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Opinion & Analysis

The Most Overlooked Parameter in Iron Fitting

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In the chart below, you can see the average results for an iron fitting I did with one of my members at Biltmore Forest CC recently. Based on these three data points presented, which iron would you choose? Most golfers go with club No. 2. The club head speed is faster, the carry is the longest, and the dispersion is the second best. It’s a no-brainer, right? If you think this is a trick, you’re on the right track, and I’ll get back to that later.

Iron_Fitting_Parameter_1

Club fitting has become a very important of golf. Most golfers today are fitted in some way before they purchase clubs, but that hasn’t always been the case. Before club fitters could accurately measure ball flight and club delivery with launch monitors, they relied on static fittings that accounted for length, loft, and lie adjustments at setup. With the introduction of a lie board, they were then able to tell how the club was positioned through the impact zone. As a result, fittings became more based on impact and ball flight results. Fast forward to the availability of launch monitors like TrackMan, and fitters can see exactly what the golf ball is doing and how the golf club communicates a message to the golf ball. All of these advancements have made the fitting process more transparent, as well as enhanced a fitter’s ability to fine tune the clubs of each and every golfer. The bad news is that they’ve also made a lot of golfers completely obsessed with distance.

When it comes to club fitting, the conversation often revolves around the driver. Driver fittings are fun for both the player and the teacher, because who doesn’t want to see longer, straighter drives? While I completely concede that driver fittings and distance are very important pieces to golf improvement, I also think their focus can dilute the fitting process for the 13 other clubs golfers use. With a driver, fitters are almost always trying to help golfers achieve a higher launch angle while reducing spin. It’s a formula that’s great for longer drives, but not always better iron shots. Too often, I see golfers worried most about distance when they’re trying different kinds irons at a demo day, which often leads them to choose the wrong clubs for their game.

Equipment manufacturers have played a role in the distance craze, of course, promoting the additional distance their clubs offer compared to the previous model or a competitor’s product… and they have a lot to brag about. Advancements in engineering have allowed golf equipment manufacturers to move weight lower in their iron heads, which helps golfers launch the ball higher. They’ve made their iron faces thinner and more flexible, which also makes shots go higher, and increased the amount of shaft options available, particularly their lightweight shaft options, to give the vast majority of golfers a chance to find a stock shaft that works for their swing.

As a result of these changes, today’s irons have lower different lofts than those produced not even 20 years ago, as well as slightly longer shaft lengths to help golfers take advantage of the latest technologies. Below are the published lofts and lengths from two leading iron manufacturers (I’ve labeled them Company A and Company B) for the same type of iron sets: one released in 2000, one released in 2017. As you can see, there’s been an incredible transformation in 17 years. It’s great for some golfers, but not for others, and I’ll explain why.

Company A

Company_A_iron_Specs

Company B

Company_B_Specs

As you can see, the leading equipment manufacturers have reduced loft by 2-6 degrees with each iron, and they’ve added as much as 0.625 inches to the length of each iron as well. This will no doubt help golfers hit longer shots, but it can also have a negative effect on the control some golfers have over the golf ball when it lands on the green.

Control over the golf ball when it lands on the green is known as “stopping power,” and it’s is affected most by land angle (the angle at which the golf ball hits the ground). Land angle is highly correlated with how much the ball will bounce and roll once it has hit the ground, as each degree of reduced land angle is responsible for about 3 yards more of bounce and roll.

So what is a good land angle? For irons, I like to think about it this way. Anything coming into the ground at an angle more than 45 degrees is going more down than out when it lands; anything coming into the ground at an angle less than 45 degrees is traveling more out than down when it lands. That’s why the rule of thumb is that iron shots should have a land angle of at least 45 degrees.

There’s a caveat with this rule of thumb, however, and it’s that many golfers don’t have the swing speed to achieve a 45-degree land angle with all their irons. They need to be able to swing a 6 iron at about 85 mph to make it happen, and in the example below, the golfer I was fitting did not have that ability.

Fitting Example

Here is the same example from above — a golfer I fit hitting five different 6 irons — that now includes peak height and landing angle.

Iron_Fitting_Parameter_2

With the most important data added, there’s no question that this golfer needs to use iron No. 5. It flew almost as far and as straight as No. 2, but shots with No. 5 had a landing angle that was almost 3-degree higher, which means that shots will stop 6 yards sooner when they hit the green. That’s a big deal when hitting a shot to a protected front pin. Remember, the goal with irons is to hit shots as close to the pin as possible. Yes, within reason we want to hit the ball as high and as far as possible, but not at the expense of stopping power.

