Having a go-to club that can help you nail the middle of the fairway on command is an absolute must for any golfer, and frankly using the driver in some situations poses significant risks. Your driving iron should be that club.
If you’ve watched any professional golf, you’ve probably seen the likes of Tiger Woods or Ollie Sneiderjans hitting a perfect stinger down the fairway with one of these utility irons, especially in windy conditions.
The best driving irons out there give you versatility on the golf course, and options off the tee box. Windy conditions or tight fairways surrounded by hazards can put you in danger of making a mistake that can cost you a scoring opportunity. Using a driving iron can help you take a safe shot down the middle of the fairway without a huge sacrifice in distance.
In this guide we’ll tell you everything you need to know about driving irons so you can add this awesome utility club to your bag. Check out our full guide below!
Table of Contents
Short on time? Here are a few of our favorite driving irons for 2020:
Best Driving Iron Overall: Titleist U510
Most Forgiving Option: TaylorMade SIM DHY
Best Players Utility Iron: Taylormade P790 UDI
Buyers Guide: What to Look For in a Driving Iron
As with all golf equipment, there are a few key things to look for in a good utility iron.
Loft and distance
A driving iron is meant have a low launch that goes far, and rolls out a long distance on the fairway. Because you’re looking for a lower launch out of this golf club, you’ll want to opt for a lower loft angle. Most utility irons have a loft between 16 and 19 degrees, and can create perfect stingers that have a penetrating trajectory when you need them.
The whole purpose of having a driving iron is to be able to hit a monster shot with a little more control and accuracy, and very little distance sacrifice. Most of the time you’ll be hitting this club off the tee, or a perfect lie in the fairway. This club is meant to fill a distance gap between your 3 wood and your 3 or 4 iron in your bag.
If you get good at hitting one of these, you can create shots like this:
It should be easier to make great contact with a driving iron than a traditional long iron or a wood. For a driving iron to be forgiving, it should have a big sweet spot, helping those off center hits get in a much better position. Heavier utility irons with a lower center of gravity tend to be more forgiving. Thanks to the recent significant technology improvements, these utility irons are more forgiving than ever, appealing to a wider audience.
Longer irons are typically a bit more intimidating to hit than a hybrid or mid iron, so many amateur players tend to shy away from using them. You want to select a driving iron that looks hittable, and inspires confidence over the ball. Plus, a well designed utility iron looks awesome in a golf bag, and usually ends up being a topic of conversation.
Driving Iron FAQ
What is a driving iron?
A modern driving iron is a cavity backed iron that offers a lower trajectory than a hybrid or fairway wood, but a higher trajectory than a typical 2 or 3 iron. This low flying trajectory can deliver a penetrating ball flight, and is ideal for getting a lot of roll out on firm fairways, or to cut right through windy conditions.
Originally, these irons were blades; Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan have both used 1 and 2 irons to clinch major championships. The original blade driving iron is incredibly difficult to hit well, and initially it seemed these clubs would be made obsolete. Over the last decade there have been many advancements made to the modern driving iron, also referred to as a utility iron, making it much more realistic for an amateur golfer to use.
How does a driving iron compare to a hybrid?
In recent years, hybrids have become much more popular than driving irons thanks to the additional loft the club has. The driving iron fills the gap in distance between a your driver and hybrid.
You should use a driving iron when you need a good shot down the middle that can run down the fairway. If it’s windy, it will be much easier to control a driving iron than a hybrid. In general it will make more sense to use a hybrid in a tougher lie, and in situations you want to get a higher launch trajectory on your shot, for instance clearing a large pond.
Who should use a driving iron?
Driving irons are great utility clubs that are well suited for mid and low handicappers. I wouldn’t typically recommend driving irons to high handicappers, because they’re slightly more difficult to hit than a hybrid, and require a faster swing speed. If you struggle to break 90 on a consistent basis, I’d shy away from buying a utility iron and instead stick with hybrids and standard irons.
Is a driving iron easier to hit than a driver?
The answer to this question is a big ol’ “it depends”. If you struggle with your driver off the tee but find irons easier to hit, you’ll likely find it easier to hit a driving iron well than hitting a good drive. I find it easier to hit a driving iron than to deploy my driver when the conditions are rough; the driving iron will cut through the wind and rain more effectively. Generally, driving irons have never been easier to hit thanks to the new technology big golf brands are using!
Best Driving Irons in 2020 (Updated Buyers Guide)
Overall Best Driving Iron: Titleist U510 Driving Iron
When you’re looking for a utility iron, you want a forgiving iron that delivers consistent shot performance and the best distance possible. Titleist’s U500 and U510 utility irons were released at the end of 2019, with the U510 being made to fit a wider range of golfers, specifically targeting amateur golfers. Our research found this to be the best pick overall thanks to the forgiveness and distance offered.
In terms of performance, the U510 is the best driving iron for distance, as well as ball speed this year. The U510 is more forgiving thanks to a lower center of gravity, and a wide sole design that is meant to deliver consistency in your strike. If you’re a really solid player and are looking for more of a true players utility iron, I’d go for the U500 instead of the U510. The U500 is a little more workable, and is designed for low handicappers.
