Using long irons to play positional tee shots or to hit lower trajectory approach shots in windier conditions is nothing new.
The problem however has always been hitting long irons consistently well and it is one of the biggest challenges for any level of golfer including the pros.
Updated designs of more forgiving ‘driving’ or ‘utility’ irons have though helped to solve that issue to an extent and provided increased long shot-making options for the best players in the world.
But how many of the top pros are actually using these clubs? We took a detailed look through the golf bags of the top 100 players on the PGA Tour to find out what driving irons are being used.
31 of the top 100 PGA Tour players use driving or utility irons with 4 of those players having more than one in their bag. The most used driving iron within this elite group is a 4-iron with 15% using one. 5% carry a 2-driving iron, 13% use a 3-iron with only three players using a 5-driving iron.
As is often the case when looking in detail at the golf bags of the best pros however the lofts on the same numbered iron do not always match between different players and manufacturers but when it came to driving irons we found the variance from standard lofts was much less than for drivers or fairway woods.
What is also comforting for us lowly amateurs to see, when looking at the driving irons used by the pros, is that the difficulties that come with trying to hit long irons consistently well affect even the best players in the world and even those that don’t use a driving iron still use more forgiving longer irons models than their shorter irons.
[Note – If you are interested in a driving iron you can check out the clubs used by the top 100 players on the PGA Tour mentioned in this article on Amazon through the links added.]
Driving Irons Breakdown of the top 100 PGA Tour Golfers
Driving irons, or utility irons as they are also known, have found favour amongst PGA Tour pros who are looking for clubs that will flight the ball lower and roll further than hybrids or fairway woods of a comparable loft.
With their updated designs making them easier to hit than old driving irons these clubs are used by almost 1/3 of the top 100 PGA Tour golfers. 3 and 4-driving irons are the most common with Titleist’s U-500 driving iron the most popular model choice ahead of Callaway’s X Forged UT and Apex UT.
A small number of the PGA Tour pros also carry 2-iron versions of utility irons with another minority using driving irons up to a 5-iron. None of the top 100 on Tour use a 1-iron.
Some of the top PGA Tour players, including Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Kisner, are also using more than utility club while JT Potson carries three – a 3, 4 and 5-iron version of Titleist’s U-500 driving irons – in his bag.
The complete breakdown of which irons are used by the top 100 PGA Tour players is as follows:
|DRIVING IRON||DEGREES||MODELS||NO. OF TOP 100 PGA TOUR||SELECTED PLAYERS|
|2-Iron||17 degrees||TaylorMade P790 UDI||1||Aaron Wise|
|18 degrees||Mizuno MP Fli-Hi|
Srixon ZX Utility
|3-iron||20 degrees||Titleist U-500|
Callaway X Forged UT
|21 degrees||Callaway Apex UT|
Callaway X Forged UT
Srixon Z U85
Srixon ZX Utility
TaylorMade SIM UDI
TaylorMade P790 UDI
|4-iron||Not known||Cobra One Length Utility||1||Bryson DeChambeau|
|22 degrees||Callaway X Forged UT||1||Dylan Fritelli|
|23 degrees||Srixon Z U85|
Srixon ZX Utility
|24 degrees||Callaway Apex UT|
Srixon Z U45
Wilson Staff Utility
|5-iron||27 degrees||Titleist U-500||2||JT Potson|
As is always the case when it comes to Bryson DeChambeau’s golf bag the fact that he uses both a 4 and 5-driving iron is probably of not much practical value to amateurs given the lofts will most likely not bear any resemblance to anything nearing standard.
But when it comes to the rest of the top 100 PGA Tour players who are using utility irons it is clear that when they become an option for them it is the 3-iron and 4-iron which are most often under consideration.
What is also clear though for these top pros is that the driving iron sometimes forms part of their ‘wider set’ of 15-17 clubs which can be interchanged with fairway woods and hybrids of the same lofts depending on where they are playing.
Rory McIlroy for example regularly changes the set-up at the top of his bag in terms of playing fairway woods and/or a 3-driving iron.
And while these utility clubs are used throughout the year by many of the top 100 golfers on the PGA Tour they can also find increasing favour in weeks on Tour where the wind is a factor and lower launched shots will be preferable to the high flying shots that hybrids and fairway woods typically result in by comparison.
How Far Do Pros Hit Driving Irons?
As we have already discussed one of the reason pros and better players will choose a driving or utility iron over a fairway wood or hybrid of comparable loft is that they are looking for a lower launch angle and flight with the shots they are hitting with that length of club.
But one of the other reasons that driving irons are chosen is that because of the technology the modern utility clubs are now packed with they are easier to hit further than standard 2, 3 or 4 irons.
And the reason for this is that they fly higher than traditional long irons although not of course as high as fairway woods and hybrids.
How exactly far pros hit driving irons is difficult to give a precise number on as this data is not made available by the PGA Tour however through Trackman‘s measuring of the average carry distances for all clubs on the PGA Tour we can give an estimation of how far pros hit driving irons.
Trackman states the average 5-wood carry distance on the PGA Tour is 230 yards so we estimate pros hit 2-driving irons the same distance if not further. 3-irons carry on average 212 yards, 4-irons 203 yards and 5-irons 194 yards so again pros will likely hit comparable driving irons the same distance if not more.
PGA Pros Often Choose More Forgiving Long Irons
When studying in detail the driving irons used by the top 100 pros on the PGA Tour what was interesting to note was that although some of the top pros do not use specifically called ‘driving irons’ many use much more forgiving longer irons in conjunction with more blade like shorter irons.
PING’s G410 Crossover irons for example blur the line for many between a driving iron and simply a ‘forgiving’ long iron. While some see them as driving or utility irons others don’t.
Other examples of similar clubs include Titleist’s T-MB irons which began life as the ultimate driving irons but which have now evolved to be available as a full set of irons to players looking for the extra forgiveness associated with long driving irons across all their irons right up to the 9-iron.
Finding sets of clubs amongst the top pros which include much easier to hit 3, 4 and even 5 and 6-irons is therefore relatively common on the PGA Tour.
Harris English for example uses a PING G410 Crossover 3-iron in addition to his PING Blueprint 4-9 irons. Chris Kirk opts for the Titleist T-MB 4-iron before choosing increasingly less forgiving irons for the remainder of his iron set – a Titleist 718CB 5-iron and Titleist 718MB 6 to 9-iron.
Tony Finau and Brooks Koepke meanwhile both use the more forgiving Nike Vapor Fly Pro 3-iron before switching to Ping Blueprint and Srixon ZX7 clubs respectively for the rest of their irons.
While not all of these clubs may technically be ‘driving irons’ the trend for using more forgiving long irons across even the top players on the PGA Tour is clearly evident which can give us all hope that it’s not just us lowly amateurs who need a bit of help to hit those long iron clubs!
Driving irons are undoubtedly more forgiving than the long irons of the past and provide a good option for players looking for a lower and different trajectory of shot from comparably lofted fairway woods and hybrids.
It’s important to bear in mind however that they are still long irons and therefore require a good amount of swing speed and ball striking to hit consistently well.
So although they do look great and can enable many players to hit some very impressive Tiger like ‘stinger’ golf shots don’t forget that hybrids especially and many fairway woods will be much easier to hit for the vast majority of amateur golfers.