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Hybrids or Long Irons? A Teacher’s Perspective

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In golf instruction, there’s no more important position than impact. It’s called “the moment of truth” for a reason. If you have a good impact position, you’ll hit good shots. It’s as simple as that. When we’re talking about impact, most of our discussions will revolve around three things: angle of attack, club path, and face angle. They’re all very important, and with proper instruction they can be manipulated rather quickly.

One thing that’s very hard to change, however, is club head speed, and it’s the most important factor for golfers to consider when they’re choosing between a long iron and a hybrid.

When hitting a shot from the turf, golfers need to be able to first and foremost get the ball airborne. And when it comes to hitting effective long-iron shots, that takes ample club head speed. Most golfers fall short in that department, which is why hybrids were created. By design, hybrids are easier to get in the air. They create a higher launch angle, more spin, and more ball speed — all good things for golfers who don’t have a lot of club head speed.

I teach a lot of golfers who fall in the lack-of-speed category. I find that many of them are still trying to hit their 4 iron, or even 3 iron, from the fairway. This generally leads to poor habits — for example “hanging back,” or tilting the spine away from the target to help the golf ball in the air. In fact, using the wrong clubs is one of the leading causes of “hanging back.” It has the same effect as using shafts that are too stiff.

Long irons are for high speed players, plain and simple. When I’m asked how much speed, I’ll usually offer a vague answer like, “enough.” But when I considered it more carefully, I decided to design the following guidelines for my students. They can act as a reference for selecting the clubs that should make up their sets.

Hybrid/Long-Iron Guidelines

  • If you hit a 7-iron 140 yards or less, a 6-iron should be the longest iron in your set.  The 3, 4 and 5 should be hybrids. Even the 6 iron is marginal.
  • If you can hit your 7-iron 150-160 yards, think about nothing longer than a 5 iron; 3 and 4 should be hybrids.
  • If you can hit your 7-iron 160-170 yards, nothing longer than 4 iron; 3 should be hybrid.
  • If you can hit a 7-iron more than 170 yards, you can use any set make up you choose.

Speed is vital to lift, and the design of the hybrid can be a huge help. There are, of course, other swing issues involved in hitting the golf ball too low, but this chart is a start for what clubs should be in your bag.

Not sure if your clubs or your swing is the problem? For a video analysis of your swing, visit my website.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Crazy About Golf

    Dec 14, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Single digit handicaps can certainly game either long irons or hybrids….it’s a matter of personal preference. I sometimes substitute my 16-degree hybrid for my 15 degree fairway wood, depending on the day. Hybrids generally offer better distance, loft and foregiveness compared to long irons. However, the difference is more notable for persons with higher handicaps or slower swing speeds.

  2. Geoff

    Nov 26, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Man, what a dumb article.

    The number on the bottom of the irons is such an arbitrary number. My 7i is 34* and I hit it 155-160 yards. Most 7is now are closer to 30*. Which loft are you referencing, Dennis? By your logic, I shouldn’t be carrying a 4i, but here’s another flaw, what loft of a 4i should I not be carrying? The 24* lofted 4i in my bag, or the 20* standard 4i available in most sets. Come on man. Maybe you should spend a little more time thinking about the content of your articles and whether your thoughts are ideas are backed up with numbers.

    • That guy

      Dec 23, 2017 at 8:34 pm

      Sounds like you can hit your long irons just fine regardless. So what is your point?

  3. Matt

    Nov 21, 2017 at 1:04 am

    Hybrids are excellent. Am on the cusp between irons and hybrids – got on really well with a Titleist 585 3h in the past (par 5 tamer) and an X2hot 4h is currently in the bag next to my 5 wood. Planning to try a current model 5h soon, and if it saves me a few strokes will add a 3 and a 4.

  4. Dennis

    Nov 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Can’t hit my iron 4(19°) further than my i6 (27°) from the fairway, which is 170 yards carry max My #3 Hybrid (21°) flies higher, but not further. My i4 flies 200 yards carry from the tee – I can’t hit my driver further than that. Stuck in Bogeygolf I guess…

  5. Ross37

    Nov 16, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Will you clarify the loft of the 7 iron you mention in your guidelines. I play an older set of irons, and typically have to reach for more club than my playing partners.

  6. Woody

    Nov 15, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Any type of general guide will not fit all…but this is a really good article and guideline for most…I hit my 7 iron 180 and carry 3-PW and have never been concerned about getting the ball in the air..other people I know who hit the ball not as far I have recommended replacing their long irons with hybrids and woods just for the reasons outlined in this article.

