The tee shot in golf brings up quite a bit of anxiety for some players. There is so much pressure to get maximum distance and ensure the shot flies straight down the fairway. Using a driver or a fairway wood is often too difficult to control. That’s where driving irons come in. But what is a driving iron?

A driving iron is a utility iron used as a replacement to a driver for the purpose of controlling ball flight, maximizing distance, and improving launch angle on the tee shot. It has a forward and deep center of gravity to add a bit of forgiveness, considering the lower loft (usually around 17 to 22 degrees).

Driving irons are a bit different than standard irons, but they often help with things like accuracy, control, and placement of a shot. I’ll show you everything you should know about a driving iron and why it could be the next club you put in your bag. And if you need help finding the right one, we reviewed the best driving irons over here.

Many driving irons have hollow body construction to help golfers improve swing speed a bit. The club can be used by average golfers, high-handicap golfers as well as professional golfers.

If you need an alternative to a hybrid golf club or simply want something reliable off the tee, this could be your new favorite club.

When should you hit a driving iron?

The driving iron is not designed only for tee shots, it can be used from the fairway as well. It’s best to use the driving or utility clubs from a tight fairway lie as it will help get the ball airborne and improve overall distance. From the rough, you may struggle to get that piercing ball flight and maximize distance.

image of a golf drive - AEC Info

Most golfers put a graphite shaft in their utility iron. The graphite shaft helps encourage a bit more distance and increases swing speed with the slightly larger head of the utility.

When hitting a driving iron from the tee box, be sure to take advantage of a short tee. It’s easier to swing the iron head and hit the ball directly in the center of the clubface when you tee it just a bit.

Can you hit a driving iron off the fairway?

A driving iron acts as a replacement for fairway woods or hybrids, making it a great club for approach shots from the fairway. I recommend using this like a traditional iron with low loft by placing it in the front of your stance and expecting a lower, more penetrating ball flight.

When comparing utility irons to traditional long irons they are more forgiving clubs. The extra forgiveness often comes from a wider sole that increases the total launch of the golf club. In addition, sometimes it’s easier to achieve straighter ball flight if you are more of an iron-type player.

I would stay away from hitting the driving or utility out of the rough unless you are a more skilled golfer. Lower handicap players have faster swing speed and can move the club head through the rough with ease.

Driving iron vs. regular iron

The driving iron is very similar to other golf irons, except that it is made with the idea of distance in mind. One of the biggest changes you will see when comparing a driving iron to a regular iron is the shaft. Almost always, the driving iron has a graphite shaft (similar to a hybrid shaft). In addition, it also has a wider sole than other iron golf club options on the market.


The driving iron should bridge the distance gap between the driver and your first long iron. If you have a hybrid club or fairway wood mixed in, then the driving iron will have to be properly loft gapped with that club.

For amateur golfers, it’s not just iron lofts that determine distance. In fact, total distance is more about turf interaction and overall swing speed. With the graphite shaft and built-in forgiveness in a utility, the distance is likely longer than it is with your standard long iron.


A driving iron has a wider sole. Even if the manufacturer was able to keep the thin top-down look, the sole is likely wider. The wider sole improves the chance of center hits, increases overall launch, and makes it possible for golfers to have more confidence in their performance of the utility.

image of driver iron - AEC Info

I would use a forgiving utility iron over a long iron with the same loft any day. If you need help finding a utility iron, we got you covered. I often think of the utilities as a mix between the hybrid and the long iron.


Skill level plays a large part in the accuracy of the driving iron in golf. Although this is a more forgiving iron, there is no question that slower swing speed golfers can still struggle with a club like this at times. A lofted fairway wood or hybrid is often the best choice.

However, modern driving irons are a tremendous choice for the lower handicap players that are attempting to hit the green from 200-plus yards away and still have the ball stop near the pin. You get plenty of accuracy and workability with the driving iron, the same as you would with a long iron.


The driving iron category has expanded greatly in the last few years. Finding these and adding them to your iron sets is not difficult. In fact, this versatile club has overtaken the long iron category. Everyday golfers are finding it harder to get a set of irons with a 3 or 2 iron in place and are having to move towards the utility iron model.

Should I replace my driver with a driving iron?

A driving iron typically has between 18 and 23 degrees of loft, making it a poor replacement for a driver. Drivers have anywhere from 8 to 12 (sometimes 15 for a lady driver) degrees of loft, which allows them to get more distance from the tee box. If you switch to a club with 8 to 13 degrees more loft, you will sacrifice a good bit of distance.

If you are not using your driver at all, because you can’t get the distance you need, then a driving iron could be a decent replacement. The utility iron with a graphite shaft in place will certainly fly longer than normal irons and can have a bit more of a penetrating ball flight.

If you are using a standard 4 or 5 iron as your club from the tee, switching to a driving iron can’t hurt you. However, your game of golf could be greatly impacted by removing the driver (or even the 3 wood) and replacing it with a utility.

How far does a driving iron go?

A driving iron can travel anywhere from 170 to 250 yards depending on the player hitting it. Clubhead speed and the loft of the club are going to determine how far the club is able to travel. Using a launch monitor to track your swings will help you see the potential of these type irons.

If you are playing with an 18-degree driving iron, it will be very similar to the performance that you can get with an 18-degree hybrid or even a fairway wood. Expect the driving iron to be just a few yards shorter but allow for more accuracy.

If you can remember Tiger Woods hitting those stinger shots down the center of the fairway, that’s the way you will want to visualize your driving iron shot.

What club does a driving iron replace?

The driving iron should replace a club with similar loft, based on the loft of the driving iron. The 18 to 20 degree driving irons replace the 5 wood or 3 hybrid. The 21 to 23 degree driving irons will replace the 4 iron or the 7 wood.

image of golf clubs with golf balls - AEC Info

As you can see, the driving iron is a replacement for normal irons, fairway woods, and hybrids. Experienced golfers should not be replacing their drivers with a driving iron.

Who should play a driving iron?

The driving iron can be used by any type of golfer, from a beginner to a professional. If you like the look of an iron,  hit is solid, and need some extra distance, the driving iron is a good fit for your game. With a slightly lighter shaft and the option for a shorter shaft, getting the golf ball up in the air with a long and penetrating flight is much easier.

I will tell you that beginner golfers struggle with utility iron compared to advanced golfers. We have to remember that the lower loft of these clubs help produce excellent distance, but they still demand a very clean hit.

Final Thoughts

The modern driving iron produces faster ball speeds, more forgiving, and more workability than the traditional models. If you need straighter shots off the tee and a club that can take you from the center of a fairway to within a few feet from the pin, the driving iron is a great club to consider.

Be smart about shaft flex and weight in this club, it’s supposed to be a distance-enhancing golf club. Once you get used to the feel and precision it won’t be hard to hit straight shots with your driving iron in place. For more information be sure to check out the rest of AEC Info.