Game-improvement irons are most commonly used by golfers with handicaps of more than 10, although many low-handicappers and even professionals play them as well.
The term game-improvement refers to the technology built into the clubs, designed to hit the ball straighter, higher and with more forgiveness than “blade” irons.
Game-improvement irons are good choice if you:
- Are a beginning or inexperienced golfer.
- Have experience but typically shoot 85 or higher.
- Only occasionally hit a shot on the sweet spot.
- Tend to slice or hook your irons.
- Want more height on your shots.
- Aren't concerned about “shaping” shots (intentionally playing draws/fades), or lack the skill to do so.
- Feel more confident with a larger clubhead behind the ball.
- Aren't insistent on playing clubs with a “classic” look.
Online retailer Thomas Golf carries a variety of game-improvement irons, with free custom-fitting available via the company's website (www.thomasgolf.com).
Who Should Play Game Improvement Clubs?
Generally speaking, you are not going to be able to buy a good golf game. Despite all the advances in club technology and equipment over recent years, golf is still a game that is played by humans. To play well, you are going to need solid technique, plenty of practice time, a strong mental game, and more. The best players in the game don't rise to the top because they have the best equipment, but rather because they are the most talented, hardest working golfers on the planet.
With all of that said, however, equipment does play a role in your success on the course. It would be incorrect to say that equipment is completely irrelevant, as matching up the right clubs to your swing can lead to improved results. In addition to your clubs, using the right ball is important, and even small things like gloves and shoes can have an impact on your performance. Overall, equipment still plays a small role as compared to the talent and preparation you bring to the course, but it plays a role nonetheless.
In this article, we are going to talk about a specific category of golf equipment known as game improvement clubs. When you go out shopping for a new set of sticks, you will find that there are a few general categories of clubs that you can pick from at the local pro shop. Some clubs are marketed toward accomplished players, and you can spot these clubs by their relatively small club head sizes, and their usually lofty price tags. The bulk of the gear you find in the pro shop is going to be in the 'middle of the road', meant for the average golfer who shoots scores in the 80's and 90's. Finally, some of the equipment for sale will be of the 'game improvement' variety. These clubs are meant for players who are either just getting started in golf, or have been playing a while yet have not made much progress toward a better game. Game improvement clubs are typically pretty affordable, although there are some more expensive sets offered by the big brand names.
So, should you pick up a set of game improvement clubs to take your performance to a higher level on the course? We will work toward an answer to that question in this article. There are plenty of positives to consider when thinking about going with a game improvement set, but there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind as well. No matter what you choose, remember that this equipment choice is only a small piece of the puzzle. As long as you are dedicated to working hard on your game and consistently improving as you move forward, you should be able to take your game to a higher level regardless of what clubs are in your hands.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Benefits of Game Improvement Clubs
Before you can decide if game improvement clubs are for you, the first step is understanding exactly what these kinds of clubs bring to the table. By taking a closer look at what you could potentially gain if you decided to use game improvement clubs, you can easily make a decision on whether or not they are right for you. If the benefits of game improvement clubs match up with your weaknesses on the course, this option may be worth a closer look.
The following list contains a few of the advantages that can be enjoyed when game improvement clubs are put to use.
- Easier to get the ball off the ground. This is one of the main advantages of game improvement clubs, and one of the main reasons that so many golfers turn to them for help. The design of most game improvement clubs puts the majority of the weight of the club in the sole, meaning it is below the ball at impact. That bottom-weighted design helps the ball to get up into the air, at least as compared to a 'traditional' club. Of course, the player loses some degree of feel due to this design, but that is not something the beginner is going to be concerned with for the time being. If you need help simply getting the ball up off the ground, game improvement clubs are designed to do just that.
- Added distance. In addition to helping you get the ball up off the ground, game improvement clubs are also meant to hit the ball farther. Their combination of a relatively soft shaft and a large clubhead will help most beginning and high-handicap players to add yards to their shots. These gains are only going to be seen, however, in players that actually need these clubs. If for instance, you are a good player and you decide to pick up some game improvement clubs, you will lose distance because the clubs will be a poor fit for your abilities. As long as they are put in the right hands, game improvement clubs should provide a quick boost in overall distance.