  7. Brian

    Nov 15, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I’m 78 with a low swing speed. Lowest numbered iron in my bag is a #7 and I use a #7 wood off the fairway in lieu of long irons or hybrids. Works for me

  8. Dave R

    Nov 11, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    I’m 68 years old index is 5.3 I hated my hybrids but now since I’ve learnt to hit them properly never going back to long irons . These are so easy to hit have a 5 hybrid with a 4iron length shaft goes 185 to 195 it’s set to 19 degrees. Have another 5 hybrid set to 21 degrees and is good for max 175 yards. This set up workes good for my slower swing speed.

  9. TGK

    Nov 10, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I am 76 years old, handicap 18. I have not used a 3,4, or 5 iron in 5-6 years. My swing speed with driver is 80mph. I have become much more consistent since i have been using hybrids. Looking for a lefty 6 hybrid in Canada & can’t find one. Anyone?

  10. Dennis Clark

    Nov 10, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Author’s note: The piece is addressed to low-speed players and is from observations of my students and the feedback i get from them and on Trackman numbers. Thx

  11. Bob Jensen

    Nov 9, 2017 at 5:30 am

    Took me awhile to figure this out. I’m 60, and play to a 12. I added a 5 hybrid last year, and grudgingly a 6 this summer, but it has made a big difference.

  12. JJC51

    Nov 8, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I’m a 14 handicap and I hit my 3 iron much better than my hybrid. Can’t believe that I haven’t snapped that damned hybrid in two by now, worst club in my bag.

  13. Alan Bester

    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Very informative article, Dennis, but could you also comment on differences in staff stiffness between high speed and lower speed swings?
    Surely shaft stiffness is an important factor for swing speed and ball flight.
    Do hybrids have softer and longer shafts than long irons? I suspect they do.
    Thanks.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 10, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Sorry I was away for bit, but here goes…Yes shaft stiffness, length, loft etc all make a difference. But don’t misunderstand me here. This is an article about DESIGN, IOW the Hybrid is designed to hit the ball higher all things being equal. When the center of gravity is recessed from the hitting area the golf ball goes higher. And yes I think the iron-like length makes them easier also. For 99% of my mid-high handicaps, they are the best thing going. Thx

  14. Willie

    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    I am not sure i really agree with this. for most golfers maybe, but definitely not all.

    I hit my 7 iron 160. fairly weekly lofted Bridgestone DCP’s. I used to have a hybrid in place of my 4 iron and then a 5 wood and 3 wood. once upon a time i had a hybrid replacing my 3 iron but couldn’t hit it for the life of me.

    I did some testing, and found that I am much better off with a 3 and 4 iron. the 3 iron is a safety club off of a tee. I found that the 4 iron, even when mishit would still go fairly straight. a miss with the hybrid had the potential to go way offline. i would rather miss and be 30 yards short of expectation than dropping or taking a stroke and distance penalty. thats just me though.

    worth noting that i dont think my swing speed is high enough to get the most out of long irons, but they stay low enough that they will roll out to a decent distance

  15. ScottK

    Nov 8, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    This article is perfectly true for me but it took me 2 years to figure it out. I hit my 7 about 155 and always struggled with my 5 (already had hybrids for my 3 and 4). Finally, I checked my ego and swapped it out with a hybrid and haven’t looked back. Golf is much more fun when I’m not dreading a 175 yard shot. My father has followed the same advice and gone down to a 6 hybrid. It’s helped him tremendously.

  16. Jordan Robert Anderson

    Nov 8, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Hit my 7 iron 183. Carry 2-P

  17. Aren van Schalkwyk

    Nov 8, 2017 at 8:32 am

    This guideline is misleading to say the least. I play the 718 CB’s, which obviously have “weak” lofts compared to the AP1. I hit my 7 iron 150 carry, my 4 iron 180 and my 3 iron 190 yards carry. On top of that, I hit the 3 and 4 irons very well. As a matter of fact, they are some of my favorite irons. I do hit the AP1 7 iron 165 on the fly, which is to be expected with a loft of 30*, compared to the CB with a loft of 35*. I’m so over “knowledgeable” people pushing the hybrid narrative. Hybrids may or may not suit certain players, for example someone with a super slow swing speed and beginners may find them to be to more playable than a 3 or 4 iron. But as someone with a “slow”/”moderate” swing speed and as a low single digit handicap, I’m long past the stage where other people tells me what I should play because of how fast my swing speed is or how far I hit a particular club. The bottom line is, play what works for you, not what some other person may think will work for you.

