For most of golf’s history, irons were fairly uniform, the equivalent of what are now called blades. With the advance of golf technology, most casual players don’t use standard blades anymore. Instead, the typical golfer uses more forgiving cavity-back irons. Among professional golfers, however, you’ll find a mix of irons.
Cavity-Backs Vs. Blades
Cavity-back irons feature larger club heads than blades. Additionally, cavity-backs contain perimeter weighting along the back of the club head, creating the cavity that gives the club its name. These clubs are more forgiving of mis-hits than the relatively straight blades, while blades may help a skilled golfer maneuver the ball to the right or left with controlled draws or fades.
Blades on the PGA Tour
Approximately 25 percent to 35 percent of PGA Tour players use blades, according to a 2011 “Golf Digest” article. Top players such as Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els all prefer blades to cavity-backs. In his book “How I Play Golf,” Woods says he uses blades because “they provide wonderful feedback and feel.”
Cavity-Backs on the PGA Tour
Jim Furyk switched from cavity-back irons to blades, but found the blade’s club head was weighted too far toward the shaft for his liking, causing his shots to stray to the left. He soon returned to cavity-back irons. “I think I am more accurate, and I can hit straighter” with cavity-backs, Furyk said in 2009.
While driver shafts are typically made of graphite, most irons are still paired with steel shafts, even for casual players. PGA Tour players use steel shafts almost exclusively in their irons, with Matt Kuchar being a notable exception. Because players with higher swing speeds tend to use less flexible shafts, male professional players typically favor stiff or extra-stiff shafts in all their clubs, according to “Golf Magazine.”
Types of Irons
The 1-iron has disappeared from golf in general. Even professionals don’t use the club. Hybrid clubs have also replaced long irons in many professional golfers’ bags. Phil Mickelson, for example, used nothing longer than a 4-iron when he won the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Woods still carries a 2-iron on certain courses, but his longest iron was a 3 when he won the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational. In 2012, Bill Haas told “Golf Digest” that “very few players still use a 2-iron, but I’m very confident with mine.”