Friday, May 18, 2012

Thinking Man's Guide to Finding Your WITB: Part IV

In part IV, I will discuss my 3 & 4-irons along with differences in cavity back vs. muscleback irons and how that may apply to your game along with deciding whether or not to choose irons over hybrids. First, here’s a short video Tom Wishon did with regards to the clubhead models I use for my irons, the 555C and 555M.

Here’s my 3&4 iron specs:

Wishon 555C (cavity back)
21° and 24° loft
57.5° and 58.5° lie angle
KBS Tour Shaft (stiff)
39-1/4” and 39” long
D-3 swingweights
2,725 kg/cm2 MOI

One of the conundrums golfers get into is whether or not to carry an extra hybrid(s) or to use a long iron. I think what has happened is that more and more players are gleefully carrying more hybrids. While I think this is a smart move for many golfers, I think it also hurts some golfers who use this WITB strategy as well.

I believe that once a golfer starts to get to a 5 handicap or better, they should carry more irons and less hybrids. Conversely, as their handicap is higher, they need to carry more hybrids. The main reason for this line of thinking? Spin rate.

Hybrids do not get the ball to stop like a 3-iron or 4-iron can. Usually what you hope for with a hybrid that you are hitting into a green is that it will have a high enough trajectory to keep the ball from bouncing and rolling too far. But, if you land on a green with an iron, it will usually hold much better than a hybrid.

I think this is important for better players because spin is crucial for them in Danger Zone approach shots. A simple look on the PGA Tour shows 2 things:

1. Tour pros are far, far worse from the rough than they are from the fairway or tee box in the Danger Zone.

2. The best Danger Zone players typically game a 3 & 4-iron.

The first thing tells me that while the grass thickness plays a factor in the Danger Zone as far as the club twisting into impact, the lack of spin is also a big factor as well. So, if you’re a 5 handicap or better looking to improve your scores, better Danger Zone play is a great way to substantially make an improvement. You can probably hit reasonably good shots with a 3 and 4-iron if give the chance, you just need to practice with them more often to get better with them. Once you do, I think the results will be better than they would be with hybrids.

For higher handicappers, those Danger Zone shots are ‘trouble shots’ for them. Those golfers need to have a club that they can advance the ball the best with. Worrying about the ball spinning enough and holding the green is the least of their worries.



I often get asked about the differences in blades vs. cavity backs. My feeling on them is that the forgiveness aspect of the clubs is actually overblown and ill-conceived.


According to 2 or my sources who have worked in the golf equipment design industry, cavity backs generally hit the ball further than blades, particularly on mis-hits. But, blades have much better distance control, which is far more important when it comes to the irons.

I think the main gripe that blades received was that some vintage models required the utmost precision in order to hit them well. In fact, some vintage models like the MacGregor Tourney Custom 985 were difficult to miss even if you missed the sweetspot by a hair.


I actually have plenty of Hogan and other MacGregor blades that were no more difficult to hit than today’s modern blades. And I don’t find the modern blade more difficult to hit either.

But, the main reason for the cavity backs in the 3 & 4-irons is I can hit them with a higher trajectory. Blades are usually more difficult to hit higher because the CoG is usually higher up on the face, so the ball’s initial launch is lower.

And I agree with my sources, cavity backs are more difficult to have precise distance control with than muscle backs. I think the lower CoG on cavity backs is the main culprit as you can easily hit one too high and it goes much shorter than you expect and then hit one perfectly and hit it much longer than you expected.

The one thing about the 3 & 4-irons is that golf courses are typically designed with the typical yardage on the approach shot in mind.

Meaning, if I’m on a par-3 where I need to hit a 3 or a 4-iron, the designer will almost never have any trouble long of the green. Typically designers understand the difficulty of the shot, so if they put water up by the green, they’ll either put it on only 1-side of the green or put it short of the green. Thus, there is almost never any trouble long of the green on a par-3 that is this long (roughly 200-230 yards). And on long par-4’s, they usually avoid much trouble up by the green at all. Therefore, the odds of having a little more juice on a 3 or 4-iron shot and winding up in big trouble are incredibly slim. Sure, the water could be place in front of the green, but I think proper club selection and a decent strike of the ball should prevent me from finding the drink.

LOFT (21° and 24°)

The loft is pretty standard for today’s 3 & 4-irons. While the lofts have become stronger and stronger on irons these days as OEM’s are making the CoG of the club lower and lower and this helps golfers hit the irons further, 3&4-irons are typically at 21° and 24° loft.