Just because a set of irons has strong lofts doesn’t mean it will be bad for you. Some golfers need a 49-degree pitching wedge to perform their best, while others can perform their best with a 42-degree pitching wedge. The only way for you to know for sure what you need is to have an iron fitting that includes a focus on land angle. If it’s optimized, you will be a much happier golfer when you get out on the course with your new set.

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PGA Member and Golf Professional at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, NC. Former PGA Tour and Regional Representative for TrackMan Golf. Graduate of Campbell University's PGM Program with 12 years of experience in the golf industry. My passion for knowledge and application of instruction in golf is what drives me everyday.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Speedy

    Jul 3, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Shaft lengthening has done the most harm. Rather than pay for expensive custom ordering/fitting, make sure you choke down on each shot. Instill this in practice sessions.

  2. Lloyd Jackson

    Jul 3, 2017 at 1:25 am

    Company A 2000 model: Those specs would have been rather unusual even then. More likely the specs of a blade from the 1980s.

    As my very good friend, Jay Turner of RedBird/Avian Golf would say: With irons, it’s not HOW FAR, it’s HOW CLOSE.

    The number on the sole has little meaning and the deceptive loft jacking and shaft lengthening began with Callaway’s S2H2 irons.

    • Hunter Brown

      Jul 5, 2017 at 7:31 am

      Hey Lloyd thanks for your response and interest. One set was a game improvement iron and the other was a more typical cavity back mid to low hdcp option

  3. Dill Pickelson

    Jul 2, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    hi, can i ask why you extend your clubs? i’m tall too and used to have 1″ longer but every club is a different length anyway! i went back to ‘standard’ length and no issues. so, why bother changing shaft length?

    • TONEY P

      Jul 3, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      What did you do for the swing weight of each club extended. They had to feel heavier?

    • TONEY P

      Jul 3, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      Most golfers don’t have a clue what they’re doing or really need when buying clubs. If you can’t PUNCH your iron 3/4 it’s distance straight then the iron lie needs to be adjusted.. Good golfers know what to do so the other 97 % need to ask them .

  4. Joshua Chervokas

    Jul 2, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    This is never overlooked by actual fitters. The problem is that what they do at big box stores is not a fitting regardless of what they call it. Go to any Golf Digest top 100 fitter like myself and an iron fitting will focus highly on landing angle and we will weaken and strengthen lofts all the time.

  5. QV

    Jul 2, 2017 at 10:44 am

    You must be very lonely.

  6. Jeff

    Jul 1, 2017 at 10:36 am

    I certainly agree with the article. Too much hubris in the world today to go back to higher lofts in irons. If your buddy hits a 7 iron and you need to hit a 6, well that’s just emasculating now isn’t it? I originally thought though the article was going to be about lie angles being too upright and not enough emphasis placed on that since you included the left stat. I see so many people I play with that have that issue and then wonder why they pull their shots so often.

  7. CTGolfer

    Jul 1, 2017 at 6:08 am

    Why is Peak Height and Land angle not part of the “optimizer” in Trackman. What in the Optimizer correlates with peak height and land angle?

    • Me

      Jul 1, 2017 at 6:55 am

      When I do my club fitting clients, my trackman 4 has Height and landing angle in my front (top) page of my tiles used.
      Recently I fitted one of the younger assistant pros at an exclusive club
      When comparing recently the Titliest AP2 vs the Taylormade 770, both quality clubs. Both share the same lofts 33deg. It was clear visually even without the trackman the 770 went higher.
      with the track man the 770 peaked higher by 12 feet, went more than 10 yards further (177) a much steeper landing angle. But here is where it got interesting, the 770 consistently was 4700-5500 spin. The ap2 was 6000-7500 spin. Both clubs had the KBS tour FLT 120 g shaft.

      There was no question what the right club was based on peak, spin….the added distance was just a bonus.

    • Hunter Brown

      Jul 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Launch, Spin, and height are all included in the Optimizer. This determines land angle so although it is not expressly in the optimizer it will be a result of what is in the optimizer. You can also look at the ‘side/top’ view to see the trajectory window and optimized shot should travel vs what the trajectory it actually took

  8. Adam

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Gofwrx’ers I agree, BUT we should thankful for all the marketing. 98% of golfers are awful, but love to play and love to hit all their clubs as far as possible. More marketing= more bad golfers spending more on gear and more money at the course, which keeps more golf courses open, more staff employed and better conditions for me. We need more people attracted to the game these days more than ever.

