Iron vs. Wood in Golf: 17 Key Differences

If you are getting acquainted with golf, you may have heard the terms’ woods’ and ‘irons,’ both of which refer to different clubs used in the game. Each has its own strengths and drawbacks.

Golf woods have lower lofts, have heads with higher surface area, and low mass. This allows a golfer to launch the ball farther. Irons, on the other hand, are made of denser material, have small heads with higher lofts, and prioritize precision over distance, making them ideal for short-to-mid distances.

In this article, we look at the individual advantages and disadvantages of golf woods and irons. You will learn about how each category got its name and what types of woods and irons are on the market. You will also find out which irons and woods you should purchase to build the right set of clubs for your game.

Golf Woods: A Basic Overview

Woods in golf play quite a significant role; They are characterized by longer shafts and are made of a material that emulates the role previously occupied by larger, wooden heads.

Historically, these clubs emerged because a hardwood head could allow the golfer to hit the ball much farther than an iron head would.

However, the role and the name remained but advances in golf club manufacturing technology brought about titanium and other materials that serve the role better.

Alongside the long shaft, you will notice a rounder head that is much larger than a golf iron. This, of course, has to do with material density. A lighter material allows for a larger head and a faster swing.

Pros of Golf Woods

Below are some of the key reasons golf woods are essential to the game.

  • Reduce the score on larger scores. You can use a golf wood to shorten the distance between yourself and the hole, even if you are far from it.
  • Light to carry. You do not have to swing a heavy iron to send the ball as far. A golf wood is lighter on your arms.
  • A big head makes it easy to hit the ball. Since woods have larger heads, you don’t need to train too much to get the art of making the ball fly far with little effort. No more frustrating missed swings.
  • Significantly cheaper than the alternative. Because golf woods are made with less expensive materials, you can expect to pay as low as one-third the cost of irons.

Cons of Golf Woods

Now that we have discussed the pros of golf woods, here are some of the drawbacks you need to consider before using them.

  • Low precision. Since golf woods were initially designed to help the ball go further, when you are close to the hole, you aren’t able to make the distance without overshooting.
  • Rely on the motion for momentum. As the heads of these golf clubs are made of lighter material, they rely on the full motion of a swing to make the ball move. For a small distance, the head does not have enough weight to make the ball move the required distance.
  • You can overshoot the ball. In the game of golf, there is definitely the possibility to be too ‘good’ at a distance. If you overshoot the ball consistently and keep making it go farther than the hole, your score keeps rising, which can quickly become a losing streak.
  • Ease of use can become a handicap. If you use woods consistently and only get accustomed to larger heads, you reduce your ability to play with irons and putters.

Different Types of Golf Woods

If you try to shop for a golf wood, the first surprise will be that none of them are actually made of wood. But your second surprise will be that there are different woods that look drastically different. So which one should you buy?

Below are the different types of wood and what each wood is best for.

  • 1-wood/driver. This is the wood that can make your ball go the longest distance. A 1-wood is also known as the driver because it drives the ball. It can be identified by weight as it is the lightest and also by a smaller loft. It has the lowest loft in the material category.
  • 2-wood+/Fairway. This club starts a nomenclature trend that may go all the way up to 25. A 2-wood has a slightly higher loft than a 1-wood and a little more weight. From the fairway, you need a blend of precision and distance, which is why 2-wood onwards, the clubs are called fairways. 3-woods have an even higher loft, and the head is heavier than a 2-wood. By now, you get the pattern. There is no need to list each separately as the higher number adds precision and decreases the distance.

Things to Keep in Mind

Before you buy a golf wood, consider the following:

  • Don’t buy a 1-wood or a driver if you are going to use it as your only club. This club will make it nearly impossible to make a precise short distance hit.
  • Buy at least the 1-wood if the rest of your set will be made up of irons. If your clubs are all irons, adding a 1-wood will give you the highest advantage.
  • Get custom-fitted for woods before buying them. If you already have the specifications for the irons you bought, you will realize they don’t translate well to wood. You will need to get fitted not just for the woods but for specific types you plan to invest in.

