The Iron Buying Study Results: The Brands in Your Bags

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As we took one final pass through the data from our recent iron buying study, we became intrigued by the breakdown of iron use across the various handicap ranges we surveyed. We decided to take a look at the data to see what we could learn about what brands are most popular among better players compared to what brands are most popular among average players.

The data is based on information gleaned from nearly 4400 survey responses. Focusing on your most recent iron purchase, we asked you a really simple question: What brand of irons did you purchase?

Here's what you told us.

All Golfers Surveyed

Survey Notes:

  • The first thing that should be noted is that among our readers, Mizuno and Other shares are significantly higher than they are in the market as a whole.
  • The bulk of that comes out of Callaway whose actual share is significantly higher than 18.2%.
  • Among the brands not specifically included as a choice in the original survey, PXG is the only one whose market (dollar) share is currently above 5%.
  • Where not specifically noted in the remaining text, please remember that all of the numbers provided should be prefaced with "among MyGolfSpy readers."

Handicaps 3 & UNDER

3andunder-pie

Observations:

  • Among our readers, Mizuno leads the field, accounting for 18.2% of your most recent iron purchases.
  • Titleist, which is regarded as a brand for better players, accounted for 12.3% of better player purchases – slightly less than PING, which is often regarded as being more for the average golfer.
  • Among the 16.6% who listed Other, Srixon was by far the most popular choice followed, though not closely, by PXG.

Handicaps 4-10

5-10-pie

Observations:

  • Within this group, Callaway (the industry’s current retail leader) rises to the top at 19.42%.
  • With 17.62%, Mizuno is third among our readers. As noted, this is significantly higher than it is across the larger population of golfers.
  • Other again ranks 2nd, and again Srixon is the most popular choice with PXG and Ben Hogan trailing closely.

Handicaps 11-15

11-15-pie

Observations:

  • Callaway is again the most popular choice, accounting for more than 20% of your most recent iron purchases.
  • As we begin the transition to the game-improvement space, Mizuno’s share among our readers (19.2%) remains strong.
  • Among other (15.9%) Srixon is again the most popular selection, followed (not closely), by Wishon, Bridgestone, and Ben Hogan.

Handicaps 16-20

16-20-pie

Observations:

  • The numbers suggest that within this range is where brand perceptions change dramatically.
  • TaylorMade is the most popular choice, accounting for 18.22% of recent purchases among this demographic. This is particularly interesting and even ironic given the company’s past efforts to position itself as a brand for elite golfers.
  • As we jump above 15 handicaps, Cobra’s share nearly triples, Titleist’s is cut in half, PING picks up 4 percentage points, while Mizuno and Callaway lose 5.
  • One interpretation is that consumers focus on perceptions of brand positions, and not individual products when considering what irons to purchase.
  • Among the 17.32% who chose other (#2 in the category), Srixon, Adams were the most popular choices.

Handicaps 21 & Above

20-plus-pie

Observations:

  • Perhaps not surprisingly, Other (23.5%) is the most popular among the highest handicap golfers surveyed, with the top brand listed being Adams, followed by Wishon and Srixon.
  • Not surprisingly, PING is 2nd at 15.9%.
  • Callaway’s share within this demographic of reader’s dips to 14.4%, its lowest in the survey.
  • Titleist drops to 6.1%, also the lowest for the brand.
  • Cobra climbs to 12.1% (its highest), which places it 3rd within this demographic.
  • Mizuno slips again to 8.3%, the suggestion being that it’s not viewed as a good fit for super game-improvement players, and presumably seniors.

Following the Trends

iron-purchase-line-chart

The above chart is particularly interesting as it reveals how, among our readers, individual brand iron share ebbs and flows between different handicap ranges.

