What Are Driving Irons? A Complete Guide
“If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron?” — Lee Trevino
Speak to almost any golfer and ask them what clubs in their bag they struggle with most, your likely to hear a lot of talk of long irons. Back in the old blade days, there were few things scarier in golf than looking down at a one or two iron. They were practically knives.
Now, there is a new breed and the driving iron is here to stay. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Why should I use a driving iron?
Like all golfers, I love standing on the tee and booming a driver. Sometimes, however, you’re on a tight course and you need to play with surgical accuracy. This is where the driving iron comes in.
Long irons can be hard to hit, but they can be great tools for plotting your way around a course. The key thing about them is that they are easier to hit than standard long irons yet they go lower than fairway woods.
If you play somewhere that is often windy, the driving iron will become a close friend you can rely on. Plus, telling your friends that you hit a one iron is probably one of the coolest things you can say on the course.
I don’t need a driving iron!
Golf is a hard game, that’s one of the reasons we all love it so much. Why would you make it harder? You don’t get points for acting tough on the course.
To paraphrase Jack Nicklaus, “it all looks the same on the scorecard”, so why not take every help you can get. This is your chance to perfectly balance forgiveness, control and distance.
Many golfers jumped on the hybrid bandwagon a decade ago. These clubs replaced long irons faster than Tiger driving to escape his irate ex-wife, but for a lot of golfers this wasn’t the smartest move. I for one tried it and just couldn’t control the height of the ball.
If you hit it high then the driving iron will give you many of the benefits of a hybrid but with added control. These clubs also cut through the rough much like hybrids and better than standard long irons. Another great thing about these is that they tend to go further than the equivalent long iron too.
The added “muscle” at the back of the club means more clout at impact and more distance. They also look sleeker at address which makes you feel good before you start your takeaway. If the best golfers in the world are finding benefit from these clubs, you will too.
Let’s talk hard yards
There is no point beating about the bush, for modern golfers length matters. Every company sells their equipment based on how much further you will be able to hit it so let’s look at that.
Well this one is a tricky one because there are so many variables. It is actually one that you should go and test for yourself with demo clubs at your local range. Players capable of higher swing speeds will almost certainly hit the driving iron further than a hybrid.
It won’t give you 25-yards of extra distance from the tee but it will be slightly more. What this is down to, for the most part, is player preference.
Whilst you may gain a little bit of yardage from the tee, this is about so much more. You will gain a lot more in terms of feel and playability with a driving iron. I also think that they look better which is important.
I’m interested, what are my loft options?
Lofts of golf clubs have become an area of controversy thanks to certain manufacturers playing with them to increase distance. Usually, driving irons are pretty much exactly the same lofts as their equivalent long iron. That means that you will find options between 18 and 23 degrees.
You then have to ask yourself what you think you will be best with and go try some out. I can’t highlight this point strongly enough, go and try different clubs. Also, try different brands.
Many of us in the golfing world, myself included, get very attached to brands. I am a Titleist lover and so find it very hard to try other brands. However, you must and you will often be surprised at how much better another brand suits you.
Whilst we all want to emulate our favourite golfing stars, we have the benefit of not being tied to single-manufacturer contracts and can try out whatever we want. So, to answer the question, just try as many different irons as you can and pick the best one for you. Loft isn’t necessarily that important.
As always, lower loft should go further but if you are striking it better and more consistently with a higher loft then buy it!
Brains or Brawns: The driving iron vs. the driver
I’ve already said it above, smashing a driver and splitting the fairway is one of the best feelings in golf. Feeling that centre-strike and watching the ball fly is amazing but what about when you just can’t get it to work on that day? You always need alternatives.
Being the longest club in the bag, normally, the driver is arguably the hardest to hit. Modern technology and design has made them more forgiving than ever but they can still be difficult. What’s more, because it goes the furthest, it can go the furthest into trouble.
So one instant benefit of a driving iron is that it can be far more precise. Even off-centre hits will be less likely to put you in real trouble. You will, of course, lose some distance as a cost for this.
Another benefit of the driving iron comes when the weather gets bad. Modern drivers are designed to fly high and land soft. This is all well and good when you spend your days playing golf in Florida but we don’t all have those conditions every day.
