In this issue of Golf Club Fitting Corner with Jake, I’ll be discussing the fitting process for iron/hybrid sets.
The goal of an iron/hybrid fitting is to achieve solid contact as often as possible, with a desired shot shape (typically the straighter, the better) occurring as often as possible. A sub-goal for a most people is to also increase the distance of their iron shots. Who wouldn’t want to hit a 7-iron into a green instead of a 6-iron or 5-iron? Other sub-goals of an iron fitting include maximizing backspin rates, optimizing launch angle, and maximizing the descent angle of the golf ball as it lands on the green.
The first step in fitting a player for an iron set is to figure out what head style will be best for them. Most manufacturers will have up to four, if not more, iron head style options. These typically include blade, semi-blade, game-improvement, and super game-improvement. In general, better players gravitate to blade or semi-blade, while higher handicappers tend to lean toward a more game-improvement iron. However, this is not set in stone by any means, and there can be some “grey area” for mid-handicappers.
There are several ways to go about determining the best head style for the player, including a quick evaluation of the player’s current clubs, asking the player for their goals with new irons, as well as determining an approximate handicap level of the player. With this info, we can usually deduce the head style down to two, which expedites the fitting process.
With the desired head style, we move into shaft length. I start with a simple wrist-to-floor measurement to get a baseline of where to start with shaft length. However, it is very important to not get “locked in” on this length as the ultimate goal is to hit the ball as solidly as often. It is not uncommon to end up with a shaft length that may be different from what the wrist-to-floor measurement suggested.
Through a process of hitting several balls with the potential shaft and head combinations, we will come up with the most ideal combination for the player. This is where the fun begins – checking for lie angle.
The simplest way to explain lie angle is ‘the angle at which the shaft is connected to the head of the club’. Here’s an image to help clarify:
Having a correct lie is angle extremely important with irons as there is interaction with the turf on a proper swing with an iron. Therefore you want the center of the sole impacting the ground, not the heel or toe of the sole. The more the center of the sole impacts the turf, the more solid your iron shots will tend to be.
Another important factor of lie angle with the irons is the direction that the ball will tend to travel coming off of the face. Here is another illustration to help explain:
As the image suggests, the correct lie angle will help the ball to start on the intended path. If the lie angle of the club is too upright, the ball will tend to start to the left for a right-handed player (a pull); if the lie angle is too flat for the player, the ball will tend to start to the right for a right-handed player (a push).
The best way to check a player’s lie angle is through dynamic testing, not a static test. A dynamic test is one where the club is actually swung, and the lie angle is determined at the point of impact. A static test is when lie angle is checked at the player’s address position. The reason a static test is wrong is because it does not factor in the player’s swing plane, which has a direct effect on lie angle at impact.
One way to check lie angle is with a lie board, which you may have seen or actually done. This test is executed by putting a piece of tape on the sole (bottom) of the iron, and striking a ball that is sitting atop a plastic board. A mark will be left on the tape that’s on the club, indicating where the sole impacted the board, and therefore determining lie angle. While this test will give you an idea of your lie angle, here is why I DON’T LIKE THIS WAY OF TESTING FOR LIE ANGLE:
- The board is at least ¼” thick, which puts the ball above your feet
- Striking a plastic board is not comfortable for most people, therefore they tend not to make their true swing with this test
- The mark left on the tape on the sole of the club tends to be quite wide, which does not give an exact indication of what the true lie angle is
The test for lie angle that I do involves using face tape instead of sole tape. With face tape on the club, I will draw a straight line on a golf ball, and position the ball so that line is in a perfect vertical position in line with the intended target. From there, the player simply makes a normal swing on a true lie from the turf (no board needed). The line will leave a mark on the face tape, which will indicate the proper lie angle for that player.
Now that we have head style, shaft, and lie angle determined, we next move into drawing up the set configuration. My first set configuration question for the player will be, “What is the longest iron you are comfortable hitting?” If the answer is a 5-iron, then we will explore introducing a 4-hybrid, and potentially a 3-hybrid as well, depending on how much room is in the bag based on the 14-club limit (the number of wedges and fairway woods will determine this). I always make sure to match up the lie angle of the hybrid(s) with the irons.
Once the “top end” of the iron set is determined, we now work our way down. If the player is happy with their current wedges, we’ll end the iron set to blend in loft-wise to their lowest lofted wedge. For example, if a player’s lowest lofted wedge is 54 degrees, we’ll end the fitted iron set in the 50 degree range, which for most of today’s iron sets would be an “A” wedge.
And there you have it – a fully custom-fit iron/hybrid set! While this seems like a lot of information to process and get through, my expertise and knowledge will allow us to do a full iron/hybrid fitting in about 30 minutes. It is important to be able to get through a fitting efficiently to avoid player fatigue.
- How much better will I play with custom fit irons/hybrids?
Since you’ll be hitting the ball solidly more often, more accurately, and more than likely longer, you can expect your score to drop fairly significantly.
- Will a custom fit set of irons/hybrids only benefit better players?
Absolutely not! In fact, the largest gains in yardage and accuracy tend to come from higher handicap players. I have seen higher handicap players drop more than 10 shots in an 18-hole round with their custom fit irons/hybrids. As long as you can make decent contact with the ball, and have anywhere near an acceptable swing plane, I can dial you in for an iron/hybrid set.
- Is the fitting session really free?
Yes, this is a complimentary service at Hawk’s View, even including your time in our indoor studio if you are getting fit during the winter months.
- Are custom fit irons more expensive than those “off the rack”?
For the most part, they are the exact same price (there are select shafts that carry an up-charge, but rarely are they needed). Just keep in mind that generally speaking, graphite-shafted irons will cost slightly more than steel-shafted irons.
- Can I get any type of grip I want?
For the most part, yes (as long as the manufacturer has access to it). You can even get any size you want, and I can help you determine what size is best suited for you. Sizes can be nailed down to 1/64” increments!
- When do I get my custom fit iron/hybrid set?
Since irons/hybrids aren’t adjustable like today’s drivers (loft, weighting, etc), and there are so many variables that go into an iron fitting (shaft length, lie angle, set configuration, etc), I do not carry any iron/hybrid sets in stock. Instead, I will send your specs to the manufacturer to be custom made at their factory. Once the specs are received, it typically takes 10 business days to build and ship your custom set. If preferred, I can even ship the set directly to your residence.