Have You Noticed What They Are Doing?
We just got back from the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, and so now all the advertising noise will be about the next "greatest thing since sliced bread." What is most interesting to me is that the "noise" is somewhat shifting from who makes the longest driver to who makes the longest irons.
My response to that is — and yours should be — who the heck cares?
All the clubs between the driver and putter are for dissecting the golf course into manageable pieces, after you hit your tee shot and before you are on the green. What every golfer needs is a selection of approach clubs that allows you to hit the ball as close to the hole as possible from any place on the golf course that is within striking distance. And it just makes sense that the closer to the green you are, the more precision you would want, right?
Every golfer has a maximum distance from which they can reasonably expect to hit the shot at hand onto the putting surface, with a reasonable chance of stopping the ball somewhere close to where it landed. That distance and club define the upper end of your "approach range," whether it is an 18° hybrid from 235, or a five-wood from 160. That's your physical upper limit of your approach range, and no equipment company can move that more than a few yards, if at all.
The perfect set of approach clubs would give you increasingly smaller distance gaps as the club gets shorter and you are closer to the hole. After all, 30 feet long or short with a 5-iron in your hand is darn good, but it stinks if you were swinging a "P-club."
But the big irons companies are trying to make you believe that if your new 6-iron goes as far as your old 5-iron, that somehow you will be better. Well let me let you in on a little secret.
That new 6-iron IS your old 5-iron!!!
I talk with golfers all the time who have no idea what the lofts of their irons are, and just take it on trust that the number on the bottom defines the club. Nothing can be further from the truth. And the big manufacturers are taking advantage of this trust.
This new crop of "long" irons has moved the lofts down so far that the numbers on the bottom of the club have become completely meaningless. That "6-iron" has migrated from 36° of loft and 36.5-inch length in the 1970s, to 26° of loft and 37¾-inch length in these new irons. Of course that new 6-iron goes further . . . because it is longer and stronger than your old 4-iron!!!
This relentless pursuit to make our 6-iron go further than the other guys' 6-irons is compressing the lofts to the long end of the set. And they are taking away your scoring range clubs to achieve that. In most of the new sets, they are reducing the loft differentials at the long end of the set to as little as 2.5° and increasing the loft differentials at the short end to five degrees. So what you get are 2-3 clubs at the long end with very little distance gapping, then huge distance gaps at the short end of the set, which costs you distance precision when you need it most.
In other words, you don't have a chance to score the course as well as you used to, because you don’t have as many short range scoring clubs.
In the words of the radio pundit, Earl Pitts... Wake Up, America!!!
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Yeah, wake up golf people. This is no back-in-my-day lamentation. What TWG is talking about is very real. Check it out for yourself. I did. It is shocking. Take the current Callaway Apex irons. (TWG might be too much of a gentleman to call out an OEM by name; I am not.) The lofts are beyond jacked up. Their 7-iron at 31° is actually stronger than my 6. My irons are old (2006) but not ancient mind you. Calling a 7i a 6 is bad form, true. But it gets worse. The loft gap between the Apex long irons is 2.5°; between the shorties it is a cavernous 5°. Stop the insanity!
Oops, calling a 6i a 7 is what I should've said. Excuse me, I got kind of worked up.
Duke of Hazards says:
I read somewhere that there's a threshold of 25* for iron lofts under which there's a steep difficulty increase in the requirements to create enough ball speed + proper contact to create loft and appropriate distance. I have 2 sets of Mizunos with slightly differing lofts and this theory seems to hold some water.
The Cally Apex 5-iron is 24 degrees. Not sure what kind of game improvement wizardry they claim to have built in, but I'm guessing average Joe golfer that buys these will have some issues hitting their 3, 4 and 5 irons and that they'll all go the same distance a significant percentage of the time. I guess so long as they can pound the 6-iron 180 yards or whatever during the demo, they're okay with that.
