What we find in the average golf bag has changed hugely over the last few decades. A modern 460cc driver make of carbon looks nothing like a persimmon from the 1980s or even a metal-headed driver from twenty years ago. Comparing modern “spaceship” putter designs to the classic Golden Goose is also a huge contrast. And it isn’t just about the size/design of the clubs. Twenty years ago, nobody had heard of a hybrid. Today, a bag without one is becoming rare. The days when you found a 3 or even a 2 iron in the bag are long gone….or are they?
I like blades and despite having no need at all for a new set of irons, I am always on the lookout for a bargain on eBay or similar. I can’t remember the last time I saw a set that actually had a 2 iron included. A one iron? forget about it! In fact, you are more likely to find a set of 5-pitching wedge than say 3-pw.
Are Long Irons Hard to Hit?
This seems to make sense. Long irons are hard to hit. Lack of loft is not your friend and really, only a very solid ball striker is actually going to be better off with even a four iron compared to a similar lofted hybrid or fairway wood. Of course, many people (myself included) would say that they are iron players and really get on better with irons than hybrids. Even for us chosen few (I jest) we are kidding ourselves if we think a traditional long iron is doing us any favours.
I have a set of Wilson Fg 62 blades (which are absolutely gorgeous, but that is a story for another day.) I love putting them in the bag and playing. I feel like a proper golfer. As I have said many times before, there is no real impact on my scores when I have maybe a 6 and certainly a seven or below in my hands compared to pretty much any other iron set. In fact, I might have two of the most contrasting iron sets in history in the current rotation given that I switch between these blades on a traditional heavier steel shaft and the other set which is the Wilson launchpad 2 hybrid irons on a seventy gram graphite shaft.
I love both these sets for different reasons and I think that from 30 degrees of so of loft on up, it doesn’t make a lot of difference to my scores. I certainly feel more like a player with the blades, but stats probably show that I am not anymore accurate when shooting at pins. Likewise, I feel like I just can’t miss with the hybrid irons, but my dispersion is probably similar to anything else.
Still Playing Blades?
Long irons are a different story. The FG 62 4 iron is a think of beauty but it scares me when I step up on the tee. I might pull it out on one of the easier par fours if nobody is watching, but under the gun? No chance!
So if I am a self-proclaimed decent iron player and I am worried about a four iron, what is all the talk about a two iron? Well, bear with me, because a two iron could actually be your friend.
Of course, as you might have guessed, I am not talking about grandpa’s two iron with zero bounce, a leading edge you could shave with and a face that is just about the same size as a golf ball. These are a think of beauty but also not something you want to be hitting every day. I am talking about the modern utility/driving iron. As you can see in the pictures, this isn’t the same beast at all. So what might make it a good choice for some of us?
Perhaps the easiest way to see the potential advantages is with an example or two. Recently, I played in a scramble with a friend of mine at his course. This wasn’t for any competitive glory, simply to see if we could shoot under par while he filmed for his YouTube channel. I didn’t know the course and I am also in the middle of trying out a few clubs to fill in a slot or two in the bag (which I will explain in another article.)
The result of this and of my particular game is that my bag had the rather unusual set up of jumping from driver to five iron. This isn’t actually quite as extreme as you might think. My irons were the Launchpads with a 23 degree five iron. I hit irons well enough and generally quite far, so this club gives me perhaps 180m/200 yards off the tee. I am not a fantastic driver of the ball in terms of distance. I hit down on the ball and generate far too much spin to really get it out there. I am generally happy if I can get it regularly around 230/240m (250/260 yards)
Is a Hybrid Always the Answer?
This leaves a theoretical gap around the 200m/220 yard mark. This is perhaps a safe shot on a shorter par three, a long second into a par five or a very long par three. One of the par threes on this course was playing at just over 180m/200 yards. Perfect for my five iron, right? Not so fast. There was a slight headwind. Nothing huge, but enough that made me step on my tee shot. I hit is hard, made great contact and watched it head straight at the flag…..before falling 20 yards (at least) short!
So what went wrong? Well, the hybrid head shape, the slight headwind, my very high ball flight and me swinging hard with the lighter graphite shaft meant that the ball exploded off the face and shot up well beyond pitching wedge height, probably with more spin than a wedge too.
I could have put perhaps a 19 degree hybrid in the bag or a seven wood and made the distance. However, what happens in there was a bit more wind or even a crosswind? My ball would be up in the heavens and the chances of hitting a green slim. This is exactly when I wished that I had a modern two iron in the bag.
In reality, this is a choice that makes sense for quite a few golfers and we are all in danger of falling to a bit more marketing or at least the golfing rumour mill. We have all heard over the last twenty years that nobody should be playing long irons. While this may be true in terms of traditional long irons, a driving iron is a different beast. It is made to be very forgiving with an oversize head and weight back from the face and around the perimeter but it isn’t made just to shoot the ball up in the air like a hybrid or a true modern super game improvement iron like my Launchpads.
It Isn’t All About Loft
This club isn’t just about the number on the sole or the loft. It presents a truly different option. As an example, I am probably going to be putting a seven wood in the bag soon. After quite a bit of testing on Trackman, this just gives me great numbers and very little downside. This club would carry the ball around 200m/220 yards on a lovely high trajectory. A great club for a shorter /tighter par four or a long second shot into a green. However, I see no issue at all with putting another club in the bag that, on paper at least, goes exactly the same distance.
A 19 degree driving iron (basically a two iron) would probably sit around 200m/220 yards. However, it is going to get there in a very different way. No high and soft flight, a more piercing shot that will no balloon in the wind and will roll on the hard Summer fairways.
So should we all be throwing hybrids out and buying irons from 1 to wedge like the good old days? Certainly not, at least not for most mortals on most days. I would say that putting a longer iron back in the bag is actually a smart idea. It might be somewhat course/season dependent clearly. If you play in windy links conditions or with firm, running fairways, it is almost a necessity. If you are someone who really struggles to get the ball in the air, a fairway wood will probably always be your friend. For the average golfer, putting a two iron back in the bag might just make you realise what you were missing with hybrids.