Choosing a head style requires matching skill with desire. The very best shot makers choose the tiniest, most compact muscle back blades for the “purest feel”. Nick Price is playing a set of Miura Baby Blades that he bought with his own money.
The most important factor that makes irons easy to hit is size. There is no disgrace going a little larger. K.J. Choi trusted Miura 501 “midsize” forged irons to win the Players’ Championship. He bought his 501’s with his own money too.
In 2011, there are two new, truly forgiving forged iron models – the Vega VC-03 and the Miura “Passing Point”. The “easy to hit” forged iron was conceived as a “game improvement” club for high handicappers. Surprise of surprises, the long irons are easier to hit than a hybrid. This is especially true for good iron players. Now, we’re gradually moving larger irons through the 5-6 and 7.
The ”matched set” of irons is obsolete. The most technically astute players are dividing their iron set into “long range”, “mid-range” and “scoring clubs”. What logic is behind matching a 3 iron and pitching wedge? How does a 3 iron swing match a pitching wedge swing?
“Long range fairway clubs” cover eighteen and twenty-one degree lofts. The two iron (18*) and three iron (21*) match the five wood (18*) and the seven wood (21*). Hybrids offer the same loft options. Consistent, solid contact is the goal from long distance.
At 18* and 21* you are choosing the shape that fits your eye from all wood, hybrid and iron shapes in the world. My personal choice is the Adams “Tour” hybrid at 18* and the Vega VC-03 iron at 21*. I like matching iron shafts at those lofts – Matrix Studio 64, stiff, standard tipping, PCS 6.0 flex value.
The “middle irons” are the 4, 5 and 6. They cover modern lofts of 24*, 27* and 31*. This is where oversize forged irons shine. It is also hybrid country. K.J. Choi played hybrids through his six iron at the Masters.
My personal choices are the Vega VC-03 for the “forged feel”. The Miura Passing Point irons are a close second. The Adams Redline irons are a very good choice for players who want the same size in a low offset, high bounce “game improvement” model. This is a “new category” of iron head. The goal is “anywhere on the green”.
Turn to the “scoring clubs”. For most good players, pulling the seven iron mean you’re looking at the pin. From your seven iron at 35* eight iron (39*), nine (43*), PW (47*) and gap wedge (52*) this is where “size matters” and it’s just the opposite from what you might think. “Smaller is better” when you’re digging the ball out of thick rough aiming for the pin. For accuracy, a birdie putt will be fine.
My personal choices are the Miura 501’s and the Vega VM-01’s – toss-up – the Miuras with a knife-like topline and the Vegas a little rounder. There is a feel difference due to different forging methods. What combination of head and shaft will be the best “dart thrower”? You answer that question by throwing darts yourself.
Fitting consideration: many high-index players will think that they “can’t play blades”. No matter your index, you should test a midsize forged blade for your scoring clubs. You may find that it is much easier to hit than the “game improvement” iron you’re playing. That is because “game improvement” irons are designed to produce the best results for a missed shot. Plan on learning to hit your short irons solid.
Finally, wedges. Choose your Guru. The simplest choice is Stan Utley. He says: “Get a 58* wedge and do everything with it.” There is a Stan Utley “Signature” 58* wedge from Scratch. Get one of those and wear it out.
The “other guru” is Dave Pelz. He recommends 48*, 52*, 56*, 60* and 64*. Pelz is fine if you have lots of time to practice and you have the touch of a Tour Pro. It’s also handy to hit your six iron two hundred yards. Pros don’t need distance so extra wedges come in handy. For most amateurs, it’s better to save space at the long end of the bag to stay within the 14 club limit.
My recommendation is to go with Utley. It’s just much simpler to start your “wedge odyssey” without too many choices. Match the 58* up with a 53* or 54* high bounce wedge that does double duty from the fairway and bunker. Lower loft and higher bounce for bunkers. Think at least 12* of bounce at 53*. Practice enough to wear out a pair of wedges in a year and your handicap will come down.
Compact wedges and scoring clubs are required for players looking for precision from the fairway and digging power in the rough. This is where “game improvement” designs fail. A short pitch from a lie deep in the rough with an oversize, “big bounce” iron head is an impossible shot to master.
The true “custom fitted wedge” story is yet to be written. It is going to be based on the David Edel and Mike Adams designed system that fits for bounce. The concept was well described in my article “2011 PGA Show” here: http://calgolflab.com/blog/2011/03/16/2011-pga-show/
Personally I like the concept of a bag full of wedge blanks, grinder and a complete set of bounce gauges. “Fitting for bounce” will hit “beta” about August 2011 and will mature as a fitting concept in 2012.