The driving iron will tend to fly lower than your driver which makes it perfect for those tee shots into the wind. What’s more, manipulating the ball flight of a driving iron should be easier so you can make it fly even lower if you are confident in your spin control.
This comes down to how important course management and tactics are to you. If you like to play like a PGA Tour player and just smash the driver as far as you can then deal with the consequences, then a driving iron isn’t for you. If you like to think your way around the course and place the ball, then this is a tool you’ll love adding to the bag.
Comparing apples and slightly different apples: driving irons vs. hybrids
To start this section, it is worth noting that neither of these club-types are new creations. They have each been around for decades, they are just back in fashion. For good reason though, they are great additions to you bag.
So, how do we choose between these two fairly similar club-types? I think to work this one out you must ask yourself a few questions. Firstly, how good a ball-striker are you?
If you hit the ball out of the middle more often than not then the driving iron will probably be more beneficial to you. They’re not exclusively for better players but that group will see more benefit from them over hybrids and vice-versa.
Another key consideration is how high you hit the ball. Do you struggle to get some air under the ball? If you do, then you want a hybrid.
Driving irons will fly higher than a long iron but they will be lower than hybrids, this is important. Driving irons are also a little more accurate than a hybrid. Although hybrids will land more softly so can be better for long approach shots.
As you can see, this is complicated and the only way to answer this question is to know your own game. You will know which will suit you better by the way you hit the ball and by the problems you tend to have on the course. Again, try both and see which you prefer, there is no excuse not to.
The old classic and the young pretender: driving irons vs. fairway woods
This is a slightly easier one as there is certainly enough room in your bag for both. They do slightly different jobs and so you shouldn’t have to decide between them. I would say that you should carry a three wood as another option from the tee and then a driving iron.
Fairway woods go further than driving irons due to the fact that they tend to have stronger lofts and more behind the ball. These clubs are harder to hit though so on the tightest courses the driving iron will become your best friend.
Carry both and test different combinations out so that you cover the best combination of yardages and accuracy.
The cream of the crop – The driving irons
Due to the incredible success of driving irons, most of the big brands have developed one. Some of the best players in the world are using these, including Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka, so of course normal golfers like you and I are interested.
TaylorMade have a couple of options out there. The GAPR and the P790 UDI are both exceptionally good clubs and the ball flight they produce is low and stinging. The GAPR is a little more forgiving, it is also used by Tiger so it gets more brownie points, and it looks pretty unique.
The P790 UDI is an extension of the incredible P790 iron range and so looks very similar to them. This will fly slightly higher and is a true driving iron. This one goes miles!
Titleist were one of the first brands to get involved in this new wave of driving iron fashion when they developed utility irons for Jordan Spieth. Two are available from the company the U500 and the U510. In a similar way to what TaylorMade have done, the U500 is the players driving iron which gives the golfer the best chance of shaping shots and manipulating the ball flight. The U510 gives more forgiveness and is designed to launch the ball higher. These clubs both look like classic driving irons and instil great confidence behind the ball.
For the serious players out there, look no further than Srixon. The Srixon Z85U is the number one driving iron on tour and for good reason. Behind the ball it looks beautiful and it can provide top players with the ultimate playability.
PING are known as being some of the best engineers in the golfing world and they have created a special driving iron. The PING Crossover clubs look and perform incredibly. The unique weighting system in the clubhead ensures consistency whilst delivering impressive distance.
There are only a few of the best options on the market listed above. I could write a whole article on just what is out there never mind everything else. This is where it pays to know your local PGA pro well so you can ask him/her what would suit you best and try some.
The market for golf clubs is getting more and more plentiful so there is always something perfect out here for you. Test many and get custom-fit for the one you choose.
The driving iron is a golf club type that is here to stay and rightly so. As iron technology improves and they become easier to hit, this is the perfect way of gaining maximum accuracy and yardage from the tee.
For many golfers, adding one of these clubs could be the difference they need to reduce their handicap. By hitting more fairways the rest of your game can have a chance to shine and driving irons will give you that ability.
Get out there, try these great clubs and find the one that is right for you. It will change your game.
Hi, I am Matthew, a mid handicap golfer who likes to play as much as possible. I love trying out new gear and this blog is where you can find all the gear I have tested over the years!