Blades, Cavity Back, Forged & Muscle Back: What’s the difference?

senior golfer swinging an iron

Golfers can quickly become overwhelmed with the number of types of golf clubs on the market that they have access to. Blades, cavity back, forged, and muscle back irons are some of the types of golf irons that golfers can choose from and the performance distances are quite noticeable. 

If you are ready to invest in a new set of golf irons and want to be sure you purchase something with the proper features and performance, keep reading. 

What is a Blade Iron? 

A blade iron is a traditional golf iron made from a single piece of metal with a thin golf club head. These blade irons are smaller in size than other golf irons and typically have impressive precision as they go through the manufacturing process. 

Blade irons have the smallest sweet spot of any of the different types of golf irons on the market. This makes the blade iron a bit more difficult for the higher handicapper to handle. The effect of the smaller sweet spot can result in higher dispersion rates and decreased distances. 

TaylorMade P7MB Irons

Golfers that use blade irons can typically swing the club rather consistently. This is why most of the time, the lower handicap players will use blade irons. Blades can be expensive as they are manufactured for premium players. In addition, the feel of blade irons tends to be better than that of cavity back irons. 

Pros

  • Premium feel 
  • Great workability (Draws, fade, high or low ball flight) 
  • Impressive feedback 
  • Clean looking design 
  • Thin top line 
  • High levels of precision in the shorter irons 

Cons

  • Potential lack of distance on off-center strikes 
  • Higher price point 
  • Greater dispersion rates 

Who Should Play a Blade Iron

The blade golf iron is typically reserved for the best players. If you are a player that likes to work the ball and hit fades and draws, the blade iron is a perfect choice. Players can get tremendous workability in a blade golf iron and hit incredibly accurate shots. 

Golfers with a handicap of ten and under like a blade iron’s control, but they are aware there is sometimes a lack of distance from blade irons. When you hit a blade and miss the center of the sweet spot, the total distance you can get is significantly reduced. 

Another factor you should consider here is how much time you put into your golf game. If you play golf often, work on your mechanics, and practice diligently, then blade golf irons could be a great choice. For those that play a few times a year, picking these clubs up and running out to the course will likely be a bit difficult. 

Related: The Best Blade Irons in 2022

What is a Cavity Back Iron? 

A cavity back iron is the most popular type of golf iron for the average golfer. Cavity back irons were not invented when the game first started, but they have come quite a long way over the history of the game. With cavity back irons, the weight is around the club’s perimeter, and the clubhead’s center is typically hollow. 

The result is a golf club that is a bit more lightweight, has a lower center of gravity, and increased distance and forgiveness. Cavity back golf irons tend to use materials that increase distance and forgiveness. 

cavity back irons laying on the grass

Cavity back irons come in both game improvement and super game improvement styles. It seems as though these golf irons continue to get more and more forgiving. Most major golf manufacturers will make at least one or two sets of cavity back irons as they tend to be top sellers. 

The downside to some of the cavity back irons is the inability to work the ball. When players try to hit a high fade or a low draw, the cavity back iron can sometimes make it difficult as the forgiveness from the club is just too high. 

Pros

  • Highly forgiving
  • Higher launching 
  • Less expensive design 
  • Available in many different models 
  • Can be lighter in weight 
  • Easier to hit out of a difficult lie 

Cons

  • Feel is not always quite as good 
  • It can be difficult to control ball flight when wanted 

Who Should Play a Cavity Back Iron?

Almost any golfer can play with a cavity back iron, but the players that will benefit the most from this club are the mid to high handicappers. If you are new to the game of golf and looking for a club with increased forgiveness and higher ball flight, the cavity back irons are the better choice. 

For golfers who are not very good with their irons, there is no need to have long irons in the cavity back style as they transition well into the hybrid golf club. Larger sweet spots and perimeter weighting make the cavity back iron a good choice for performance out of the rough.  

Related: 5 Best Cavity Back Irons in 2022

What is a Muscle Back Iron? 

The muscle back iron is a mix between the cavity back and the blade. Muscle back irons are often referred to as forged irons. However, blades and cavity backs can also have forged golf technology incorporated into the golf club. The better way to describe this type of iron is muscle back and not forged. 

With a muscle back design, you will feel like you are looking at a slightly thicker blade. The club head mass is a bit more distributed than the blade, so muscle backs will have mid-level forgiveness. 

set of forged irons

Most muscle-back irons have a lower center of gravity that helps increase launch and get the ball in the air quicker. Some golfers that have switched to blades but still struggle with the long irons will have a mixed set featuring a few muscle-back irons and then short irons in the blades. 

Golfers tend to like the feel muscle-back irons have as they provide good feedback while still giving a mix of workability and forgiveness. With modern technology and tungsten weighting, the forged muscle back has also become quite popular as a player’s distance iron. 

Pros

  • A great mix of performance
  • Some built-in forgiveness
  • Impressive feel at impact 
  • It can be an excellent choice for long irons for low handicappers

Cons

  • Still not as much forgiveness as a cavity back 
  • Can launch too high for the lower handicap player

Who Should Play a Muscle Back Iron?

The muscle back is the best for the mid to low handicap players. Believe it or not, some scratch golfers simply don’t want to deal with a blade-style iron. The blade irons don’t offer enough forgiveness, which can become frustrating. 

Muscle-back golf irons provide a great middle ground. They will grab some of the forgiveness from the cavity backs and still maintain some of the feel from the blade. 