    • Chopper

      Nov 8, 2017 at 10:41 am

      guide·line
      /???d?l?n/
      noun
      plural noun: guidelines
      a general rule, principle, or piece of advice.
      synonyms: recommendation, instruction, direction, suggestion

  18. Ward Wayne

    Nov 7, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    A better answer is “get fitted” because any guideline is too general. Manufacturers can’t even agree what is a 7 iron. The shaft also makes a difference and let’s not talk about the ball. Oh and by the way that TaylorMade 5 iron you bought is about the loft as your fathers Wilson Staff 2 iron so there goes your guide.
    Above all, play what you like because life is too short and live with the consequences! Remeber the game is about putting the ball in the hole with the least amount of strokes not distance!

  19. Dylan

    Nov 7, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    It might help to include what loft you’re talking about here. People’s carry with a traditional 36* 7 iron will vary enormously to a 28* shovel from TaylorMade.

  20. Fitted 5-times

    Nov 7, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Very helpful and practical guidance. I also find the old school advice of not playing an iron stronger than 24 degrees and longer than 38” very useful.

    What are your thoughts on using utility irons like Ping G400 Crossover in place of 5i and/or 4i before moving to hybrids or high lofted woods?

  21. The dude

    Nov 7, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Nice article….it amazes me how many players don’t take heed!!

  22. Acemandrake

    Nov 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Also…You need fewer irons & more hybrids if the distance gaps between clubs are getting smaller due to a slower swing speed.

    If you hit your 5-iron the same distance of your 6-iron then why are you carrying the 5-iron?

    Loft is my friend 🙂

  23. DrRob1963

    Nov 7, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Good article!
    I carry 3 & 4 Hybrids usually, but which 7-iron do you mean?
    My Mizuno bladed MP-68 7-iron has a 35* loft and goes a comfortable 145yds. (The most gorgeous clubs on the planet!)
    My Callaway Xhot Pro 7-iron is 0.25″ longer & has 31* loft which I can get out to 160yds.
    And there are even stronger iron sets with jacked up lofts & lengths (“super-shovels”) – TaylorMade has a 28* 7-iron!!!
    The OEM space-race for the longest iron ever has made these mid-iron comparisons almost impossible.

    • Crazy About Golf

      Dec 14, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      As a fellow Mizuno lover, I have to say that, while the MP68 is superb, the MP4 is the best looking iron ever made…..I currently game MP18s, mostly because they have a brushed finish and are less distracting than the chrome finish on the MP4/MP68. Just wanted to lob that out there to be a pain in the a$$.

  24. pb

    Nov 7, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Well… My Ping G25 7i goes 160 yrds and my Ping Eye2 7i goes 150 yrds. Modern clubs have stronger lofts. 5i is the highest iron in my bag (both sets) and then I carry a 4H, 3-wood, and 5-wood. works for me! Overall, good points made in this article. No shame in using hybrids over long irons for the average golfer.

  25. TvGuyJake

    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Generally sound advice; but some irons are more “forgiving” than others. I just switched to a more’modern’ set of Pings and picked up 10-12 yds. per club with moderate swing speed. In my case the only reason to carry a 4-iron is off the tee or punch-outs from the woods. 5-iron is not any more difficult than a 6i, unless your using blades or a forged iron set.

    • Chris

      Nov 8, 2017 at 3:39 am

      Forged irons are not more difficult to hit than cast irons. It’s just a method of manufacturing. Epon 7-series are among the easiest irons out there to hit.

  26. Bob Castelline

    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I like this article for its practicality. I know there are conversations about MOI and dynamic loft and all that, but most of us need simpler thumbrules. As one person said, it’s a gauge. It’s not completely scientific, and it’s not set in stone. One person might hit a 7-iron 160 but still carry a 4-iron. If it works, great. But for others, hybrids are a great choice. They are for me. Also, hybrids aren’t just for people who hit the big ball first. I hit hybrids with a bit of a divot, and I have great success with them. Everybody’s different as far as what they feel comfortable with. But the ideas in this article give you a nice place to start if you don’t have access to sophisticated launch monitors (or don’t care to go that deep).

  27. Bob Jones

    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    My 7-iron goes 145 yards. I can hit a 2-iron 200 yards off a tee, but forget about the fairway. The 3-iron is useless. Both of them have been replaced with equivalent hybrids. I can hit a 4-iron well, but the equivalent hybrid is so much easier. 5-iron on down, OK.

    • Stephen Finley

      Nov 7, 2017 at 11:10 pm

      Geez, Bob, I though you called these cleek, mashie, and mid-mashie. What gives?

  28. Guia

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I think the article is right on. Too many people use long irons because of ego. Hybrids are easier to hit.

