Blades vs Cavity Back Irons: Which Should You Play?

Blades vs Cavity Back Irons

If you’re like a lot of golfers I’m sure you’ve asked yourself… “Should I play blades or cavity back irons?” 

It’s a good question because the wrong set of irons can make it very difficult to hit greens in regulation. Not to mention nearly impossible to make birdies. But a good set of irons can make all the difference if they match your swing speed and handicap. 

Like all golf equipment, irons have made huge advances in technology the last 5–10 years. While there are traditional blades and cavity backs there are a mix of muscle back irons, game improvement irons, and even combo sets.

Today we’ll break down some benefits of each type of iron, who should play them, and answer some of your most burning questions. 


Blades vs. Cavity Back Irons 

There are four main types of irons on the market today:

  • Blade irons/muscle backs: These irons are great for highly skilled amateurs and professional golfers. They have a smaller clubhead which means smaller sweet spot and typically weaker lofts. But they are easier to alter the trajectory and direction of the ball flight but not forgiving if you miss the sweet spot.  
  • Player distance irons: These irons are best for single digit handicap golfers and slightly bigger than blades and traditional muscle backs. The larger cavity back clubhead makes these more forgiving thanks to a bigger sweet spot and wider sole. They’re still workable but not as much as blades. 
  • Cavity back irons: These irons are typically bigger than the first two types and ideal for the everyday golfer. The cavity back makes them more forgiving and they usually have a thicker topline. It’s also common to see these irons with graphite shafts and/or lightweight steel shafts. These irons will help golfers add distance and launch shots higher despite stronger lofts.  
  • Game and super game improvement irons: The final type of irons are the most forgiving irons possible. They are oftentimes more like hybrids than irons and prioritize distance over workability. These are ideal for slower swinging, higher handicap players who want extreme forgiveness, distance and high launch.  

Let’s dig in further to understand how each type of irons can help certain types of golfers. 

Blades (Muscle Back Irons) 

Blade irons are the least forgiving type of iron and quite frankly aren’t needed for about 90% of the golf population. They’re the oldest type and were the standard iron set until the introduction of a more friendly cavity back design a few decades ago. It’s common to refer to these clubs as muscle backs or MB’s due to their design. 

Blades are forged and crafted from a single piece of metal. The majority of the weight is directly behind the sweet spot and not as spread out on the face as more forgiving, cavity back irons. Muscle backs have a bit more weight (known as muscle) directly behind the face, making them more forgiving than old-school blades… which look more like butter knives than golf clubs.

Advantages of Blades

So, why do golfers choose to play these smaller less forgiving irons like blades and muscle backs? Do they just want to make golf more difficult on themselves?

Not quite. 

Players prefer blades because they make it easier to shape shots and have more workability with the golf ball. This means it’s easier to change trajectory, hit draws, and hit cuts on command. This is ideal for elite ball strikers who want maximum control from their irons. 

Lastly, blades are the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye. They signal to other golfers you know how to hit the ball and have a simple design. Looking down at address they’re much smaller with a thinner top line. 

Disadvantages of Blades 

The biggest downside to using blade irons is that they’re not forgiving at all. Since the sweet spot is so small, any strike off the toe or heel will lead to big mishits. 

They also have weaker lofts than cavity backs which means they won’t go as far, even if you do them well. Plus, they don’t have the right launch and spin for the everyday golfer with an average swing speed. 

Should you switch to blades? 

Here’s what said, “If you’re a consistent ball striker who can hit the ball in the center or center heel, blades will give you great performance with exceptional feel. If you miss, however, is more spread out with toe and heel misses, then stick with cavity-backs as they give you better overall distance loss across the face.”

The majority of golfers who play blades are on a professional level and find the sweet spot more often than mere mortals.

Cavity Backs 

The other type of irons are cavity backs which are much easier to hit than blades. They offer a cavity in the back of the club which removes the weight and redistributes it throughout the rest of the club. 

Cavity back irons were introduced in the 1980s and the first design was the Ping 69. These irons turned the golf world upside down and now dominate the market. Thanks to advances in technology, there are different types of cavity back irons to suit all types of golfers. 

Advantages of Cavity Backs

So, why are cavity backs so popular among golfers around the world? 

Simple – they’re easier to hit. 

Since the weight is distributed more throughout the face, your mishits are a lot better. Who doesn’t want that? Plus, they tend to travel a lot longer than traditional blade irons as well due to stronger loft.

Finally, they launch higher too which makes it easier to hold greens and have more birdie putts. Needless to say, most everyday amateur golfers can benefit greatly from a cavity back design.  

Disadvantages of Cavity Backs

For the majority of golfers there aren’t a ton of disadvantages to using cavity back irons. But for elite ball strikers who want maximum control, there are some drawbacks. 

The first disadvantage of cavity back irons is that they don’t provide as much feedback. They can disguise a not so perfect swing and sometimes make it harder to identify swing flaws.

The second disadvantage is that since they’re bigger, they’re harder to control and alter shot direction. Finally, they’re not as consistent in terms of distance control as blades or muscle backs due to the design.  

Types of Cavity Back (Game Improvement and Super Game Improvement) 

As mentioned before, there are more than just blades and cavity backs iron sets. There are newer irons that are called game improvement and super game improvement irons. 

Game improvement irons are bigger than standard cavity back irons with more offset, wider soles, and stronger lofts. A great example is the new Callaway Paradym X – the X stands for extreme forgiveness. As Callaway said, “Our Paradym X Irons combine a Forged 455 Face with the all-new Speed Frame, giving you the best of incredibly long distance technologies and premium forged feel.”

