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Evolution of Iron Lofts
I have been working on a presentation for the North Texas Section of the PGA, the subject being the evolution of iron lofts and its effect on our set make-up. The end result? This idiotic process of jacking up the lofts of our irons is removing scoring clubs from our bags. I know, this might sound like a "commercial" for SCOR4161, but hear me out, because it can help all of you put a better "tool kit" together.

Let's say the "modern era" of irons started in the late 1930s when we began to evolve from names like "mashie", "niblick",etc., and the numbered matched set of irons emerged. From then up until the early 1970s, a "set" of irons generally contained a 2 through 9, plus a "pitching wedge". The 2-iron was typically 20 degrees of loft, and there was a consistent four-degree difference down to the pitching wedge of 52 degrees.

By the 1980s, cavity back designs had hit the scene, and to combat the ballooning trajectories common to the shorter clubs, manufacturers began to play with this spectrum a bit, squeezing the differentials at the long end of the set to 3 degrees, moving the pitching wedge to 50 degrees.

By the late 1990s, this "evolution" had extended the 3-degree differentials out to the five iron, and taken the pitching wedge down to 48 degrees. So, the pitching wedge had been strengthened by four degrees, but the 2-iron had only gone down by one. I should add that the average length of clubs had been lengthened by an inch or more during this same period for all the clubs.

Now, let's look at where things continue to be headed. The two hottest selling irons of 2013 are duking it out as to who has the longest-hitting 6- or 7-iron. That's what you hit in the demo day, so that's where they are competing. To give you that, these two companies (and all their followers) have skewed the lofts to ridiculous points. The "p-club is now 44-45 degrees ... and they have five degree gaps down to the 8-iron ... where they begin to diminish to only 3 degrees between clubs by the time you get to the five or six, and the four iron is now what a historic 2-iron was – 20 degrees.

In the world of golf club design, there is a thing called the 24/38 rule. It refers to the known fact that most golfers cannot be consistent with an iron-type club that is less than 24 degrees of loft and/or over 38 inches long. In the old days, that was the 3-iron, and only the very best golfers could handle 2-irons and 1-irons. Now, that 24/38 benchmark falls between the 5- and 6-iron. So, in effect, what "technology" has done is give you a 6- and 7-iron you hit further than ever, stripped scoring clubs from your bag, and made your 4- and 5-iron much harder to master.

Where golfers up to the 1980s would have five or even six clubs in their bags with lofts over 40 degrees, the modern golfer only has one or two in his or her iron set, and has to fill in the rest with other clubs ... those things we call "wedges". The problem is that those clubs fall into two categories – either set-match models that were designed to look like the 6-iron, or off-the-rack clubs that really haven't changed in design since they were used only for bunker shots and short pitches around the greens. But with the harder, full swings we put on these clubs today, both options deliver ballooning trajectories and inconsistent distances. And all golfers have bigger gaps in prime scoring range than what Hogan, Nelson, Snead, and their peers had.

It cost Phil Mickelson the U.S. Open. What's it costing you every week?
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

Click here to learn more about Terry.
 
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