Approach play is statistically one of the most important areas in relation to scoring. So I took at what equipment the best iron players on tour are using this season by analysing the PGA Tours Strokes Gained Approach to the Green data.
Who are the best iron players on tour?
10 – Shane Lowry
Lowry has always been a great ball striker, but his rise up the rankings in recent seasons has been impressive. His approach play was 20-shots better in 2022 compared to 2020. He gains nearly three-quarters of a shot a round on the average PGA Tour player. That’s three shots in 72-holes of stroke play.
Lowry loves a combo set in his irons. This year he has the Srixon ZX5 in his 4 and 5-iron before switching to the Srixon ZX7 irons for the rest of his set.
SG:APP Average: 0.679
SG:APP Season: 32.579
- RELATED: Shane Lowry WITB
9 – Mito Pereira
Pereira made quite the name for himself on tour this year with some stellar performances. He has jumped 56 places up the Official World Golf Rankings to break into the Top 50 for the first time. His approach play has been a massive part of this, as statistically, it is the best part of his game.
Mito carries a full set of Ping iBlade irons from 4-iron down to 9-iron.
SG:APP Average: 0.679
SG:APP Season: 50.933
- RELATED: Mito Pereira WITB
8 – Justin Thomas
JT ranked 8th in Strokes Gained approach despite ranking 34th in greens in regulation. Interestingly he ranked 1st on Tour for three strokes gained approach categories: 50-125 yards, 75-100 yards, 75-100 yards. From these distances, he averages 13.68 feet from the pin, so next time you hit it to 15 feet with a wedge in hand and feel disappointed, maybe don’t be so harsh on yourself.
He carries a Titleist T100 4-iron before transitioning into the Titleist 620 MB blades from 5-iron down to 9-iron.
SG:APP Average: 0.696
SG:APP Season: 42.441
- RELATED: Justin Thomas WITB
7 – Xander Schauffele
A category Xander has seriously improved since he first came on tour. His approach play was 39 shots better this season than when he first came on tour in 2017. His proximity from 200-225 yards is 34.6 feet. I’m just happy if I find my ball when I’m hitting in from those distances.
Xander carries a full set of the Callaway Apex TCB irons from 4-iron down to pitching wedge.
- RELATED: Xander Schauffele WITB
SG:APP Average: 0.701
SG:APP Season: 39.958
6 – Hideki Matsuyama
Rather remarkably Hideki has been in the Top 10 for Strokes Gained approach for eight of his nine seasons on tour! That is incredible consistency. This season he ranks first on tour for approaches from 125-150 yards, his average proximity from this distance? 19.1 feet.
Hideki carries a full set of Srixon Z-Forged irons from 4-iron down to 9-iron.
SG:APP Average: 0.711
SG:APP Season: 40.499
- RELATED: Hideki Matsuyama WITB
5 – Cameron Smith
If you’re winning Majors you’re doing something seriously right, for Cam Smith that seems to be iron play consistency. He is ranked in the Top 25 on Tour for each of the following approach play categories: 50-75yds, 75-100yds, 100-125yds, 50-125yds, 125-150yds, 150-175yds. No wonder he’s World Number 2.
Cam opts to carry a Mizuno Pro Fli-Hi 3-iron and then the Titleist T100 irons from 5 to 9-iron in an all-black finish that is to die for.
SG:APP Average: 0.771
SG:APP Season: 37.772
- RELATED: Cameron Smith WITB
4 – Scottie Scheffler
It is no surprise to see Scheffler here, given he is the Number 1 player in the World right now. He also topped the rankings for the most greens in regulations hit on Tour this season. (72.29%) That accounts for 1093 out of a possible 1512 greens hit.
Scottie carries a Srixon ZX7 4-iron before transitioning into the TaylorMade P7TW irons from 5-iron down to pitching wedge.
SG:APP Average: 0.819
SG:APP Season: 54.035
- RELATED: Scottie Scheffler WITB
3 – Collin Morikawa
Morikawa has been publicly struggling with his swing this year. He admitted earlier in the season he had lost his trusty cut shot and was having to work with hitting a draw. He has still managed to sneak into the Top 3 for best approach play on tour. I wish my ‘bad’ golf was that good!
He ranked 1st in approaches from 225-250 yards, second from 125-150, third from 200-225, fourth from 50-125 and eighth from 100-125 yards. That will help get the job done.
Collin carries a seriously mixed bag of irons. He uses a TaylorMade P770 4-iron, then a TaylorMade P7MC 5, 6, and 7-iron before he switches to the TaylorMade P730 irons from 8-iron down to pitching wedge.
SG:APP Season: 41.009
SG:APP Average: 0.854
- RELATED: Collin Morikawa WITB
2 – Russell Henley
Perhaps not a name you would have guessed but this is the third straight season Henley has been in the Top 10 for approach play on tour. He is also inside the Top 10 for greens in regulation percentage (70.94%) and approach play proximity to the hole (34.1 feet).
Henley carries the original Titleist T100 irons from 4-iron down to 9-iron. Interestingly he has different shafts in his 4, 5 and 6-iron compared to the rest of the set. He uses the True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT shafts in these longer irons. What’s different about these is the weight. As you move up the bag, each shaft is 3 grams lighter than the previous, making it easier to hit those long irons higher and further.
SG:APP Average: 0.969
SG:APP Season: 61.050
1 – Will Zalatoris
I’m sure you’re not shocked to see Zalatoris at the top of this list. After all, he is known for his stellar iron play. His average approach shot finishes 27.9 feet from the pin when hitting from the fairway. If that wasn’t good enough, from 50-200 yards, his average proximity is 19.9 feet. He must miss some birdie putts to make it fair on everyone else.
Zalatoris carries a T200 3-iron as it launches higher and has more ball speed. He then opts for the original 2019 Titleist T100 irons from 4-iron down to 9-iron.
SG:APP Average: 1.063
SG:APP Season: 60.590
- RELATED: Will Zalatoris WITB
What you can learn from the best iron players on tour
So statistically, if you want to improve your iron play, it looks like Titleist irons are the way to go. Four of the Top 10 had Titleist irons in play to help them dial in their approach play. The T100 model was a particular favourite.
It’s also clear to see when players get a set of irons they love; they keep them in the bag for as long as possible. Everyone in the Top 10 has had their current iron model in play for at least two seasons, often longer!
It is interesting how many players choose not to carry a pitching wedge and instead carry lower lofted wedges. I imagine this gives them more feel and control, making it easier to hit three-quarter and half shots.
Best iron players on tour: Equipment Tally
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