    Now I have played the same specs as my original titleist 680’s my entire golf career and have known my exact lofts and lie’s and think its more fun hitting high cut 2,3 irons than jacked 4,5 irons any day. So I think it’s funny…

  9. Thus

    Jun 30, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    The ball can have a huge affect on Landing angle and peak hieght some times more then the iron, dispersion is what I fit for the most, more front to back, then side to side, then height and spin..
    One of the biggest myths is flex, difference between flexes is minimal.

  10. Myron miller

    Jun 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    But almost, if not maybe more important is backspin on the iron. wHen I got fitted for my current iroons, The choice was between two different styles. Both had land angles less than 45 degrees, but the second one had over 3000 rpm more backspin even though its land angle was almost 4 degrees less. I just flat out spun that club way more. And having more backspin sometimes if more important in stopping the ball on the green than the landing angle.

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen players use a club and chip it about 40 yards onto the green with a land angle of less than 25 degrees but with a ton of backspin and the ball literally bounces once and backs up 2-5 feet. One can play that particular pitch two ways, with a very low landing angle but a ton of spin or a very high land angle and minimal spin. If there is a bunch of wind, then the lower angle is definitely the better shot. Same applies to longer approach shots. With windy conditions, higher land angles will hurt you more times than not.

    Land angle certain is important, but spin is easily as important and sometimes even more.

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      This situation you describe is hard to fathom. 3000 more rpm of spin and 4 degrees less of land angle is almost impossible to happen on a full shot land angle is directly effected by spin. More spin higher=higher land angle

    • TR1PTIK

      Jul 3, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Gotta agree with Hunter on this on too. Also, the situations you describe are caused by the actions of the player, not the performance of the club. You can take pretty much any iron or wedge and the two shots you described. To see that much variation in spin on full shots is unlikely unless you’re looking at SGI vs. Player’s clubs.

  11. Well now...

    Jun 30, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Kind of the argument the latest try of Hogan irons when loft comes into the argument. The number on the club is all relative and a point of reference in the end – you can call a club with a loft of 25* anything you want, in the end it’s still 25*.

  12. Iutodd

    Jun 30, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Good article.

    I’m hoping to get fit next year for irons – this article is getting saved for the experience. Never thought about landing angle before.

    • Iutodd

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Oh and I’m gaming MX-17s so my lofts are a lot closer to the “2000” lofts. I’m not sure how I’m gonna get a similar style – which is more “game improvement” but get lofts that work for me. The Z545s look similar to my clubs but the lofts are pretty different. I guess I’ll have to see if I’m good enough for the 745s which are much closer to my current lofts.

  13. TR1PTIK

    Jun 30, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I had a pretty good idea this article would lead to peak height and landing angle. Following closely behind those two metrics IMO would be spin; dispersion next, and then carry distance when trying to fit a set of irons or wedges. For anyone who has yet to see them, these Trackman averages from 2014 should give some good insight about what the irons should be doing… https://blog.trackmangolf.com/trackman-average-tour-stats/

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Good stuff here and you are exactly right. I will say that unfortunately not everyone can achieve “Tour Averages” because of the lack of speed. It is definitely better for most to look at the LPGA Average stats but understand that averages are exactly that and suitable for everyone

      • TR1PTIK

        Jun 30, 2017 at 1:27 pm

        I agree. In terms of landing angle though, either data set will apply.

  14. SoonerSlim

    Jun 30, 2017 at 10:05 am

    One thing I don’t understand whenever WRX presents these examples is they always use a golfer with much, much more swing speed than the average golfer. How many average golfers have a 6-iron swing speed of 80 mph?? In the mid to high 60s is more accurate!

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:32 am

      this particular gentleman was pretty average. He is in his mid 50s and about a 12 hdcp. His swing speed is maybe a little on the high end for his demographic but not by much

    • Grizz01

      Jun 30, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      I’m 54 and I still play my 1994 Lynx Parrallax irons. I don’t have a clue what my swing speed is but I still hit my 6 iron (normal conditions) 180-185yds. I don’t know what loft it is … but I do know that the PW is 50 degrees straight out of the box.

  15. xjohnx

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:59 am

    I really wish the masses would start incorporating more logic such as this to golf marketing. It’s unfortunate that there is only one rule that trumps all else. Seemingly by no coincidence it was most famously said to me once by a regional TM rep, “distance sells golf clubs”.