LIE ANGLE (57.5° AND 58.5°)

I believe in fitting for the lie angle LAST in the fitting process. For potential customers, I will give them a demo 6-iron and get the lie angle with that 6-iron to where they want it. That’s just a starting point.

After we determine the shafts, lofts, lengths, etc…we can then fit for MOI, finally followed by tweaking the lie angles.

I do this because the MOI fitting makes the impact dispersion very, very small. However, the lie angle still has to be on point, otherwise the impact dispersion will all be towards the toe or the heel.

What I’ve found is that without the MOI fitting, it’s easy to get thrown off as far as lie angles go because the golfer will not be able to get the impact dispersion very small. Thus, their shots may be struck favoring the toe, but they could have some heel strikes that can throw off the clubfitter as to what they need to do with the lie angles.

I’ve also found that after the MOI fitting and then matching the MOI of the rest of the set, the impact dispersion can be on the money, but towards the toe on some clubs and towards the heel on others. My belief is that it has to do with shaft droop and some personal characteristics as to how certain golfers swing certain clubs.

For me, I started off with a 60° lie angle for my 5-iron and went in 0.5° increments. Thus, when I originally received my 3 & 4-irons, I started off with a 59° and 59.5° lie angle for these clubs.

After I fitted my clubs for MOI and matched the entire set, I found that I hit some clubs off the toe and some off the heel. I hit the 3 & 4-irons off the heel and found that the 3-iron had to be bent to 57.5° and the 4-iron to 58.5°. I’ve found this with several golfers I’ve worked with as well after we MOI-fit and matched the irons. Hopefully, this will take out some of the confusion as to why golfers hit some clubs off the toe and others off the heel even though they have been fit for lie angles.



Couple of interesting things I’ve found is that the shaft bend profile in the KBS Tour Stiff versus the KBS Tour X-Stiff is not that vastly different in the tip section. I believe I hit moderately stiff butt-section with very stiff tip section shafts the best. The KBS Tour stiff shafts I hit pretty well, but I spin too much and that causes the ball flight to get up a little too much, particularly into a wind.

Thus, I’m considering Wishon’s Stepless Steel shafts which are similar in bend profile, but stiffer in the tip section to help bring down the spin rate.

LENGTH (39-1/4” & 39”)

Almost all golf companies utilize a ½” increment with iron shaft lengths. As you will see with the PW, I actually make that about ¼” shorter than my 9-iron. That’s fairly common in the golf industry as a ½” difference between the 9-iron and PW often makes the PW feel too short. So my theory at the time was ‘why not do that with the 3-iron?’ Thus, the ¼” inch difference between the 3 and 4-irons.

As Tom Wishon has said, you don’t see any difference in distances between irons (provided everything is the same) until the shaft lengths are greater than ½” apart. I’ve hit the 3-iron at 39-1/2” and do not see any difference in distance.

Furthermore, if I do wind up going to the Wishon stepless shafts, I would likely used Wishon’s prescribed 3/8” shaft increments. This helps make MOI-matching easier and also makes it easier to have a similar posture at address throughout the set.

The way the 3/8” increments work is you find the 6-iron length you want and then use 3/8” increments from there.

I have a 3-iron with a Wishon stepless shaft that is at the 3/8” increments. That puts the length at 39-1/8” long and have found that I also hit this the same distance as the 39-1/2” 3-iron (KBS Tour) and the 39-1/4” 3-iron (KBS Tour)

SWINGWEIGHT & MOI (D-3 & 2,725 kg/cm2)

Here’s where I find the MOI matching the most helpful as 3 and 4-irons are not simple to hit. When I first learned about MOI matching, I knew that I struck the 4-iron quite well and the 3-iron poorly. My guess was that the 3-iron’s MOI was off. Typically, when matching the MOI we want it within 5 kg/cm2 of what we are fitted for.

When I first measured the MOI of both clubs, the 3-iron was at 2,625 kg/cm2. The 4-iron came in at 2,702 kg/cm2. So that was a difference of 77 kg/cm2!

A few months down the road I learned how to best fit for MOI and found that my fitted MOI was at 2,725 kg/cm2. So, the 4-iron was not too far off. But, the 3-iron was wayyyy off (100 kg/cm2). That’s when I knew that Wishon was onto something with this MOI matching.

Up Next: The rest of the irons (5-PW)


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