golf ironsThere was a time when I could hit all of my golf club irons with confidence. 220 yards out? Need to keep it low to the ground to avoid the overhanging tree branch in my way of the green? No problem! I’ll whack that 2 iron right into the cup! Well, maybe not into the cup, but I had no fear of my lower irons. I could also hit my middle irons with consistency. If I was 145 yards out, and needed to catch some good air to stick the green, I knew that my 7 would get me there pretty much every time.

Nowadays, when I’m 145 out, I’m considering my hybrid woods. If I’m 220 out, I wouldn’t even think about that dreaded 2! I guess that’s what happens to some of us golfers when we become old farts. We can’t hit as far, the big golf clubs scare us, and we just do what we can to hit it straight and long enough for a chance at using our putter to one putt it in for par (or bogey).

Enough gibberish! Let’s get to what we’re supposed to be talking about- irons! We wouldn’t include the wedges in this discussion, as we have a different page set up for them. What we will talk about is all of the other available irons, numbered 1 to 9. While most golfers (and sets) just use a 3-9 iron, some do come with a 1 and 2, and of course you can always buy a 1 or 2 to add to your bag.

In comparison to the driver, fairway woods and hybrid woods, irons have a shorter shaft and a smaller club head. The head is usually made out of a solid iron or steel. The head is flat, but it’s angled to provide loft. The higher the angle, the more loft you get to propel the ball into the air. Your lower irons have the least amount of angle (and loft), and your higher ones have more of an angle on the club head. When you gain loft by a higher degree of angle, your ball will travel higher into the air, and you won’t get as much distance. So a 1 iron will travel very low to the ground, and it will give you the most distance. The nine iron, which has a high degree of angle, will get you the greatest height, but you will not get as much distance. All of the irons have grooves cut into the club heads.

The manufacturer Ping was the first company to use the modern investment casting process to make these clubs. before that, all irons were actually forged out of a solid piece of metal, and that resulted in a much thinner club head. The forged ones are known as “muscle backs”, and the modern designs made with investment casting to create cavities are known as cavity backs. With cavity backs, a lot of the weight that would normally be on the back of the head can be spread around the perimeter of the club. This gives you a much greater margin for error. With the old muscle backs, there was a small “sweet spot” that you had to hit to get optimum results. With the cavity backs, you can miss that spot by a good bit and still have a great shot, thanks to the distribution of much of the club head’s weight around the perimeter.

Just because a club is a muscle back, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s inferior. In fact, some of the most advanced designs that are being made for touring professionals are made from forged metals. Since they are forged, it’s easier for the manufacturers to precisely bend them to cater to the pro’s specific needs. There are even some manufacturing processes where they blend the two designs. These are known as split cavity or cut muscle.

The 1 iron is also called a driving iron. This will hit the ball farther than any other club, outside of your woods. Not only is the angle or loft much lower, but the shaft itself is longer. It has 23 to 24 degrees of loft, and is designed to hit the ball low to the ground and for the most distance. The one is universally considered to be the hardest club to hit. The problem with it is that there isn’t much surface area to make contact with the ball on it. That means that your sweet spot is so small that you have to be extremely accurate with your swing. This is also the rarest of any club, and very few sets include one. In fact, it will likely fade away into extinction in the coming years. The downfall of the one is that there are woods that will give you the same result, and they are a heck of a lot easier to hit!

The 2, 3 and 4 are usually called the long irons. If you are a young bull that knows how to hit them, you can get 180 to 260 yards out of these. They are commonly used when in the rough or the fairway, but an excellent use of them is to punch your way out of a trouble spot. For instance, if you are next to a tree and need to get back to the fairway, but there are obstructions that will prevent you from getting much air at all, these low irons can be your rescue. The two iron, much like the 1, is fading away. Most modern sets don’t even include it. The problem with the 2, just like the 1, is that it’s just so hard to hit because of a small sweet spot. Instead of including a 2, the majority of modern club sets use fairway woods or hybrid woods to accomplish the same thing.

The 5, 6 and 7 are known as the mid irons. Compared to the  2-4, these are much easier to hit and they have a higher loft that will allow you to “place” the ball. Once again, if you’re a bull that can actually swing with some power, you can use these when you get within 130 to 200 yards or so. The reason that they are so much easier to hit is because they have a higher angle on the club head. This gives you more surface area to make contact with the ball. That means that you can be off just a bit, but the large area of the head will compensate to still give you a good shot.

The 8 and 9 irons are for your close/approach game. They have the highest loft, and they will give you the least amount of distance. They are easier to hit than the rest that we have discussed because of the angle which gives you more surface area to make contact with the ball. If you’re a young bull, you can get up to around 130 yards with these. If you’re a weakling, like me, expect to break 100 every now and then. These are great when you are approaching the green. They are also used to get “up and over” obstacles such as trees.

So which iron is your favorite to hit? have you ever tried a 1 iron? We would love to hear your thoughts! While you’re here, watch the video below to see a 1 in action.


Jack Nicklaus's 1972 1-Iron