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Do Irons Really Need to Go Longer?
It's interesting to me that the two most "aggressive" marketers of irons this year are touting how long they are. So, we've been through almost 40 years of drivers being sold by touting that they are longer, and that kind of makes sense. Then this "longer, faster, meaner" claim worked its way into the fairway woods category, and even the hybrids. Even that makes a little sense. But what advantage does it give you if your irons' specifications are "jacked up" so that the new ones go further than the old ones. Here’s what the market has evolved to:

Brand 'A' claims their new iron is longer, delivers higher ball-flight and all kinds of good stuff. They offer this new brand in four configurations. For comparison, their mainstream 6-iron is built on a loft of 26.5 degrees and a length of 37.625 inches.

Their main competition in the battle of the 900-pound gorillas has their new distance iron, too. And Brand 'B' openly claims that their iron is "five yards longer." An examination of their specs reveals that their 6-iron is 26° in loft and also 37.625" long. So, does that five yards come from this stronger loft or the technology?

And what happens if all your middle irons go further than your last set, but so do all your others? Or do they? As these behemoths battle for "the longest iron," they are messing with decades of club specifications. For example, where sets used to have consistent differences of 4° of loft and ½-inch of length between clubs, now they are increasing those loft differences to 5° at the short end, and decreasing them to 3° and even 2° at the long end. But they are also increasing length differences at the long end to 5/8" between clubs. The result HAS to be a compression of your yardage differentials at the long end, and a widening of those differentials at the short end.

In other words, you have more long clubs that you really can't hit that well, and fewer short clubs, with bigger distance gaps between them, with which you will have to dissect the golf course. To me, this is absolute insanity... but those powerful new 6-irons sell clubs at demo days. When that rep with his Trackman says, "Wow, you hit that 6-iron 175!", you think "man, that's how far I hit my current five-iron; I gotta get these." Just realize that this new 6-iron IS your old 5-iron, or even 4-iron.

Remember that these new 6-irons are 26 to 26.5 degrees and 37.75" long. That's stronger and longer than these two companies' 5-irons were less than a decade ago.

Oh, and here's something really interesting. In both of these companies' line-ups, they have their "tour" or "pro" model of these new irons... and they are two degrees weaker and ¼- to ⅜-inch shorter than the ones they are trying to sell you. How much sense does that make? The tour player, who's bigger and stronger than you, plays as club that is shorter and easier to control than the one they are selling you.

Hmmmmm. Gotcha.

It's kind of like drivers actually. On Iron Byron, the 46" driver goes further than the 45, so that's what the stores are full of. But tour bags are full of drivers at 45". So, if the tour player only hits 55 to 60% of his fairways with a 45" driver, how many are you going to hit with a 46?

I'm just sayin'...
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[ comments ]
slimpks1850 says:
"Advertising psychology"
8/30/13
 
GBogey says:
The reality is that Brand A has been stealing market share through its distance sales pitch, so now everyone is copying them. Very interesting, though, that the tour/pro models have lower lofts and shorter shafts.
8/30/13
 
GBogey says:
I also wonder about how good some of the other distance technology is. When I tried a few clubs earlier this year, Brand A was truly longer than any other - I think 13 yards longer than my current clubs. Brand C, which is what I will probably buy and has lofts and lengths close to my current irons, was 7 yards longer. However, "A" was sometimes longer by 4 yards and sometimes by 20, whereas "C" was a much more consistent number, say 5-10. Could have been me, but it made an impression on me.
8/30/13
 
Torleif Sorenson says:
Terry is spot-on and GBogey makes a fine point. Having had some trial-and-error between my own Hogan Edges and newer irons, I'm absolutely convinced that those "distance" irons are not for me, even though I'm a short hitter. I need:
  1. Minimal offset, if any;

  2. Consistent distances between my irons;

  3. Consistent distance performance from my irons.
8/30/13
 
legitimatebeef says:
That's why you should never go near "a sales rep with a trackman."
8/30/13
 
Duke of Hazards says:
By 2020, we'll all be gaming 6 thru PW (24* - 40*) and bagging 5 wedges. Whoever starts making wedges starting at 41* is gonna be doing snow angels in piles of benjamins.

Uhh, wait a minute..... !
8/30/13
 
DougE says:
It makes no sense. If you (Company A and B) jack up the loft and lengthen the shaft, of course it will go further. When they can figure out how to do that AND make the guy wielding the club perfect enough to hit the sweet spot every time, then I might consider them. I want to hit clubs that I can hit more consistently. I hit my 9i, a touch more consistently than I do my 8i. My 8i more so than my 7i and so on. Obviously, I want to hit the highest lofted club I can to approach the green for the best chance at pulling off the shot. For Company A or B to give me a 7i that plays like a 6i (and is that much harder to hit consistently) doesn't help one bit. EXCEPT, my buddy, who plays brand A, THINKS he hits his 6i-spec'd 7i farther than me. Funny, I still outdrive him by 10 yards. Hmmmm.
8/31/13
 
Shallowface says:
DougE kind of nailed it.
It's all about impressing the buddies. Companies market to Neanderthals, and not just golf equipment companies.
Most people are ignorant regarding the specs of irons, and the manufacturers count on that.
So if Buddy A can hit his 6 iron farther than Buddy B, even though Buddy A's 6 equals B's 5 spec wise, Buddy A's self-esteem, low as it is, gets a boost.
This kind of behavior also carries over to electronic gadgets, cars, tattoos and girlfriends (and their tattoos).
And explains why both A and B are broke.
8/31/13
 
Stephen Stone says:
This is not new news but should be reminded of it from time to time. Golf companies have been adding loft for years to sell longer hitting clubs. I have an old mashie 5 iron from about 1940. It measures 36 1/4 long and loft is 34*. My 7 iron is 36*. Even the old Ping eye 2 plus were sold as a stronger loft then the 1st version of the Ping eye 2's. There doesn't seem to be a standard loft.
8/31/13
 
jfurr says:
this is a neat video i just found showing misc distances hit by the pros over the years... I was surprised at some of the numbers which were very impressive given the equipment of the time

www.youtube.com/watch?v=URhivvlomCM
9/1/13
 
SSracer says:
This post made me check my lofts. 5i is 27°, 6i is 31°. What's the point? Might as well go to °'s on the club instead of 4-PW.
9/4/13
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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