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Opinion & Analysis

GolfWRX Q&A: Jared Solomon, Co-Founder & CEO Five Iron Golf



In the not-too-distant past, if you wanted to hit golf balls—or “play golf” in any non-mini-golf sense of the word—you had to go to a golf course or a driving range.

Recently, however, a number of blended golf-entertainment options emerged. Assuredly, GolfWRX Members are familiar with the major players and most have probably stopped into one of the venues. Fewer GolfWRXers, however, outside of the northeastern U.S. will be familiar with New York City-based Five Iron Golf.

After visiting the Fifth Avenue location in Manhattan, however, I felt the expanding enterprise’s story was one that was worth telling. Fortunately, Jared Solomon, Co-Founder & CEO, was kind enough to dive a little deeper into the past, present, and future of Five Iron.

BA: Tell me about the initial Five Iron concept and the opportunity you saw.

JS: Our story begins in early 2015 when I was taking lessons from Mike Doyle in a simulator in the back of a men’s clothing store in midtown Manhattan. As Mike’s lessons demand grew, we started dreaming about an indoor facility where he could teach more lessons and golfers could improve their games—all while flipping standard golf culture on its head and appealing to everyone.

With Mike and me clueless as to how to actually execute this grand idea, our final two co-founders, summer camp friends Nora Dunnan and Katherine Solomon (also my wife) entered the scene. With Nora steering the ship and Katherine navigating us through some early legal storms, Five Iron Golf was launched and open for business in mid-2017.

Since opening, we have been offering serious golfers with an urban lifestyle a convenient spot to practice and play with the data and technology to improve their games. We host Full Swing simulators, Trackman lesson studios, teaching professionals, lessons, leagues, club storage, showers, complimentary top-of-the line clubs and in-house club fitting specialists. Serious golfers also love our non-golf amenities with a full bar, fantastic food menu, games like ping pong, shuffleboard, pool or Golden Tee (depending on the location), widescreen TVs, NFL Sunday Ticket, a regular women’s golf clinic, and much more.

BA: Who frequents Five Iron? What’s the breakdown between hardcore golfers, more casual players, and non-golfers? What’s the scene throughout the day?

JS: Every type of golfer. Throughout the course of the day we see a mix of hardcore golfers, casual golfers and those who have never touched a club before. The best way to break it down is to look at a typical day at Five Iron. Opening at 6 a.m. on weekdays, a wave of hardcore golfers come into practice, take lessons, hit the showers and go to work. The morning crew is mostly filled with our members who, for $260 a month, can play between 6 a.m.-4 p.m., store their bags and use our showers at no extra cost. Around lunchtime, it shifts to a mix of more casual golfers coming in for client meetings and afternoon lessons leading into our busiest time: the evening. Thanks to our leagues, happy hour, and corporate events, if you walk into a Five Iron after 6 p.m. you’ll find every type of golfer.

BA: Breaking this down further, can you tell me about your leagues?

JS: Our golf leagues offer a competitive environment for casual and serious golfers to hangout with friends and make new ones in the city. Played over seven weeks with an eighth week of playoffs, teams of four go head-to-head on Monday and Tuesday nights. The format of play gets trickier as the season goes on, starting out with a scramble to ease all skill levels into playing competitively and ending with a 3-ball best ball in the playoffs. Not to mention, each season features sign-up perks and prizes from brands such as Greyson, Imperial Headwear, Mizuno and J.Lindeberg. And the first place team wins a two-hour open bar event for up to 30 people!

Welcoming free agents to sign up has formed a pretty cool dynamic amongst teams. Men and women who never knew each other before have continued playing together in consecutive seasons and even taken their golf friendship to the next level, playing on-course rounds. One team, made up of four free agents, just won our 2019 Spring Flatiron league in their fourth consecutive season playing together.

BA: Obviously, leagues take place in the evening, but I’d like to paint a broader picture. I see you open early. Who’s coming to Five Iron first thing in the morning?

JS: Five Iron Golf was built by golf addicts for golf addicts. When we built out the space, we added showers and a bag room so our members can use Five Iron like a gym in a way – hitting balls and playing for an hour or so, then showering and heading to work, while storing their clubs with us. Our morning crew is made up of true golf nuts, who are mostly our members and can come every weekday from 6am-4pm for no charge. These members are some of our best brand ambassadors and have truly become friends and playing partners to each other and our staff!

BA: I know you offer club fitting…can you tell me more about that?

JS: We always hated going to driving ranges or even other golf entertainment options that only had beat up, outdated equipment that never seemed to get replaced. In all of our house sets, we offer new Mizuno JPX919 irons and a mixture of the newest hybrids, woods and drivers by the top manufacturers – all free to use with any booking! You also have the option to choose which ball you’d like to play with – we have just about every major brand.