    I can’t imagine anyone with any common sense arguing the message behind this article. The ability to hit your shots closer to the hole is always going to potentially lower your scored more than a few extra yards. I almost feel bad for people who get so caught up in hitting their irons longer. Whether you have 7 irons and 3 wedges, or 6 irons and 4 wedges that all go the same distances, does it matter what number is stamped on the sole?

  16. Chris B

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:14 am

    I would still go for iron 2, make them 1 degree weak if need be based on this. There is more to choosing the right set of irons than this data.

    It is a shame that what Hogan did dint take off, putting the loft on the club rather than a number. I was looking at a thread the other day on 3 irons, one person commented on how they had made their 4 iron 1 degree strong – to 18 degrees!

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Chris – you bring up some good points however EQM’s don’t just lower the loft and call it a day they know the irons would not perform if that was the case. Sometimes they account for the lower loft by lowering the cg, lighter shafts, etc. to launch the ball higher. Just because the loft of one club to the next may be different doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing. I am glad you are thinking the right way though!

  17. Daryl

    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Out of curiosity, would the 45 degree rule hold for the longer irons?

    • TR1PTIK

      Jun 30, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Yes. Follow the link in my other comment to view Trackman data. It is older, but plenty relevant for holding greens.

    • Hunter Brown

      Jun 30, 2017 at 11:37 am

      Daryl – good question. If possible yes this would hold true but most people do not have the swing speed in order to accomplish this. Also course conditions and where someone plays needs to be considered.

  18. Jack Nash

    Jun 30, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Marketing indeed has taken over with the help of Media. GC is always touting how far X Golfer hits his driver. There’s part of the problem.

    • Scott

      Jun 30, 2017 at 9:01 am

      I agree Jack. No one should be able to hit 180 yard Wedges and 9 irons. A little truth in advertising would be nice. A 42 degree Pitching Wedge? That is between my 8 and 9 iron.

      • Lee Shaw

        Jun 30, 2017 at 10:43 am

        42 deg was my 8 iron in 1974, I hit it pretty good too, but saying that my 9 is now 40 deg and I’m not to shabby with that either.

      • Grizz01

        Jun 30, 2017 at 12:50 pm

        I still play with my 1993 Lynx Parrallax irons. I know the PW is 50 degrees. And I remember back then I thought wow! Technology has come along way. My previous clubs from the late 70’s were Wilson 1200’s. And I was suddenly using 1 -2 clubs less with the Lynx.

        Turns out not much technology as much as just renaming an old 5 iron a 6 or 7 iron.

        • Jeremy Thompson

          Jul 1, 2017 at 4:17 am

          which opens up a market for gap wedges…….when the separation between PW and SW becomes exaggerated.

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Opinion & Analysis

How important is playing time in college if a player wants to turn pro?

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One of the great debates among junior golfers, parents and swing coaches is what is the most crucial factor in making the college decision. My experience tells me that many students would answer this question with a variation of coaching, facilities and of course academics (especially if their parents are present).

I would agree that all three are important, but I wanted to explore the data behind what I think is an often overlooked but critical part of the process; playing time. For this article, I examined players under 25 who made the PGA tour and played college golf to see what percent of events they participated in during their college career. In total I identified 27 players and through a combination of the internet, as well as conversations with their college coaches, here are the numbers which represent my best guess of their playing time in college:

Player Percent of Events

  • Justin Thomas 100%
  • Rickie Folwer 100%
  • Xander Schauffele 100%
  • Bryson DeChambeau 100%
  • Jon Rahm 100%
  • Patrick Reed 91%
  • Jordan Speith 100%
  • Beau Hossler 100%
  • Billy Horschel 100%
  • Aaron Wise 100%
  • Daniel Berger 100%
  • Thomas Pieters 95%
  • Ryan Moore 100%
  • Kevin Tway 98%
  • Scott Langley 95%
  • Russell Hendley 100%
  • Kevin Chappell 96%
  • Harris English 96%
  • JB Holmes 100%
  • Abraham Ancer 97%
  • Kramer Hicock 65%
  • Adam Svensson 100%
  • Sam Burns 100%
  • Cameron Champ 71%
  • Wydham Clark 71%
  • Hank Lebioda 100%
  • Sebastian Munoz 66%

Average: 94%

Please note that further research into the numbers demonstrate that players like Pieters, Munoz, Clark, Reed, Hicock, Langely, Reed and Champ all played virtually all events for their last two years.

