Analyzing Your Iron Play
In a conversation the other day with a golfer who was contemplating a new set of irons, I asked "just what are you trying to achieve with your purchase?" While I expected a response containing some specific goal, what I got back was a puzzled look and something like, "I don't know; I just think I need to hit better iron shots."

So that took us into a more in-depth analysis of his current satisfaction with his iron play overall and specifically through the different clubs in his bag.

The first thing he said that frustrated him was the inconsistency of his ball flight – some pulls, some hooks, some flared right, etc. I tried to explain to him that these things were due to his swing path variances and no new set of irons was going to straighten that out. He'd be better off spending the money on lessons with one of our teaching pros.

I then asked about his comfortable distances with his 5-iron, 8-iron and PW, where again, he was not as certain as he should have been if he's trying to get more accurate with his iron play. It is IMPERATIVE to good iron play that you know your comfortable range with each iron in your bag. I don't mean how far you can hit them, but how far you can hit each club with a comfortable, controlled swing that you can repeat. Just because you once hit your 6-iron 175 yards, doesn't mean that's your distance.

As we dug deeper into his iron play, I asked him what iron was his "favorite," the one he believed he could always count on for a good shot. I've asked this of many golfers and the most common answer is the 6- or 7-iron, I've found. The 5- and 8-irons will follow as the next most common response. But rarely do I hear a golfer say that their 9-iron or PW is their favorite club. And of course, no one likes to hit a 4-iron and few even carry a 3-iron any more.

Diving ever deeper, I asked what his expectation was with each iron in his hands. In other words, it's a given that sticking one close is always a treat, but what represents "OK" with the various irons? Rather than tell you his answers, I'm going to put this one to all of you for contemplation and response. Here are a few questions I'd like each of you to answer here this week:
  1. How close to the hole or green is an acceptable approach with a 6-iron? How about with a 9-iron or PW?

  2. How much "reserve" do you have with each of your irons? In other words, what is the yardage difference between your "normal" 7-iron and one you have to jump on a bit?

  3. What is your favorite iron? The one that you feel like you are most likely to hit that "acceptable" shot you just defined?

  4. Which iron do you feel like you get the least "acceptable" results with?

Let's have some fun here and see how many of you will share your answers with the rest of us.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
Torleif Sorenson says:
Up until reading this, I thought the biggest question I needed to answer going into the purchase of new irons was this: What is the distance I basically hit each iron consistently.

I knew that I will need to do some "homework" before replacing my ca. 1989 Hogan Edge forged cavity-back irons, but thanks to you, Terry, now I have other credible questions for which I need to have good answers.

For you other oobers, I *also* would like to see you answer each of the four questions - in part because I don't get to play much. As of this writing, I can answer only two of them:

(3) My 2-iron and 7-iron are my favorites because I get the most consistent results with each.

(4) My wedges, which have a significant swing-weight difference between PW and SW, resulting in major inconsistencies in distance.
GBogey says:
1. With iron, I'd like to get to comfortable 2 putt range or less, so 15-20 feet. With Wedge (8-PW), 10 feet or less is the goal so that one putt is more possible (but usually 15-20).
2. My usual distance is with 5 yards of expectations with a solid hit, but occasionally will go as much as 10 yards further.
3. I am very confident with my 7 and 8 irons.
4. My 5 is the only one I consider inconsistent. Some days spot on but some days way off (I've even played with the thought of eliminating it and learning to choke down on my 4 hybrid).
dartboss04 says:
1: Hit the green with the 6 iron, within 25 feet with a 9 iron or PW.

2: I would think the reserve is about 10-15 yards. Lately, I've really tried to back off and take one less club if possible and just a hit a controlled 3/4 shot. I'd prefer not to really go at it if it's not necessary.

3: 9 iron is most acceptable.

4: I transition to hybrids early, so for me it would have to be the 7 iron. Although, it has been less of an issue lately.
bkuehn1952 says:
With a handicap that bounces around 7 to 8 and assuming we have a good level lie:

6-iron: 30-35 feet is realistic. My goal with a 6-iron is to hit the green. If the hole is set well left or right, then middle of the green works. A GIR of 35% on Par 4 holes will tell you I don't accomplish the task frequently enough.

Reserve: 5-10 yards. Like others, I tend to club up and make a more controlled swing in an effort to be more consistent.

Fav Iron: I assume we can't name a wedge, so 9-iron, assuming favorite means most consistent.

