Once upon a time, irons were a one-size-fits-all proposition. If you couldn't make solid contact with a compact blade, well, maybe golf wasn't the sport for you.
Thankfully, equipment has come a long way. Today's golfer can choose from a vast array of irons based on his preferences for size, appearance and feel, as well as his ball-striking ability.
Golfers who are new to the game or struggle to hit the sweet spot are advised to try oversized, cavity-back irons. Because of their broad hitting areas and perimeter weighting, these clubs are generally more forgiving than their smaller siblings – meaning off-center hits fly straighter and farther than misses with conventional irons.
Here's why: Cavity-back irons are built with a majority of weight positioned on the outside of the head. This reduces the amount of vibration when the ball isn't struck on the club's center, so less energy is lost. Perimeter weighting also creates a “gear effect” which causes off-center hits to spin back toward the target.
In addition, oversized, cavity-back irons help many players hit higher shots that land more softly on the green. The large clubface can also inspire extra confidence, arguably the most important ingredient to golf success.
Leading manufacturers of oversized, cavity-back irons include Thomas Golf, which offers free custom fitting on its website (For more information on Cavity Back Irons:).
Why Oversized Cavity Back Irons Are Good for Improving Golfers
Picking out the right equipment is key to enjoying your experience on the golf course. No, the right clubs aren't going to do all of the work for you, but they certainly will make this difficult game a little bit easier. Playing with the right clubs will allow your talent and hard work to show on the course – playing with the wrong clubs, however, will make the game a struggle. Sadly, countless amateur players tee it up each day without the right weapons in their bag. Take some time (and money) to acquire the right clubs for your game and you should see your scores move in the right direction.
In this article, we are going to specifically address the category of 'improving golfers'. This is a group of players who takes the game seriously, yet has not quite created a consistent swing which yields reliable results shot after shot. Usually, a player in this group will shoot scores in the 90's or low-100's for an average 18-hole round. Rather than being embarrassed by your scores, you should be excited if you find yourself in this category. After all, you have room to improve your game, and a little bit of hard work along with the right gear could help you lower your scores in short order. It is difficult to improve your game once your scores get down into the 80's and 70's, so relish the chance you have now to play better golf.
The biggest mistake made by players in this category is purchasing clubs which are too difficult to hit for their current skill level. Many golfers with high handicaps purchase 'player's clubs' because they want to use the same equipment they see the pros using on TV. Unfortunately, those clubs require consistent and powerful golf swings to use effectively. Most higher handicap players don't have that kind of skill at this point, meaning they are unable to get the best possible performance from those sticks. Rather than picking clubs based on what the pros are using, improving golfers should be picking from options which are specifically designed for high handicap players.
As you are assembling your set, you don't need to think too much about the driver and fairway woods. There isn't much difference in design between drivers meant for the pros and those meant for less-experienced players, so feel free to pick out whatever club you happen to like best. The story is different when it comes to the irons, however, as there is a huge difference in design and performance between iron sets meant for scratch golfers and sets meant for high handicappers. As long as you remain in the category of an improving golfer, you need to be using irons which have been built with your type of game in mind.
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.
Two Keys – Oversized, and Cavity Back
There are two key elements which improving golfers should look for when seeking a new set of irons – a cavity back design, and an oversized head. Both of these features are going to make it easier to hit quality shots on a regular basis. Not only will these kinds of clubs perform well on your good swings, but they will also help to improve the results you see from your poor swings. No club can completely fix a bad golf swing, but using oversized, cavity back irons will help you achieve acceptable results even when your swing gets a bit off track.
So why are these two elements so important for improving golfers? Review the points below for a better understanding of this topic.
- It's all about forgiveness. Both of these key elements are going to make your irons more forgiving at the point of impact. What does that mean? Basically, the oversized, cavity back design of your irons is going to allow for better results on miss-hit shots. While you would love to hit the sweet spot shot after shot, that simply isn't going to happen. On those shots that you do miss out toward the toe or in off the heel, these kinds of irons are going to provide you with better results. You still aren't likely to hit your target perfectly when you miss-hit the ball, but you should be able to live with the outcome and move on to the next shot. Smaller, blade-style irons are extremely unforgiving on off-center hits, meaning your poor shots will usually land way short of the intended target. Leave those smaller irons to the pros and use a large, cavity back design to make the game just a little bit easier.