  29. Dennis Clark

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    As always, this is a general GUAGE…nothing cast in stone! Another consideration might be weather: On windy days you may not want the ball in the air, and on clam days, you may? Course: elevated protected greens consider hybrids, flat unprotected greens longer irons might not hurt. Lots of considerations.. Resistance to angular acceleration is another help, on toe and heel hits, less so on angle of attack. In general, hybrids have made my senior days in golf A LOT more fun. Glad it helped may of you! Thx.

  30. Greg V

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    What’s a hybrid? I’ve gone to a 7-wood… and I like it.

    • Brian

      Nov 15, 2017 at 10:05 pm

      Me too. Usual selection in my bag are a driver, 4wood and 7 wood.

  31. Andrew

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    So say one is a 2-10 hcp and hits their 7i 165 and carries a 3h. This makes a 2h and 13-15d 3 wood seem incorrect. What’s next? 16-18d fwy wood, 3h, and 4 wedges? Where can this golfer save the most strokes?

  32. John

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    This is a great article. 20 years ago I read an article that said you shouldn’t hit a 3I unless you were single digits, never swung one again. Then I replaced my 4I as part of 2H/3H/4H (due to high risk). Right now my 5I is almost never swung (180 vs. 175 6I at significantly greater risk) which was a go-to club 10 years ago (probably losing swing speed). So I’m at 2H (195), 3H (185), 5I (180), 6I (175), 7I (165) and carry extra wedges. I save a bunch of money only buying 5I-9I when I upgrade too.

    • James

      Nov 9, 2017 at 2:35 am

      If you take the five iron out of the bag and bend the 6 iron a touch strong you’ll have great yardage gaps and a lighter bag to boot!

  33. Brewdawg

    Nov 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Useful advice, and helpful to those that don’t know their swing speeds. Probably good advice for most, but after years of hitting a 4 hybrid, I’ve ditched it, and started using my 4 iron again. I hit a 7I about 155 yds. When I caught it right, the 4H flight was a thing of beauty, but I wasn’t near as consistent with it- I may be wrong on the reason, but it seemed the longer shaft gave a greater margin of error. My misses could be REAL bad, rather than off a little. A missed 4I is much less punishing for me. But then, I’ve never been normal.

  34. Theo

    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    IMHO launch angle depends on dynamic loft at impact. If you have an iron with the same loft as the hybrid the launch angle will be identical.
    The advantages of a hybrid are: higher MOI of clubhead hence more forgiving and less loss of clubspeed when hitting turf before hitting ball.
    I would phrase it as follows: for golfers who hit ball-divot, mostly irons will do the job.
    For golfers who regularly hit the big ball before hitting the small ball: use lots of hybrids.
    Now the golfers who hit ball-divot are mostly the better golfers with higher clubhead speed, so there is a little bit of truth in your explanation.
    With due respect I disagree with the reasoning: check it with your LM like I did.
    Best Regards.

  35. JJVas

    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I’m a 2-hcp that hits a pretty weak-lofted 7i 165 yards, and at 41, I finally decided that this would be the year I would replace the 4i with a hybrid (I play D-3W-5W). Too often, these high-end qualifiers play at 7000 yards with rough and firm greens, and mean that I better have an A+ driving day if I’m going to get anywhere. Kids can rip a 7i 180y out of the rough and hold greens that I can’t get to from 200y out with a 4i. For the most part, it’s been a pretty good move, but the fact is that when it’s all on the line, I would still much rather hit a 4i on a long Par 3 or on a risky approach. Even anti-hook hybrids are still a lot easier to turn over than a 4i by accident. My final move was to leave the 4i in the car, and base my decision on the course and situation. Maybe at 50 it’ll stay home.

  36. jeff monik

    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    This is the one of the best things I’ve read….trying to hit long irons leads to bad habits.

  37. Matt-78

    Nov 7, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Dennis,

    Great article! I would think these 7 iron yardages are somewhat relative to what club you play. I play Mizunos that have traditional lofts and don’t have hot faces. A typical easy 7 iron shot is 155-160 carry. However, if I pick up a Callaway Apex 7 for example it is certainly longer. What do you think?

    • Daniel

      Nov 7, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      Great feedback. I also think there’s some nuances at play with longer irons that should be talked about here. For example, I hit my 7-iron somewhere between 165-170 yds with Titleist 716 AP2’s (project x 6.0 shafts). I play a 3 and 4-iron but they’re Taylormade UDIs with C-taper lite stiff shafts. I am more accurate with irons than hybrids, and much more accurate with those UDI long irons than traditional hybrids. But the lighter shaft and wider sole provide more forgiveness than my AP2’s.

