Road Noise Long Irons

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Rick Nichols
Director of Tour Operations, Nike Golf
 
Casey / Q:
Rick, what is the state of the 2-iron on TOUR?
 
Rick / A:
The 2-iron is almost extinct on TOUR. With the introduction of hybrids the last four or five years you just dont see too many 2-irons. Occasionally a very strong player like Tiger will put it in play. You saw him do that at the Open Championship where the ground was very firm and fast and that was a good club for him off the tee. But, typically, guys are replacing or have replaced the 2-iron with an 18-degree hybrid.
 
Casey / Q:
We hear that all the time, but, why is this so?
 
Rick / A:
Its a much more versatile club out of a bad lie or out of the rough. They still have a chance of stopping the ball on the green even from a long way out because the hybrid is going to get the ball up in the air faster than a 2-iron. If their only option was a 2-iron out of a tough situation they might have to lay up because if they hit the ball hard enough to get to the green but cant hold it they might end up getting themselves in more trouble than its worth.
 
Casey / Q:
What about 3-irons and 4-irons?
 
Rick / A:
3-irons and 4-irons are still in play in most of the bags on the PGA TOUR. But, they are a different kind of long iron than in the past. They are much more user friendly with the weight real low and deep and away from the face to help get the ball up in the air faster. You see wider flanges and wider soles than ever before to make it easier to hit, especially out of the rough. Lets face it, the long irons are the hardest clubs in the bag to hit so the easier we as club designers can make them function the better it is for the player. Even the players at the highest level of the game out here on the PGA TOUR.
 
Casey / Q:
What makes perimeter weighting work?
 
Rick / A:
Perimeter weighting helps you on off-center hits. Loss of distance will be reduced when you have a perimeter weighted golf club because the energy is dispersed over a greater area of the face and you dont have to be as exact with your strike. And hitting it on the screws of a long iron is tough to do consistently. On center hits you wont really find a difference but you will notice a difference on off-center hits.
 
Casey / Q:
You have so much experience around professional golf. Who is the best long iron player youve ever seen?
 
Rick / A:
My dad has played a lot of golf with Jack Nicklaus. And I remember watching them play when I was a young man. Jack could hit a 1-iron and it would look like the trajectory of everyone elses 3-iron or even 4-iron in the case of the some of the low ball hitters. Jack was just so powerful. It takes a lot of strength to hit a long iron high up in the air, especially a 1-iron. To this day, especially because of how far many of these guys out here are hitting today, Im not sure if Jack Nicklaus is given enough credit for exactly how strong and powerful he was. There are a few guys out here who can get a long iron up like Jack did. Tiger, of course, is one of them. Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes come to mind as exceptionally strong players. But, honestly, Nicklaus was a sight to behold with a 1-iron in his hand. Its hard to imagine how high he could hit it when he wanted to.
 
Casey / Q:
Who else?
 
Rick / A:
Another wonderful long iron player that you dont here talked about in that regard very often was Arnold Palmer. Hes another one of these guys who had incredible power and strength and while generally speaking he had a much different ball flight than Nicklaus ' Palmer hit a lower trajectory draw ' he could still launch a long iron high up in the air when he wanted to. The advantage that Palmer and Nicklaus had was generating club head speed that most of the other guys just didnt have. And that was a great advantage for them.
 
Casey / Q:
Will the 2-iron go the way of the 1-iron?
 
Rick / A:
Complete extinction is the 1-iron. The 2-iron is just about extinct. Extinction of long irons for the better player will probably stop around the 3-iron. But mid to double digit handicap golfers I think are at a disadvantage if they still play a
3-iron over a 21-degree hybrid. The hybrid is just easier to hit and much more versatile. Its as simple as that.
 
Casey / Q:
What about the long iron as a trouble club?
 
Rick / A:
If you are in trouble a long iron may give you an advantage that a hybrid wont. You can hood a 3-iron or a 4-iron and keep the ball very low and hit the ball under a tree limb, for example. But, Im not sure that overtakes the versatility that comes from, lets say, a 21-degree hybrid. You can put the ball back in your stance with the hybrid and still manufacture a relatively low shot. Maybe not quite as low as if you hood the 3-iron, but, you can still figure out how to get out of trouble with the hybrid and the advantages and versatility far outweigh the limits or disadvantages. But, yes, all things being equal, it is easier to hit a long iron low for the purposes of getting out of trouble.
 
Casey / Q:
How much does ego come in to play where you see players not wanting to replace long irons with hybrids?
 
Rick / A:
Before there were hybrids there were 5-woods and 7-woods and 9-woods. And most guys were reluctant to put those in play because ego got in the way. Carrying a nine wood? Im a macho guy. Im not going to let my friends see me playing a 9-wood even though it was a very easy club to hit. But you know what? Ive seen some great players out here ' Vijay Singh comes to mind ' and he wasnt afraid to put a 7-wood in the bag when it suited a course he was playing and he has done very well with it in the past. No ego there. Just a matter of using the best tool for the job. Thats just being smart which Vijay is.
 
Rob Waters
PGA TOUR Representative, Cleveland Golf
 
Casey / Q:
Rob, youve been taking a close look at the numbers out here on the PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour. What do the numbers tell you?
 