Observations:

  • Callaway’s biggest strength is playing to the middle where it averages roughly a 20% share among handicaps 4 to 15. While that’s the wheelhouse, it should be noted that the brand ranks among the leaders across all handicap ranges.
  • Cobra is relatively flat (near 5%) until we transition towards the 16-20 demographic, at which point share among our readers more than doubles. This suggests it’s still regarded as a brand for the game-improvement and senior crowd.
  • Mizuno's curve gives some indication of brand perception across different ability levels. Among our readers, the brand is hugely popular (and steady) until we hit the 16-20 demographic, at which point its share drops significantly.
  • Nike doesn’t clear the 5% barrier until we reach the highest handicap demographic. We're not sure what to make of that particular fact, but it helps illustrate at least part of the reason why Nike chose to leave the equipment space.
  • PING offers one of the most interesting curves on the chart. It ranks 3rd among named brands among the best players surveyed and stays relatively flat until we reach the game-improvement space where its share increases significantly. This is what we'd expect.
  • Titleist is a near-mirror image of PING (which is why I broke alphabetical order to discuss it here). Its share among our better players is nearly identical to PING (and is identical to TaylorMade), but as PING gains popularity in the game-improvement space, Titleist usage declines on nearly the same scale. This too is what we'd expect.
  • TaylorMade’s share among readers would be nearly flat (11%-12%) if not for the sizeable jump (18.22%) within the 16-20 demographic. Whether this is related to brand perception or affinity for a specific product is unclear.
  • Wilson’s share is the flattest among the brands included in the survey. It peaks at 3.8% (21+), and bottoms out at 2.2% (16-20).

Shocks, Surprises?

While I can't say anything in the charts totally blew our minds, the popularity of Srixon among the list of Others was a bit of a surprise.

What stands out to you?

About Tony Covey

Tony is the editor of mygolfspy. His coverage of golf equipment extends far beyond the facts as dictated by the companies that created them.

He believes in performance over hype. #PowerToThePlayer

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Comments

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

mackdaddy December 24, 2016 at 3:34 pm

I swear by my KZG irons and would love to know how many others in the survey play them. I have played Miura CB 501, MP 62, AP 2, and I think the KZG irons have the softest feel and their nice high ball flight has great spin into greens. I know very few people ever find out about them and I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t done a blind test in my fitting years ago, where the fitter tapped over the backs of the clubs so I would go purely by feel not advertiser/tour induced prejudices.

Can we see the raw counts?

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Fernando Solorzano December 21, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Great job Tony..

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Stephan December 21, 2016 at 4:13 am

Interesting survey, but it just shows brands vs. handicap. More or less all of the brands have iron models from blades to chunky cavity backs in their program. So it would be even more interesting to see whether low handicap players all chose the ‘tour’ models and high handicappers do play the ‘game improving’ models of the respective brand. And what do the mid handicappers have in their bags. Besides it would be interesting whether the choice was made because of a fitting or trial or just because of good marketing.

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Jeff December 21, 2016 at 12:43 am

Not mentioned is the Miura irons.
I play there LH cavity irons which I have had for 5 yrs.
Ex 4- 5 handicap and now at 72 yrs now on a 10 I cannot see any reason to change.
As I have said before .
If you have not got the swing you won’t change a thing.

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Peter Foley December 21, 2016 at 4:24 am

Srixon is awesome the 545 irons saved my sanity

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Stevegp December 20, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Thanks for another interesting report. I’m not surprised at the results.

I’m a big fan of the Srixon 565. I’m also demoing the Apex CF 16. I would love to see Bridgestone’s irons get more recognition.

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Ron Lefkowitz December 21, 2016 at 2:55 am

Just goes to show, advertising works.

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dcorun December 20, 2016 at 9:16 pm

Great read as usual. I think Srixon is the parent company of Cleveland now. I still play the 588 MT. They are a great iron for my game. When I can I’ll be buying the Z565. I hit the Z765 and liked them also but, the Z565 feel more like my MT’s so, they’ll be the ones. I did like the Cobra King OS and the Callaway BB OS but, they didn’t appeal to me as much. I played the original Cobra OS back in the day but, now I’m 64 and for some reason they and the Callaway’s look like shovels. The Z545 with SUP metal face kept up in distance and forgiveness in a smaller head. Happy Holidays to everyone.

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Douglas T. Cooper December 20, 2016 at 9:05 pm

You name it I played it. Discovered PRGR EGG 5 years ago – fan for life.