Golf Irons: A Basic Overview

Golf irons started out as metal clubs with an iron head. Because of the material’s density, the head would be much smaller.

And since force is decided by mass and acceleration, the higher mass allowed golfers to make the ball move short to mid distances without swinging from too far back.

While not all golf irons are made of pure iron, the name still applies to golf clubs meant for short distances.

Nowadays, golf irons are made of various metals and alloys that give a different shape and purpose to each head. But you can recognize an iron by noticing a significantly smaller head and relatively shorter shaft.

If you tried to swing an iron, you would notice the inherent need to make a steeper swing, unlike the slop freedom afforded by woods.

Pros of Golf Irons

Below are some of the reasons that golf irons are a part of every serious golfer’s repertoire:

  • High in precision. Because they are denser than an average golf wood, they give you the power to swing at shorter distances and towards the hole.
  • Hedge against overshooting. When you use a golf iron, you are less likely to overshoot the ball.
  • More durable. Golf irons are made of durable material and require replacing less often than woods.
  • Transferrable mastery. Since irons help you get better at precision, you will naturally start prioritizing precision, which is what ends the game after all. Even though moving to new clubs might require getting used to or custom fitting, you will still have an eye for the hoe.

Cons of Golf Irons

As you may have guessed, no golf club comes without its drawbacks. Here are the drawbacks of golf irons:

  • More expensive than woods. If you are on a budget, paying almost three times as much as a golf wood will sting.
  • Heavier than woods. It might get exhausting when you are consistently swinging with an iron because the head is relatively heavier than that of a wood.
  • Harder to master. Because a golf iron’s head is smaller than a wood’s, you will find yourself striking the air quite a bit when you try to swing for long distances.
  • Can significantly overshoot. While a golf wood can overshoot the ball beyond the hole, using an iron with the same swing as a wood can send the ball into a lake. That is because an iron’s mass with a wood’s swing can generate multiple times the force.
  • Tough on the ball. Because there is a smaller point of impact, the ball receives a substantial beating each time it receives a strike from an iron.

Different Types of Irons

If you don’t already have irons and you search for them online, you will notice that just like woods, they too come in different sizes and shapes. Below is a short introduction to each significant category of irons:

  • 1 Iron/Driver. This is named following the same pattern and reasoning as 1-wood. A 1 iron is the driver that has the lowest loft and the largest head. This makes the ball go the longest distance and is just doing what a 1-wood does much better.
  • Long irons. This is a subcategory that covers two iron to 4 iron and functions similarly to golf woods. With a low loft and high surface area, these clubs prioritize distance over precision. The weight and the loft keep increasing with the numbers, and the surface area keeps decreasing.
  • Mid Irons. 5 iron to 7 iron clubs are the equivalent of fairway woods. They’re used for mid-distance shots from hilly fairways and other positions as well, with a range of 130 years to 210 yards. Staying true to the trends and the physics, the head becomes smaller, and the loft increases alongside the club head’s weight as you move from the long irons to the mid irons.
  • Short irons. The densest club heads in a standard golf irons set are the 8 and 9 irons that can be used for the short and mid-range high-precision hits. These are the most crucial irons in a set, and even amateurs investing in only two clubs are advised to have at least one short iron.

Which One Should You Buy?

Whether you are just getting acquainted with golfing or have a club already, you need to know when to buy a wood and when to invest in an iron.

You will likely buy both over your golfing journey since all professionals and serious amateurs have both woods and irons.

However, at the earlier stages, you can add a wood or an iron to your set or make a solo purchase of either based on your needs.

Who Should Buy a Golf Wood?

If the following descriptors sound relatable, you should buy a golf wood:

  • You are great at sending the ball inside the hole but still get a high score. If you have this problem, chances are you keep undershooting, and a golf wood can fix this very quickly.
  • You play on massive courses. Theoretically, if you make a course large enough, every player would get a 1 million score. This illustrates the importance of distance in getting your score down. If your score is low on a short course, that’s a precision problem. But if your score is low on a large course, you need to get yourself a golf wood.
  • You are on a budget. Unfortunately, many times, our buying decisions can be restricted by the budget we are on. This is where a golf wood can be a nice starting investment. While you may not get the best precision, it will at least make the game accessible to you on a budget.
  • Irons are too heavy for you. Golfing requires focus and precision, neither of which you can summon if your arm is aching all day. That is why, when you notice fatigue from using irons, it is better not to fight the pain and reduce iron use by opting for woods for long to medium distances. 