We’ve partnered with Club Champion in our two NYC locations to offer our customers access to customized equipment that is made especially for them by master fitters and builders. Club Champion is available six days a week at both NYC locations for everything from a putter regrip to a whole custom bag fitting. The way our two businesses align it is a naturally symbiotic relationship with 5i and Club Champion under one roof.

BA: Can you discuss membership options? Is there a way for a golfer to walk in off the street and log some simulator time…à la a bowling alley?

JS: Anyone and everyone can walk into a 5i and (availability permitting) be hitting balls in minutes; there are no membership requirements. We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive golfing experience.

That being said, in order to cater to our dedicated regulars we created what we like to call a “too-good-to-be-true” membership package. For $260 a month our members get unlimited off-peak sim rentals, bag storage, and a 20% discount on peak rentals, lessons, and at the bar. We’ve also recently introduced spousal add-on memberships at only $100 a month to encourage more families to take advantage of our membership program.

BA: Any other offerings you’d like WRXers to know about…?

JS: A few for sure! We have some of the top teachers in the area who supplement lessons with technology to make the Five Iron lesson experience more helpful than normal outdoor ranges. In addition to getting accurate ball and spin data from our Full Swing simulators, we use tools like Trackman, Body Track, and several video analysis apps. These allow players of any skill level to learn why their shots do what they do and to come up with a customized improvement plan that can be monitored over time.

Also, women in golf! We are passionate about helping women feel comfortable learning the game in a friendly and convenient setting. Our women’s golf clinic, Sip & Swing, runs on a monthly basis through the fall and spring providing group instruction, an open bar, food and prizes. Each event is led by our female golf professionals, creating an inviting environment for women to network and make new friends while working on their game.

We’ve also partnered with Grueter Golf to strengthen our mission and support theirs: “getting girls on greens since 2016.” During the fall and winter they host a monthly group clinic, Weekend Warmup, at Five Iron, featuring instruction from our PGA professionals, drinks and prizes. Pairing their Five Iron clinics with on-course spring and summer events, Grueter Golf has done an incredible job breaking down barriers to the golf world and creating a welcoming environment for all women.

BA: I assume the adult beverages flow during league play and corporate events, but what food and drink do you offer beyond said libations?

JS: As one of our members called our food “laughably good for a golf place,” we pride ourselves on having a great menu. Our head chef, Maria Martinez, has developed a creative and innovative selection. With flatbreads, sliders, veggie wraps and a quinoa-kale salad, you’re able to pick a meal that is not only delicious but also suits your mood.

BA: Anything that has pleasantly surprised you?

JS: The strength of community. We started with a membership offering that was supposed to be a too-good-to-be-true deal allowing players to have unlimited hitting time in our off peak hours (6 a.m.-4 p.m.). Two years in, our members have become some of our best brand ambassadors. They play in our leagues, rep our swag on the course, and bring their company events here. Building something that others have come to love as a sanctuary and a reprieve from their busy day has been incredibly important to our growth and a very pleasant surprise.

BA: Have you learned anything new about golfers?

JS: We see a ton of players come through who have never touched a club, let alone played on a real course. There can be a stigma in the game where people assume they need to be better than they are to play golf. The truth is, most people aren’t that great, and we are OK embracing that and getting new golfers to let their guards down. There is plenty to learn, but our stance is that playing golf really isn’t that hard. Anyone can enjoy the game, especially when you’re in a simulator where you don’t have to worry about losing any balls, dealing with bad lies, or having a group or ranger tell you to go faster. The rules and etiquette people have anxiety over are non-existent here. Wear what you want, play music, use our clubs, and in general relax and enjoy hitting balls! Also, plenty of people who stopped playing when they moved into the city started to pick up the game again because of the ease of access. When you come to 5i it’s easy to get bitten by the golf bug.

BA: Tell me about the newest locations. You have the two locations in NYC…what’s the plan beyond that?

JS: With our two locations in Manhattan and three on the way in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Chicago, our goal remains the same across the board: make golf more accessible and less intimidating for everyone. We prioritize a superior customer experience over everything else on a daily basis and plan to bring that to each location. That being said, building a strong team and empowering all of our staff to take ownership and make decisions is critical to our long-term success.

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  1. JP

    Sep 26, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Ben Alberstadt reminds me of the guy from the B-52 rock band

    • Nihonsei

      Sep 28, 2019 at 6:53 pm

      Bang Bang Bang Par the 4 Baby, Bang Bang!

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?



Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 

One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Why we play golf



I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes



“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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