BY STEVEN PASSARELL
There may be no better way to immediately lower your golf scores than to customize your set make-up. For a very long time the typical set of golf clubs has been what is known as an 8-3-1 set. This means there are 3 woods: driver, 3-wood, and 5-wood. The eight irons in this configuration are typically the 3-iron through pitching wedge, and the last club being the putter. This leaves room for two additional clubs, usually the sand wedge and one other club of the player’s choice.
The golf club set is designed to enable the golfer to reach the greens in regulation (one shot on the par 3′s, 2 on the 4′s, and 3 on the 5′s), with no gaps in distance. If there are distance gaps that don’t allow the player to reach in regulation, scores go up. Yardage gaps are very common in players with slow swing speeds, especially seniors and women.
There have been many technological advances in recent years that should lead to overall handicaps going down. Some golfing purists worry that these technological advances are hurting or will hurt the game. But these people have not addressed the fact that the technical advances have not lowered the average handicap in over 30 years. The advances have been mostly in the area of distance. Everyone wants more distance. I have never had a customer tell me “I want less distance so I can hit more greens.” Club and shaft designers realize this and concentrate research on distance gains. But with all these technological advances, the question remains why aren?t the overall scores going down? Let’s look at a couple of reasons.
As stated earlier the current iron set configuration is eight irons, 3-iron to pitching wedge. The golfing public wants clubs that will hit the ball farther. In order to accommodate this demand, the club manufacturers have used two strategies. Producing clubs that have stronger lofts, and longer clubs. Lengths of clubs have increased over time. Comparing the lengths of clubs from the 60s and 70s with current lengths, you see that the lengths are 1 inch longer now. The lofts have also gotten stronger. Both these facts make the long irons harder to hit. The following chart illustrates this.
As you can see, the 3-iron of today is the same loft as the 2-iron of the 60s only half an inch longer. Clubs of today have the equivalent loft and are about .5″ longer than clubs of the 60s. The quest for distance has created yardage gaps in most players’ sets. The stronger, longer clubs have created gaps with the shorter scoring clubs, and made it very difficult to hit the long irons consistently. Additionally, studies show that the average golfer can’t hit an iron with a loft lower than 24 degrees with any consistency.
The gaps created by stronger and longer clubs, and the difficulty in hitting the long irons makes the traditional set make-up of 3-PW less effective. It also has the golfer paying for clubs that won’t be used.
I don’t recommend any average player carry an iron longer than the 4-iron. Also, the average player should be carrying at least one additional wedge. Hybrids and/or additional fairway woods should fill out the set. Putters that are properly fit and balanced should be considered because most strokes (almost half) are taken with the putter.
Knowing the distances you hit each of your clubs, determining where you have gaps, and then filling those gaps with clubs you can hit consistently will save you strokes.
Steve Passarell is the owner of Custom Club Creations, a golf club fitting and building facility. He has over 15 years of experience and has had extensive training with some of the industry’s best experts. His philosophy on custom clubs is to offer the best quality products at prices that all golfers can afford.