How Long Is Long Enough?
The golf equipment industry is becoming more and more myopically focused on distance, and I don't think that's good for the game. Since the advent of the metal driver in the 1980s, then the oversized driver, super-sized driver, etc ... then to these hot faced metal fairway woods, the golf brands feed us a steady diet of "bigger, faster, longer". For 2013, I see that this single-minded goal for a golf club has migrated into the selling of irons, with the two biggest brands duking it out as to who makes the longest irons ever.

My question is, "So what?"

It's not rocket science anymore. All they are doing is jacking up the lofts, lengthening the shaft a bit and "heating up" the face to make the club a bit more explosive, supposedly. But what good is that doing for any golfer? Is there anyone out there who would begin to score better if they could just hit their 6-iron a few yards further? I seriously doubt it.

If you buy a new set of irons that are promised to go further than your old ones, you probably are not going to get those few extra yards with every club all the way back to your driver. So you have new irons that go farther than the old ones, but that distance gain is concentrated in the middle of the set – the 5-8 irons. From my examination, as they strengthen those middle irons, they are increasing the loft gaps between the shorter irons and P-club to five degrees from the traditional four. That means that you are going to have bigger distance gaps at the scoring end of your new set than you had with your older irons. Those lofts are also going to be different than your older irons, so your wedge lofts are now also going to be inconsistent with the lofts of your irons.

The simple geometry of irons is that every golfer will have larger distance gaps at the short end of the set than at the long end. But doesn't it make sense that you would want exactly the opposite? For scoring precision, wouldn't it be more beneficial to have smaller distance differentials the closer you get to the green and hole?

I'm not trying to talk you out of that new set of irons at all. What I'm trying to explain is that if you do buy a new set, the first thing you should do is go out with a laser range-finder and learn just exactly how far you hit each one of them ... and chart your wedges at the same time. Know your distances intimately and honestly. Not how far you can hit each one, but how far you can hit each one reliably and with accuracy. You'll find that your distance gaps will be as little as 5-7 yards between clubs at the long end of the set, and as much as 15-20 yards at the short end.

All I'm saying is that it should be the other way around.
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[ comments ]
DougE says:
I agree. The only club I wish I could hit longer is my driver. Though I am average length with my other clubs, I know what to expect out of them and am mostly satisfied. Not so much with their distance, but the fact that I can usually count on the distance of each, after doing exactly what you suggest, which is measuring and charting my shots for the past few years. Longer distance, other than off the tee, really is not at the top of most lists with respect to better scoring. (Though it could be more fun.) Every experienced golfer knows it's all in the short game...or at least, by now, they should. I guess maybe testosterone could blind a few of the younger guys though.
GBogey says:
I've been looking at buying some new irons and it seems that the only marketing words the equipment makers know is "forgiving" and "long." They really aren't giving out a lot of other information. I don't know about all of the stuff Terry is talking about, but I've been concerned about how they are lengthening the shafts. Seems to me that this is going in the wrong direction in terms of making clubs easier to use. Also agree with DougE - my driver and 3W are fairly new. Increased distance throughout the set doesn't help if it just bunches up distances near my 3W. It's made me rethink what my set make-up should be in the event that I pull the trigger on the new clubs.
GBogey says:
Also, was told at a store that Taylormade is eating the other guys lunch in terms of market share and that last year they sold more than Callaway for the first time and that this is the reason all of the other companies are bringing out new models right now that are all about distance.
joe jones says:
Longer does not translate into lower scoring.Scoring average on the PGA has gone down very little since 1997. In the same time ,distances have leaped forward. Some of that has to do with the courses being appreciably longer but shorter and straighter is usually better than longer and wrong. For most average golfers knowing how far you can hit each iron ( not your best distance ever)but your reliable distance will help you score well. Thats the reason that the shorter irons are call "The scoring clubs".
Shallowface says:
I know this sounds harsh, but the manufacturers are marketing to modern Neanderthals. It really isn't about better scores with a lot of guys. It's just that they hit their 6 iron farther than their buddies. It's all about standing on a par 3 and waving that club under someone's nose. And those guys who are having that 6 iron waved under their nose aren't smart enough to know that their buddy's 6 iron is the same specs as their 5 iron. If every consumer had the same level of knowledge as the handful that frequent this site, the manufacturers would have to find another way to sell clubs.
If you want to wave something under someone's nose, make it your scorecard.
onedollarwed says:
I'm still in favor of more irons, more more more!
While I have enjoyed getting out of a rough with a hybrid vs. a three iron, I'm not sold on their overall workability and consistency. And what I'm saying is that the number of irons are shrinking, and many players aren't sure what to do with them. I see many guys and gals go tee to green with a hybrid, and then use a "P" or a putter.
I see others hit sky-high, off target balloon shots with irons as low as 3. And of course out come the drivers and the ball goes promptly off the course.
If the industry is selling to these types, then I'm sure nothing really matters.
I can't even remember what forgiveness is supposed to be - is it a bouncy face? or synonymous with always off target?
I guess if you don't like the sting of cold shanked steel, then get grandpa graphite, bouncy faces, soft grips and wear two gloves!!!
Oh yeah, do they go longer?
onedollarwed says:
OK, ok, ok. I agree with Terry, and I'm sick of being around crappy golfers who have no basic skills, weird equipment, no interest in improving, and an industry which has a conflict of interest with the improvement of beginners or average players.
Let's face it, if you invest in a good set of irons, they'll last at least ten years. You can find all the balls you need, you don't need to wear a glove, or any golf attire. Spikes you'll need. And the rest goes into the gas tank or to the courses. No industry can survive under those "realities." It's time to stop screwing around with the equipment and play!
Tim Horan says:
I went through a stage where my irons really felt harsh and unforgiving (I shouldn't be surprised playing blades). Rather than change to cavity backs I re-shafted my blades with a stiff graphite... much easier on the hands and i found an easier tempo in my swing. As a consequence distance actually increased acroos the whole set. I would like to believe that it was all about the right selection of shaft but I know that better quality of contact is the real reason my distances increased. A good fit with the shafts is important but good technique is essential. The problem with telling the punter that their irons will hit it further is that the punter will try and hit it further, harder, faster...absolute disaster for mid and high handicappers trying to groove a swing.
onedollarwed says:
Great comments and observations, Tim!
sv677 says:
Why don't manufacturers get it over with, jack the loft up on the P club to 20* and then all anyone needs are gap wedges (g-1, g-2, g-3, etc.). Also, this way you don't need long irons, which people can't hit anyway.
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