The U510 can easily replace or compliment a similarly lofted hybrid golf club. We found the U510 to deliver the best distance among driving irons, while offering forgiveness and plenty of ball speed. For those reasons, the U510 is our top choice for 2021 as the best driving iron on the market .
Best Players Utility Iron: Taylormade P790 UDI
Look, I don’t want to paint a picture that this is the easiest club out there to hit. This isn’t as forgiving as some driving irons on the list, but the Taylormade P790 UDI is definitely a great option for better players. The UDI in the title stands for Ultimate Driving Iron, which is a bold statement from Taylormade, however their technology does back the name up well.
The P790 Driving iron has a very sleek and thin look, and looks much thinner than other driving irons when you stand over it. The club features a Speedfoam insert that helps produce both speed and feel off the face of the club. The bottom of the club has a speed pocket that also works toward maximizing speed and delivering some forgiveness on shots that are hit lower on the club face.
When you hit this driving iron in the sweet spot, the distance is stunning and the club holds true to its name as an ultimate driving iron. This is a less forgiving option than most other clubs we’ve reviewed, but it is still somewhat forgiving on a decent strike. We really do recommend this for low handicappers, so if you’re looking for a players option this driving iron is the best you can find.
Most Forgiving Option: TaylorMade SIM DHY
The TaylorMade SIM DHY is probably the most unique option on the list, as it’s not quite a driving iron, but more of a driving hybrid. The SIM DHY offers the highest trajectory out of any of the options on this list, and is definitely the easiest to hit. We wanted to be able to include a forgiving option for the beginners and high handicap players out there, and this is by far the best driving iron we’ve seen for the mid to high handicap crowd.
The SIM DHY looks easy to hit with a wide sole and hollow cavity construction. That hollow body offers a low CG, making it easy to launch the ball into the air. The club has an ultra thin forged C300 face with the same Inverted Cone Technology used in the SIM longer clubs. The result of that ICT is an enhanced sweet spot that offers a more consistent straighter ball flight.
This driving hybrid can be used from a multitude of lies and is just as useful from the rough as it is off the tee. If you like the idea of a driving iron but don’t feel confident about hitting a club with a naturally low trajectory, this is a great option. The forgiveness of this club makes this a great fit for mid and high handicappers.
Best Feel: Mizuno MP20 HMB
The Mizuno MP 20 line is one of the hottest iron sets from 2020, so it should be no surprise that their utility iron is a top contender in the driving iron category.
The MP20 HMB is a hollowed head, slightly fatter cavity back version of the MP20 forged irons offering excellent distance and forgiveness. It’s a true forged steel driving iron, with nickel chrome and copper layering on the face for some of the best feel of any driving iron this year. This utility iron can easily replace a hybrid or long iron in your bag for better performance.
The Mizuno HMB has a low launch off the face which is great for hitting stingers and low running shots, but the style doesn’t suit everybody. This is a great distance iron with the right amount of forgiveness. If you want the best possible feel from your driving iron, the Mizuno MP 20 is a sure bet.
Best Value: Tour Edge Exotics CBX Utility Iron
The Tour Edge Exotics CBX Iron Wood has proven to be one of the best performing driving irons this year, while coming in at a slightly lower price against the field. This club is about 50 bucks cheaper than the rest of this year’s driving irons, which is one reason it comes in as our top value pick.
Tour Edge’s utility iron’s L-Cup Face Technology helps deliver ball speed and power across the face of the club, even on mishits. The CBX Iron Wood has the performance of a hybrid while being slightly more workable.
This is another low launching and low spinning driving iron, for a decent price. If you want to be able to launch some low, penetrating stingers and are looking for the best performance without the cost, we think this is a perfect option.
Budget Pick: Taylormade GAPR Lo
Anytime you want to get a great club for a slightly cheaper price, look for last years model. For 2020, enter the Taylormade GAPR Lo utility club. This was initially a $250+ driving iron, but thanks to it being just outdated, its one of the best most affordable driving irons you can find right now. This club was released in 2018.
The GAPR Lo is the 2 iron version of this driving iron, which makes it perfect to deliver a low flying stingy shot. The lower loft of this club makes it a bit tougher to hit, and I recommend this to mid to low handicappers. If you are really good at making clean contact, this is going to be a very exciting club on the course for you.
Worth a Look: Callaway X Forged Driving Iron
The Callaway X Forged is another solid driving iron, and it’s definitely made for the better player. If you want your utility iron to look more like a blade at address, this one has that look. There’s much less forgiveness packed into this club as opposed to others on our list, but it’s still a great club that can deliver eye popping shots off the tee and fairway.
This club delivers some exceptional ball speed and distance when you strike the sweet spot. If you tend to hit your irons and woods off center, I would stay as far away from this hybrid as you can, as those mishits really hurt your speed and distance with this iron. We think this is a solid option for most low handicappers, and some mid handicappers.
If you’ve decided you want a driving iron in your bag, you know that you need a good reliable shot in a sticky situation. A driving iron is a great addition to anyone’s golf bag, and can help you run a ball down the fairway with a low and penetrating ball flight. We found the best option to be the Titleist U510; this was one of the more forgiving clubs we reviewed and it delivered high ball speeds and carry distances. If you want the most possible forgiveness from a driving iron, you should opt for the TaylorMade SIM DHY.