This week, Im prepared to argue that drivers arent the biggest thrill in the game.
Tournament golf watchers know that nothing draws the oohs and aahs like a 180-yard 5-iron that settles inches from the hole. Pros do this all the time; we who watch dream and strive and occasionally, thank providence, succeed. Drives may be fun to boom, but put a specific target at the end of a swing and youve got an approach shot. To me, its the most exciting shot in golf to watch or play.
That brings us to the center of WITB No. 3, irons. Most of us carry the standard set, so not counting the wedges, thats 3 through 9; seven clubs, half the compliment the rules allow. They are the most basic of clubs, called upon to deliver heart-stopping precision. And for me, nothing beats standing in the middle of the fairway with an iron in my hand, confronted with the chance to make magic. OK, so what it I cant hit the green from 150 yards more than four times out of ten. I love trying. And one time out of 10, I may get it pretty close.
With the right irons, you can improve on those percentages. So what did we learn about these ubiquitous tools, and how do we get the best set for our games?
Hip to Get It Square: As with drivers, fit is all important if you want to consistently deliver the clubhead squarely to the ball at impact. Its even more important with irons, because youre trying to dial in performance over a range of clubs instead of just one.
Lofty Concerns: More of a given than in drivers, where you can tweak a bit. Irons have standard lofts throughout the industry, and generally only pros mess with them. Its an open secret among club makers that lofts are stronger I modern irons (that is, wedges today are more like the 8-irons of a generation ago, for example), but customers dont seem to want the old way back. Not happy with your modern wedge loft? Try your gap wedge.
Tell Me Lies: Lie is crucial with irons. Too flat and the toe digs, resulting in a slice. Too upright and the heel could dig, hooking the ball. Fitters test for this first. Great thing about it is, its easy for anyone to feel the difference when they hit the right lie for the first time. Youll get a definite Thats it! response from your hands.
Feel is Metal: Its not so much forged versus cast; those are processes for shaping metal. Ben Hogan loved the feel of forged clubs, but modern golf equipment makers tell us that its the steel recipe he chose, not the way that steel came to its final form, that gave that wondrous feedback. While its still generally true that forged clubs are for better players and cast for less skilled players, neither class of golfer should consider itself relegated to one process or the other. Hit em, then decide.
The Stick Makes the Stick: Shafts are important in any clubs, but particularly in clubs on which you depend for repeatable yardages. The knock against graphite in irons used to be that it threw the occasional random grenade. For instance, your 135-yard eight iron from the fairway would once in awhile go 143 from a similar lie, putting you off the green and into a tizzy. Graphite shaft makers say theyre gaining on the consistency problem with alarming speed.
Meanwhile, steel shaft makers have managed to incorporate some graphite-style benefits by decreasing shaft weights, developing shock dampening technologies, and making sticks that reach across many handicap levels. It all amounts to more choice ' and if the shaft is the engine of the golf club, then choice is the turbo that makes choosing and hitting irons so much fun.
These are just a few of the factors that go into the irons-buying decision. Feel free to let us know what you think via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on the discussion boards here at TheGolfChannel.com.
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