I’m planning to change my irons this year after a number of years but before heading straight to a club fitter to test out all the latest and greatest models I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the iron set ups of the best players on the PGA Tour to see what they are currently using.
So we took a detailed look at the irons the top 100 players on the PGA Tour are playing with.
13 different brands and 59 models of irons are used by the top 100 golfers on the PGA Tour. Titleist, PING, Callaway, TaylorMade and Srixon irons dominate and are played with by 84% of this group. Ignoring driving/utility irons the most common iron set up, chosen by 29%, is 4-iron to pitching wedge.
What is very clear after analysing in detail the iron set ups of the best players on the PGA Tour however is that there is now no such thing as a ‘standard’ set of irons.
When I got my first set of irons as a teenager the choice was a 3-iron to pitching wedge and beyond adding maybe one of PING’s cavity back 2-irons that was it.
What is very apparent in the modern game though is that the top pros on Tour are getting closer and closer to almost choosing each iron individually and not as a set whether that be by adding utility or driving irons or having 2 or even 3 different models of irons in their bag.
[Note – If you are interested in upgrading your irons 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.]
Breakdown of Irons Used on the PGA Tour
Analysing the iron set up of the top 100 players on the PGA Tour is not as straight forward a task as it used to be.
And the simple reason for that is that there are now so many more options for golfers when it comes to making up their set of irons.
And because the best players in the world are constantly aiming to find whatever advantage they can to help them get ahead they are always experimenting with those options to find the best combination that suits their individual game and the particular course they are playing at on any given week.
As a result when it comes to comparing their iron set ups it’s not simply a case of checking what 3-iron to pitching wedge they have in their bag. Because the days of every golfer having those irons as ‘standard’ is long gone.
Many of the top PGA Tour players are now carrying hybrids or 5-wood or 7-woods in preference to long irons while others are opting for utility/driving irons.
So for a good number of pros today their ‘standard’ iron set is starting with a 5-iron and sometimes even a 6-iron.
And that’s not even mentioning the 28 players in the top 100 on the PGA Tour who are using two and sometimes three different types and models of iron in their set of clubs. Count a driving/utility iron as a ‘standard’ iron and this number rises to 56 players!
Irrespective of this though we were still able to put together a complete breakdown of the irons used by the top 100 golfers on the PGA Tour to find a number of interesting trends and patterns.
Titleist’s T100 irons are the most used irons by the top 100 PGA Tour players with 9 playing them as their main irons and 3 using one or two in their mixed iron set. PING’s i210 are the second most popular with 8 using them. Titleist’s 620 MB & Callaway’s Apex TCB irons are the next most used with 7.
Of the other main manufacturers used by more than one player in the top 100 their most used models are as follows:
- PXG – 0311 ST (Henrik Norlander, James Hahn), 0311 T Gen 2 (Jason Kokrak, Joel Dahmen)
- Srixon – Z785 (Ryan Palmer, Martin Laird, Russell Knox)
- TaylorMade – P760 (Cameron Tringale, Adam Long, Harry Higgs, Rory Sabbatini)
- Wilson – Staff Model (Brendan Steele, Kevin Streelman).
If you discount driving/utility irons from the comparison (we put driving irons in a comparative bucket with hybrids and higher numbered fairway woods) what is fascinating to see among the best players on the PGA Tour is the multiple differing combinations of numbers of irons that they carry in their bag.
While 21% of the top 100 on Tour stick with the traditional 3-iron to pitching wedge iron set up, including Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka, there are two more popular set ups within this elite group.
29% of the best 100 on the PGA Tour prefer to start their iron set with a 4-iron and carry irons all the way through to a pitching wedge while 22% choose instead to use only a 4-iron through to 9-iron. The chart below shows the full range of iron set ups currently being used by the top 100.