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Greggytees December 20, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Number #1-if you have not watched the short video of MGS Adam Beach–watch it. Second thank you Tony C. for mentioning the “others” such as Wishon Golf, have been using his products for years. His 565 forged heads, weighted, drilled out, balanced, etc. along with KBS tour shafts, spined & flo’d , I’ll put these up against some of the top OEM’s any time. My equipment is Mitchell and Golf Mechanix’s, same stuff MGS is using in their new testing facility. This stuff is not cheap just the best. Been building, fitting and instructing for 19 yrs. certified in all AAA+.

The golf mags have not had anything new in 10+ years. Just one big OEM ad. Listen to MGS staff and club builders that know what they are talking about. It’s your money, spend it wisely grasshopper.

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Garry December 20, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I’ve been playing Mizuno since the 80’s.You can’t beat a Mizuno forged iron. The MP-5 blades hung right with the AP2’s and the way over priced PXG irons. Not to mention no upcharge for KBS Tour shafts. Mizuno even makes a playable driver now. MP-5’s maybe Tigers next sset of irons

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John Curry December 20, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Very interesting. I am a 74 year old golfer, been playing for 50 years, owned and operated a custom golf club shop, handicap from a low of 6 to present 17. I find myself liking Cobra and Adams as they seem to be as nearly as long as when hit sweet but more forgiving when not hit sweet. If no Cobra nor Adams, I would lean toward Ping. I also find myself liking softer golf balls.

I have tried several sets of Single Length irons and though I liked the longer higher number irons, I did not like the lower number irons as they cost me distance which I cannot afford to lose.

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robin December 20, 2016 at 4:14 pm

I just need to find the easiest 4 iron to hit.

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HarmonGolfPA December 20, 2016 at 6:55 pm

If you don’t want to hit a hybrid, the Mizuno Fli-Hi 4 is the closest thing to it.

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Tedley December 21, 2016 at 4:33 am

Ping Gmax, simples

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Billy December 21, 2016 at 4:12 am

That is what I do. If I can hit the 4 iron I can hit any of them.

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Regis December 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Every golfer is different and IMHO swing speed is as much relative determining factor as handicap. I started playing MacGregor MT Tourneys over 50 years ago , then Mizuno, then Miura, now Taylor Made.. For those requiring graphite shafts, Mizuno is not really an option unless you want to have them re-shafted. Callaway has perhaps the best shaft options with the UST recoil shafts an excellent stock option. I’ve tried every pretty much every possible combo of heads and shafts and my current set is a set of Taylor Made Tour preferred irons that I re-shafted with Nippon Pro Zelos steel shafts which weigh in at an incredible 73 grams. If I ever change irons again, I’ll probably keep the shafts and look for new heads.

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Steven December 20, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Mizuno offers Recoil shafts as a standard option with no upgrade charge. It would be a custom order, but they offer plenty of shafts at no upgrade charge.

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Matt December 20, 2016 at 7:00 pm

Mizuno is actually a great choice for graphite shafts. They are one of the only companies that doesn’t up-charge for graphite shafts and they have three different models of graphite shafts to choose from, fitting all skill levels and swing speeds.

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Josh December 21, 2016 at 8:25 am

Try the paderson IMRT Kevlar Green… I’m a +3 hndcp… Switched from the kbs c taper x… Popped the paderson in my mp5’s… UNREAL!!!! Feel amazing ball flight.. Yeah I know.. Graphite!! I’ll never go back to steel.. Massive launch angle of the face…

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Regis December 22, 2016 at 11:14 am

Thanks-looked them up. Lightest option is 93 grams in the R flex.

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Charles John Brown December 20, 2016 at 9:08 pm

A lot of this is high handicap success for TaylorMade and Callaway is the price point they had and have for a game improvement iron. its a name brand that a few national chains at a price just slightly above the others. Its a lot of guys I might get serious about golf 16-24 handicaps. Closer you get to single and learn about irons the more TM and Adams do not seem or feel appealing

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HarmonGolfPA December 20, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Are we all in agreement that Srixon irons are what we used to call “Cleveland” irons? Now that Cleveland Golf is focusing on only wedges and putters, leaving Srixon to irons, woods and ball?