The lofts don't bother me as much as the club length. My old 4 iron was 38.5 inches. I couldn't hit it so I replaced it with a hybrid. I saw one iron set with a 4 iron that was 39.25 inches.
joe jones says:
It amazes me that people are suprised or unaware by what has been going on. This goes back to Karsten Solheim and the original Pings. Before that pro's de-lofted irons ( forged blades) by as much as 3 degrees. I became aware when I hit my first Ping 6 iron 10 yards further than my old Macgregor 5 iron. Cast clubs were a different story. They broke if you tried more than one degree. Terry is right on.
When I've posted this very take other places, I've gotten raked over the coals for it.
Terry's right, but he's got an uphill battle with the products he has to offer.
They are designed to help people score better. The average golfer couldn't care less about his score.
I have become convinced that the only thing the average golfer, particularly the one in the 18-34 demo, cares about these days is 1...outdriving his buddies and 2...hitting a higher numbered iron than said buddies on a given par 3 (I didn't say shorter iron, I said higher numbered iron). One would hope that these consumers would one day decide their intelligence has been insulted.
A fellow on another site wrote a great analogy which I will shamelessly borrow here. Spec strengthening in irons is like Browning re-labeling 12 gauge shotguns 20 gauge, and then claiming they have the most powerful 20 gauge shotgun on the market. Brilliant!
I couldn't care less what lofts or what they do to the clubs. As long as I hit them solid and they allow me to score. But I do enjoy hitting an 8 iron from 150 instead of a 7 iron. Terry is right about the scoring yardage though. From 150 in you should be able to hit at least 70-80% of GIRs. That's where you can save strokes.
When you understand what makes an iron head tick, the properties such as MOI and COG, you realize that longer shafts and jacked up lofts are all they have left to sell. The basic iron clubhead limits what can be done from a design point of view, and the truth is that everything that can be done pretty much has been done. It's no different than adjustable drivers. The USGA threw the manufacturers a bone by allowing them because they do no real harm to the game, and it gives them something to sell since the rules have pretty much eliminated any real advancements in the clubhead.
To be honest, I'm no longer a customer. I have the money to buy new equipment, but all I see these days is bling. So, I'm enjoying trying all of the older clubs I couldn't afford to try when I was younger. It lets me indulge my repair/refinish hobby, and ultimately it costs nothing because if I don't keep something I resell it for more than I paid. I'm having a blast!
Tim Horan says:
I have to say that jacking up lofts coupled with the sort of custom fitting that is on offer today is what is really wrong in the OEM market. This obsession with statistics and distance is being paraded as a "club fitting". It most certainly is not a club fitting it is more a hood wink, preying on ones ego to soft sell you a set of clubs. Yes it is great to think you can hit a 6 iron 190-200yds but if that 6 iron is the same spec as the 4 iron in your bag there is no way you should be thinking of buying. I noticed Cleveland Golf have started stamping both number and loft on their latest irons. Good on them!
Sometime ago, during the infant days of Terry's wedge business, I asked him a question about big gaps and little gaps concerning the loft spacing of a set of clubs. Terry's opinion was that there should be larger gaps between longer clubs and closer gaps on the wedge end. For me this has proven beneficial. I changed to a 17* fairway, 21* hybrid, 4 iron, etc., and added a 4th wedge. I had a professional friend who was very good at bending clubs. We went through my set at the time and re-lofted my irons if they were too close together. I had to adjust my thinking as I no longer hit some irons as far, but once adjusted, my distances were consistent at approx. 12 yds. for the longer clubs and 8* for the wedges. My scoring has improved, as has my confidence. I am 70 years old, have a 4 hcp and I don't care what the number is on the bottom of the club, but I do know how far each goes. The manufacturers are only fooling themselves, but I guess it sells clubs.
Sorry, should have said distances were consistent at 12 yds. for the longer clubs and 8 yds. for the wedges. Anyway, it works. . . lol
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