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April 2011

Short Iron Problems And A Little Insight By Terry Koehler

In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don't hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect? I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

"I'm hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I've got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below. I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time. I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135. My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards. No matter how "hard" I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances. It's maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.

What am I doing wrong?"

Well, Phillip, don't feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in WedgeGuy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40* range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset”, I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do It! You will be surprised, enlightened and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4* and ½” difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here??

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match”. If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85% power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

Thanks for reading and writing in, and I’m sure the readers will have more to offer on the subject. Oh, and enjoy your new EIDOLON wedge.

 


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