Top Golf Woods to Buy

Reaching farther with long-distance shots is crucial in keeping scores low in larger courses. If you have at least two clubs, one of them must be a wood. Here are the top golf woods to invest in.

TaylorMade M6 Driver

Drivers almost all have a great distance advantage, but if your ball spins on impact, you can find yourself scoring more despite shooting far.

TaylorMade M6 is engineered for straight shots in addition to distance. Available in both right and left-hand orientations, the M6 has a graphite head with a customizable configuration. 

You can get the club in a 10.5-degree angle configuration, a 9-degree configuration, and a 12-degree configuration. If you get fitted for a graphite driver, you will know which of these angles is best for you.

What is unique about this model is that each club is individually tested for speed and injected with material that adds to the head’s density.

The material injection is made up to the legally allowed maximum limit giving each club the maximum possible legal speed per strike.

You will also notice that the club head is not typical-looking when compared to average 1-woods or 2-woods.

It is custom-designed to have a maximum forgiveness and simultaneously make use of curvature and straightness to help you achieve straight distance.

With over four hundred reviews on Amazon, the product is collectively rated at 4.8 stars out of 5. 

More precisely, it has been given 4.6 stars for its sheerness, 3.2 stars for its warmth, and 3.2 stars for its thickness.

Ultimately, you do not want the driver to be too thick or the clubhead to be sheer. After all, you are relying on lower mass for a faraway shot.

This explains why with relatively lower ratings in these categories, the overall rating of the club is among the highest in the drivers’ category.

Callaway Rogue Driver (2020)

The reason most woods are not exactly made of wood is the advancement in golf club manufacturing technology.

And with the technological improvement trend, the general rule of thumb is that the later models are better than the prior models.

This gives Rogue its edge as the 2020 model comes with three loft angles ranging from a standard 10.5-degree loft to 13.5 degrees with a 9-degrees option as well. 

Obviously, when making your purchase of a driver, you want to minimize the loft, and that explains the popularity of 10.5 degrees rogue.

With a graphite head, this wood will help you achieve distance and speed. The club head has one of the largest club head surface areas within the brand’s line.

It also has a collaborative effort from Boeing, the technology of which it appropriates to optimize the airflow for maximum distance.

With over one hundred and forty-five reviews and ratings on Amazon, the product has a global average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. 75% of the customers have given it 5 stars, whereas only 4% have given it a single star rating.

To make sure you are in the 75% and not the disappointed 4%, only purchase this if you would like to launch the ball far away and have clubs for mid-distance and short distance.

Ti Matrix Driver by King Par

It can be quite frustrating to browse for good clubs only to see professional clubs with pro-golfer prices populate one’s search.

Many golfers just getting started want a driver that does not cost an arm and a leg. With a great value-for-money proposition, King Par leads the way in this.

The driver has a graphite shaft and an alloy head that packs a punch on impact. 

The surface area of the club’s head is as large as is allowed for drivers in-game, and the loft is minimized to allow you to achieve a maximum distance in relatively little time.

With over four hundred ratings and reviews worldwide, the global average rating of the product comes to a 3.9 out of 5 stars. 69% of the customers have given it a 5 or 4-star rating while a minority have assigned it ratings of 3 stars and lower. 

To make sure you are not disappointed in this purchase, make sure you are ready to master precision with drivers as this design is built only for distance.

You will require some training before hitting straight long-distance shots with this. But for nearly one-fourth of a standard driver’s price, this is quite a bargain.

TaylorMade RBZ Fairway

No game of golf ends without coming down to precision. In fact, it is possible to play without drivers (on small courses), but it is nearly impossible to get a low score without a fairway.

RBZ is a fairway wood that requires serious consideration. The 3 wood comes with a 15-degree loft and a smaller surface area than driving woods.