While other brands offer even more forgiving sets which are known as super game improvement irons. These are best for senior golfers and beginners who don’t generate as much speed or hit it as high as they’d like.

A good example of super game improvement irons are the Cleveland Launcher XL Halo irons. They are hybrid-like irons that offer the most forgiveness possible. 

The longer irons are even bigger but taper into the mid and short irons. These come with super lightweight steel or graphite shafts in lite, regular, or stiff flex. 

Click here to learn more about the best irons for high handicappers. 

Don’t Forget About Shafts 

Regardless of which type of iron you find is right for your game, don’t forget about the shafts too. The shaft is arguably as important as the head itself and can have a direct impact on trajectory, distance, and spin rates. Playing the wrong shaft can be as penalizing as playing the wrong clubhead so make sure it’s the right weight and flex for your swing.

This is why it’s a good idea to get a custom fitting to test out different heads and shaft combinations. Sometimes switching shafts in the same iron set can make all the difference to 

Other things to consider when buying irons include:

  • Length: The right set of irons and shafts are about 85% of the equation but they need to be the right length too. Most male golfers can use standard length but shorter players will need .5 -1 inch shorter while taller golfers should use .5 to 1 inch longer irons. 
  • Lie angle: Your lie angle will help you hit it straighter based on your swing. If your lie angle is too flat, you’ll miss a lot of shots right. Or, if your lie angle is too upright you will miss a lot of shots left. Adjusting your lie angle 1–2 degrees can make a huge difference in finding more greens in regulation. 
  • Grip: Finally, don’t forget about the grip too as it will play a role in your grip and grip pressure. Play the same grips on all your clubs (except the putter) to have more consistency in your grip and grip pressure. 

Related: Stiff vs. Regular Flex Shafts 

Top Questions About Irons 

Keep reading to answer the most common questions to find the right set of irons for your swing. 

Will blades go further than cavity backs?

In a head-to-head competition, cavity backs will go longer than blades for a few reasons. 

First, the loft of cavity back irons typically is 1–3 degrees stronger than blades. Less loft equals more distance. 

Second, cavity backs have more technology and better weight distribution to enhance the sweet spot. This makes it easier to launch higher and travel further.

Finally, cavity back irons typically have lighter shafts which can increase clubhead speed and total distance. 

Should beginners use blades or cavity backs?

Beginners should use cavity backs as they’re significantly easier to hit. Not to mention better weighting, more offset, and lighter shafts that help lower swings produce speed. 

You want to work your way up to using smaller cavity back or muscle back irons. Most golfers will benefit more from game improvement irons and graphite shafts to begin with. Then as your swing and speed improves, you can switch to more compact irons with heavier shafts to optimize spin rates. 

What are combo iron sets?

Combo sets are when golf manufacturers combine two different irons into the same set. This can happen in a few ways.

Higher handicaps can enjoy combo sets where the long irons are replaced with hybrids (typically the 3-5 irons). The rest of the set is usually game improvement cavity back irons.

Or, lower handicaps can take advantage of combo sets where the longer irons are cavity backs. While the mid and short irons are more compact and easier to control from close range. 

It’s best to buy a combo set from a manufacturer instead of trying to piece together your own. Otherwise, it’s easy to have big distance gaps between clubs. 

What handicap should you have to use blades? 

Only the best of the best golfers should use blades or even muscle back designs. If I had to give a handicap range I’d say a five handicap or less. But it comes down to swing speed and overall consistency more than a specific handicap range.

Don’t forget, professional golfers would have a handicap of +5 to +7 and not all of them use blade irons. Just because you get into single digits or become a scratch golfer doesn’t mean you need to switch irons. It’s always best to play the clubs that are right for your swing and offer some forgiveness. 

When should you switch to blade irons?

A very, very small percentage of golfers should ever switch to a true blade iron. They just make golf harder and why you see professionals using more forgiving irons. 

But if you’re able to practice and often play, a switch to muscle back irons might work out well. Or, you can try a combo set where the longer irons are cavity back while the mid and short irons are more of a blade design. 

Why are blades so much harder to hit? 

Blades are significantly harder to hit for a few reasons. 

First, the design of the clubhead is smaller and more compact which shrinks the sweet spot to nearly the size of the golf ball. If you hit it off the toe or the heel you will miss out on tons of distance. 

Second, there is less weight behind the club than cavity back irons. This means you need higher swing speed to generate enough distance. Not to mention they are weaker lofts too. 

Wrapping Up

The right set of irons can make a big difference in getting the most out of your game. Otherwise, you might play clubs that aren’t forgiving enough or in rare cases, too forgiving. 

Playing the wrong set can hurt your distance, workability, launch, and spin rates.

It’s a good idea to do a custom club fitting session to better understand which type of iron is best for you. Using a launch monitor it’s easy to compare different heads and shafts, plus find the proper lie angle and length. 

Or, make sure to use an iron selector tool found on most golf manufacturers websites to find one that is right for you. Plus, a lot of companies have online or phone support to walk you through their irons and fit you over the phone. 

What type of iron do you play?

Let us know in the comments below. 

Picture of Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard is a full-time writer, author, creator of Wicked Smart Golf and +1 handicap amateur golfer. He left his corporate career in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship and professional golf; since then, he’s competed in 160+ tournament days and went to Q-school in 2019.

You May Also Like

Leave a comment