Fitting philosophy: Mix your sets
When purchasing irons, golfers should consider mixing their sets.
This means combining different iron models (short irons and mid irons of one model, long irons of another) or mixing irons with hybrids.
Most club manufacturers have responded to the needs of consumers by allowing golfers to mix and match their irons and hybrids.
Dick Lyons, vice president and general manager of Mizuno Golf USA, loves to talk about club fitting.
Mizuno, prominent around the world for its forged irons, is deeply immersed in fitting. How do we know this? The tipoff comes from Mizuno sales in the United States: According to Lyons, 20 percent of Mizuno custom orders are placed for mixed sets.
The most common mix is irons and hybrids. For Mizuno, DLR hybrids (sometimes called utility clubs, these were formerly known as FLI-HI) have assumed a new importance in the scheme of things.
Mizuno has a line of game-improvement clubs called JPX-800, available in three models -- the original JPX-800, the JPX-800 Pro, and the new JPX-800HD (High Distance).
JPX-800 long and mid irons are designed to be easy to hit. Regardless, Mizuno decided to introduce its DLR hybrids to give golfers an even broader choice in combining clubs.
“We want golfers to feel confident with every single club in their bags,” Lyons said. “We are very sincere about this.
“All golfers are individuals, and we fit individuals. We don’t fit by gender, age or handicap. We fit by how you swing the golf club. If mixing the clubs is the best fit, that’s what we do.”
Another frequent mix is muscleback clubs in the short irons and mid irons, combined with a different weight configurations (such as a cavity-back or pocket-cavity design) in the long irons. Touring pros do this all the time, and several companies are encouraging skilled amateurs to mix iron models if they are comfortable with it.
To accomplish a mix of clubs, Mizuno has produced consistent lengths and loft gaps between its irons and hybrids. There was a time when many golfers ended up with a yardage gap between their longest iron and shortest hybrid, but many manufacturers have addressed and solved this problem.
Still, set configuration has become one of the biggest challenges of modern fitters. For example, where do irons stop and hybrids begin?
There are skilled players whose longest iron is a 6-iron, allowing them to carry three hybrids and four wedges if they desire. The rest of the set likely would be composed of a driver, fairway wood and putter.
Allen Doyle won back-to-back U.S. Senior Open titles with a 6-iron as the longest iron in his bag.
Because most golf balls no longer spin as much as they once did, achieving a proper trajectory with a long iron can be difficult. The No. 1 priority: Long irons demand high clubhead speed.
This is why most amateurs are smarter to use hybrids. The 2-iron is gone from today’s sets, and the 3-iron appears to be on the way out. Some club manufacturers offer game-improvement sets that start with a 5-iron.
When Mizuno encourages amateurs to explore customized sets, it isn’t just rhetoric. Mizuno’s Shaft Optimizer is an amazing little device that has helped fitters determine the best shafts for each golfer -- regardless of the set configuration that is chosen.
“I’m always shocked,” Lyons concluded, “when I hear somebody say, ‘I’m not good enough to be fit.’ That’s like saying, ‘I’m not good enough to get my suit tailored.’
“In fact, average golfers probably need to be fit more than tour players. That’s because the pros are good enough to manipulate just about any golf club to get it to do what they want.
“With amateurs, we want clubs that reward the correct swing. We all react to positive reinforcement.
“That’s why we’re not going to force-fit a golfer into something. Our philosophy is this: The way you hit the golf ball should determine your set makeup. It just makes good sense to do it that way."