Hollow-bodied driving irons were ideal at Carnoustie, but they're still specialty clubs

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Hollow-bodied driving irons were ideal at Carnoustie, but they're still specialty clubs

Equipment

Hollow-bodied driving irons were ideal at Carnoustie, but they're still specialty clubs

After shooting a Sunday 62 and winning the Quicken Loans National by eight shots two weeks before the British Open, Francesco Molinari might have been considered foolish to change any of his gear. Well, he did.

The Italian removed his TaylorMade M4 5-wood at Carnoustie, and in its place he added a TaylorMade P790 UDI 3-iron, a hollow-bodied club designed to be a driving iron. It proved to be a wise move, as Molinari held off stars such as Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth to be crowned the champion golfer of the year on Sunday.

Adding the 3-iron was not the only reason Molinari won, of course, but it did put him in a large group of players turning to hollow-bodied driving irons on fast, windy courses.

From a design standpoint, hollow-bodied irons appeal to many better players because designers can keep them small, and their faces flex more efficiently at impact than a traditional iron. This helps create hybrid-like ball speed and distance. However, their center of gravity tends to be higher than a wide-soled hybrid, so the irons produce a lower, more-piercing trajectory. In blustery conditions on courses with hard ground, that’s a great combination.

TaylorMade GAPR Lo irons

TaylorMade GAPR Lo (TaylorMade)

Last week, TaylorMade debuted the new GAPR Lo, a hollow-bodied club available in 2- through 4-iron for better players. It was designed to fill the gap between a player’s highest-lofted wood and first iron, and 11 golfers added one to their bag at last week’s British Open, including Tiger Woods, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Chappell and Masters champion Patrick Reed.

PXG 0311X driving iron

The PXG 0311X driving iron has a wide sole and low center of gravity. (Parsons Xtreme Golf)

Matt Rollins, the director of player operations for PXG, said that four of the company’s five staff players at Carnoustie added a 0311X, a hollow-bodied driving iron, to their bag. That number includes 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who typically carries a 2-iron but added a 1-iron for the week. Pat Perez, who finished T-17 after being near the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes, took out his 17-degree PXG 0317 hybrid and added a 16-degree 0311X GEN 2 2-iron.

Those changes contrast with the approach PXG’s staff players took at last month’s U.S. Open at the links-style Shinnecock Hills.

“None of those players put the driving iron into play at Shinnecock,” said Rollins, who has worked as a manufacturer’s representative at 15 British Opens. “They felt that at Shinnecock you could still hit the ball high because the greens were receptive. It was just soft enough there to make you have to fly the ball there instead of rolling it. There was also no breeze.”

Titleist 718 T-MB Irons

Titleist 718 T-MB (David Dusek/Golfweek

The combination of wind and firm fairways helped golfers at Carnoustie hit their drivers incredibly far, and with modern-day 3-woods often used as secondary driving clubs, three Titleist staff players—Jason Kokrak, Ben An and Adam Scott—played last week without a 3-wood. Instead, they all added a hollow-bodied 718 T-MB 2-iron. Jordan Spieth, who typically carries a 21-degree Titleist 818 H2 hybrid and a 718 T-MB 4-iron, added a T-MB 3-iron fitted with a Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 95X graphite shaft at the U.S. Open and the British Open.

J.J. VanWezenbeeck, a PGA Tour rep for Titleist, said the graphite shaft in Spieth’s T-MB iron is the same model as the shaft in his hybrid but 10 grams heavier.

“At a place like the Open Championship, Jordan is not trying to necessarily change the yardage, because it is fitting into the same place in his bag,” VanWezenbeeck said. “What we are trying to do is change ball flight.”

The T-MB 3-iron flies lower than Spieth’s hybrid, which means that while the three-time major winner does not get the same amount of carry distance, he gets more roll at a place like Carnoustie.

With the action at Carnoustie complete, most golfers who added driving irons will put those clubs in the closet for a year. Both Rollins and VanWezenbeeck said they expect all their players will remove them before their next PGA Tour event and put their hybrids and fairway woods back in the bag.

VanWezenbeeck noted that many players travel with significantly more than 14 clubs, so if they encounter a hard and fast course and high winds are expected, we might see driving irons return. But while hollow-bodied driving irons are a lot easier to hit and provide more distance than their predecessors, typical course conditions on the PGA Tour still favor fairway woods and hybrids.

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