The complete breakdown of which irons used are used by the top 100 PGA Tour players, including golfers who only use one individual iron of a particular model, is as follows:
|MANUFACTURER||IRONS USED||NO. OF TOP 100 PGA TOUR PLAYERS||SELECTED PLAYERS|
|Bridgestone||Tour J15CB||1||Matt Kuchar|
|Callaway||Apex TCB||7||Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Marc Leishman, Sam Burns, Tyler McCumber|
|Apex MB||3||Phil Mickelson, Talor Gooch, Matt Wallace|
|Apex Pro||5||Si Woo Kim (’19), Kevin Na (’16)|
|Rogue Pro||1||Kevin Na (4-iron)|
|Cobra||King Forged Tour One Length||1||Bryson DeChambeau|
|Grindworks||Patrick Reed Prototype||1||Patrick Reed|
|Mizuno||JPX921 Tour||1||Jason Day|
|JPX919 Hot Metal Pro||1||Paul Casey (3-iron, 4-iron)|
|JPX919 Tour||1||Lucas Glover|
|MP-20 HMB||1||Jason Day (3-iron, 4-iron)|
|Nike||Vapor Fly Pro||2||Tony Finau (3-iron)|
|VR Pro MB||1||Maverick McNealy|
|PING||i210||8||Viktor Hovland, Lee Westwood, Stewart Cink, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tyrell Hatton|
|Blueprint||5||Billy Horschel, Tony Finau, Harris English, Louis Oosthuizen,|
|S55||5||Carlos Ortiz, Bubba Watson, Hudson Swafford|
|iBlade||3||Corey Connors, Joaquin Niemann, Brandon Hagy|
|G410 Crossover||2||Harris English (3-iron), Nate Lashley (2-iron)|
|i200||1||Sebastian Munoz (3-iron)|
|i500||1||Brandon Hagy (3-iron)|
|PXG||0311 ST||2||Henrik Norlander, James Hahn|
|0311 T Gen 2||2||Jason Kokrak, Joel Dahmen|
|0211 FB||1||Wyndham Clark|
|0311 T Gen1||1||Zach Johnson|
|Srixon||Z785||4||Ryan Palmer, Martin Laird, Russell Knox|
|ZX7||3||Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, Keegan Bradley|
|Z-Forged||2||Hideki Matsuyama, Matthew NeSmith|
|Z745||2||Andrew Putnam, Brian Gay|
|ZX5||2||Shane Lowry (4-iron, 5-iron)|
|TaylorMade||P760||4||Adam Long, Harry Higgs|
|P730||3||Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa|
|P750||2||Sergio Garcia, Aaron Wise|
|P790||2||Cameron Tringale (3-iron), Adam Long (4-iron)|
|M2||1||Sepp Straka (2-iron)|
|MC 2011||1||Daniel Berger|
|P770||1||Collin Morikawa (4-iron)|
|Rors Proto||1||Rory McIlroy|
|Titleist||T100||12||Jordan Speith, Cameron Smith, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Lanto Griffin|
|620 MB||7||Justin Thomas, Max Homa, Webb Simpson|
|620 CB||4||Robert Streb, Denny McCarthy|
|718 CB||3||Chris Kirk (5-iron), Brendan Todd (7-iron – PW)|
|718 AP2||2||Patrick Cantlay, J.T.Potson|
|718 MB||2||Chris Kirk (6 to 9-iron), Doug Ghim (7 to 9iron)|
|T-MB||2||Chris Kirk (4-iron), Robert Streb (4-iron)|
|712 MB||1||Matt Jones|
|714 MB||1||Charley Hoffman|
|718 T-MB||1||Brendon Todd|
|Wilson||Staff FG Tour V6||1||Kevin Streelman|
|Staff Model||1||Brendan Steele|
Cavity Backs vs. Blades on the PGA Tour
Because the best players in the world are so good many amateurs often assume that the vast majority must use blade irons.
For as long as I can remember blade irons were often seen as right of passage for better players and that once a golfer had reached a certain standard they would graduate from cavity back irons to blades.
Looking in detail at the iron set ups of the top 100 players on the PGA Tour it is clear however that such views are a long way from reality.
64 of the top 100 PGA Tour players use only cavity back irons and that number rises to 80 when you take into account golfers who use at least one cavity back iron. By comparison only 20 golfers in this elite group only use blades with 36 in total using one blade iron or more within their iron set up.
Analysing these numbers therefore it is clear that the majority of even the best players in the world choose the extra forgiveness and distance which is afforded to golfers using cavity back irons.
And even when it comes to the blades being used by the top pros today modern iron technology means that these irons are a far cry from the ‘blades’ of years gone by which would look no more thick than a knife and give your hands a ‘sting’ on a cold day when not hit correctly out of the middle.
