The Difference Between Forged Irons and Cast Irons

golfer taking a swing
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Golf irons are made one of two ways: by casting or by forging. Golfers shopping for new irons may encounter advertising touting "forged irons" or see others referred to as "cast irons."

Is there any real difference between the two types of irons?

The biggest belief about the cast irons vs. forged irons question held by many golfers — perhaps most golfers — is that forged irons feel softer than cast irons. That is, that forged irons have a noticeably softer feel at impact with the golf ball than do cast irons.

But it that true? Let's run through the forged vs. cast irons comparison.

'Cast' and 'Forged' Refer to the Manufacturing Process

The first thing to know is that "cast" and "forged" are nothing more than terms describing the manufacturing process of an iron or set of irons.

  • The casting process: When a golf iron is cast, the metal used to make the iron is heated to its melting point, becoming a liquid. It is then poured into molds of the iron heads. When it cools and hardens, voila, you have golf irons.
  • The forging process: When a golf iron is forged, the solid metal of the clubhead is literally pounded or compressed until it takes the desired shape. After that, a number of other drilling and machining steps take place to finish the manufacturing process.

Do the Processes Produce a Different Feel?

Is there any practical effect of the different manufacturing processes in cast vs. forged irons? Do forged irons really feel softer than cast irons at impact?

We posed that question to Tom Wishon, a golf equipment expert and designer and owner of Tom Wishon Golf Technology, which designs and manufacturers clubs, including irons.

And Wishon says that for all but a tiny number of golfers, cast irons and forged irons will be indistinguishable in feel due to their manufacturing processes alone:

"If you have a cast iron and a forged iron of exactly the same shape and weight distribution design, the same loft, the same center of gravity position in the two heads, and the heads are built with the same shaft, same length, same grip and same swingweight/MOI, hitting the same ball, the shots will fly identical distances and 99-percent of all golfers will never know which was forged and which was cast," Wishon says.

In other words, if the clubs are identical in every way except that one was made through casting and the other through forging, no, the forged one will not feel softer.

But Wishon said that 99-percent of golfers couldn't tell the difference. What about the other 1-percent?

"Most of the remaining 1-percent want to believe that the forged iron would be softer in feel because the carbon steel of a typical forging is a softer metal, but scientific research has shown that the hardness difference in a metal alone is not enough to create a difference in impact feel," Wishon said. "All of the other factors listed above are the reason for differences in the feel of shots hit with one club vs. another."

It's the Design Differences in Cast vs. Forged That Matters

In other words, it's not the fact that this iron is cast and that iron is forged that makes them feel different hitting golf balls, but rather the other design elements.

Forged irons are typically more expensive than cast, and so are aimed at better golfers, and that can mean less or perhaps no cavityback, less perimeter weighting, and so on.

The casting process, when it was invented, allowed golf manufacturers to build in "game improvement" features such as cavitybacks, wider soles, and so on, to create more perimeter weighting and higher MOI, to experiment with center of gravity locations.

Those design differences do matter. It's safe to say that most forged irons have fewer game-improvement features than most cast irons. But many forged irons now do include some game-improvement design, too.

This means that if you take a forged iron off the pro shop shelf, and a cast iron, and hit both, many golfers will be able to tell the difference on feel alone — but for reasons having nothing to do with the casting vs. forging process.

So if you're shopping for golf clubs and you see a club marketed as a forged iron, you can use that as shorthand to know that it is probably aimed at, and best-suited for, lower-handicap golfers.