And don’t the new Srixon irons look -very- suspiciously similar to the previous Bridgestone irons? (J40-era)

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mackdaddy December 24, 2016 at 3:04 pm

The Srixon irons look way better than anything I ever saw from Cleveland. I think they have more of an Asian/Japanese influence. Bridgestone had a large presence in the Asian market under a different name. I just can’t think of it right now. Many of the best forged irons come from Japan and companies like KZG began offering lower priced editions of their forged clubs from Korean foundries used by Srixon.

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McaseyM December 20, 2016 at 3:36 pm

i wonder if/how Cobra will change with the release of their single length irons? For us high handicappers, I would put those near the top of my demo list if I was in the market for new irons as ball striking consistency if a big problem. I love the look of the Cobra King CB irons, new Mizuno JPX and MP 5 line, and the Srixons from the last few years, but i’d rather play better than have prettier irons and wedges

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Steven December 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

I got to hit them (single length irons) and they are incredible easy to hit. It seems like with the right shaft pairings those could be a home-run. I saw no distance loss on the simulator and saw spin numbers with the wedge i’ve never seen before.

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HarmonGolfPA December 20, 2016 at 3:36 pm

Why do you say “This is what we would expect” with regard to PING and Titleist?

PING’s G series irons are their strength, sure, but the AP1 is one of the best game-improvement irons out there. Do you think it’s a mental thing with HH’s? They don’t think they are ‘worthy’ of the Titleist badge?

I think the higher % of high-handicap takers on TaylorMade are going back to the RocketBallz days, and maybe the slightly more recent SpeedBlade offering (which is basically an Adams iron, anyway).

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Tony Covey December 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Titleist has built a reputation on being for serious and better players. That’s certainly part of the reason why it doesn’t do as well with higher handicap golfers. I also think the company has been slow to embrace technology, and frankly, I believe that as a result, it has fallen behind from the center to the far edge of the GI space.

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cksurfdude December 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm

^ Yes ^ (what Tony said) — I’m an “HH” (although my wife I use that abbreviation for Happy Hour) and got to use a set of AP1s on vacation last Winter. While I could play them OK, I was not that impressed with them – for me and for my game – and eventually ended up with a new set of Cobra F6s.

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Mike Honcho December 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm

What stands out to me is, how in the heck is Wilson still in the golf business? With these iron numbers and the recent Triton driver debacle, they may be going the way of Nike sooner than later.

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HarmonGolfPA December 20, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Wilson actually makes some GREAT clubs, especially their irons. (Think FG Tour, Padriad Harrington, etc) They have a much bigger market share in GB & I and Europe than they do in the USA.

Admittedly, Triton -was- a debacle. I blame the Golf Channel (and the USGA) as much as anyone. The extra hype and publicity is now more than offset by the hot mess that the launch and approval has become.

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Midwest Golfer December 24, 2016 at 11:53 am

I like the Wilson golf balls, for several years I used mostly the smartcores and then went to Duo Core. This year they developed an iron concept I have favored for a couple of years. Being a Toolmaker by trade, I have an appreciation for developing faces that are made and installed separately. They could be heat treated to provide strength, springiness and excellent wear characteristics. Especially in the short irons or wedges where spin is most often generated for green approaches. I think their golfballs are keeping up in their price range, but I will be looking to replace my Adams Super S graphites irons within the next year or two.

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Steven December 20, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Their goal is 3% market share or something like that. The multi-piece article that was done by none other than MGS can give you some more insight and it is definitely an interesting read to see the rise and fall of what was once the biggest brand of irons in the game.

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Tim Peters December 24, 2016 at 1:18 pm

I’ve been playing the Wilson Di-9 irons for a number of years now and find them easy to control. My handicap still isn’t anything to write home about but it has come down. I really believe that since Wilson’s popularity has improved their prices have increased dramatically which has certainly hurt sales. I will still consider Wilson irons when I upgrade.

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13jas December 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Grew up playing Hogan Apex, had kids & play went way down & went 2 Cleveland CG gold. I like`m @ 1st, but the offset mess`d w my head on ball position. I just got sum TM RSI TP & I luv`m, no more mind games. Just need practice

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Kevin Hefner December 20, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Interesting read.