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Opinion & Analysis

Don’t Leave Your Common Sense in Escrow Outside the Golf Course Parking Lot

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Disclaimer: Much of what follows is going to come off as elitist, harsh and downright mean spirited — a pro looking down from his ivory tower at all the worthless hacks and judging them. It is the opposite. The intent is to show how foolish WE golfers are, chasing around a white ball with a crooked stick and suspending all of the common sense we use in our every day lives.

Much of what follows is not just the bane of average golfers, but also low handicappers, tour players and even a former long-drive champion during his quest for the PGA Tour… and now, the Champions Tour. In other words, if WE take ourselves a bit less seriously and use a bit more common sense, we are going to have more fun and actually hit better golf shots. We will shoot lower scores.

FYI: All of the examples of nutbaggery to come are things I have actually witnessed. They’re not exaggerated for the sake of laughs.

It’s winter time and most of you poor souls are not enjoying the 70-degree temperatures I am in Southern California right now (see, you all hate me already… and it’s going to get worse). That gives us all time to assess our approach to golf. I am not talking course management or better focus; I am talking how WE golfers approach our successes and failures, which for many is more important than the aforementioned issues or the quality of our technique.

Why is it that golf turns normal, intelligent, successful and SANE people into deviant, ignorant failures that exhibit all of the tell-tale signs of insanity? I also forgot profane, whiny, hostile, weak-minded, weak-willed and childish. Not to mention stupid. Why do we seem to leave our common sense and sanity in escrow in a cloud outside the golf course parking lot… only to have it magically return the moment our car leaves the property after imposing extreme mental anguish on ourselves that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (don’t feel bad if you have to google this) would find extreme?

Smarter people than I have written books on this, but I think they missed a key factor. Clubs, balls, shoes, bags, gloves, tees, the grasses, especially the sand in the bunkers, the Gatorade they sell at the snack bar, hats, visors, over-logoed clothing, golf carts, etc., are all made with human kryptonite. Not enough to kill us, but just enough to make us act like children who didn’t get the latest fad toy for Christmas and react by throwing a hissy fit.

Bob Rotella has said golf is not a game of perfect, and although religious texts say man was made in God’s image, thinking we are perfect is blasphemous. We all play golf like we think there is an equivalent of a bowling 300. We expect to hit every drive 300 yards (the bowling perfect) with a three-yard draw… in the middle of the face… in the dead center of the fairway. All iron shots must be worked from the middle of the green toward the pin and compressed properly with shaft lean, ball-first contact and the perfect dollar-bill sized divot (and not too deep). Shots within 100 yards from any lie should be hit within gimme range, and all putts inside 20 feet must be holed.

We get these ideas from watching the best players in the world late on Sunday, where all of the above seem commonplace. We pay no attention to the fact that we are significantly worse than the guys who shot 76-76 and missed the cut. We still hold ourselves to that ridiculous standard.

  • Group 1: “Monte, you’re exaggerating. No one has those expectations.”
  • Group 2: ”Monte, I’m a type-A personality. I’m very competitive and hard on myself.”

To the first group, the following examples say different. And to the second group, I am one of you. It’s OK for me to want to shoot over 80 percent from the free throw line, but at 50 years old and 40 pounds over weight, what would you say to me if I said, “I’m type-A and competitive and I want to dunk like Lebron James!” Oh yeah, and I want to copy Michael Jordan’s dunking style, Steph Curry’s shooting stroke and Pistol Pete’s passing and dribbling style.” That seems ridiculous, but switch those names to all-time greats in golf and WE have all been guilty of those aspirations.

I don’t know how to answer 18-handicaps who ask me if they should switch to blades so they can work the ball better and in both directions. The blunt a-hole in me wants to tell them, “Dude, just learn to hit the ball on the face somewhere,” but that’s what they read in the golf magazines. You’re supposed to work the ball from the middle of the green toward the pin, like Nicklaus. Well, the ball doesn’t curve as much now as it did in Nicklaus’ prime and most tour players only work the ball one way unless the circumstances don’t allow it. “And you’re not Jack Nicklaus.” Some joke about Jesus and Moses playing golf has that punch line.

Wouldn’t it be easier to get as proficient as possible at one shot when you have limited practice time, versus being less than mediocre on several different shots? This also applies to hitting shots around the greens 27 different ways, but don’t get me started…just buy my short game video. Hyperbole and shameless plug aside, this is a huge mistake average golfers make. They never settle on one way of doing things.

