There is a lot of debate over whether forged irons are truly “better” (whatever that means) than cast irons. So… what is the difference?
First, let’s get one thing straight. More player irons are forged, and more game improvement irons are cast. Therefore, there is a direct correlation between the two iron characteristics, especially when we are talking about very high level, general concepts and relationships. Anyway, let’s keep this discussion about forged vs cast irons, not player’s irons vs game improvement irons.
Please note that all links/pictures that you click on (at the bottom of the article) will take you to the eBay listings for each set of irons.
Here are some simple bullet lists for those that want a high level explanation about the two iron making processes.
- Starts as a solid piece of metal
- Heated up and beat by a large hammer-like machine into the correct shape and loft
- results in improved consistency (less air bubbles –> better distance control)
- results in a more pleasant vibrations when hit (better feel)
- less iron sets are forged (~10%)
- often times used in players irons
- typically more expensive due to more difficult process
- Starts as a liquid metal form
- Poured into a mold
- results in the ability to add more components (extra weighting, more creative cavities)
- typically results in a less pleasant, louder sounding vibration (less feel)
- most iron sets are cast (~90%)
- typically used in a game improvement iron
- typically less expensive due to simpler process
Should You Buy Forged or Cast Irons?
So should you play cast or forged irons? Is one better for durability? What about feel? Distance control? Is one better for lower handicappers? Is one better for those that struggle with ball striking?
Short answer: It varies from player to player. If you want better feel and better distance control, pick a forged set of irons. If you want a (typically) cheaper set that is focused more on distance and durability, then get a cast set of irons. These are all generalizations which, although are typically true, have many exceptions.
Long answer: You’ll have to decide which common characteristics are more important to you.
Here are all of the different characteristics of a set of irons and how they are affected by whether a club was made from a casting process of a forging process.
- Feel: in general, forged irons feel/sound better at impact. However, many cast irons feel great as well, as it is more so affected by club shape (forged are typically more compact) and weight placement (forged have the weight more focused behind the center of the club; less spread out).
- Distance: the process of making the iron (cast vs. forged) has no impact on the distance a ball will travel. If anything, forged clubs typically have weaker lofts than cast irons. That means that a forged 6 iron might be the same loft of a cast 5 iron. This all depends on the manufacturer and the specs associated with the irons. A 40 degree lofted cast iron will go the same distance as a 40 degree lofted forged iron, no matter what number is stamped on the bottom of the clubs.
- Durability/maintenance: forged clubs typically require more maintenance (just checking lofts and lies to make sure nothing has shifted). Forged clubs typically get dinged up more and rust easier than cast irons, as they are “softer.” However, it’s worth noting that you are not going to wear out forged irons so quickly that you don’t feel like you get your money’s worth. Forged irons get discolored (they form “impact spots”) quicker and more drastically than cast irons, but that doesn’t mean that the grooves are worn out.
- Distance control: The different club head manufacturing processes (forged vs. cast) does not affect launch or impact at all, unless the face springs during impact. The face springs at impact when there is an imperfection in the club making process, such as tiny air bubbles in the casting process. Forged clubs are made of more tightly compacted metal, which will lead to better distance control. Let’s be clear though, these differences are small. Plus, if you are not hitting it close to the center of the face on a forged club, your distance control will be less consistent than hitting it on the center of the face of a cast iron.
- Forgiveness: this is more so a factor of players irons vs game improvement irons, less so about forged vs. cast irons. Forgiveness comes more from perimeter weighting and the sole design. It’s not affected by how the club is made. Cast iron clubs are typically game improvement clubs though, so cast irons are typically pretty forgiving.
- Launch angle/trajectory/spin: not affected by cast vs forged. Affected more by loft, weight placement, and groove depth/placement.
The Three Most Common Myths About Forged vs. Cast Irons
1) Forged irons are only for better players
Not true at all. Forged irons are for anyone that wants an improved sound/feel at impact, as well as better distance control on average.
Besides those that want to play golf professionally, golf is all about having as much fun as possible. If you have more fun with a set of forged muscle back irons, then you rock those clubs and be proud of ’em!
There are plenty of low handicap players playing with forged clubs, and (most of them) are aware that they are not great golfers. On that same note, many great players are using cast irons, fully aware of the fact that forged irons are typically touted for their better distance control and feel.
2) You can only become so good while using cast irons
Very wrong. There are lots of great cast iron sets that are meant for better players.