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Thomas December 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Considering new iron replacement for my current 2014 AP2. Srixon is in first place. Now 73 years old 6HC

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Jonnythec December 20, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Mizuno being so high doesn’t surprise me. I’m a high handicapper who is getting better every year. When I did my research before buying new irons the jpx ez were among the most forgiving irons out there. At $1300 they aint a bargain but continue to perform and help my game. Would recommend them to anyone getting into the game seriously.

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Carolina Golfer 2 December 20, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Good stuff!! Thanks for sharing that. Also kudos for you disclosing how many surveys’s were returned. Not all websites are that transparent for sure.

As for the results, I think the high mizuno numbers shocked me in some instances, Callaway leading the way wasn’t shocking considering the marketing job and great products to back it up.

surprised at the high number in the Other category across the board, I guess if you have two or three companies getting 5% each that will do it.

Nice Job!!

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Brian Manger December 20, 2016 at 7:45 pm

I’m Mizuno loyalist, but I really want to hit the Srixons. Anybody have feed back on them? Or which ones to hit?

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Ken Fournier December 20, 2016 at 8:08 pm

I hit Srixon 565 iron after getting fitted for them. They work perfect for my swing. Love them but that doesn’t always translate to everyone else. 15 handicap, 120 mph swing, hit down, more tendency to pull the ball.

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Brian Manger December 20, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Cool. Thanks for the input. My miss is pull as well.( 8 handicap ) Much harder to fix than a slice, but good lord it feels so good. Kind of like a right cross in boxing. That’s what my instructor tells me. Lol.

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Aras December 20, 2016 at 4:42 pm

I just went from AP2’s (710) to the Srixon Z545/Z745 combo set and they are sweet. I love them and they give me a lot more confidence at address and more distance on the 4-6 irons which are the z545.

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HarmonGolfPA December 20, 2016 at 4:57 pm

I got to do a Demo Day and hit all of them. I am a 6 hcp, playing Mizuno 850 Forged irons.

The 965 (MBs) are amazingly easy to hit, and they feel like butter. I went in thinking I was 765s (CBs) all the way, but found I hit the ‘blades’ just as well. The 565 hits the ball high and straight, and have a really nice weight to them, so they almost swing themselves. If you know anyone who had the Cleveland 588 TT’s, these are their spiritual descendant.

I would say: start with the 965s and see how you like them, then hit the 765s and see if you have a big improvement.

The 965’s line up with an MP-5 or the new 900 Tour
The 765’s would be the 900 Forged
and the 965s line up with the 900 Hot Metal

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Jim Nalepa December 20, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Just got back from AZ and got fitted by Cool Clubs with brand new Srixon irons. I have played the MP15 irons and before that Mizuno Tzoids and it was time for a change. Srixons offer a higher launch, very good contact with the turf vs. the sharper leading edge of my old Mizunos. I would go with the 565’s or the 765’s. The lofts are a little stronger on the 565’s and the bottom is a little wider ( not much). They are both great !

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Steven C December 20, 2016 at 6:20 pm

The Srixon irons are great. I really don’t think you can go wrong with them. I got the Z 565 because I was looking for a little higher launch, but the Z 765 are easy to hit. They are all great looking and perform really well.

Here is the MyGolfSpy test of the Srixon Z 65 irons: http://www.mygolfspy.com/tested-2017-srixon-z-series-irons/

Here is the MyGolfSpy trip to Srixon/Cleveland: http://forum.mygolfspy.com/topic/17511-live-thread-mygolfspy-forum-goes-to-srixoncleveland/

Here are the MyGolfSpy member recaps: http://forum.mygolfspy.com/topic/17602-srixoncleveland-fitlikeapro-member-recaps/?hl=%2Bsrixon+%2Bfit

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Steven C December 20, 2016 at 6:56 pm

You can’t go wrong with the Srixon Z 65 irons. I got the Z 565 irons because I was looking for a little bit higher launch, but the Z 765 irons are easier to hit than you think they will be. All of them look great and have phenomenal performance.

