With temperatures forecasted to be in the high 70s and low 80s throughout the Northeast and Midwest this week, it finally might be safe to put away the snow shovels and grab your clubs after a frustrating start to spring. And if you were lucky enough to get a new set of irons after last season, there are two things you need to do if you want them to help you shoot lower scores
First and foremost, you need to find out exactly how far you hit each of your new clubs. If you were custom fit, you probably have a good idea of the carry distance and the overall distance of a few of your new clubs. But if you have seven or eight new irons, you need to learn the distance you hit all of them.
A great way to accurately obtain information on club yardages is to go to an indoor golf facility that has a simulator and use the driving range mode. Simulators such as Full Swing, Golfzon, True Golf and About Golf create lifelike shots on the screen based on the way you swing and the data the system collects. In the driving range mode, instead of using that data to play a virtual round on Pebble Beach Golf Links or another bucket-list course, simulators can display information about your shots similar to how pros obtain data from launch monitors.
The driving range mode in nearly every simulator will let you hit a series of shots and show you the average carry distance, height, spin rate, descent angle and overall distance. So if you hit eight to 10 shots with each of your irons, you will walk away knowing how far you hit each of your new clubs.
Typically it is best to test equipment outside, because that’s where golf is played. But gathering data on simulators can offer two big advantages to working out your distances on the range:
1. You can test using the ball you play. Some elite clubs have premium golf balls for members to use in the practice areas, but the balls you get at a public driving range could be old, cut or scuffed. Even if the range balls are relatively new and in good shape, they may not perform like the ball you typically play. Bring a few of your own golf balls to your simulator session and you will take the lousy-ball factor out of the equation.
2. Simulators are controlled environments. All of us have hit shots that felt perfect and then fell short or sailed 15 yards farther than we expected due to wind that you did not feel. Tailwinds reduce the effect of spin and keep shots low; headwinds can increase the effect of backspin and make your shot balloon. Simulators offer you a wind-free environment and let you hit from a perfect lie every time, so for testing purposes they are ideal.
After you know how far you hit each of your new clubs, you need to think about gaps between your new irons and your strongest-lofted wedge, as well as your first hybrid or fairway wood.
If you intend to use a new pitching wedge that came with your iron set, be aware that it may have as little as 43 or 44 degrees of loft. If your next wedge is your 56-degree sand wedge, the 10-12 degree gap between the wedges can create a serious distance gap and force you to hit a lot of tricky, partial-swing approach shots.
Similarly, you need to make sure the gap between your longest iron and your shortest hybrid or fairway wood is not excessive.
A good custom fitter can help you adjust your set so the distance gaps between each club make sense. Wedges can be bent and their lofts can be adjusted, and many hybrids have adjustable hosels that can increase or decrease their loft, too.
You’ve waited this long to get on the course, so spending an hour hitting balls in a simulator and talking with a good custom fitter will ensure that when you finally hit the course, your new gear will make that wait worthwhile.