Least Acceptable Results: 5 iron. Swapped my 4 iron for a hybrid and haven't carried a 3 iron or higher in quite a few years.
Mr_X says:
1.) With a 6 iron approach I want to on the green or just off on the side I am aiming at. With a 9 iron I want to be on the green and within 25 feet of my target.

2.) I probably have 10 or 12 yards of reserve in all of my irons except my 9 and PW which may only have another 8 yards.

3.) Favorite iron? Well, I have been very accurate with my 52 wedge, but that is not an iron. Right now, I am loving my 4 iron. It has been on target and a steady 180-185 yards for the last couple months. The acceptable approach is a much larger circle than say a 8 iron, but I have not pulled, pushed, topped a four iron since June. I even pulled my hybrid out of the bag and brought my 3 iron back. Getting a pure strike with a 3 iron blade is a wonderful feeling! (Wilson FG 59)

4.) My 7 iron is called into play on a number of holes at my home course. The results of this club are about as good as my 5 iron from another 20 - 25 yards away. I used to have more accuracy with this club. I think this may be in my head...
brian575 says:
1. On the green anywhere with a 6 iron and within 25 ft with a 9-PW.
2. Honestly If I have to go 5 yards more than a normal 8 I hit a soft 7. I never try to hit a club 5 extra yards.
3. My 8 iron is by far my favorite.
4. Either my 5 or 6 iron I feel I get the least acceptable shots with. (note I carry a 5 hy so I do not always carry a 5 iron at all).
Matt McGee says:
1. Unless the greens are huge, a 6-iron that finishes on the green is acceptable for me. About 15 feet away with a 9-iron doesn't bother me. My P-wedge works pretty well. My expectations rise as I get closer - I use this club for many shots inside 50 yards - but a full swing, I'm happy with 10' away. 50 yards or closer, if it's not inside 4 feet, I'm not satisfied with it.

2. About 10 yards. Maybe 15, if I really reach.

3. Pitching wedge

4. 3-iron, but only because it's longest. Most of the time, I manage to have equally unacceptable results from all of my irons.
birdieXris says:
1 - a 6 iron for me should be within 20-30 feet. 30 feet should be a "bad" shot. If i miss a green or am outside that number it's definitely unacceptable.

2 - I have 10, sometimes 15 in reserve. My "normal" 4 iron is 200. If i have to, i can hit it up to 215 or as low as 190. Same with all my clubs. I tend to get a little more out of my mid irons when i go at them, however.

3 - gap wedge (50*) is my favorite. I can it it from 125 down to 80 with accuracy

4 - I feel like my 58* is my least acceptable as far as approaches go. When i'm using that, i'm often 50 - 60 yds away (i rarely use it during a full swing 90 yd). If i don't hit it stiff, that's unacceptable. I find that i have problems controlling the flight of that club more than the other wedges. i can hit my 54* with good results, but when i'm on with the 58 it's much more precise.
Ianinho says:
As a scratch golfer

1) with a 6 iron 35 feet is acceptable, in a lot of situations missing the green on the easy side is OK. With 9 iron probably 20-25 feet. PW I'm looking for inside 20ft

2) My normal 7iron is 160. If I have 165 I'll hit a 6iron unless there is trouble long. I might have 5 yards extra with a 7iron, i might have 20, I really don't know. I would say I have more of a reserve in shorter irons and wedges than long irons.

3) The shorter the iron the more likely i'll hit an acceptable shot.

4) 4iron, don't have a 3iron
Ianinho says:
In the PGA tour average from 175-200 yards stat: (~6iron distance for them)

Now these are the very best of the best....Robert Garrigus is top of that list with an average of just over 30 feet.

A few people here with extremely high expectations, you guys must be frustrated at nearly every shot if those are your expectations.
dartboss04 says:'re definitely right. I think sometimes its hard to separate your best shots from what you are doing on average. Also, I think that some people have a warped view of putting distances. We usually think a putt is closer than it actually is, at least in my opinion.
Banker85 says:
1. 6 Iron, this would be from about 160-170 yards. anywhere on the green really. 9I or PW within 15 feet.
2. Normal 7 Iron is 150, strong 7 Iron is about 160.
3. 8 Iron and in i feel should be on the green within 20 feet with good birdie chance.
4. Least acceptable would be 5 iron, I just dont hit it that often and anywhere near the green with a somewhat easy chip is acceptable with the 5 iron.
GolfSmith7 says:
Interesting article.