- Inspire confidence. Clubs which are meant for accomplished golfers are often small in design, providing the player with very little to look at while preparing to swing. For the beginning player stuck with a set that is meant for a better golfer, looking down at a small clubhead is terrifying. That player will simply be hoping to make contact at all, with no thought of actually producing a good shot. Switching to game improvement clubs can change this perspective. These clubs are going to be larger, they will have an ample sweet spot, and they will have the player thinking confidently before the swing begins. There is still no guarantee of a great shot, of course, but game improvement clubs do cause you to think that there is reason for optimism about the shot to come.
- Affordable. This is not true of all game improvement sets, but many of them on the market today do come at a very reasonable cost. If you need to purchase your first full set of clubs, for instance, opting for game improvement clubs would be a wise choice. Not only will they be better suited for your needs on the course, but they will also save you some money at the same time. You can always move up into more advanced, more expensive clubs later on, so an affordable game improvement set is a great way to get started. Ask in your local pro shop for low-priced beginner sets and they should be able to show you at least a few options.
For the right player, there is a lot to like about going in the game improvement direction. These kinds of clubs are naturally going to be rather easy to hit, and they are going to help you build much-needed confidence as you learn the game. If the points in the list above are appealing to you, be sure to look closer into the possibility of picking up a game improvement set for yourself.
A Player Profile
It is always dangerous to attempt to put golfers into specific categories. All golfers are unique individuals with their own set of talents, experiences, and more. For instance, just because you are a beginning golfer doesn't necessarily mean you are a bad golfer. Some people pick up this game quite quickly, thanks to strong coordination and overall athletic ability. Or, on the other hand, some people who have been playing for years still struggle with the basics.
However, while there are always exceptions to any rule, we can develop a general profile of the player who is likely to be well-served by game improvement clubs. If the points below closely reflect your current status in the world of golf, game improvement clubs may be right for you.
- Rarely breaks 100. You can't judge the ability by a golfer entirely on score alone, but this is certainly a good place to start. If you regularly struggle to break through the 100 mark – or, if you have never before shot a two-digit score for 18 holes – you are a good candidate for game improvement clubs. In order to shoot scores in the 100s, you need to hit quite a few poor shots throughout the course of the day. That isn't meant as any kind of insult, it is just a fact of life in this game. Game improvement clubs have the potential to help you play at a higher level, and they may even help you break into the 90s on a regular basis. Once your scores start to come down, you may be able to consider transitioning into a set that offers you more feel and control at that time. For now, you should be thinking mostly about getting in under 100 during an 18-hole round, and it is possible that game improvement clubs will be able to help you do just that.
- Been playing for less than a year. If you are just getting started in this game, you should definitely consider opting for a set of game improvement clubs. Golf is a game that is based largely on experience, as almost all golfers improve as they put more and more rounds under their belt. While you are working on building up your experience level in the game, you might as well give yourself the best possible chance to shoot low numbers. That chance is going to come in the form of game improvement clubs, as these kinds of clubs will help you to produce acceptable shots even from your inconsistent swings. When you see some good shots begin to come off of your clubs, you will only be more encouraged to work at your game in order to see even greater results.
- Play on a limited basis. As mentioned in the point above, experience plays a large role in the game of golf. If you don't get a chance to play very often – say, only a few times per year – it would be smart to stock your bag with game improvement clubs. That is true even if you have been playing for years. When you rarely get out to work on your game, either on the range or on the course, you simply can't improve your play as you might like. To make the game as easy as possible on those rare occasions when you do get out, consider choosing game improvement clubs rather than clubs which will be more difficult to hit properly. Should your schedule pick up and your game improve in the future, you may then wish to move into a set meant for more advanced golfers.
Think honestly about the status of your golf game at the moment as you keep in mind the points listed above. If those points reflect your game fairly accurately, you may want to consider picking up some game improvement clubs to move your performance in the right direction.
Game Improvement Club Limitations
As you can see from the first few sections of this article, there are plenty of good things to say about game improvement clubs. For the right golfer, game improvement clubs can help the player to enjoy the game by making it easier to get the ball off the ground, adding distance to their shots, and producing lower scores. However, as with anything else in golf, there is a give and take to consider on this point. If you are going to play game improvement clubs, you will have to deal with a few drawbacks and limitations. These negatives are going to be outweighed by the positives for most beginning and high-handicap players, but it is important that you understand the complete picture before making your decision.