Rob / A:
Casey, we did take a close look at the Darryl Survey numbers last week on all the major TOURS and long irons are disappearing. And, they are disappearing fast. The great majority of players ' and these are the best players in the world ' are replacing their 2-irons and 3-irons with hybrids. The pin placements that are being used on the PGA TOUR and the Nationwide Tour are getting tougher and tougher and guys are looking to hit the ball higher and softer on their approach shots. Then you start talking about the rough, and how tough some of the rough is on TOUR, that gives them another advantage if the are hitting hybrid instead of long iron. So you look at the numbers on the Nationwide Tour, for example, and at least 70% of those players have at least one hybrid in their bag. Five years ago you may have had 10% or 15%.
 
Casey / Q:
When is the last time you saw a 1-iron?
 
Rob / A:
Its funny you bring up 1-irons. We were in the trailer at The Masters and Woody Austin brought in a 1-iron. I looked in has bag and kind of chuckled and said I havent seen one of these in at least ten years. Woody thought it might be a good option for The Masters.
 
Casey / Q:
Did he put it in play?
 
Rob / A:
I dont actually know if he ended up putting it in play or not. As far as the 2-iron on TOUR goes, there are still guys that like the 2-iron because they can flight it down and its still a pretty versatile club for strong players. Tiger comes to mind. He likes to hit that stinger and guys who watch him hit that shot have tried to incorporate it in to their games and thats a club that if you are strong enough it is a good club to hit off the tee when you are hitting to a very narrow fairway. But, the ease of hitting a hybrid compared to a 2-iron, you just cant compare the two. If youre an amateur, you have to get rid of your 2-iron and 3-iron and find hybrids that you like to replace them with. And, in fact, for higher handicap players, forget about the 4-iron and 5-iron. Replace them with hybrids as well. Id be surprised if you didnt see your scores go down.
 
Casey / Q:
Best long iron player ever?
 
Rob / A:
Jack. Theres only one answer to that question. Jack Nicklaus. His strength was his number one attribute when it came to hitting the long irons. And he had the ability to hit the ball high which a lot of the other guys in that day and age could not do. Back then golf balls spun a lot. Right now golf balls dont spin that much. Thats one of the reasons you see a lot of guys out here going to hybrids; because the ball doesnt spin as much as it used to. The other thing about Jack Nicklaus is that his angle of attack was quite steep so he didnt have any trouble getting the ball way up in the air with any of his clubs. But, it was particularly noticeable on his long irons because the trajectory of his 1-iron and 2-iron just didnt look like any other player on TOUR. And you know what, guys out here today would be hard pressed to hit a 1-iron or a 2-iron any better than Mr. Nicklaus did even with all the fitness and strength training that you see out here on TOUR today. He was just that strong and powerful.
 
Matt Rollins
PGA TOUR Representative, PING Golf
 
Casey / Q:
Matt, what do you see out here on TOUR with your staff when it comes to long irons?
 
Matt / A:
It depends on the player out here on TOUR, but, for the most part, the 2-iron is gone. And a lot of 3-irons are disappearing as well. Theyre being replaced by hybrids. For PING on the PGA TOUR, I cant think of any 2-irons in our staff players bags except maybe Bubba Watson. But, everyone else on our staff I think has replaced the 2-iron with a 2-hybrid. As far as traditional 3-irons, a lot of our guys have replaced that with our G-10 3-iron which is a bigger more forgiving club, easier to hit and easier to get the ball in the air. Heath Slocum comes to mind. He plays the 3-iron, 4-iron and 5-iron in the G-10 and then he plays different irons 6-iron thru pitching wedge.
 
Casey / Q:
What is the biggest difference you see out here regarding long irons than say five years ago?
 
Matt / A:
The biggest thing we see is guys out here cant spin long irons as much as they used to because the ball has changed so much. The ball is so much firmer than it used to be so it is harder to get it to rise off a long iron face. If the ball is flighted low than its going to be harder to stop on the green from long distance. Like Heath, he could hit his traditional long iron to the green but it wouldnt hold. So hes gone to more forgiving clubs that launch the ball higher. Now Bubba Watson on the other hand, he can launch it basically as high as he wants to because his club head speed is so great. And he can spin it as much or as little as he wants to because of his power.
 
Casey / Q:
So, where are all the 2-irons?
 
Matt / A:
You know, 2-irons are used to poke the fire these days but you dont really see too many of them in play anymore. We sell a ton of hybrids now. And at PING, youve never had to buy 3-iron thru pitching wedge. You could always start at
5-iron or 4-iron or even 6-iron. So now, with the advent of hybrids and more forgiving types of long irons like our G-10 line, you can mix and match your set to optimize set configuration. And I think thats a big advantage for players today that they should take advantage of. Lets face it. If PGA TOUR players are playing hybrids instead of long irons, we should definitely be playing hybrids.
 
Casey / Q:
Is there any advantage to keeping a long iron in the bag? Some special circumstance?
 
Matt / A:
There are still times when a low lofted long iron will be put in play on the PGA TOUR or the Nationwide Tour. Chris DiMarco comes to mind. At last years Open Championship he asked us to make him up a 1-iron. Well, we dont make 1-irons anymore so we took a 2-iron head and bent it to a 1-iron loft and made it
1-iron length. And thats a good option some of the time at the Open Championship when you want to keep the ball on the ground and get a lot of roll. But, youre not flying the ball to a pin with a low lofted long iron, youre rolling the ball there. So, thats a pretty particular situation. And, youre not going to see a lot of TOUR players do that l
 

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