Golf clubs are a long-term investment, and unless you're a professional golfer who plays every day, there's no reason why a set of irons shouldn't last five to ten years. In terms of technology, it depends on what you want from your irons. If you play with traditional wrought irons, nothing substantial has changed in decades. There is no evidence that golf clubs deteriorate over time, as long as they are well-maintained. For an average golfer who plays golf several times or practices several times a week, you should get a good 7-10 years with a set of irons.
If you're looking to upgrade, the second-hand market is a great option. The technology improves enough to guarantee new irons every 5 to 10 years, so after 5 years they are getting old. I recommend buying used clubs from 2 to 4 years old - that 17-year leap in technology will go a long way. Golf clubs don't change that often and I'm a firm believer in improving through practice rather than through the credit card. If you don't feel like buying a full pot for a new set, try a used club outlet like Global Golf and consider a set that's only two or three years old.
Michael Johnson, who has covered the golf equipment business for decades, recommends this option. It can be purchased online at the Golf Galaxy or PGA Tour Superstore or at any number of reputable retailers. But a good quality installer will always try to give you the best advice and if they feel that your current clubs are OK and the different results you get are simply due to the inconsistencies in your golf swing, they will tell you. Some golfers are wary of custom adjusters, thinking it's a fair way for manufacturers to sell more clubs more often and complain that when they go regularly they seem to get different results every time. These irons used to be better club players that had marks and deformations in the center of the club face. It seems like every week I read about a new “revolutionary” golf club design that will make a difference. Just like irons, and particularly if they are wrought irons, only keep an eye on slots, lies and lofts every other year and they should be fine for several years. There is also the U-Try program on GlobalGolf, where you can try new sets for a small fee before making the decision to buy.
Golfers with wrought irons, especially professional ones, who play very often, however, regularly find the lie of their clubs altered between 2-3° and the lofts change 1 or even 2 clubs over the course of a couple of years. For the golfer who plays golf every day of the year, it can only take 3 to 4 years before a set of irons starts to lose some of its jump from the face. If you're like me, you're constantly thinking about upgrading and buying new clubs and equipment to improve your game and a new set of irons will be high on the list of any golfer who improves. A lot of people will automatically say that the answer to checking if their clubs are too old and ready to be replaced is to go and get a professional fit. Of course, that's a legitimate option but it's not always necessary.