Over the past three decades or so, modern golf club technology has changed the way we play the game. Drivers are bigger, more forgiving, and launch the ball prodigious distances. Metal woods are hotter and easier to hit than ever. Irons are getting stronger and more forgiving of mis-hits. And these things called ‘hybrids’ are so easy to hit they are scary.
But all this technology has done absolutely nothing for your short range performance. And your failure to significantly lower your handicap in the face of all this technology is proof.
Here are five ways that modern technology has prevented you from getting better inside 125-150 yards from the flag:
- Strengthening of lofts in irons has taken away scoring clubs. The lofts of your short irons – 9-iron and PW – have been strengthened by as much as 8-9 degrees from what was played 40 years ago. So, where Hogan, Nelson and Snead had 6-7 clubs for all the shots inside 150 yards, the modern golfer only has 3-4 of them, maybe less. So, wouldn’t you have to be twice the ball striker Hogan was to make that work?
- Thin face iron designs don’t deliver pinpoint distance control. In days past, golfers lived to get a “round club” in their hands. That 8-, 9 and PW looked different because they were different. We could get pinpoint distance control with them, and they really weren’t that hard to hit. But as irons evolved to thin-face, cavity back designs, we lost the reliable distance control of the old blades. Every golf company knows it, but they don’t want you to – thicker faces on higher-loft clubs deliver better trajectories, improved distance consistency and much more solid feel. A 9-iron that looks like a 6-iron is easy to sell, but it just isn’t good science.
- “Wedges” haven’t changed to keep up. The reality is that the 2012 wedge rack is filled with clubs that look just like they did 30-40 years ago. What other category could get away with that? When the “modern” sand wedge was designed over 50 years ago, it had all the weight low so that it could have a full sole design. It was also never used for full swing shots. That has changed, but the design hasn’t. You hit your wedges too high, and they are made to aggravate that. You can do better.
- Wedge shafts haven’t changed much in 30 years. Back then, almost all irons had a heavy and stiff steel shaft, and wedges did, too. But today, more and more golfers are playing regular shafts in their irons . . . or lightweight steel . . . or graphite. To have that same old heavy, stiff steel shaft in your money clubs will not optimize your feel and gives you a huge ‘disconnect’ right in the middle of prime scoring range.
- Your set make-up should be different these days. Technology has made the longer clubs easier to hit and go further than ever. It’s done the same with your short clubs. But why do you need 4-5 clubs that go further than your 5-iron? You don’t score “out there” – you score inside 9-iron range. Thirty or forty feet long or short with a 5-iron or more in your hands is a great shot, but it stinks to be that far away from 100 yards. You won’t get short range precision if you have 20+ yard gaps between your full swing scoring clubs. What makes sense is to allow 20-yard gaps between your longer clubs and do what’s necessary to get 12-14 yard gaps at the short end . . . or smaller. If that means rethinking your entire set make-up, then do it.
The wonderful thing about our sets of golf clubs is we can put them together any way we want. And I suggest you start with a club of 58-61 degrees and work backward from there, building reliable distance gaps that get increasingly wider as you go away from the flag. You’ve got nothing to lose but some strokes off your handicap.