- Get the ball off the ground. For beginning golfers, one of the biggest challenges in the game is simply getting the ball up off the ground on a consistent basis. This isn't too tough with the driver and fairway woods, but it can seem downright impossible when playing an iron shot directly off the turf. Thanks to the design of oversized, cavity backed clubs, however, you should find that the ball will get up off the ground with very little trouble on most of your iron swings. The majority of the weight in these club heads is placed in the sole, meaning it will be below the ball at impact. As long as you make decent contact, the ball should climb up into the sky time after time.
- Reduced side spin. Using game improvement irons will not take all of the side spin off the ball, but you should find that you hit smaller hooks and slices than you may hit with a blade iron. Controlling the side spin on your ball is one of your main objectives as a golfer, so don't take this point for granted. If you are currently using smaller iron heads and you find that your shots often have too much shape, look for a set with larger heads. This seemingly minor difference in club design can have a major impact on how much you curve the ball in the air.
- Improved confidence. When you look down at your club at address, you want to feel confident about the swing you are going to make. Unfortunately, it is hard for the average amateur to feel confident when they see a small club head sitting behind the ball. By moving into a larger set of irons, you will see the big club head behind the ball during your setup – and you will feel more confident in your ability to hit a good shot as a result. It is important to have confidence in golf, and simply changing equipment can go a long way toward promoting that confidence.
As you can see, there are a number of advantages to using oversized, cavity back irons as an improving golfer. No, you aren't going to look like a pro with the latest in 'player's clubs' in your bag, but that's okay – as long as you are making progress on your game, you should be happy with your gear. Over time, as your game improves, you can start to think about moving into a more advanced set of irons.
Focus on Your Own Improvement
One of the nice advantages you will enjoy when using game improvement irons is the ability to focus on what matters most – your own improvement from a technical standpoint. Equipment isn't going to take you to a new level in this game, but it certainly can hold you back. Basically, oversized, cavity back irons are the right clubs because they are going to 'stay out of your way'. With these kinds of clubs in your hand, it won't be the equipment that's holding you back – so you will have no excuses to turn to for poor performance. You will have to take ownership of your mistakes and it will be your job to find a way to get better.
Players who use clubs which are unforgiving and difficult to hit can always look to their equipment as a possible part of the problem. You may be tempted to think that a given swing 'wasn't that bad', and it was really the club that made the shot look worse that it was. It should be easy to see why this kind of thinking is dangerous for an improving golfer. You have a lot to learn if you are going to play golf at a higher level, so you need to strip away anything that could get in the way of honest improvement. Provide yourself with a forgiving set of cavity back irons and then forget about equipment as one of your potential problems. You will know for certain that your clubs aren't holding you back, so the only path to improvement will be through your own technique.
If you would like to take the next step forward in your game but aren't sure where to start, consider the following points to guide your upcoming practice sessions.
- Balance. Working on your balance is never a bad way to spend a practice session. Balance is often considered to be the single most important fundamental in the golf swing, as everything else quickly falls apart when you lose your balance. During your next trip to the range, try to hit an entire bucket of balls while thinking about nothing other than your balance. Even without thinking about a single swing key beyond balance, you will likely be impressed with your results. Thinking about staying balanced keeps the swing simple, and the quality of your ball striking is almost sure to improve. Professional golfers know how important it is to stay balanced in the swing, and you should be following their lead.
- Shoulder turn. Another key ingredient in a good golf swing is a big shoulder turn. Even if you aren't the most flexible person in the world, you should still be working to make the best possible shoulder turn in your backswing. A big turn is going to pave the way for a long, powerful downswing, which exactly what you need to hit quality shots. Think about moving your left shoulder under your chin during the backswing and you should arrive at the top of the swing in a beautiful position. It is easy to cut your shoulder turn short when you get nervous on the course, so work hard on this point on the range. With enough work put in on the range, a great shoulder turn should be second nature when you play your next round.
- Staying down in your stance. You probably know that you need to build an athletic, balanced stance at address. What you may not know, however, is that you need to stay down in that stance throughout your swing. Rather than standing up out of your stance as the backswing develops, maintain your knee flex all the way through the transition and into the downswing. Staying down in your stance means not only keeping your knees flexed, but also maintaining the tilt in your spine that you had at address. By moving as little as possible in the backswing while still making a great shoulder turn, you will be well-positioning for a successful downswing.
