the influx of new golfers the game has seen since the pandemic began. The lofts are STRONG on these irons with a 7 iron sitting at 28 degrees, more similar to some 5 irons. That being said, the majority of higher mid handicappers could use some increases in distance and launch angle which these irons will accomplish.
You can see the design of the back of these irons has changed quite significantly from their predecessors. Taylormade engineers flexed their muscles with their new cap back design that wraps entirely around the toe. By doing this Taylormade moves their center of gravity further down the club head and puts more weight into the sole to create easier and higher launching irons for the common golfer.
Taylormade also uses their same “speed slot technology” that I see on my P770’s on the sole of the club which allows the face to flex, resulting in more ball speed and more forgiveness on thin shots.
Lastly, Taylormade reduces unwanted vibration / feeling at impact with even more of their “echo damping system” technology through out the face of the club to give these game improvement irons for mid to high handicappers a forged feel.
Overall, it would appear that the Taylormade Stealth is another good product and I encourage everyone to see if their claims are accurate.
Cleveland Launcher XL
Best for a higher mid handicapper
While Cleveland has been known in the golfing world for their wedges, these irons have put other manufacturers on notice, and for good reason. With the Cleveland Launcher XL line they have created an iron that will make this already incredibly challenging game a little more simple for some of the higher mid handicap players or a mid handicapper who’s looking to get the ball in the air a little easier and more consistently.
Technology in Cleveland’s Launcher XL irons
First I have to mention that they sport a MASSIVE head design making the sweet spot ridiculously simple to hit for any level of player. While they won’t feign to anyone that they’re players irons, Cleveland reports that these Launcher XL’s have the most MOI of any iron they’ve created in the game improvement category.
The Launcher XL’s also feature a V shaped sole similar to what Srixon is doing with their ZX irons but even more forgiving to create an elevated leading edge to glide through your hitting surface resulting in less fat shots and more consistency in general. Cleveland also added an 8 gram weight in the grip to improve control and feel for players, but these can also be removed if a player didn’t happen to see improvement from the counter weight system.
Lastly, also similar to the ZX5’s from Srixon, the 4i-7i have wider and flatter grooves to reduce spin and increase distance, while the scoring irons, 8i-Wedge have closely-spaced, deeper grooves to produce more spin and allow you to attack targets better.
These irons sport many of the same features other mid handicap irons have but don’t try to squeeze the technology into a small package. Rather, Cleveland has went in the other direction making some of the biggest iron heads I’ve ever seen, which I know will improve an inconsistent players striking immediately.
Guide to Buying New Irons in 2023
I’m going to say the same thing I say to all of my friends that ask me, “Well just tell me exactly what you think will be the best for me.” It’s quite simple. I can’t exactly say. I can point everyone in the right direction, but until you get with a professional club fitter you aren’t going to know exactly what will perform the best in your hands. With that being said, I can give my opinions on where your hard-earned money will be spent the most wisely.
In my mind, of the eight irons reviewed here they can be broken down into two categories. Four sets of irons that are for higher mid handicappers and four sets that are for lower mid handicappers.
If you’re someone shooting consistently in the upper 80’s and 90’s I would suggest you look at the:
I believe these clubs will help you lower your scores and break into a new category of your game for the 2023 season. They all expel game improvement irons qualities while also not looking ridiculous in your bag. Specifically, if someone was higher than a 17 handicap I would suggest that Cleveland Launcher XL’s or the Taylormade Stealths. I think their ramped up lofts will help those players see more distance and make the game more enjoyable.
For someone with a little higher swing speed but still not scoring well enough to be in the “lower mid handicapper” range I would suggest the Taylormade SIM 2 Max’s or the Callaway Apex 21’s. The reason I include swing speed in the distinction is while these irons are for mid handicappers, not all mid handicappers need all the extra distance some game improvement clubs provide, rather just the forgiveness on miss-hits, and these two clubs will definitely help in that department.
If you’re someone shooting consistently in the lower 80’s and 90’s I would suggest you look at the:
I believe these irons tend to the better of the mid handicappers and heres why;
Arguably most important, each one of these four selections have other options of irons from the same company in their range that a set can be combined with for further customization and confidence for you. The T200’s could be combined with Titleist’s other T series irons, the ZX5’s from Srixon could be combined with any of the other ZX series irons, Mizunos JPX 921’s could be combined with the forged or hot metal options and New Level’s 902’s could be combined with multiple other forged irons from New Level. Each selection from these four could be further refined if specific other irons in their catalog tested better for your swing and game and could help lower scores.
On top of that, they’re all forged (to some degree) and will provide immediate feedback to the players looking to lower scores, understand their game further and feel why or where they happened to hit a poor strike. Far and away, they’re the 4 best looking irons from the list from an executive standpoint. They’re the least “gimmicky” in terms of ramped up lofts, and in my opinion, they look the least “game improvement” from the top line perspective. These four clubs will also be slightly more workable from right to left or left to right as they sport less of a toe bias or draw bias than the other four selections. If you are just on the cusp of becoming a single digit handicapper and are soon to be getting a new set I would be disappointed if you didn’t try these four choices.
In conclusion, if you’re someone that doesn’t have the time to get fitted for your new set of irons, or if you’re like me and live hours from the nearest professional club fitter, I would suggest the Srixon ZX5’s from the total list. I know I said I couldn’t say specifically, but being as unbiased as I can the ZX5’s from Srixon just check all the boxes in mid handicapper golf irons. I truly feel you could put them in the hands of a 9 to a 19 handicap and all would see some kind of added benefit to their game.
If, on the other hand you DO have the time or resources to do so, PLEASE see a professional and hit all the club head and shaft options you can. From playing golf the vast majority of my life I know first hand that you never know what is going to help take your game to the next level, but I’m confident one of these irons for mid handicappers from our list will help accomplish that feat.
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