The day the first white TaylorMade adjustable driver was released, I played 9 holes behind a very nice elderly couple. He went to Harvard and she went to Stanford. He gets on the first tee and hits a big push. He walks to the cart, grabs his wrench and closes the club face. She tops her tee shot, gets the wrench and adds some loft. Out of morbid curiosity, I stayed behind them the entire front 9 and watched them adjust their clubs for every mishit shot. It took over 3 hours for a two-some. These are extremely nice, smart and successful people and look what golf did to them. Anyone calling this a rules violation, have a cocktail; you’re talking yourself even more seriously than they were. Old married couple out fooling around, big deal if they broke a rule. No tournament, not playing for money, they’re having fun. They had gimmies, mulligans and winter rules. Good for them.

This is an extreme example of a huge mistake that nearly 100 percent of golfers make; they believe the need for an adjustment after every bad shot… or worse, after every non-perfect shot. How many of you have done this both on the range and on the course?

”(Expletive), pushed that one, need to close the face. (Expletive), hit that one thin, need to hit down more on this one. (Expletive), hooked that one, need to hold off the release.”

I’ll ask people why they do this and the answer is often, “I’m trying to build a repeatable swing.”

Nice. Building repeatable swing by making 40 different swings during a range session or round of golf. That is insane and stupid, but WE have all done it. The lesson learned here is to just try and do better on the next one. You don’t want to make adjustments until you have the same miss several times in a row. As a secondary issue, what are the odds that you do all of the following?

  1.  Diagnose the exact swing fault that caused the bad shot
  2.  Come up with the proper fix
  3.  Implement that fix correctly in the middle of a round of golf with OB, two lakes, eight bunkers and three elephants buried in the green staring you in the face.

Another factor in this same vein, and again, WE have all been guilty of this: “I just had my worst round in three weeks. What I was doing to shoot my career low three times in row isn’t working any more. Where is my Golf Digest? I need a new tip.”

Don’t lie… everyone reading this article has done that. EVERYONE! Improvement in golf is as far from linear as is mathematically possible. I have never heard a golfer chalk a high score up to a “bad day.” It’s always a technique problem, so there is a visceral need to try something different. “It’s not working anymore. I think I need to do the Dustin Johnson left wrist, the Sergio pull-down lag, the Justin Thomas downswing hip turn, the Brooks Koepka restricted-backswing hip turn and the Jordan Spieth and Jamie Sadllowski bent left elbow… with a little Tiger Woods 2000 left-knee snap when I need some extra power.” OK, maybe it’s a small bit of exaggeration that someone would try all of these, but I have heard multiple people regale of putting 2-3 of those moves in after a bad round that didn’t mesh with their downtrending index.

An 8-handicap comes to me for his first lesson. He had shot in the 70’s four of his last five rounds and shot a career best in the last of the five. All of the sudden, those friendly slight mishits that rhyme with the place where we keep our money show up. First a few here and there and then literally every shot. He shows up and shanks 10 wedges in a row and is literally ready to cry. I said, “Go home, take this week off and come back… and what’s your favorite beer?”

He comes back the next week, pulls a club and goes to hit one. I tell him to have a seat. I hand him a beer and we talk football for 15 minutes. Then I pull out my iPad and show him exactly why he is hitting shanks. I tell him one setup issue and one intent change and ask him to go hit one. It was slightly on the heel, but not a shank and very thin. I said to do both changes a bit more. The second one — perfect divot, small draw and on target. I walk over, put my hand up for a high five and say, “Awesome job! Great shot!”

He leaves me hanging and says, ”Yeah, but I hit it in the toe.”

Don’t judge him. Every day I have people with 50-yard slices toned down to 15-20 yards saying the ball is still slicing. These are people who won’t accept a fade, but slam their club when it over draws 15 feet left of the target… and so on. I can’t judge or be angry; I used to be these guys, too. During a one-hour lesson, I often hear people get frustrated with themselves for thin and fat, left and right, heel and toe. Apparently, anything not hunting flags or hit out of a dime-sized area is an epic fail. I also get emails the next day saying the fault and miss is still there.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

My big miss has always been a big block, often in the heel. Instead, I now often hit a pull in the left fairway bunker out of the toe. I celebrate like I’m Kool & the Gang and it’s 1999… and I get strange looks from everyone. I can manage a 10-15 yard low, slightly drawn pull. I cannot not manage a 40-50 yard in the atmosphere block… that cuts.

So, now that I have described all of US as pathetic, let’s see what we can do.

