Any time a new set of irons is released, particularly a set making claims about distance, the topic of iron lofts come up. Why is this such a hot button issue? Is it worth getting upset about? I’ll present the facts and my evolving opinions, and I hope you’ll share yours, too.
Change Over Time
How much have the lofts of irons changed over time? A lot.
Tiger Woods serves as the standard for traditional iron lofts. His PW is 50 degrees, his 7I is 36, and his 3I is 22.5.
If we look at the most traditionally-lofted modern sets (blades), we see a slight change from this. The average 3I is 20 or 21 degrees. 7 irons are 34 or 35 degrees, and pitching wedges can be found as weak as 47 degrees.
In short, today’s irons are as much as two full clubs stronger than those of previous generations.
Why Has This Happened?
There are at least two different explanations for why lofts have gotten so strong.
The first comes from the OEMs. They will tell you that because the center of gravity (CoG) is so low in modern clubs, they need to make the lofts strong to create playable trajectories.
This explanation has never held water for me. Every set, regardless of design, has a club around 30 degrees with a particular CoG, and they could stamp any number on that club.
Does It Matter?
There is a vocal group of golfers who believe that stronger lofts are a crime against the game. But why? Who is being harmed? I’ve seen a couple answers put forward.
1) The consumer. Golfers are being fooled into thinking that their new irons are magically longer than their old ones or that one set is longer than another.
2) Egos. Specifically, the egos of better, stronger players. If I drive it 40 yards past you, we should not be hitting the same club into a par 3. At least that’s how the thinking goes. When the strong, single-digit player and the 30 handicap are both hitting a 6I, that’s just not right.
Resetting the Discussion
If we were to start this discussion over again, I think we would begin with the question, “What should an iron set do?” My answer would be, “An iron set should be a group of clubs that you can use to hit the ball onto the green from a variety of distances.”