Golf Buyers Guide; Choosing Irons - Mike Shumaker

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One of the most asked questions of any golfer is: What type of club should I play with? The answer to that question is both easy and sometimes very difficult to answer. Whether your name is Phil Mickleson or Joe Smith, there is a set of irons just for you. Driving the ball is a very important part of the game but there is no doubting that the most essential and basic part of any golfers game is their iron play. The type of iron in your golf bag is like bread and butter on your dinner plate. All golf professionals know that your ability to control and shape the iron shot is what will define your game. It is great to be an excellent driver of the golf ball, but unless you find the green with your approach shots, it will be all in vain and become very difficult to post a good number. Irons make up about 8 or 9 clubs of 14 that are allowed in the golf bag, so it becomes very important in finding the correct set for you. If the golfer can find the correct set of clubs they will find considerable improvement in their golf game. Finding the best fit for you can be difficult because of so many models in today’s market. There are so many clubs offered with different specs that choosing the best for your game can be confusing. This Buying Guide is meant to help you find the-The Holy Grail of Golf-the perfect set of irons.

Past history tells us that there are two types of irons-1) forged and 2) cast. The forged irons are very similar to what the old village blacksmith used to do. The metal comes in a rough shape and then pounded or hammered until the shape reaches the desired look. Although there are not many blacksmiths around in today’s world there is technology to do the same. The carbon steel or chrome club head is then finished by milling, grinding and drilling. The final result is a solid looking, soft metal iron that has a reduced sweet spot. The completed forged irons are aimed towards good players who place importance on the feel to be able to work shots and control trajectory. The second type of iron is the cast iron. This type of iron involves pouring the liquid metal into a mold. Producing the metal through a mold means that the manufactures can make more complex head designs, hence, today’s many different looking irons. Cast irons are more suited to the design of today’s irons that are perimeter weighted and intricate. This method is easier and cheaper than the forged irons, which is the reason for the lower price tag. Also, you will find forged perimeter weighted irons. I have played with a set of Ram forged perimeter weighted irons for 10 years. Forged perimeter weighted irons the best of both worlds—feel plus larger sweet spot.

There are two basic designs of irons-they are Blade and Cavity Back. Let’s take a few minutes and look at the two different designs. First the Blade Iron--It offers a small hitting area from a thin club head. Blades distribute weight evenly throughout the entire club head, which produces a small sweet spot in the center of the face which will produce a longer, straighter flight trajectory. Shots which aren’t hit pure will produce a shorter, unpredictable ball flight trajectory. The cavity back iron, also known as perimeter weighted, has generally been known as the investment cast iron. More than the manufacturing process the design of the club head is very important. The cavity back iron is made from stainless steel that offers a hard-hitting golf shot. The iron distributes the weight around the perimeter of the head, which produces a large sweet spot. Thank goodness a golf club that helps the player. With this design it makes off center hits or shots more forgiving. The shot will fly longer and straighter, than an off-center hit with a muscle back iron. There are some drawbacks: reduces feel and lets you know for sure that a pro you are not. The cavity back iron seems to be more suited for a high handicap golfer who can benefit from the larger sweet spot technology. Don’t forget that they now make forged perimeter weighted irons—maybe the best for all players.

This buying guide would not be accurate if I did not mention—the most important club, Hybrid irons. By far the most recent of the iron types on the market is the hybrid irons. These clubs are aimed towards players who struggle to hit longer irons. The hybrid irons progress from cavity back short irons, through hollow back or reduced cavity mid irons to part wood, part iron longer clubs. The benefits of this type of set should be clear. The cavity back short irons offer maximum forgiveness and control for shorter shots into greens. The hallow back mid irons move the weight of the club head lower and further back on the club which produces high trajectory shots. Finally the long irons combine fairway wood distance with the control and accuracy of a long iron. For players with higher handicaps or maybe older players, this set could be just what the Doctor orders.


How Many Clubs Do I buy? There are many options when it comes to deciding exactly which individual clubs you buy. The most common set of irons is from 3 iron to pitching wedge. Even the stronger player will probably not include the 2 iron in the bag today. A weaker or older player might decide to choose 5 iron to SW, the reason being that they will leave room for fairway woods and utility clubs in their bag in place of the longer irons. Every player will have a choice of many wedges with different lofts. Remember only 14 clubs are allowed in the bag at one time. Choose your weapons with care.

Try Before You Buy! One of the great benefits of buying clubs today, is the option to try clubs and visit demo days. I can not recommend this enough. Just finding the right clubs for you is fine, but unless you actually use them and see how they hit then you may never be sure you are getting the perfect set. Custom Fitting or Not ? Custom fitting is a service offered by all the big manufacturers that has revolutionized many golfer’s games. The ability to adapt the specifications of irons to match your size and swing is a very useful method of buying clubs. The average set is designed for a player that is roughly 5 foot 10 inches tall. If you are not exactly this height it is likely that you would benefit from that type of custom fitting. Your best bet is to go to a company that actually fits you for a set of clubs.

Demo Days ? Attend Demo days where manufactures offer all golfers the chance to try out their latest equipment and get advice on specifications and any other questions you might have. Some demo days even have custom fitting trucks with computer analysis equipment to check your swing and build you a club to order there and then.

In conclusion there are so many golf companies and component companies to select golf clubs from it might seem like a never ending search. There is no magic involved in getting a set of irons that work. A golfer can either change their swing to fit the club or get a set of clubs that fit your swing. All touring pros have their clubs especially fitted to them and only them. Why should you be any different—if you want to play better golf I suggest you invest in irons made for you.

Mike Shumaker