Lots of incredible golfers have never used a forged set in their lives. They might be brand loyal (Ping comes to mind), or they might just be comfortable with the feel of cast irons. Many cast iron clubs made in the past 5-10 years have nearly just as good (maybe even better) distance control and “feel” than the average forged iron.
3) Cast irons feel/sound bad at impact
Nope. Golf manufacturers have made many improvements in the club making process in the past decade. They can make soft feeling cast irons, and hard feeling forged irons. There are so many things that come into play when determining how a club “feels” at impact.
A lot of what we “feel” is determined by the sound and the vibrations that are spread to our hands after a shot. It is very hard to quantify feel. On average, yes, cast irons don’t feel as good as forged irons. However, many cast irons feel better than the average forged iron. It depends on a wide array of characteristics (club shape and weight placement).
The Best Forged Irons
The Lowest Priced Set of Forged Irons: Wilson Staff FG Tour V6
If you are looking for the lowest priced forged irons that you can buy today, check out the Wilson Tour FG V6 irons. They are way more expensive than I typically recommend, but these are a great set of irons.
I think the best way to describe these clubs in one sentence would be: the best mix of forgiveness and price. They feel great at impact, but not as soft as the other two forged sets that I mention here.
For a players iron, though, they are both long and forgiving. For that reason, I think it’s a great entry level players iron. Many golfers would like the more compact look of this iron but would be afraid of the loss in forgiveness. That shouldn’t be a problem with this set though.
The Best Value Forged Iron Set: Callaway Apex Pro
The best value irons sets are always the ones that were the hottest releases a few years back. For that reason, the Callaway Apex Pro irons are a great option for the best budget forged irons.
These clubs are the best mix of distance, feel, and price. They are a little less forgiving than the Wilson set listed above, but they are much longer (partly due to stronger lofts). Callaway has always been focused on distance, and it shows… this is one of the longest players irons that have ever been released.
Feel wise, if you really hit it dead center on the face, it feels like you hardly hit the ball. Such an incredible feeling. A feeling that I wish I could have experienced longer than a demo day at a local club. Let’s just say I hit a few more balls with these clubs than the rep initially anticipated 🙂
The #1 Overall Forged Irons: TaylorMade 2018 P790
If you can afford the best of the best, then you should take a look at the TaylorMade P790 forged irons. They are such a sleek & sexy looking set of irons.
If you want the best mix of distance, feel, and overall appearance, this is the set for you. It’ll cost you a pretty penny, but it will be well worth it in the end.
This is a great club for someone looking for some more feedback and feel on their shots. A well struck shot feels incredible, and the forgiveness isn’t bad for such a compact iron.
The Best Cast Irons
The Underpriced Set of Cast Irons: Wilson Staff D200
This set of Wilson Staff D200 irons, although not a flashy or super attractive set, is a great option for those looking to save some money. They are very forgiving and long, but not much else besides those two. What more do you want in a set though? If you want more than that, you’ll have to pay a tad bit more unfortunately.
This is a pretty bulky set of irons, so I would recommend it to someone that is an average or below average ball striker. I’m not going to get into the gimmicky technology that Wilson boats about these irons. Just know that they are focused on longer shots and more forgiveness across the entire club face. If you are an above average ball striker, I’d recommend getting a slightly less forgiving set of irons focused more on distance control.
The Best Budget Cast Irons: Cleveland CBX Launcher
Cleveland irons, even more so than Wilson irons, are super underrated. Cleveland makes INCREDIBLE wedges, but they make super high quality irons as well, both for better ball strikers and those that want a more forgiving set. This set of Cleveland CBX Launcher irons is a a great mix between the two.
These irons are forgiving, but provide decent feel and control as well. The perimeter weighting on the sole of the back of the club is great for increased launch angles, so it’s great for someone that struggles hitting the ball high enough.
Compared to the TaylorMade irons listed below, these are a great value set of irons. Priced far below $1,000, this is one of the best deals so far this year.
The Best Overall Cast Iron Set: TaylorMade M4
TaylorMade M4 clubs have been a huge hit so far this year. Their woods fly forever, and the TaylorMade M4 irons follow suit. This set is focused on distance and forgiveness, and it excels in each category.
So, if you can afford the best of the best, this is the set for you! I can’t say the irons feel incredible, but it’s a set perfect for those that don’t always hit the center of the face.
If you can find a longer and more forgiving set of clubs, I want to hear about them!