1. For me with a 6 iron I expect to be on the green with a 9 or pitching wedge I am looking to be pin high a comfortable to putt distance say, 10-20 feet. Thats a wide gap but I am realistic not a tour pro :)

2. In playing the World Am with adrenaline running I discovered I have about 15-20 yards reserve for my 5-6-7 Irons about 10-15 for my 8 and 9. It surprised me and today at my home course I tested it out and indeed its there. I normally hit my 5 iron 185 today I hit one 205. I normally hit my 7 iron 155 can jump on it to 170. Now I know.

3. I am most comfortable with my 7-8 irons.

4. If I had to pic one iron to hit a money shot it would be my 8 iron.

birdieXris says:
@Ianinho - good call there, but i think there's more to it than just cut and dry. I don't know many courses around here that have 30 feet on either side of the middle of the green so hitting the green at all will put you better than that PGA tour number. Course difficulty has some say too. I'd be happy to hit a Pebble beach green from 180, let alone put it within 30 feet.

Truth be told, i am disappointed on just about every shot. I'll never lower my expectations though.
Kurt the Knife says:
1. The hole I'm playing or the one on the other fairway? Within 30 feet on either one, I guess.
2. reserve? The next club up I reckon.
3. Actually I love my Lodge 12" cast skillet. oh, wait.
4. typically the one in my hand.
bducharm says:
How close to the hole or green is an acceptable approach with a 6-iron? How about with a 9-iron or PW? *** For a 6 iron, within 25 feet is acceptable. With a 9 or PW, it must be within 15 feet.

How much "reserve" do you have with each of your irons? In other words, what is the yardage difference between your "normal" 7-iron and one you have to jump on a bit? *** A normal 7 iron for me is 160. I try to keep 15-20% reserve when I take a normal swing. I "can" hit my 7 iron 175 if needed.

What is your favorite iron? The one that you feel like you are most likely to hit that "acceptable" shot you just defined? *** My PW is my favorite. LOVE my PW, followed closely by my 54 and 58 degree wedges.

Which iron do you feel like you get the least "acceptable" results with? *** Least acceptable is my 5 iron (the longest iron I carry).
jpjeffery says:
This article is SO not for me. I need to learn how to hit shots consistently straight first (out of 110 balls hit at the range tonight - about half with my 7 iron and half with the driver - I estimate only about 25-30 of them were straight enough to be called straight).
Matt McGee says:
"Acceptable" results can often be (and in my case, usually are) quite a bit different from "expected" results. My standards are far higher than my ability.
Ianinho says:
@dartboss04 yeah that's true what you say about putting distances. I was amazed when I realised how long some putts were. I try to keep stats for how far my first putt was, but I only step it out every now and again and typically I'm off by 20% or so. I am getting better on this though.

@birdieXris, true as well, thats why I added the fact that missing a green on the easy side is sometimes acceptable for me. Missing the green in the right place is very underestimated by most amateurs
Geoffre14 says:
1. 6-iron on the green is acceptable. PW within 10ft is acceptable.
2. Regular 7-iron is 150, in reserve is another 15yrds.
3. 9-iron.
4. 4-iron--the longest one I carry.
mrcgamble says:
1. 6-iron within 30 feet usually aiming for middle of the green. PW would like to be inside of 20 feet, I will aim at pins depending on there location on the green and what the consequences are for missing.

2. regular 7-iron is 160, I can "jump on it" and get it to 170 but dont really like to, again depends on what is surrounding the green and where trouble is.

3. any iron 8 or lower, I will hunt flags with 8, 9, PW, and GW.

4. as for shots into greens I seem to have a mental block against my 5-iron, but usually use 4 and 5 irons for lay ups on par 5s.
glenrich says:
I'm happy just to hit anywhere on or near the green with my 6 iron.
9 iron within 30 feet.
PW within 20 feet.

I can get an extra 10 yards with irons up to 6 mainly by gripping closer to edge of grip and putting just a little more oomph into the swing.
5/4 irons I tend to hook sharply if I try to step on it.

I'm pretty good with my SW anywhere from 70-85 yards. Next best would be my PW from about 115.

4. I get least acceptable results with my 6 iron.
I kind-of expect not to hit as well with my 4 iron.
But I should be able to have more accuracy with my 6 iron from 150-160 range.
Happy to hit the green is not quite good enough.
jfurr says:
by "approach" I figure you mean not on the tee of a par three...

1. A 6 iron from the deck to a green - sad to say but anything not OB or in a hazard or over the back of the green is acceptable. With a 9 or PW I want a high shot to land and stop relatively quickly on the green or on a safe fringe and not over the back. Something to give a two or maybe one putt finish.

