With the season officially getting underway next week, I wanted to provide my readers with a direct link to Golf Magazine’s 2012 Club Test.
I also want to offer a few tips to those who are considering upgrading their equipment.
- It’s not just about looks.
I remember falling for the Ping i10 irons a few years back, and committed the cardinal sin of allowing the appearance of a club to have the most influence in my buying decision. Sound familiar? For me – it ended up being a $600 mistake. Looks are important, but obviously not the only primary consideration. And it’s also proof that just because you get properly fitted for a new set of irons, that doesn’t mean that the model of the iron itself is a fit for your golf game. The biggest mistake I see committed by golfers year in and year out is the same boo boo I made with the i10 irons – buying more club for less game. Game Improvement irons might not be the eye candy that your golfing taste buds desire, but don’t make the mistake by assuming that you’re above a little more forgiveness.
- Ditch the long irons, get the hybrids.
The last set of irons I purchased was back in the fall of 2011, the TaylorMade R11′s. Except I didn’t purchase the complete set. I ordered the 5-iron thru A-wedge, since I already had 3&4 hybrids in my bag setup, which removed the need to needlessly purchase the 3&4 irons that usually come with the set. This is becoming more of a standard practice now, especially since hybrids have become increasingly popular because of their relative ease to hit, and the money saved with not purchasing the 3&4 irons is quite significant. In some instances, it could be as much as $250-$300 dollars less.
- Check your loft progressions.
The reason you want to check the loft progressions of potential new irons is because each manufacturer might have different specs, particularly as it relates to loft. A degree or two here, a degree or two there – suddenly you might find yourself with a notable gap either at the long end or the short end of your bag. Case in point: my R11 6-iron has 28* of loft. Not taking the time to reference this, I purchased a set of Callaway Razr hybrids (3&4) and at the last minute decided to give a 5-hybrid a try as well. That Cally 5-hybrid has 27* of loft, only one degree less loft than the R11 6-iron. In essence, I hit my 6-iron nearly as far as I hit the 5-hybrid. So if you play one brand of irons and maybe a different brand of hybrids or wedges, take note of the loft progressions and compare. And lastly, take note of the strengths of your shorter irons, particularly the pitching wedge and gap wedge. If you’re like me, preferring more of a non-stock specialty wedge (like the Cleveland CG14′s, for example) you’re going to want to keep that 4* or 5* at-most progression. It could mean that the 56* wedge that you’ve traditionally played is 6* less than the stock gap wedge that comes with the iron set (50*). Try to maintain 4* – 5* progressions throughout your bag to maintain distance continuity. One last thing: just because there might be 2* of difference doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out and purchase new wedges. It’s not an issue for a club builder to bend the wedge the 1-2 needed degrees to comply with your preferred loft gaps.
- Get on a launch monitor.
Most modern golf retail outlets (like Golf Galaxy, Edwin Watts, etc.) have the ability to check your true swing speed, your spin rate, your launch angle, your carry distance, and your swing tendencies (hook, straight, or slice) with a launch monitor. I always encourage players looking to upgrade to new irons (or any club for that matter) to take one of their current irons (one that they hit reasonably well) and do a launch monitor comparison with the potential new model of iron they’re considering purchasing. Always do a comparison if possible, because it gives you a much greater sense of just how much of a difference there might be in the performance. A knowledgeable club fitter can take the data from the launch monitor and help steer you in a better equipment direction, pertaining to both shaft flex and club model design best suited for your golf swing.
- Take advantage of Playability Guarantees
Not all golf retail outlets do this, but some actually offer a grace period of sorts with new club purchases. TGW.COM offers a 30-day playability guarantee for new clubs purchased from their website, providing that the club isn’t altered, damaged, has excessive wear, or is a special custom order. It’s a great insurance policy to have, knowing that if the new club doesn’t perform as expected – you can return it and get in-store credit to apply to something different.
Golf equipment isn’t inexpensive, but millions of golfers continue to purchase golf clubs that are either ill-fitted or not what they were expecting performance-wise. They then take an enormous loss by trying to auction it on eBay for half of what they paid for it retail. If you’ll do your homework, you can save yourself both time and money by following my tips above and avoid Golf’s revolving door of hit it, sell it, and buy something else.