Are Game Improvement Irons Easier to Hit? – Golf Myths Unplugged

Everyone’s Favorite Argument

Go to any golf forum, equipment shop, or 19th hole, and you will find golfers engaged in some form of this debate: what kind of irons should you play?  The arguments on all sides are as well-worn as the grooves in Tiger’s old irons: “Everyone needs forgiveness!”  “The greats played with blades and so should you!”  “You can’t play blades until you break par!”  “Guys on tour are playing forgiving clubs!”

While we know that no one can settle this argument for good, we did think it was time to bring a little bit of data to the party.  Along with Club Champion, we tested blades alongside cavity back irons and super game improvement clubs to see which one is really the easiest to hit.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Golfers who can play blades can play anything

Myth #2 – Game improvement irons produce more consistent distance

Myth #3 – Game improvement irons are straighter

Myth #4 – Blades produce better results on pure strikes

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together seven golfers.  Each player hit thirty shots: ten with a blade iron, ten with a cavity back iron, and ten with a super game improvement iron.  Each player used the same shaft through the test, and each iron was bent to the same loft and lie angle.

In addition to measuring the results with Trackman, we used impact tape to chart the location of each shot.

All testing was done at and with the help of Club Champion.

The Results

This was not a myth that we thought about coming into the test, but it was one that demanded to be addressed based on the data.  The conventional wisdom is that if you can hit a blade, you can play any iron.  Our testing showed this is absolutely not the case, at least in the short term.

We tracked the impact location of every shot in this test.  The overall pattern was that players hit the blade well, but hit the SGI iron poorly.  No one in our test group hit the SGI iron best.

To add context, everyone in our test group plays cavity back or blade irons (a consequence of using more skilled players).  Despite the irons being the same length, loft, lie, and swing weight, the look and feel of the irons was different enough to cause most testers to struggle with the SGI iron.

It is entirely plausible, if not probable, that a player who is skilled with a blade could adjust to SGI irons over time.

The distance data is sufficiently clouded by poor ball striking that we cannot rate this as confirmed, but we do think it’s plausible that game improvement irons produce more consistent distance than blades.

The case against this myth is that all the irons produced effectively the same carry distance (our group average was within one yard).  As individuals, our testers were evenly distributed – some were longest with SGI, others CB, others blade.

The data in support of this myth starts with smash factor.  Despite poorer ball striking, our testers had the highest average smash factor with the SGI iron.  Also, the SGI iron produced distance equivalent to the others despite being swung slower.  Finally, only one of our seven testers had their tightest distance dispersion (yardage between longest and shortest shots) with the blade iron.  This was a metric that should have played into the hands of the blade since one badly hit shot can dramatically increase the dispersion.

Our data confirms that game improvement irons do produce straighter shots, particularly given the context that the SGI iron was hit poorly compared to the blade.

As a group, our testers were six feet closer to the target with an SGI iron compared to a blade.  As individuals, four of the seven had their best average with the SGI iron.  That number would be even higher if we had eliminated outliers.

Our players also used the SGI iron to record more of their best shots.  Five players recorded the most shots inside 10 feet with the SGI iron.  As a group, 12 shots were hit inside 10 feet with an SGI iron compared to 8 with the blade.

This is the one myth that we can say is unequivocally busted.  Nothing in our data supports the idea that blade irons perform better on pure strikes compared to cavity back irons or SGI irons.

Looking at the group average, smash factor was the highest with an SGI iron despite poorer ball striking.  Similarly, no player in our group hit their longest shot with a blade.

Additionally, the dispersion data shows that blade irons are not more accurate, even with quality contact.

While certain players may produce better shots with blades, they are not universally better on centered strikes.


This was one of the most eye-opening tests that we’ve done because we genuinely had no idea what we would find.

One of the biggest takeaways is that there is a lot of helpful technology in SGI irons.  Whether your primary concern is distance or direction, the irons you choose can make a big difference.

On a similar note, we were all impressed with how much of that technology is being packed into modern cavity back players irons.  Whether you’re talking about the Srixon Z 765 irons that we used in this test or something like the PING i200 irons, golfers are able to get a players look and forgiveness like never before.

Additionally, we saw that when you’re making an equipment change, especially a dramatic one like SGI irons to blades or vice versa, you need to give yourself time to transition.  Even with identical specs, there are differences in look and feel that can have a major impact on your ball striking.

The Data

Matt Saternus


  1. I’ve been playing golf for 50+ years. I found this test extremely interesting. I played blades until about 6 years ago, when I started to demo other game improvement and SGI irons. I’ve never been able to get along with SGI irons; they just don’t FEEL good. Forged cavity backs, however, is now my sweet spot. It is, indeed, impressive how forgiving game improvement irons are…..and they FEEL just as good as any blade I’ve ever played. I think that FEEL is the determining factor. Amateurs are out there to have a good time: when things FEEL good… they are good. One other thing; age makes a difference. When you start losing swing speed, offset helps. But, every once in a while…….just because, I pull out my 1963 Wilson Staff blades, and have an enjoyable round. Keep up the good work, guys!

  2. I like the article; however, I have been playing with Mizuno MX23 for over 5 years and then switched to MP68 and I’ll never go back to the MX23. Why the MP68? Blades give such a solid feel and when I miss hit with the MX23 there is no difference from a miss hit with MP68. What this article fails to discuss is that blades require more acceleration through contact, which can easily be achieved with practice. Another failure of this article is the style of the swing of the golfer. Some golfers like to “pick” the ball and some “compress”. Let’s stick to the test…the test was about the “head style” . Club head gives you feel and flight whereas the shaft gives you the power. Nothing in the article stated about the loft degree difference between 7 Iron Blade vs SGI. Blades are two degrees weaker than SGI, which give the impression of loss of distance. Blades are weaker because they are forged to allow a player to customize their Irons.
    Did we forget the swing speed? The golfers tested should have been matched up with the right shaft stiffness and weight against their swing speed. Weaker shaft with a player that has a fast swing speed would cause the club’s head to lag behind thus causing the ball to lose accuracy…etc. It’s my option the that wider sole club head is designed to either pick or sweep the ball whereas blades can do both. Bottom line is that human nature rules all, the golf club is the extension of the golfer and only he or she knows what right feels like.

    • You’re 100% spot on with your last sentence Ray. I’m a 14 handicap and about 8 years ago played with a decent set of old blades (off 18). Until one day after a round a 4 handicap ‘friend’ looked in my bag and stated ‘ that those blades will give me nothing’.

      Technically he was right, as I got rid of the blades and moved to forged CBI , my handicap improved, BUT the feel and enjoyment I got from looking down at that small club head, and the pleasure I got when ‘creaming’ a shot has never returned. Equally the ‘wake up call’ when you miss hit was a stark reminder, almost as if the club is reminding you ‘not to get to big headed, I’m in charge here’.

      Over the last year I’ve come to realise that I get little enjoyment or excitement from my CBI’s. I have almost lost the ability to realise that fine line between good and bad because the CBI, like a kid with a crayon, colours over the mistakes and muddy’s the waters- the mistakes almost become accepted, whereas the blades remind you to work harder and improve.

      Damn I miss those bad boys.

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