Huge advancements in golf tech have meant many of today’s ‘blade’ irons are more forgiving and much closer to a cavity back iron than it used to be with the result that the distinction between the two club types is no longer as clear as it once was.
By putting more metal behind the hitting zone golf club designers are now creating ‘blades’ which have picked up the nickname of ‘muscle back’ irons.
So when you hear people talking about ‘blades’ nowadays it is likely that they are talking about ‘muscle back’ irons which are a far cry from the thin pieces of metal that were called ‘blades’ back in the day.
That’s not to say there are not still some very traditional blades around today being used by some of the best iron players on Tour – Taylor Made’s P730’s being played by Dustin Johnson and the Callaway’s Apex MB’s used by Phil Mickelson are great examples.
It’s just that they are not used by a lot of players and many of the ‘blade’ models used by top 100 pros on Tour today have more forgiveness than the traditional classic blade irons.
I can’t hit a blade. It’s too difficult, and I’m a pro golfer. I think a blade goes shorter. Off-center hits aren’t going to perform as well as cavity-backs. I don’t see a reason why you would want to play a blade. I really don’t. I played blades in my early 20s, maybe one year – when I was dumb. But I’m wiser now and play a cavity back.”4-time PGA Tour winner, Kevin Na
Mixed Iron Sets Are Popular on the PGA Tour
Our analysis of which pros are using cavity backs and which are using blades also threw up a clear trend amongst the top 100 on the PGA Tour.
And that is the ‘mixed set’ of irons that many are now choosing to use.
Long gone are the days when the pros would have a consistent iron set from a 2 or 3-iron all the way through to a pitching wedge and today it seems clear that the best players in the world are looking at almost every individual iron to see if there is a better alternative.
We found 27 of the top 100 PGA Tour pros are opting for a ‘mixed set’ of irons where they use more than one iron model and indeed some of them are actually using 3 separate models of irons.
2020 PGA Champion Collin Morikawa for example uses a Taylor Made P770 4-iron but then switches to TaylorMade P7MC irons for his 5 and 6-irons before opting for the P730’s from his 7-iron to pitching wedge.
This trend of opting for more forgiving cavity or ‘hollow head’ irons for longer irons before choosing more classic blades for shorter irons seems to be a clear one in the pro ranks and as such we can see the question about which pros use blades vs. cavity back irons is not as clear cut as it once was given many use both.
[Editor’s note – ‘hollow’ head/body irons have an ‘internal cavity’ to remove inefficient weight and therefore increase forgiveness without the need to make the club head the size of a large cavity back iron.]
When you add ‘driving’ or ‘utility’ irons into the picture also the idea of the ‘mixed’ set becomes even more evident as in addition to the 27 pros who have an identifiable mixed set amongst the standard irons a further 29 players, add a 2 or 3 or 4 or even 5 driving / utility iron to their bag.
Indeed players such as JT Potson carry three driving/utility irons (Titleist U-500) from 3 to 5-iron before they go for more standard irons for the rest of the bag – Titleist 718 AP2’s from 6 to 9-iron in JT’s case.
So if we consider driving irons as ‘normal’ irons we can see well over half of the top 100 players on the PGA Tour opt for a ‘mixed set’ of irons.
For the average amateur golfer though it’s worth sounding a note of caution if considering this ‘mixed’ set of irons approach.
Because cavity backs and blades aim to achieve different goals and therefore perform differently it is very possible that identically lofted irons from the two categories will fly different yardages.
Which means that your ‘mixed set’ could give you some problematic yardage ‘gaps’ in the distances you can cover with your shots.
That’s why the pros will often get their club fitters to ‘bend’ some of their irons to different lofts to close these gaps.
But bending clubs can affect a clubs performance in other ways such as affecting it’s bounce.
That’s fine if you are a seasoned professional golfer in control of your golf swing but can be a huge problem for your average amateur player who has no idea what part of a club’s performance has actually been affected by bending it.
So if you plan on going down this route, and I am skeptical why any but the best amateur golfers should be considering this option, make sure you get yourself along to a ‘custom fitting’ expert to ensure your ‘combination’ set has no loft or performance gaps.
Whatever approach you take to your irons now though one thing seems crystal clear when looking at the iron set ups of the top 100 players on the PGA Tour.
There is no longer such a thing as a ‘standard’ set of irons.