  1. Be hard on yourself, be competitive and set lofty goals all you want… but you need to accept at least a one-side miss. If you hate hitting thin, weak fades, you need to allow yourself a slightly heavy over draw. Not allowing yourself any miss will make you miss every shot.
  2. Generally, the better the player, the larger the pool of results that are used to judge success. Pros judge themselves over months and years. High-handicappers judge themselves on their previous shot. Do you think pros make a swing change after 10 good shots and one minor miss? We all seem to think that course of action is astute. Bad shot, must have done something wrong… HULK MUST FIX!
  3. Don’t judge your shots on a pass/fail grade. Grade yourself A-F. Are you going to feel better after 10 A’s, 25 B’s, 15 C’s, 4 D’s and 1 F… or 10 passes and 40 fails? If every non-perfect shot is seen as a failure, your subconscious will do something different in order to please you. Again, 40 different swings.
  4. Improving your swing and scores is a lot like losing weight. No one expects to make changes in a diet and exercise routine and lose 20 pounds in one day, yet golfers expect a complete overhaul in a small bucket. Give yourself realistic time frames for improvement. “I’m a 12. By the end of next year, I want to be an 8.”  That’s your goal, not whether or not your last range session was the worst in a month. It’s a bad day; that is allowed. Major champions miss cuts and all of them not named Tiger Woods don’t change their swings. They try and do better next week… and they nearly always do.
  5. DO NOT measure yourself either on the mechanics of your swing or your scoring results according to some arbitrary standard of perfection… and especially not against tour players. Measure yourself against yourself. Think Ty Webb. Is your swing better than it was 6 months ago? Do you hit it better than 6 months ago? Are you scoring better than 6 months ago? If you can say yes to at least two of those questions, your swing looking like Adam Scott is less relevant than the color of golf tee you use.

That is a winning formula, and just like bad habits in your swing, you can’t wake up one morning and tell yourself you’re no longer into self flagellation. It takes effort and practice to improve your approach and get out of your own way… but more importantly, have some fun.

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Opinion & Analysis

15 hot takes from Greg Norman on our 19th Hole podcast

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Our Michael Williams spoke with the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman, for GolfWRX’s 19th Hole podcast. Not surprisingly, the two-time major champion had no shortage of hot takes.

While you’ll want to check out the full ‘cast, here are 15 takes of varying degrees of hotness, from Norman’s feelings about bifurcation to whether he’d pose for ESPN’s Body Issue.

1) He wants bifurcation immediately, rolling back technology for the pros, rolling it forward for amateurs

“I would instigate a bifurcation of the rules. I would roll back the golf ball regulations to pre-1996. I would roll back the technology that’s in the golf equipment for the professionals. And I would open up the technology and give it to the masses because the pros who developed the maximum club head speed of 118, 120 are the ones who maximize what technology is in that piece of equipment. So the person who’s under 100 miles an hour does not hit the ball an extra 30, 35 yards at all. They may pick up a few yards but they don’t get the full benefit of that technology…I would definitely do that because I think we’ve gotta make the game more fun for the masses. “

2) He has no relationship with Tiger Woods and doesn’t plan to watch him play golf

“And this might sound kind of strange. What I’ll say is … I really, in all honesty, I really don’t care what Tiger does with golf. I think Tiger is, golf probably needs him to some degree but golf doesn’t need him, if you know what I mean, because there’s so many other incredibly talented great young players out there, probably a dozen of them, maybe even more, that are equal, if not way better than Tiger, and they can carry the baton of being the number one player in the world. So, I get a little bit perplexed about and disappointed about how some of these guys get pushed into the background by the attention Tiger gets. I hope he does well. If he doesn’t do well, it doesn’t bother me. If he does do well, it doesn’t bother me.”

3) He plays almost no golf these days

“I really don’t play a lot of golf. I played with my son in the father-son at the end of last year, had a blast with him. Played a little bit of golf preparing for that. But since then I have not touched a golf club.”

4) He doesn’t enjoy going to the range anymore

“To be honest with you I’m sick and tired of being on the driving range hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls. That bores me to death now. My body doesn’t like it to tell you the truth. Since I’ve stopped playing golf I wake up without any aches and pains and I can go to the gym on a regular basis without aches and pains. So my lifestyle is totally different now. My expectations, equally, is totally different.”

5) It took him a long time to get used to recreational golf

“But I’ve been in this mode now for quite a few years now so the first couple of years, yes. My body was not giving me what my brain was expecting. So you do have to make those mental adjustments. Look, there’s no difference than when you hit 40, you’re a good player or not a good player. Things start to perform differently. Your proprioception is different. Your body is different. I don’t care how good you are and how great physical shape you are. Your body after just pure wear and tear, it eventually does tend to break down a little bit. And when you’re under the heat of the battle and under the gun, when you have to execute the most precise shot, your body sometimes doesn’t deliver what you want.”

