All Beginnings 16: Much Helps Much

Published on   2023-02-02 by Kai

When visitors who have had no previous contact with golf see my bag in the hallway, they are sometimes interested, want to pick up a club, see what it feels like.

Of course, I'm always happy to provide comprehensive information, to show them how to grip the club correctly, how to swing. Often the question is what fascinates me so much about golf, what is the attraction of going out on the course in wind and weather - admittedly: preferably in dry and warm weather - and chasing a small ball that you hit more or less in the desired direction to then sink it into a small hole.

The expected question

And then at some point it comes, the question I've always expected to be asked: Why do you need so many clubs, many of which - the irons - also look very similar?

Yes, I also asked myself this question as a newcomer. Especially when it came to the purchase. Can't I get by with four or five clubs? Can't I minimize the costs by only using four clubs instead of a maximum of 14?

Aren't four clubs enough?

It should be sufficient for a good or aspiring player to take a driver, perhaps a hybrid, a mid-iron and a putter. With that, you could meet all the distance requirements. Sure, you could. For long and medium strokes you would have the driver and hybrid, for putting the putter and for shorter distances and approaches the iron, perhaps a 7 or 8 iron.

And there are tournaments that you also have to play with a minimalist set, where only three clubs are allowed. Then you take the driver, a longer 6 or 7 iron and a wedge. The driver can replace the missing putter with its large hitting surface and its low loft, i.e. the only relatively small inclination of the surface compared to the vertical.

Metering the swing

The special challenge for the player then lies in the dosage of the swing when reaching for the iron, because at shorter distances a normal swing could drive the ball too far. Sensitivity is required here, because the game normally works somewhat differently.

And here comes the answer to the question why the set has so many irons: These irons have different shaft lengths and different degrees of loft on the hitting surfaces.

Club choice determines swing distance

And that's why the golf swing is so essential. It's all about executing every iron swing (not counting the wedges) in the same way. With the same power, the same intensity and the same speed. The distance to be achieved is determined by the choice of the right iron.

In the following video, golf pro Vaughn Hawtrey describes the club situation for true golf rookies and has therefore set a slightly different premise for his club selection than I did earlier in the text. Nevertheless, the film is also a help for rookies who already go on the round with a complete set.

To put it another way, swings with irons are generally not metered. The swing distance is determined by the choice of irons. This simplifies the game. But of course, this is relative.

Golf beginners know how difficult it is to train a good and repeatable golf swing. It takes time. And you should never rest on your laurels when you have the impression that the swing is correct and the balls are flying evenly far and in the right direction. Minimal mistakes, minor changes in movement quickly creep in again.

Often the only thing that helps is a pro

The swing gets worse again. Then often only a pro helps to get the swing back on track. (See also: All Beginnings 15: Golfing in Jurassic Park)

And now imagine that you not only have to keep an eye on your stance, swing path, club head alignment and speed, stance and grip, but also have to delicately meter your power to achieve the targeted distance so as not to hit the ball too far or too short.

This sounds like a small thing now, but golfers know that this aspect could cause big trouble, because the swing is not only trained for movement, but also for a certain power and technique and for a certain distance of the swing.

Trained swing worth nothing

All this would probably have to be changed in order to dose the swing distance. And immediately the painstakingly trained swing would be worth nothing.

Here, golf pro Florian Raggl gives good tips for the right swing with an iron:

Let's look at it historically: golf was invented at some point. There is no exact evidence of when the real starting point should be set. As early as the 14th century, there is evidence of people using clubs to maneuver a ball into a hole. Since then - and before the British virtually fine-tuned the sport and provided it with clear rules - a lot has changed.

Clubs evolved and at some point it was realized that it was easier to have a number of clubs and to assign a certain (depending on the practice, very constant) distance to each of them than to struggle with one club and have to keep an eye on the distance as well as the right swing.

Clear relief

I, for one, find this a clear relief. And anyone who is used to a complete set of clubs when playing, but suddenly only has half a set or even fewer clubs available - for whatever reason - will agree with me. And the saying, which in other contexts tends to have a negative connotation, becomes an absolutely correct positive here: A lot helps a lot.

Which iron should be used for which stroke distance is not something I can give a patent rule for here. In my text How to Golf 7: The agony of (club) choice on this blog, you will find, in addition to some tips, a table that shows the average distances of the various clubs in relation to the skill of the golfer. But of course these are only average values.

Determine values yourself

In order to determine the correct values and corresponding clubs for yourself - assuming that your swing is already fairly regular as well as the distances with the individual irons - it is advisable to hit at least ten balls with each iron on the range. An approximate average value is then calculated from the distances achieved. This can be a good help when choosing a club for the round. Give it a try.

Finally, here's a video that shows what distances are possible. And even though this will remain pure fantasy for just about every amateur golfer, it is impressive to see the results that can be achieved from the interplay between a good swing, i.e. the right hitting technique, and a lot of physical strength.

Previous article in the series: All Beginnings 15: Golfing in Jurassic Park

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Still a Rookie