With so many different options available, picking a set of irons can be a difficult endeavor these days. To break it down most simply, irons now typically fall into two categories: “players” or “game-improvement,” descriptions you’ve probably heard before.
That said, if you were to put those two categories at opposite ends of a spectrum, there would be choices that would fall more toward the middle on either side, while other options would qualify as more extreme in one direction or the other.
But as a consumer, thinking about irons as being either game-improvement or players clubs is a great place to start the process when looking for a new set. What’s ultimately most important, however, is that you choose an iron that fits your needs as a player.
That, of course, can be challenging as well, because golfers are notorious, for any number of reasons, for picking something they want instead of something they need. Regardless of the reason, that’s a recipe for disaster, as the significant investment being made is likely to yield average to poor performance.
So, Game Improvement Iron or Players Iron? Probably the biggest mistake golfers make when it comes to picking an iron is choosing a players club when they should be in a game-improvement offering, which happens for many reasons. The most common reason, however, is look, as players irons tend to be more appealing to the eye.
But at some point, look doesn’t matter anymore when you can’t hit a quality approach shot, which begs the following question: Are you ready to put a players iron in your bag?
Honest responses to the five questions below will give you that answer.
What performance attributes do you value most in an iron?
If your answer to this question is something along the lines of wanting more distance or needing to hit the ball higher or that maximum forgiveness is essential, you can probably stop reading at the end of this section. Game-improvement irons of some sort are going to be the right choice to best meet your needs, which is perfectly fine. After all, as mentioned earlier, playing the RIGHT irons is paramount to success. However, if you’re more interested in being able to work the ball, control trajectory, and play an iron that offers a softer feel and sound at impact, than a players iron will deliver on all of those fronts. You can also expect, as a trade off for some level of forgiveness, that you will get increased feedback about the quality of strike, something that golfers universally find beneficial as they continue to improve. If all that sounds good, get into a players iron and don’t look back.
How often do you find the center of the clubface?
The question is pretty simple in theory, but it might be harder to answer than one might guess, and here’s why. Many golfers don’t pay enough attention to what’s happening at impact. They’re simply focused on results, which is important to note because hitting the center of the clubface doesn’t guarantee a good golf shot. You can flush it but if you have a swing path issue or a clubface that’s dramatically open or closed at impact, the result will not be what you’re looking for. But if you’re hitting the ball in the center of the face more often than not, you’re definitely a candidate for a players iron, and a qualified instructor can help you straighten out potential path or face angle issues. If you’re not sure if you’re finding the center of the face on a regular basis, practice using impact or masking tape on the clubface, or even a dry powder of some sort, and you’ll get the feedback you need.
How good are your bad shots?
One of the biggest misconceptions in golf is that what matters most are your good shots. That’s actually not the case. Even the best players in the world only hit so many perfect golf shots in a given round, and a really good shot is a really good shot regardless of the ability level of the player who hits it. For the average player, golf is about the bad shots. Are your bad shots disastrous? Are they leading to big numbers? If so, a players club might not be the answer for you, as you’ll want all the help you can get from an iron to minimize the damage of the mistakes you make. The fastest way to improve as a golfer is by making your bad shots less penal, which is the ultimate function of game-improvement irons. Remember, turning triple bogeys or worse into bogeys will lower your scores and be a far easier task than trying to make more birdies each round by hitting perfect shots.
In what direction is your golf game trending?
If you’re reading this, you already know how difficult golf is, and it’s a game where success can be fleeting. If you’re in the market for a new set of irons, an objective assessment of where your game is heading is important. If you’re someone whose handicap has steadily been improving and you have ample free time time to play and practice, a set of players irons might be a great choice to help you continue your upward trend and better fit your needs going forward. On the other hand, maybe you’re starting a family or a new job where your opportunities to play will be limited, or maybe you’re getting a little older and Father Time just won’t let your body cooperate the way it used to. In that case, don’t let pride get in the way of picking a golf club that might not look as sexy in the bag but will allow you to better enjoy the chances you get to play.
What is your go-to shot under pressure?
Pressure in golf isn’t only for professionals trying to win on their respective tours. Golfers of all ability levels feel pressure on the course at times, whether they’re trying to shoot a personal low score, trying to beat their best friend in a $2 Nassau, or trying to win a club championship. Here’s the situation … you’re in the fairway after your tee shot on the par-4 18th with 160 yards to the pin, and par accomplishes any of those aforementioned scenarios. What shot are you going to hit? If you don’t really have an answer for that question and would probably just grab what you think is your 160-yard club and hope for the best, a game-improvement iron probably most benefits your approach to the game. However, if you’re thinking, “I can get 7 there, but I’m going to grip down on a 6, flight it down with a little draw, and put it in the middle of the green” it’s a players iron that will help you “play” all of the different shots you visualize during a round. And when it comes to picking a set of irons, how you play the game should be a consideration in addition to how well you play the game.