6) He’s a big Tom Brady fan

“I’m a big fan, big admirer of his. He gets out of it what he puts into it obviously…But he’s also a role model and a stimulator for his teammates. No question, when you go to play Brady and the Patriots, you’d better bring your A game because he’s already got his A game ready to go.”

7) He believes we’ll see 50-plus-year-old winners on Tour

“I said this categorically when Tom Watson nearly won at Turnberry in his 50s, when I nearly won at Royal Birkdale in my 50s….if you keep yourself physically in good shape, flexibility in good shape, as well as your swing playing, and your swing. Yeah, maybe the yips come in maybe they don’t, that depends on the individual, right? But at the end of the day, my simple answer is yes. I do believe that’s going to happen.”

8) The Shark logo has been vital to his post-golf success

“But I realized very early on in life too that every athlete, male or female, no matter what sports you play you’re a finite entity. You have a finite period of time to maximize your best performance for X number of years. And with golf, if you look at it historically, it’s almost like a 15 year cycle. I had my 15 year run. Every other player has really has had a 15 year run, plus or minus a few years.”

“So you know you have that definitive piece of time you got to work with and then what you do after that is understanding what you did in that time period. And then how do you take that and parlay it? I was lucky because I had a very recognizable logo. It wasn’t initials. It wasn’t anything like that. It was just a Great Shark logo. And that developed a lot of traction. So I learned marketing and branding very, very quickly and how advantageous it could be as you look into the future about building your businesses.”

9) He’s tried to turn on-course disappointments into positives

“We all … well I shouldn’t say we all. I should say the top players, the top sports men and women work to win. Right? And when we do win that’s what we expected ourselves to do because we push ourselves to that limit. But you look at all the great golfers of the past and especially Jack Nicklaus, it’s how you react to a loss is more important than how you react to a victory. And so, I learned that very, very early on. And I can’t control other people’s destiny. I can’t control what other people do on the golf course. So I can only do what I do. When I screw up, I use that as a very strong study point in understanding my weakness to make sure that I make a weakness a strength.”

10) Jordan Spieth is best suited to be the top player in the world

“I think that Jordan is probably the most balanced, with best equilibrium in the game. He’s probably, from what I’m seeing, completely in touch with the responsibilities of what the game of golf and the success in the game of golf is.”

11) His golf design is built on two pillars

“Two things: Begin with the end in mind and the least disturbance approach. I think we, the industry of golf course design industry, really did the game of golf a major disservice in the 80s and 90s when everybody was leveraged to the hilt, thought they had unlimited capital, and thought they could just go build these big golf courses with big amounts of money invested in with magnificent giant club houses which weren’t necessary. So, we were actually doing a total disservice to the industry because it was not sustainable.”

12) He’s still not happy about having essentially invented the WGC events and not getting credit

“I’ll always be a little bit salty about that because there’s a saying that I keep telling everybody, “slay the dreamer.” I came up with a pretty interesting concept where the players would be the part owners of their own tour or their own destiny and rewarded the riches if they performed on the highest level. And quite honestly, Michael, actually a friend of mine sent me an article, it was a column written, “Shark and Fox Plan to Take a Bite out of the PGA”. And this is written in 11/17/94 and I literally just got it last night. And I’m reading through this article and I’m going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I was ahead of my time!” I really was ahead of my time.

So, it was very, very kind of like a reflective moment for me. I read it again this morning with a cup of coffee and I did sit back and, I’ll be brutally honest with you and your listeners, and did sit back and I did get a little bit angry because of the way I was portrayed, the way I was positioned.”

13) He was muzzled by the producer at Fox

“I’m not going to dig deep into this, I think there was just a disconnect between the producer and myself. I got on really well with the director and everybody else behind the scenes, some of my thought processes about what I wanted to talk about situations during the day, and it just didn’t pan out. And things that I wanted to say, somebody would be yelling in my ear, “Don’t say it, don’t say it!” So it became a very much a controlled environment where I really didn’t feel that comfortable.”

14) Preparation wasn’t the problem during his U.S. Open broadcast

“I was totally prepared so wherever this misleading information comes saying I wasn’t prepared, I still have copious notes and folders about my preparation with the golf course, with the players, with the set-up, with conditioning. I was totally prepared. So that’s an assumption that’s out there that is not true. So there’s a situation where you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

15) He would do ESPN’s Body Issue

“Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir…And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Don’t forget to listen to the full podcast here!

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Podcasts

TG2: “If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” (Part 2)

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“If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” Brian Knudson and Andrew Tursky debate their choices in part 2 of this podcast (click here in case you missed Part 1). Also, TG2 welcomes special guest and GolfWRX Forum Member Ed Settle to the show to discuss what clubs he has in the bag.

Listen to our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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