If you are contemplating a mixed set of clubs with a few blades and then transitioning into something slightly more forgiving, the muscle back can be a great solution. As technology continues to improve, the line between cavity back and muscle back look and performance is continually blurred. 

Related: 5 Best Forged Irons in 2022

At some point, golf irons will likely just be golf irons, with different features and functionalities that stand out. There will be much less focus on a blade being a premium workable club and a cavity back being a clunkier forgiving club. These are all changes we will see as golf clubs evolve in the coming years. 

Cavity Back IronsMuscle Back IronsBlade Irons 
DistanceAbove Average AverageAverage to Below Average
ForgivenessAbove AverageAverageBelow Average
Ball FlightHighestHighMid Range
PricingLowMidHigh
Who Should PlayMid to High HandicapMid To Low HandicapLow Handicap 

How Do I Know Which Type of Iron To Play? 

Now that you have a better idea of the different types of golf irons on the market, it is essential to narrow down which of these is the best for your game. There are a few ways that players determine if blades, cavity back, or muscle back are better for their game. 

Player Handicap 

When you go to a golf club fitting, one of the first things you will be asked is what your golf handicap is. If you have a great golf fitter, they will also ask which way your handicap is trending. The higher handicap player almost always gravitates toward the more forgiving cavity back irons, while the low handicapper goes towards the blades. 

Player handicap is an effortless way to take some of the iron choices off the table. For instance, if you are new to the game, a set of Titleist blades will make golf more frustrating than needed. 

For those in the 8 to 20 handicap range, the forged muscle back tends to be a great fit, but some on the lower end will go to the blade irons. In addition, a few players on the high end of this range will think about cavity back irons. The player handicap is an important indicator but should not be the only thing you use to make this decision. 

Related: Best Forgiving Irons for Beginners & High Handicappers in 2022

Workability 

Are you in the stage of your game where you are trying to hit a golf ball straight? Or have you moved on to trying to work the ball? Hitting a fade or a draw takes some skill, but it also requires the right equipment. 

For players that have reached the point of their golf career that moving the ball around the course is important, then a blade or muscle back iron is essential. The cavity back iron is for the player that still wants to hit the ball straight when they take a swing. 

Forgiveness

The cavity back is the most forgiving of the golf club types. Forgiving cavity back irons allow for higher ball flight and more distance. A forgiving golf iron like a cavity back is often referred to as a player improvement or game improvement iron. 

Blade irons have very little forgiveness. When a company comes out with a new blade iron and says it is forgiving, they are talking about forgiveness compared to other blades. The blade iron, compared to the cavity back, is entirely different regarding forgiveness. 

Mixed sets can be a great idea when forgiveness is necessary for the long irons but not as needed in the short irons. 

Feel 

Blades and muscle back irons tend to have a better feel. Essentially the technology used to produce these golf irons makes them more stable and pure at impact. The feel of cavity back irons has come a long way in the last few years. 

In addition, some manufacturers are now making cavity back irons with a forged face; this only improves the feel these clubs have. 

Where we notice the difference is in the feedback you can get from a set of irons. The blade irons will let you know when you hit a poor shot. Great players take this information, learn from it and make changes to their swings. 

Cavity back irons are a bit different in that you can hit a shot that is off-center but feel like it works out just fine. Depending on the type of player you are and how often you play, finding a match for your game can take some time. 

Related: 6 Best Golf Irons For Mid Handicappers in 2022

Distance

The total loft often impacts the distance of a golf shot on the golf clubs. In recent years, the cavity back irons have been able to lower their lofts but still provide golfers the ball flight they need to succeed. The result is a golf ball that flies high but goes further. 

If the distance is your main concern, the cavity back iron will likely be your best bet. Many players that use the blade irons don’t care if they hit a 7 iron or an 8 iron into the pin as long as they know which club is the proper selection. 

Overall, distance should not be the only factor in choosing a golf club; dispersion is potentially more important when deciding which club is best for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few of the most important questions that golfers ask about cavity back, blades, and muscle back iron choices. 

What is a muscle back iron?

A muscle back iron is a blade with a bit more thickness and distribution of weight in the club head. The result is a golf shot that can be hit higher, with slightly more forgiveness and consistency. Muscle back irons make an excellent choice for long irons in a set of blades as they have that extra flexibility necessary to hit solid shots from the rough. 

Should you play blades, muscle backs, or cavity backs?

The decision as to which golf iron to play should come down to how often you play, your typical ball flight, and your consistency on the course. Highly inconsistent golfers should stick with the cavity back irons for now. On the other hand, players that hit very accurate golf shots will likely do well with the blade style. 

Who are cavity back irons made for?

Cavity back irons are for mid to high handicap players and beginners. In addition, low handicap golfers that struggle with their long irons can benefit from hitting a cavity back iron. 

When will I be ready for a blade iron? 

As a golfer, you must carefully analyze your game and ensure that you play with clubs that suit your needs. The blade iron should be used by the lowest handicap players, the golfers that can consistently hit it close to the pin. 

Conclusion

We hope you now feel you can tell the difference between blades, cavity back, forged, and muscle back irons. Remember that forged and muscle back are often called the same thing, but some new irons on the market are forged cavity backs.

The type of iron you play will significantly impact the ball flight you can get and the overall launch and direction of your shots; a custom golf club fitting can help you narrow down which clubs are best for your needs. 

Photo of author

Joe Morelli

Joe's been playing golf for 25 years, starting as a junior golfer in his early teens. He loves getting out on the links with his dad and friends -- whether an early weekend foursome or his weekday, afternoon league.