This data clearly demonstrates that players likely to make a quick transition (less than 3 years) from college to the PGA tour are likely to play basically all the events in college. Not only are these players getting starts in college, but they are also learning how to win; the list includes 7 individual NCAA champions (Adam Svensson, Aaron Wise, Ryan Moore and Thomas Pieters, Scott Langley, Kevin Chappell, and Bryson DeChambeau), as well 5 NCAA team champion members (Justin Thomas, Jordan Speith, Beau Hossler, Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer and Wydham Clack) and 2 US Amateur Champs (Bryson DeChambeau and Ryan Moore).

As you dig further into the data, you will see something unique; while there are several elite junior golfers on the list, like Speith and Thomas who played in PGA tour events as teenagers, the list also has several players who were not necessarily highly recruited. For example, Abraham Ancer played a year of junior college before spending three years at the University of Oklahoma. Likewise, Aaron Wise, Kramer Hickok and JB Holmes may have been extremely talented and skillful, but they were not necessarily top prospects coming out of high school.

Does this mean that playing time must be a consideration? No, there are for sure players who have matriculated to the PGA Tour who have either not played much in college. However, it is likely that they will make the PGA tour closer to 30 years of age. Although the difference between making the tour at 25 and 30 is only 5 years, I must speculate that the margin for failure grows exponentially as players age, making the difference mathematically extremely significant.

For junior golfers looking at the college decision, I hope this data will help them understand the key role of playing time will have in their development if they want to chase their dream of playing on the PGA Tour. As always, I invite comments about your own experience and the data in this article!

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member pdaero, who takes us to Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas. The course is situated just ten minutes from downtown San Antonio, and pdaero gives us some excellent insight into what you can expect should you make the trip here.

“My favorite golf course to play, it is always in really good shape. These pictures are from wintertime, which the greenness is still impressive. The course has a ton of fun holes and unique designs, and only houses visible on 4 tee and between 14 green and 15 tee.

The course rating is strong, with a 74.2 rating on a par 71 (7007 yards from the tips), and even from the second tee you get 1.3 strokes.”

According to Republic Golf Club’s website, the rate for 18 holes during the week ranges from $29 to $49, while the weekend rate ranges from $35 to $69.

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Opinion & Analysis

An interview with State Apparel’s founder Jason Yip

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For the past five years, Jason Yip has been building an apparel company that redefines the purpose of golf wear. With a strong background in innovation from his days in Silicone Valley, Yip wanted to reinvent golf apparel to be a functional tool for the golfer.

The other day, I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Jason Yip about State Apparel and a little about himself. It is not every day that you get to speak with someone who can exude passion through the phone. On this day, though, I could hear the passion Jason has for golf, California, and for State Apparel.

Yip said State Apparel has two major foundations

  1. Functional innovation
  2. Social responsibility

Jason loved talking about watching Tiger Woods. However, he watched for something I believe few ever have. How was Tiger wiping the dew and the grass off his clubs, hands, and ball? The answer that Jason observed was that Tiger and others are utilizing their clothing as wiping surfaces. The core of State Apparel is the functionally located wiping elements on your article of clothing. The staple of the brand is their Competition Pants which have wiping elements located on the cuffs, side pockets, and rear pockets.

State Apparel recognizes the need to be socially responsible as a company. This seems to be from Jason’s earlier days of playing golf behind a truck stop in Central Valley, California.

How is the State Apparel socially responsible? Yip identified three ways.

  • Production is done in San Francisco.
  • Most of their apparel utilizes sustainable fabric.
  • Proud supporter of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance.

Jason’s desire is to provide not only apparel that is golf specific but also the experience that we have on the golf course. A little over a year ago the State Apparel Store and Urban Clubhouse opened on Filmore Street in San Francisco, California.

“I wanted to provide the golfing experience closer to the home of many golfers in the area,” Yip told me.

Among the State Apparel clothing at the store, there is an indoor hitting by with launch monitor. And they have even hosted speaking events with local professionals and architects at the clubhouse.

At the end of our conversation I asked Jason, what would he say to someone who knows nothing about State Apparel, especially those of us not in California?

His answer

“State Apparel is a unique authentic brand that is designed specifically for golfers by a golfer. Look at the product because it is something you have never seen and absolutely communicate on what you see or what you have questions about.”

 

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