How Iron Head Loft Affects Your Game
Get rid of clubs that don’t complement your game
We have referred to “normal” and “stronger” iron head lofts in reference to the new #6 irons we have been measuring to bring MPF up to date. This subject needs further discussion to put loft into perspective regarding the entire set of irons.
“Normal” Lofts for Irons
When referring to so-called “normal” lofts for irons, up until a few years ago, we mean that the lofts of the irons were very close to the following:
#4 Iron: 23º
#5 Iron: 27º
#6 Iron: 31º
#7 Iron: 35º
#8 Iron: 39º
#9 Iron: 43º
Pitching Wedge: 47º
Sand Wedge: 56º
Note that this gives us a 9º gap between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge.
“Stronger” Lofts for Irons
There are a number of iron models introduced today that have stronger lofts. The actual lofts vary a little from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the following is fairly close to a “stronger” loft set:
#4 Iron: 22º
#5 Iron: 25º
#6 Iron: 28º
#7 Iron: 32º
#8 Iron: 36º
#9 Iron: 40º
Pitching Wedge: 44º
Note that this gives us a 12º gap between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge. This assumes the sand wedge is 56º.
I think you start to see the problem of the larger gap between the pitching wedge and sand wedge and that it must be addressed when buying a set with this type of loft pattern. Some manufacturers of stronger loft sets are increasing the gap in lofts between the #7, #8 and #9 irons to 5º vs. 4º to reduce the gap between the pitching wedge and sand wedge.
This approach only messes up the normal even progression of distances from club to club. Also, some manufacturers are strengthening the sand wedge in the set to have 55º or even 54º loft. I do not like either of these band-aid approaches.
“Normal” Irons in Today’s Game
Basically I like to look at the loft thing this way. The lofts that we call “normal” today have been strengthened over the years to become the new modern standard. The gradual strengthening mostly occurred as each manufacturer was trying to out distance the other in their advertising and/or promotional claims.
If you think about it, these new lofts actually made the modern #5 iron into a long iron vs. a middle iron that it once was. So now we have the #3, #4, and #5 as long irons, the #6, #7 and #8 are the middle irons (the #8 iron of old was a short iron) and the #9 and pitching wedge are short irons.
“Stronger” Irons in Today’s Game
The 6 iron is now really a “long iron”
This now leads us into discussing the “stronger” loft irons. First of all, the #6 iron now becomes a long iron, so the #3, #4, #5 and #6 are now the long irons, the #7, #8 and #9 are now the middle irons and the pitching wedge is the only short iron in the set.
What the manufactures are actually doing is leaving the overall length of the club alone (most of the time) and strengthening the lofts. Another way to say this is that loft wise, the #6 iron becomes a #5 iron; the #5 iron becomes a #4 iron and so on.
The only difference to this statement is that the individual club lengths have not changed. The new stronger lofted #6 iron is still the same length as before thus it is a ½” shorter #5 iron in actuality when it is compared to so called normal iron lofts.
There is another thing to be aware of regarding the new stronger lofted sets of irons. I have heard from the manufacturers and read a number of golf writings that the lofts on some of the new irons need to be stronger because they hit the ball so much higher because of very low centers of gravity. This can sometimes be a true statement with a very low actual vertical center of gravity.
The problem occurs when the vertical center of gravity is not all that low but the clubs lofts are reduced anyway. Be aware of this and make sure to do your homework on the lofts of any set of irons you are buying. Always try them out first.
Keep this in mind also, if you happen to get a shaft that is too stiff for you or even too tip stiff a shaft profile and you also have these new reduced loft irons, you will probably have a more difficult time getting the ball airborne and hitting it consistently solid.
Here is what I am getting at in a round about way. Most of us probably agree that even with “normal” lofted sets of irons we would be better off buying only #4 through pitching wedge sets and have the #3 iron available as a separate club if needed.
Now, with the “stronger” lofted sets we can drop the #4 iron and make the set makeup #5 through pitching wedge. Remember that we just pointed out that the club lengths stayed the same. This means that our new #5 through pitching wedge starts out with the loft of a #4 iron but the length of a #5 iron.
The hitting distance difference between each iron in the set varies from golfer to golfer but we can pretty much say that it is 10 to 15 yards between each club. This difference is mostly created by two club specifications; the loft and the clubs length.
Testing has shown that approximately half of the distance difference is from the change in loft from club to club (3º to 4º). The other half of the distance difference occurs from each clubs incremental change in length (usually ½’).
When we take all this loft and length stuff into consideration when buying a set of irons, we need to consider alternatives regarding additional wedges and/or additional hybrids or fairway metals. The purchase does not stop with the iron set but gives us the opportunity to decide how everything fits into the overall set make-up regarding the type game we play.
In my opinion, set make-up is not evaluated thoroughly enough for every golfer. Remember set make-up is an important fitting variable and can have a huge effect on the type shots a golfer plays and also how well a golfer scores.
Getting rid of clubs that are hard to hit or possibly not needed and substituting them with easier to hit clubs that complement the rest of the set is a big confidence booster that will definitely help any golfers’ game.