MIZUNO JPX923 HOT METAL HL
Stock shaft: Choose from 21 premium options 7-iron loft: 31° Forgiveness rating: 3.5-4/5
VERDICT: Until now, moderate speed irons have always had wide, chunky bodies. But Mizuno’s JPX923 Hot Metal HL has changed everything. It opens a whole new option towards higher lofts and more attractive designs for those swinging a 7-iron at less than 75mph, and we applaud them for it. Of course this model was never designed for our test pro, but our data highlights what higher lofts bring to the party. Compared to Titleist’s ‘most forgiving’ iron, the T400, Mizuno’s model launched 2.4° higher, span over 1,000rpm more, flew four yards higher and hit the green at a 3.6° steeper angle – all traits that will maximise carry and stopping power at average speeds. If ever there was a year for buying moderate speed/high-handicap irons, 2023 is it.
TAYLORMADE STEALTH HD
Stock shafts: KBS Max 85 MT (s), Fujikura Speeder NX Red (g) 7-iron loft: 30° Forgiveness rating: 4/5
VERDICT: We were as surprised as the next man when Taylormade unveiled their new Stealth HD, an iron to attract an audience who TM hadn’t really catered for with weaker lofted irons before. The move adds weight to the current thinking that average swing speed and high-handicap players need more loft, not less, if they’re to flight shots properly and play more consistently. We love that Taylormade have kept the Stealth name for the HD model. Yes, the look is much more hybrid iron than, say, Mizuno’s sleek HL, but everything about the Stealth’s head and shaft selection scream easy launch and forgiveness at sub-75mph swing speeds. From a slightly faster ball speed than most, the HD hovered around our test averages across the board, apart from dispersion, where it hit shots into a 19% tighter area.
WILSON LAUNCH PAD
Stock shafts: KBS Max Ultralite (s), Project X Evenflow (g) 7-iron loft: 30° Forgiveness rating: 5/5
VERDICT: With new golfers flooding into the game, many more players are willing to accept the benefits of using hybrid irons, so brands are happy to put resource behind developing clubs in this category. That means Wilson’s engineers have come up with a really attractive secondgeneration Launch Pad. We’ve hit the model several times now and our test pro says it produces the easiest 180-yard shot he’s ever hit, which endorses how the Launch Pad’s cleverly disguised wider body doesn’t distract his eye unnecessarily. If you struggle with ball striking consistency or flighting shots high enough to allow approaches to land and stop on the dancefloor, this is a brilliant option. CLEVELAND LAUNCHER XL HALO Stock shafts: True Temper XP90 (s), Project X Catalyst (g) 7-iron loft: 30° Forgiveness rating: 5/5
VERDICT: Every time our pro tests hybrid irons, he questions why golfers insist on making the game harder than it needs to be by using more compact models. At average club golfer swing speeds, the Halo is so easy to launch high enough to maximise distance, and its wide, hybrid-style body is forgiving when shots are sprayed across its face. As lofts within the category have weakened this year, the Halo hovered around our test averages for launch, height and spin, all traits that will help keep the ball in the air for longer at moderate swing speeds. The Halo won’t win any beauty contests, but it will help a mishit shot carry a lake, bunker or hazard, which will boost your enjoyment of the game, cut down on lost balls and shave a few strokes from your game.
ELEVEN HYBRID SET
Stock shaft: Eleven Golf (g) 7-iron loft: 31° Forgiveness rating: 5/5
VERDICT: Eleven take the idea of high-handicap irons a step further; this is a set of hybrids, not just hybrid irons. Granted, this is not going to be for everyone. But if your game needs maximum help, and your swing speed is slipping away, our data highlights how they could be a brilliant choice. Thanks to a hybrid-width body, our #7 Eleven produced masses of spin and height; exactly what slow speed players need to hit irons effectively. For our pro that meant it produced the shortest carry distance of our test, but that wouldn’t be the case at slower speeds. Throw into the mix the model offering up the smallest ball speed difference between on and off-centre hits, the smallest carry distance drop off (nine yards) and hitting shots into our smallest dispersion area (184.5yds²), and the idea warrants serious investigation if it fits your game.