Off the Rack Is Dead
To paraphrase Chris Rock, “When I see someone buy an iron set off the rack, I look at them like a damn BetaMax, like, ‘Do they still make you?'”
Jokes aside, it’s 2015. Custom fit, custom built irons have been available to consumers for years. It does NOT cost more (it might cost less!) and it is NOT only for the pros. Buying irons off the rack is not good for your game or your wallet, so stop doing it.
The First Step
The first question you need to answer is, “What do I want these irons to do?” There are dozens of different models on the shelf, and if you wade in without a clear idea of what you want, you will drown in choices. Do you want to hit your 7I farther than everyone else? Do you want complete control over your golf ball? Maximum forgiveness? Whatever the goal is, have it clearly defined in your mind before you start your search.
Back to the Fitter
Hopefully by this point you’ve found a fitter that you like and trust, and you can use them for your iron fitting as well. Tell the fitter what the goal is for your new irons, where your old irons fall short, and then let the conversation flow from there. Depending on how specific you are with your request, the fitter may be able to immediately recommend two or three sets for you to try. If you’re request isn’t 100% dialed in, your fitter should ask some questions that will help him make his recommendations. Here are a couple examples of how that conversation might go.
Golfer: I want as much forgiveness and distance as I can get. I don’t care what the irons look like, feel like, or who makes them.
Fitter: Perfect. Here are the three most forgiving irons we have. Let’s test them out.
Request That Requires Conversation
Golfer: I want irons that look traditional, feel good, offer good ball control, but still have some forgiveness.
Fitter: Ok. Can you prioritize those items?
Golfer: Looks and feel are #1. I am willing to give up some ball control to get forgiveness.
Fitter: What are the elements of the look that you can’t live with? Do you need thin top lines and soles? What about offset?
Golfer: I tend to hit pulls and hooks, so offset needs to be minimal, but I can live with slightly thicker top lines and soles.
Fitter: Ok, I think I have a couple irons we can try as a starting point.
Head vs. Shaft…Again
Just as with the driver, you may have to decide whether you want to fit the head or shaft first. The nice thing about irons is that there are far fewer choices for iron shafts compared to driver shafts. Once you know the weight class that you prefer (light, mid-weight, or heavy), you will probably only have two to four choices.
With irons, I strongly recommend fitting the shaft – or at least finding your preferred weight class – before testing different heads. There is a huge variation in stock shaft weights and if you’re not taking that into account your testing will be virtually meaningless.
3-PW is Dead. So is 4-GW
You’ve probably noticed that over the last few years, more and more iron sets are sold 4-GW instead of 3-PW. This is not a meaningful change. The OEMs have just changed the stamping on the 3 iron to a 4, but that’s a topic for another day.
The reason that the 8-piece iron set is dead is that most golfers do not benefit from having long irons in their bag. The reason? The long irons do not have enough loft to be hit straight, hit on playable trajectories, or hit to distinct distances by most golfers. Carrying irons that you don’t use or irons that do the same job violates our Golden Rule.
Buy Only What You Need
Part of custom ordering an iron set is buying only the irons that you want and need. In my case, that would be 5-PW because longer irons don’t work for me. For you, it might be 4-PW, 6-GW, 4-9, or 5-SW.
You are probably asking, “How do I know which irons I need?” In a perfect world, you’d be able to hit each different iron with your fitted shaft before buying it to find out whether or not it works for you. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a fitter on Earth that can accommodate that.
What you should do is look at your current set and also use the fitter’s recommendation. Are you currently carrying a 4 iron that’s never met the dirt? Then you probably don’t need to buy a new one. If your fitter sees that you’re launching all your irons very low, he will know that you should replace your long irons with hybrids. Alternately, if you have a bunch of club head speed and appropriate launch conditions, he may encourage you to order a 2 iron.
Ordering only the irons you need will keep you from wasting money on clubs you don’t need and wasting spots in your bag that could go to useful clubs!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson. As always, please feel free to post any questions below.
Building Your Best Bag
Part 5: The Irons
Part 6: The Wedges
Part 7: The Long Game
Part 8: Specialty Clubs
Part 9: Maintenance