The first major drawback of using game improvement clubs is the inability to get a good feel for the ball at impact. Because these clubs usually have large heads with perimeter weighting, the feeling of the ball contacting the face of the club is going to be 'absorbed' by the club itself. Very little of that sensation is going to be passed up to your hands, meaning you won't have a great feel for the kind of contact that you achieved. This is different than something like a blade iron, which will pass almost all of the feel of the shot up into your hands. While feeling the shot is not something that is a priority for the average beginning golfer, it is a point that better golfers take very seriously. As you improve, you will likely want to move away from game improvement clubs and into something that provides you a better feel for the shots you are hitting.
Another limitation of game improvement clubs is the inability to control the trajectory of your shots from side to side. Most of these kinds of clubs are designed with one thing in mind – hitting the ball as straight as possible. Again, this is where perimeter weighting comes into the picture. By distributing the weight of the club around the edges, the club will hold steady through impact and you will have an easier time producing a straight ball flight. This is a good thing in many cases, but not when you need to hit a curve on purpose.
For instance, if there is a tree between you and the target, and you would like to draw the ball around the tree intentionally, you may not be able to do so when playing a game improvement club. A more-advanced club design would make it easier for you to curve your shots on purpose, but those same clubs are also prone to curving the ball when you don't want it to curve. Better players are able to control the curve of their shots with relative consistency, so using advanced clubs is the right pick. If you are not yet at that level, stick with game improvement clubs and just live with the fact that you won't be able to produce much in the way of an intentional curve.
In the same way that you will have trouble controlling the side to side curve of your shots with game improvement clubs, you will also struggle to control the height of your trajectory. These kinds of clubs are designed to fly high, so that is what they are going to do in almost every instance. As long as you strike the ball solidly at impact, the ball is going to fly high into the air thanks to the amount of weight that has been built into the sole of your club. Beginners will appreciate the way that the ball climbs into the sky, but advanced players will be frustrated at the inability to keep the ball down when necessary (such as when playing on a windy day).
As you can see, the limitations of game improvement irons relate directly to points that are going to be important for an advanced player. This is why advanced golfers should look into other styles of clubs, while game improvement clubs remain a wise choice for beginners and high-handicappers. Less-experienced players aren't going to be bothered by the points included above, and they will stand to benefit greatly from the many positive attributes which game improvement clubs bring to the course.
When to Move On
One of the trickiest decisions that you will face in your golf experience is knowing when to move on from game improvement clubs to a more advanced set. As you improve, you will be tempted to view your improvement in one of two ways. On the one hand, you could be playing better golf because you are refining your technique, gaining experience, and even sharpening up your short game. Or, on the other hand, you could be getting better because of what the game improvement irons are doing for you.
So which is it? You certainly don't want to have your performance tail off after spending hundreds of dollars to move into a more advanced set of clubs. To make sure you aren't making this switch prematurely, ask to 'demo' some advanced golf clubs at your local range. Most ranges have demo clubs available for you to use if you are considering buying a new set, and they will typically let you use them for free. Take a couple of demo clubs out to the range, along with your current set, and hit some shots. Are you able to replicate the results you get with your game improvement clubs with the advanced models? If so, it might be time to move on and pick out an advanced set of clubs to take your game to the next level.
You should only make this decision when you feel like your current set of clubs is really holding you back from improving. For instance, if you would like to learn some new shots that your game improvement clubs just can't product, opting for a new set of advanced clubs would be the wise choice. Consistent growth is critical if you are going to reach your long term goals in this game, and that growth will eventually be blocked by your game improvement clubs. Think of game improvement equipment in the same way that you would think about training wheels on a bicycle. They are great while you need them, but eventually, it will be time to move on.
Game improvement clubs hold a very important place in the overall golf equipment market. If not for these kinds of clubs, countless players would struggle to even get the ball up in the air – and many would quit the game out of frustration before they improved their skills. If you are at a point in your golfing life where game improvement clubs make sense, you should put them in your bag with pride. Good luck and play well!