It packs a punch on impact but requires a lower swing from a steeper angle, which makes it possible to prioritize precision while retaining some distance.

It has a shallow profile, with the shaft being significantly lighter than the head to allow the impact to register with a degree of forgiveness. 

The product has over 300 reviews on Amazon, and the global average rating comes to 4.6 stars out of 5. RBZ has also gained a 4.1-star rating for thickness, which becomes significant at a fairway stage since you want smaller swings to result in longer distances.

It also received a 4.1-star rating for its value for money proposition, which can be a deciding factor for many.

Who Should Buy a Golf Iron?

If you can relate to any of the following, you need to purchase a golf iron:

  • You have mastered the long-distance put. If you find out that your score rises as you get closer to the hole, you have a problem that irons can fix. By adding force behind short strikes at a steeper angle, you will have the ball in the hole in no time (except the time it takes to master an iron)
  • You plan to start taking the game more seriously. If you are a golfer who does not have an iron, chances are you are just starting out. If your hobby has the potential to become a regular practice, you should get yourself an iron.
  • You are not constrained by physical or monetary limitations. Irons are hard to master, but for short distance precision swings, wood will require much more training. So the difficulty of irons is not an optional obstacle. Even on the point of higher price, if a golf club membership is within your budget, chances are you can afford an iron and should buy one. The only reasons, then, to play exclusively with woods are medical. If you are allergic to certain materials or can’t physically carry a heavier club, you can try mastering woods for a shorter distance.

Top Golf Irons to Buy

Fairways and drivers can decrease one’s score, but without the right short-distance club, it is nearly impossible to finish a game.

Irons have been a cornerstone of the game for this very purpose. And below are the top irons to invest in.

Callaway 2020 Mavrik Iron

Irons have come a far way from what they used to be historically. Today, with each new design advance, they bring more precision into the game.

Callaway leads the way in this innovation, and its 2020 9 iron is among the highest precision short distance irons available online. With an alloy steel build, the club has a 36-degree loft.

Mavrik is the closest thing to a custom-fitted club you can get without actually getting customer-fitted. The brand is built around using artificial intelligence to optimize head-shape for each loft.

Therefore the heads are all designed to carry the ball further with precision and serve the irons’ purpose, be it to drive, hit a mid-distance, or, as is the case with the 9 iron, to go a short distance with a minimal swing.

While the 9 Iron is recommended for short distances, you can make use of this build and technology in any of the models available starting at a 4 iron. It is advisable to get an 8 or a 9 iron and leave the fairway, and drive shots to the woods.

The Callaway Mavrik has over one hundred reviews despite being rolled out in a year where leisure and sports have been largely restricted.

Its global average rating comes down to 4.6 stars, with 72% of people giving it 5 stars and only 8% giving it 1 out of 5 stars. To make sure you are not in the latter, use the irons for short to medium-short distances only.

Lazarus Premium 9 Iron

For beginners in golfing, the high prices of individual irons are perhaps the biggest turn-off. After all, the prospect of purchasing an iron only to see it have little precision seems risky.

Lazarus removes this risk by bringing as premium a golf club as any new hobbyist would need and with an 80% smaller price tag.

You can purchase the Lazarus irons as a set of 4 to 9 irons or simply opt for a 9/8 iron based on the clubs you already have.

Though the brand also offers driving irons, it is much better to use woods for launching the ball. The heads are built with the same alloys used by many name brands, but the design is not exactly revolutionary. 

With over 180 reviews and ratings, the product still has managed to receive a 4.7 out of 5 stars rating. Interestingly enough, it is among the highest in the golf irons category despite the product having a smaller price.

4.8 stars were given to its value for money proposition, which is great for beginners. Interestingly, it also received 4.7 stars for accuracy, which is crucial in higher irons since that is the point of having a higher loft club.


You can win at golf games without having a single wood in your set. Sets made entirely of irons can work for long, medium, and short distances. But adding a wood is more practical to make the ball go farther if you play on a large course.

The game of golf is about making the ball travel a distance and then aiming it precisely enough to help the ball get in the hole. For this, both woods and irons are useful, respectively.

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