The three points listed above are each pretty simple to understand, yet all of them are critically important to the success of your swing. Take some time during your next few range visits to work on all of these points and it is nearly certain that your game will be moving in the right directions.
It's Not All About the Clubhead
When you pick out any golf club, it is natural to look first at the club head. Most golfers shop for a driver this way, and most player shop for irons this way as well. While the club head is an obviously important piece of the puzzle, it is not the only thing to consider. You also need to take a close look at the shaft of any club that you purchase, as the shaft will have as much to do with your performance as the head itself.
This is true of iron sets, as you need to have the right shaft in all of your irons if you hope to achieve reliable performance. Unfortunately, many improving and beginning golfers pick out clubs which include the wrong shaft for their swing needs. Common mistakes when picking iron shafts include the following two points –
- Selecting a shaft which is too stiff. This is another error that is often made out of a desire to copy the pros. Most professional golfers use club shafts which fall into the category of 'extra stiff', as they have high swing speeds and need the shaft to keep up through impact. That is not true of amateur players, however, as most don't have the kind of swing speed necessary to demand a stiff shaft. Unless you can regularly hit your drives in excess of 250 yards, there is no need to look into the stiff category of club shafts. For most beginning golfers, a regular set of shafts will work just fine. The regular flex makes it easier to get the ball up into the air, and you won't have to apply as much effort during the swing to bend the club properly. When in doubt, you always want to use a shaft that is slightly too soft rather than slightly too stiff. An overly stiff shaft will require you to come out of your natural rhythm and tempo, and only bad things are going to result from that change.
- Selecting a shaft which is too heavy. Again, this is a common mistake which makes the game harder for the average amateur player. When selecting irons, many improving players will choose a set which features stiff, heavy steel shafts. Yes, it is true that most professional golfers use steel shafts in their irons. However, that fact has nothing to do with the amateur game. Most amateurs would be better served with a set of graphite shafts, as irons with graphite shafts are going to be lighter and easier to swing than their steel counterparts. Lighter clubs will equate to faster swing speeds, and that increase in speed should mean greater distance in the end. Rather than making the game harder with a set of heavy steel shafts, look for a lightweight graphite option and enjoy the benefits that such shafts provide.
When you head out to purchase a set of irons, be sure to consider the shafts in those irons just as carefully at the club heads themselves. If you aren't sure which shafts are going to be right for you, ask at your local golf course about their club fitting service. Most golf courses provide club fitting with the help of a launch monitor, and you can gather a tremendous amount of information through such a session. After just a half hour or so of working with an experienced club fitter, you should have everything you need to pick out the perfect set of irons.
When to Make the Transition
The idea behind using large cavity back irons is not to use these clubs for the rest of your career as a golfer. Rather, the goal is to improve your game to a point where you can move up into a more advanced set of sticks. These easy-to-hit clubs will stay out of your way while you are learning the basics of the game, and they will allow you to see some positive results. As time goes by, you are going to find that you need the clubs to help you less and less – and eventually, it will be time to move on.
So how do you know when it is time to transition into a more advanced set of irons? Watch for the following signs.
- Lower scores. Naturally, the most obvious sign that you are ready to upgrade your clubs is lower scoring on a consistent basis. It is important not to react to a couple of good rounds, however, as all golfers will go through hot and cold stretches as they play. Make sure you are sustaining your lower scores for an extended period of time before you shop for new irons. If you live somewhere that features a seasonal golf season, try to wait until the offseason to make the switch to a new set as there is going to be a period of transition required before you get comfortable with the new equipment.
- Shots flying too high. As you gain swing speed, you might find that you are suddenly hitting the ball too high for your own good. Hitting high shots is a good thing, but you don't want to send the ball so high into the sky that you lose control over your ball flight. When the ball starts to sail way up beyond your control, it may be time to make a change.
- You feel limited by your clubs. Experienced golfers are able to control the spin on the ball in a variety of ways to reach various targets. You won't have this ability as a beginning player, but as time goes by you will feel more and more capable of hitting draws and fades on command. Of course, oversized cavity back irons won't let you 'work' the ball on command, so you might start to feel that your equipment is holding you back. When that happens, start the process of looking for some smaller headed irons.
For beginning and improving golfers, cavity back irons with oversized heads are a great option. These clubs do have their limitations, but for what is required by an improving player, they are a perfect choice. Pick out a set of oversized irons for yourself and let them help you along the way as you work toward a better golf game. Good luck!