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Dormie December 20, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Bit surprised that Ping didn’t do better with double digit HCs because of their focus on fit/lie. For the LOW HC players it either matters less or they have knowledge and resources to get right fit with any brand. For the DDs, it is my belief there would be improvement if they paid more attention to fit and Ping seems to be the most user friendly with this characteristic.

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ryebread December 20, 2016 at 2:28 pm

I’d be curious to hear the Adams and Srixon break down numbers. It sounds like they might be higher than some of the “bigger” companies, at least as observed from MGS results. It’s a shame what happened to Adams.

The prevalence of Mizuno definitely self selects into a certain subset of the golfing community. They make a great iron (from my experience), but their presence in bags seems to align more to gear heads than the “average Joe, off the rack” consumer.

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Paul Kielwasser December 20, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Srixon!!!!!! Glad it is mentioned!

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Charles Winstead December 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm

I am 79. Been playing golf for many years. Handicap has been moving up thru the years. Planning on purchasing Cobra driver and new F-7 fairway woods series. This came from your survey series on the new F-7 products. Can’t wait for them to come in. CSW 😎😎

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Steve S December 20, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Most surprising to me is Mizuno’s share in total. Just goes to show that MGS readers are more discriminating than the general golfing population, in my opinion. I’ll be open minded about my next set of irons but when I get fit if all other things are equal I’ll choose Mizuno. I still remember the sweet feel of my long gone TZoids…..(gone because I couldn’t hit them well anymore, old age sucks)

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Donovan Childers December 20, 2016 at 7:19 pm

Can’t figure out why Srixion would be a surprise, especially for anybody running a golf website.

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MyGolf Spy December 20, 2016 at 7:48 pm

Srixon is perpetually relegated to ‘other’ in market share reports. Its hard goods are not available in a majority of pro shops, and when you talk about Srixon to the average golfer, the response is almost invariably “Srixon makes clubs?”. So between the lack of easy availability and the lack of brand awareness, yeah…it’s a bit of pleasant surprise to see it mentioned as often as it was.

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Joe Gendron December 20, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Bridgestone irons have the same response from most people too MyGolf Spy. I play Bridgestone J15CB’s and couldn’t be happier. Wish more people were willing to at least give them a fair shake. But as you said with Srixon, they are not in the majority of Pro Shops or retailers out there.

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Ken Fournier December 20, 2016 at 8:05 pm

MyGolf Spy Srixon makes great clubs. The 565 iron is as good as any.

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Kelly Stillson December 20, 2016 at 8:08 pm

MyGolf Spy, Srixon was relegated to other in your report as well. I assume that was done for continuity with market reports, but based on the survey notes for each demographic it would seem they were coming in respectively higher than Wilson, Nike & Cobra. Can you folks break out the Srixon data from “other”?

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Dave G December 20, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Price is a huge factor not mentioned.

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ron mattefs December 20, 2016 at 2:08 pm

which brand is the most forgiving iron.

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John B December 20, 2016 at 2:31 pm

I think the most forgiving iron is the square groove Ping Eye 2 (NOT Plus) closely followed by the Ping Zing. I think the best steel shaft Ping ever used was the ZZ Light shaft that is in the early Ping Eye 2 irons.
I have golfed with over 50 sets of irons. I always come back to the Ping Eye 2’s to lower my handicap. Pretty stupid and expensive.

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John Cooper December 21, 2016 at 3:37 am

The first set I was fitted for and probably the best set of irons I ever had were Ping Zing 2.

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HarmonGolfPA December 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm

“most forgiving” is relative.

One of the best high-forgiveness irons is PING’s G-series. Callaway’s XR oversize is exceptional, as well. Titleist’s cast AP1 is fantastic, and Adams actually has a great iron in the Blue series, both for distance and forgiveness.

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cksurfdude December 21, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Re: Adams Blue — I hit my wedges and irons pretty well, but still struggle with the longer end of the bag…… Earlier this year picked up an Adams Blue 3H on sale to try it out and was so happy with it I went back and added a 3W – a club which this “HH” never successfully hit before .. but now am also very happy with! Thank you! Adams (and I hope you guys survive and continue to make good clubs).

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Tim Lee December 20, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Great read mate
But I am a Callaway fan :)

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