2. nothing - swinging harder sometimes can magnify my errors

3. 9 iron as a full swing club.

4. from the deck - 5 iron.
Tim Horan says:
1) 6 iron from 175yds I consider greenside or just on to be acceptable.
2) 5 - 10yds in reserve.
3) Favourite club 4iron although not using at present
4) 7 iron is least fvourite and prefer to over hit an 8i or easy a 6i.

I am only carrying D, 18 & 21deg hybrids and then 6iron up this time of years to save on weight. No fairway and no long irons which often means the 175 yd approach is made with an easy 21 degree with the same expectation.
QuickBrownFox says:
1. Delighted to get it within 30 feet.
2. I generally hit it better and further with a relaxed 75% swing so the bit in reserve theory doesn't work for me. Just have to club up.
3. Equally happy with 6i through 50* wedge. Hard up to pick a real favorite.
4. Longest; 4i. Distance control is just a guess.
Matt F says:
On the green with a 6 iron is acceptable to me. Within 20' with a 9 iron or PW.

About 5-10 yards in reserve. My normal 7 iron is about 145 if I use my usual swing, but I can get around 155 if I crank it up.

9 iron is my favourite, followed closely by my 6 iron.

5 iron, that's why I carry a 5 hybrid instead.
birdieXris says:
@ianho - definitely true about where to miss a green. I play with a lot of guys that have no idea what a good miss is, and while it's good to believe you can get up and down from anywhere, the reality of the situation can really mess with your head when it goes south.
GolfSmith7 says:
@BirdieXris I am learning the values of a good miss from my first World Am experience. My strategy was aim at the middle of every green but that left me with long Putts bc the greens where huge. I rather pin hunt and deal with getting up and down, the rewards will be more birdie opportunities. I trust my short game enough to get up and down.
Virtuaframax says:
1. A 6 iron approach for me is a safe center of the green shot. 9 iron should be within 15-20. PW should be within 6-12. of course these are expectations and not actual distances I hit (i wish)
2. not much reserve on my kill it and regular swing... i realized that when i try to hit too hard i ended up missing my tempo and hitting it pretty much the same lenght. I'd say 5-7 yds tops
3. 8 and PW are my fav irons. I know I can stick it close and i can control better my trajectory
4. Never liked the 5 iron since i started playing golf (might be because the beginner's set stopped at that iron). I probably hit the 4 better than the 5
accarson3 says:
1. With a 6 iron...just happy to get it on the green...9-i should be 10-15 ft. for at least a chance at a 2-putt. PW should be closer for a chance at a 1-putt.

2. Reserve distance is probably 10 yds, but need to try it out...never really thought of trying to measure it before.

3. Definitely the's the one I feel most comfortable with.

4. Probably the 5-iron...very inconsistent with it...and 5-i is the longest iron in my bag...after that it's hybrids and woods.
cicero says:
1. Honestly, I'm just looking to find the green on the right level.
2. I'd guess I have about 10 yards, 15 max. If I take too much more off, I have problems.
3. My favorite club on course is my 50*, mainly because I hit it so much, and get good results from full swing to pitches.
4. My 5 iron. I feel like I should hit better shots with it than I do, considering I hit 6 iron ok, and I've always felt comfortable with the 3 iron.
GBogey says:
Just making an observation, but it seems that 3 irons and 4 irons have almost completely gone away. Makes me feel better about my hybrids. Maybe I should add a 5 too.
Tim Horan says:
@gbogey - long irons are better if play a lot of golf in windy conditions as the hybrids usually hit a lot higher. Unless the hybrids are matched to your irons for swingweight you may have too much separation between say your 5 hybrid and six iron. This could lead to you start fatting or sculling the six iron, dropping that in favour of a half shot with the hybrid or a fuller shot with a seven iron.
Gromit5 says:
Just for fun, check out Ben Hogan's POWER GOLF (1948), which you can buy from for 3 bucks, including shipping. In chapter two, "Clubs...Selection And Use," Hogan has a chart for his Regular, Maximum and Minimum distances with each club. For example, 7-iron is 135, 160 and 125. The chapter is no less relevant today than when it was written. Best wishes to all!
matchingclubs says:
Reading thru all comments no one has put the question WHY do we have favorite club/s and WHY do we avoid some club/s in the bag. If all clubs are ergonomically matched this problem disappear.
[ post comment ]
Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

Click here to learn more about Terry.
Click here to for Terry's blogroll.
    Golf Talk
Most Popular: