Buying an Iron Set

How-To Guides: Buying an Iron Set

Buying an Iron Set

How-To Guides: Buying an Iron Set

Golf season is here, and everyone is thinking this will be the year for dropping the handicap. The right set of irons — and consistent practice and play — can definitely help you achieve that goal.

Now, most golfers golf bag consists of 14 clubs built for various reasons. What most people need to realize is that it takes just one decision, what iron set to buy, to influence a golfer’s entire set of clubs.

So what I recommend involves a simple three step process: Research; Consultation; Fitting.

Research

Before you even enter a store, search around a few manufacturers’ websites to learn a little about the latest and greatest iron technology on the market. Read some online reviews, such as from 2nd Swing Blog’s comprehensive and free search archives, to help you figure out what kind of iron may match your skill level, club needs as well as playing goals, such as adding loft, feel, flex and distance.

Whether you are interested in a PING, TaylorMade, Titleist or Callaway irons, first learn a little about the new iron sets each company recently released. This will give you the confidence to know some of the clubs’ general specifications (specs) as well as the technological advances certain iron sets may have made in the passing years since you last purchased clubs.

You can trust these manufacturers to give you a brief summary of features and benefits for their new irons. Then try to be ahead of the game by having a favorite model of iron after you researched what might be best for you, like the popular and well-performing new PING i25 series, and you will be far ahead of the game.

Consultation

By consultation, I mean pretty much demanding a proper education by your local golf store or club shop salesperson or pro on what type of iron will be best for you. There are so many types of irons out there that it can get overwhelming very quickly.

It’s important to be honest with yourself about your golf abilities, or it could spell disappointment or disaster on the course later for you. In reality, keep in mind that there are only a few decisions you have to make:

  • What iron head is best for you (traditional blade, midsize or game enhancement, oversize or game improvement)?
  • What type of shaft you prefer (steel or graphite)?
  • What improvements are you exactly looking for in this new iron set?
  • Do I want an iron that is more forgiving or more workable?
  • How much does the look and feel of the iron weigh in your decision?
  • What are the benefits of each iron head?

Answering these few questions can ultimately take hundreds of different irons sets down to just three or four. And you will quickly realize which iron sets could be best for you.

Fitting

This phase of the buying process is the most important.  Here we can analyze and discuss what might be an iron set that is good and what might be an iron set that is great.

First thing to keep in mind before a fitting takes place, is whether the clubfitter that I am working with is both knowledgeable and certified. You will come away from this experience so much more confident and excited about your new irons if you are paired up with the right fitter.

During your personalized and custom club fitting, two main phases occur: deciding on the perfect set of irons; and fitting those irons to your ability and golf swing. When you are testing iron sets (or demo-ing them), keep in mind how they look and feel. These are the only two areas that a fitter can not analyze. The better the irons look and feel, the more confident the golf swing you will have.

These are criteria that must decisively match your needs.

Assess the assessor

Now performance is the deal breaker, of course. It does not matter how good an iron set looks or feels — if you aren’t hitting it well — you are not going to buy it.

At least I wouldn’t. So you don’t either. 

Now a proper fitting process will cover four main topics:

  • Static fitting (This determines what club length you need.).
  • Dynamic fitting (Tells you what lie angle you need.).
  • Ball-flight analysis (This will validate the decisions made to this point, such as iron head size and kind, club length, lie angle and shaft type.).
  • Course assessment (Get out and play! Make sure that the set is right for you and fit for you.)

Be aware of how the irons are performing. Do you notice any consistent ball-flight tendencies? If they are performing a certain way for you, are these good or bad tendencies?

Make your fitter aware of your progress after you leave the store. Fitting should be ongoing. Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to keep asking questions after you’ve made your purchase.

It might take a couple of rounds or tweaks to dial them in perfectly. Remember it’s all about improving and having fun. The two usually go hand in hand but I promise if you spend the time and go through these important steps, both will occur.

 

List Yer Golf Problems; Fix ‘Em And Check ‘Em Off

Off The Tee: List Your Golf Problems; Fix Them And Check ‘Em Off That List

List Yer Golf Problems; Fix ‘Em And Check ‘Em Off

Off The Tee: List Your Golf Problems; Fix Them And Check ‘Em Off That List

IT’S OK TO PLAY THE “BLAME GAME”

One way of thinking about your golf progress is to consider a “blame list.” During a series of practice sessions, the goal should NEVER be to “hit the ball better,” but instead to whittle down the list of things you can blame for your poor shots.

If you don’t know what to blame, you can’t know what to focus on. And you can’t know what to blame until you’ve made the list. Then, cross things off this list.

The set-up is 100 percent controllable since there is no motion yet. First consider the set-up factors of grip, stance, posture, clubface aim, alignment and ball position. Those could (in theory) come off your blame list naturally or perhaps with minimal work.

Nothing in golf is ever going to be perfect, so we have to accept that and know we can get closer to personal perfection by someday crossing all these common set-up factors off the list. In other words, once you have crossed the standard golf set-up off the blame list following a poor shot, you can say to yourself with confidence: “At least it’s not that.”

Then move on to what’s next.

The backswing begins the motion, and therefore, is less controllable, but still more manageable than the downswing. You and your PGA professional instructor should get together and create the backswing checklist and select what is already in good shape. Then work to isolate those that need greater attention (still on the list).

Ask yourself if you could you envision the day when you no longer get to blame any poor ball flight on the set-up or the backswing?

Downswing/impact/finish happens the fastest and therefore has the least amount of control. So, I think we’d like to get to the point of having the downswing as the last  thing on the list.

Sure, even though the downswing is least controllable, it doesn’t mean you can’t grow to understand more about this important area of the swing from your PGA Professional.

The more things you check off the list, the “mystery” of why the ball did what it did becomes clearer. Practice sessions should be based on this goal of clarity.

With clarity, the mind can give the body more defined images and a more consistent swing.

 

2nd Swing Golf Tips Series with ’96 PGA Champ Mark Brooks: Warmup, prep and “don’t just slap it”

Stretching/Warming Up: 2nd Swing Golf Tips Series 1 with ’96 PGA Champ Mark Brooks

2nd Swing Golf Tips Series with ’96 PGA Champ Mark Brooks: Warmup, prep and “don’t just slap it”

Stretching/Warming Up: 2nd Swing Golf Tips Series 1 with ’96 PGA Champ Mark Brooks

Warmups, pre-round prep and “Don’t just slap at it”

2nd Swing is proud to partner with PGA Championship winner Mark Brooks in the first of an ongoing series that features first-hand golf advice from a true champion and gentleman PGA pro. This special collaboration will touch on everything from basic warmup techniques, lesson guides and course strategies to what life on the Tour is really like — all the way to some of the latest equipment reviews.

(See below: Brooks is still very much active on the Senior PGA Tour. In fact, on Memorial Day weekend 2014, he finished tied for fifth at the 75th Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores Golf Club, Benton Harbor, Mich. Brooks completed the fourth day 6-under par overall and shot a 65 on the final round. Colin Montgomery won by ending 13-under par.)

FORT WORTH, Texas  –  Even before you get to the clubhouse, it’s a good idea to start limbering up and getting ready with a purpose for the day.

Grab a couple clubs and swing them in a circular motion. Bend your back before and after you get in the car.

One of the things I work on is trying to be loose. As we get older, I think being stretched out becomes more important. Get your hamstring limber. Your shoulders, everything. Make sure it all works. At least it makes you feel like you’re ready to take a shot.

The first half of the warmup session is just warming up — literally — and then reiterating in my mind whatever I’ve been working on.

For instance, in that department I try to hold onto one good simple swing thought in my mind.

And then the rest is more traditional and getting ready for that particular golf course, that day.

Start with the sand wedge

I recommend warming up on the range first with what swing was working best for you last time you were out. Begin with a heavy club near the bottom of the bag. I prefer the sand wedge.

So that way, your practice plan is not so random for you when you get out. You have an idea of what you’re going to be doing before you arrive at the course. That’s important. It’s a foundation to help build your game around.

One thing I like to do is concentrate on my swing path, and take some small cut shots at first. Try to balance it out between your strike attempts. That’s key.

If your tendency is to swing inside out — as it is in my case — as the season goes on, that bad habit will be to swing even more inside out.

Use the sand wedge with a stick or club to angle your swing opposite of your negative tendencies — a bit. Don’t go overboard. If you slice, hook the ball on purpose. If you have a hook it, slice it.

Devote about 80 percent of your warmup time to counterbalancing your swing.

It sucks, but here I am been playing Tour golf for over 30 years and working on the same problem I had 30 years ago. So I try really hard to neutralize my swing path and just chunk it out there sometimes.

Don’t just slap it out there

The golf industry today is filled with club manufacturers who claim to build a club that’s more forgiving on miss-hits. Frankly, I’m tired of all that talk. (That being said, I’m not out here with wooden clubs either.)

People just need to learn to hit the ball more solidly. The quality of the strike is still better on many of these golf clubs when you hit it in the center of the face. It’s just that basic.

That’s where people should be concentrating their hits, on the center of the face. I know it sounds simple enough, but the message is getting lost somehow nowadays.

Let’s quick go back to the beginning now. An easy drill with a sand wedge, or any other iron just about, is just putting your feet as close together as possible.

Work on your center of balance and clubface aim and rhythm. Then hit up to 100 balls with that particular position and focus in mind.

If you hit 100 shots like that in one day, then it’s better than slapping the ball all over the face and maybe hitting five good shots out of 100.

Stand out here and work on your balance and your rhythm because without good balance, you’re not going to hit good shots.

And no matter how big the clubhead is, you still need to find the center of the face. Don’t let the technology and design do the work for you.

After the sand wedge, I usually hit the rest of my wedges on a consistent basis. From there I switch it up. Time permitting, I will practice every other club in bag each day, such as 6-iron, 8-iron, 4-wood and a hybrid on a Tuesday. And, then I start again on Wednesday with my wedges and move on to my 5-iron, 7-iron, and then maybe move into my 3-wood and driver. I will sometimes switch it up just a bit, depending on what needs work, but I try to maintain a routine otherwise.

Occasionally, the golf course I am playing may require more mid- to long irons, or maybe something else, so then I’ll spend time on them or another club I anticipate using a lot.

One thing I’ll do is use my rangefinder in combination with the wind to try and gauge my shots — just to get a feel for what’s going on that day on the course in front of me.

And, of course, if you’re not putting well, put in the time. Always make time to practice putting.

Let’s face it, it’s more fun hitting big shots. However, most players neglect the putting part, despite it making up between 40 percent and 60 percent of your strokes.

There’s no shortcuts in golf really. Remember that — and don’t forget to at least try to have fun.

Golfer’s Elbow

Stretching/Warming Up: Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s Elbow

Stretching/Warming Up: Golfer’s Elbow

Prevention, symptoms and treatment advice for one of golf’s most-common ailments

Golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, causes pain and inflammation in the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the bone found on the inside of the elbow. Golfer’s elbow is often compared with tennis elbow. Although the injuries are similar, golfer’s elbow occurs on the inside of the elbow while tennis elbow affects the outside of the elbow.

What is Golfer’s Elbow?

Golfer’s elbow is less common than tennis elbow, however, both are a form of tendonitis. Similar to many golf injuries, golfer’s elbow is typically the result of overuse. However, anyone who creates a repetitive motion with their wrists or clench their fingers is susceptible to developing golfer’s elbow.

Examples of everyday activities include: writing, typing, hammering, painting and wrist curls at the gym. The pain associated from golfer’s elbow can last anywhere from a week, month or even a year depending on the severity of the injury. Healing time is compromised without the proper amount of rest. In addition to overuse, golfer’s elbow is also stems from poor strength and flexibility. Limited flexibility often prohibits the wrist from moving in a 90-degree motion, increasing the likelihood of injury.

Symptoms

Several symptoms are common with golfers elbow. Pain, tenderness and weakness occur on the inside of the elbow and extend down the forearm. Stiffness is generally common and pain extends into the wrist, hand and inability to clench a fist. Pain is worse through gripping activities. Swelling often occurs with a numbness and tingling sensation that extends down the forearm, hands and fingers.

Treatment

Swelling is a common reaction to golfer’s elbow. Therefore, anti-inflammatory medications are used to control pain and inflammation. Regularly applying ice is recommended to help control pain and inflammation. In some cases, cortisone injections are used to alleviate pain. Stretching and exercise are beneficial to help control symptoms of golfer’s elbow. However, make sure the injury is healed, if you are still experiencing pain there is a chance to aggravate the injury and prolong recovery time. Applying pressure and deep massage to the specific area will help improve circulation.

Although golfer’s elbow is relatively easy to diagnose, people should seek medical attention. Rest and ice help give the injury time to heal. Many opt to use a brace to help alleviate pain surrounding their elbow. The brace will apply pressure on the muscles below the elbow and help relieve the pain caused by golfer’s elbow. There are several different brace that will help reduce the pain and not affect range of motion.

Prevention

Strengthening the forearm muscles is a common method used to help prevent golfer’s elbow. The repetitive motion of gripping the club too tight or the club striking ground can aggravate the injury. Two simple exercises such as squeezing a ball or wrist curls can help strengthen the forearm muscles and prevent injury. Squeezing a ball will help build forearm strength and can be done from the comfort of your home with nearly any kind of ball that will easily fit in your hand. Switch hands after a few minutes. Wrist curls will also strengthen the forearm muscles. Use lightweight dumbbells to avoid creating an injury.

 

Add Power to Your Swing

Off The Tee: Add Power to Your Swing

Add Power to Your Swing

Off The Tee: Add Power to Your Swing, Sans a Golf Ball

Practice Your Swing Instead by Hitting an Immovable Object — Repeatedly

BECAUSE IT’S THE BALL’S FAULT!!!  

Or at least it’s the ball’s weight and small, myriad club-hitting options — and our brains keep getting in the way of a good, hard hit.

So instead of getting stuck on contemplating how easy it should be to move a small round, bouncy-yet-firm plastic object very far, here’s another way of looking at it.

Improve your swing to a powerful strike needed by focusing on moving a heavy object first then duplicate the action through muscle memory against the light golf ball.

The thing is that the golf ball reacts to the position of the club and supporting positions of the body at the moment of impact… period, a non-negotiable end to the story.

The good news is that regardless of your perceived “skill level,” you can create great impact; and it’s more natural than you may think. That’s the good news. The bad news is that golf contains many mental “blocks,” which interfere with your natural abilities if you allow yourself  to fall into these traps.

One of the largest challenges for you to understand and accept is that because the ball is so light (less than 2 ounces), there are literally thousands of ways to get the ball to move somewhere; there are literally too many options available to each golfer’s mind. It’s like trying to find a needle in the haystack.

Now imagine using your golf club to get a 20-pound bean bag to fly high into the sky and 100 yards. How many options do you have now?

When the object you’re trying to move has a great deal of resistance, your brain will put all its energy into relaying the most efficient instructions to the body. I have videotaped dozens of players striking a bean bag-type training device. At the moment of impact with the bag, it is difficult to distinguish an accomplished player from a beginner.

It’s true! Unfortunately, view these same two players striking a golf ball and wow, that same moment of impact looks very different. Why does this happen?

The poorer players at some point became content with “better” ball flights. But these shots are not their ultimate best, which is fine if just being okay is their goal.

However, be warned: You have stopped short of the most efficient swing you could create.

Accomplished players have pushed on, and did not settle for mediocrity, they are on a mission to keep improving their swing so that the powerful strike needed to move the heavy object is duplicated against the light golf ball.

So, it’s the balls fault. But making bridging the difference is up to you!

 

Golf Divots are Good

Short Game: Golf Divots are Good

Golf Divots are Good

Short Game: Golf Divots are Good

“…but I’m not a ‘divot taker,’ though.”

“Time to change that,” a teaching PGA pro says.

Are you a “divot taker?” If not — why not? It’s how irons are designed to be used.

Many students come for a lesson and I ask them to warm up with a few 8-iron strokes. Upon completion, I often have commented that I did not see them creating or “taking” any divots into the turf.

Now the casual answer follows something like, “I have never taken divots my whole life,” or they say simply that “I’m not a divot taker.”

This comment is usually said with a measure of self-satisfaction. At that point I may take the club from them (Don’t worry now.), and hit a few shots myself then ask them to notice the divot. Why would one person take a divot and the other not when both of them just used the exact same golf club?

One of us has to be using the club less efficiently. Right? (Sarcasm.)

Okay, so should taking a divot be a choice for golfers who claim that their goals are to improve for the mid- or long-term? Now before we go any further, I wish to acknowledge that golf has produced great champions who developed a swing that rarely created divots. Tom Watson comes to mind as does the late Payne Stewart. But there will always be exceptions to the rule.

I would estimate that more than 90 percent of golfers on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours take divots with a full swing beginning at a 6-iron all the way down through their wedges. Why? Because — first off — it’s how the iron was designed to be used.

Second, it shows the continuation of the downward journey of the clubhead following impact with the body, arms and club shaft in powerful and correct positions. In other words, it’s correct golf swing form.

My plan is not to delve into the details of how to create a repetitive divot/impact here but to get you to investigate why you may be a “non-divot taker.”

But I can say with some assurance that failure to create a divot with the clubs mentioned above in a full swing is a swing flaw; and, don’t worry, you did not choose it. But you can fix it.

And creating divots matters. When you don’t take a divot, your strike  is less powerful than it could be. It’s also harder to control into a wind, among other things.

So do yourself a favor, take a lesson with your favorite PGA or LPGA professional to discuss and understand the proper divot/impact positions.

And make sure you either replace your divot or fill it with sand and seed.

 

 

Senior Golfer Tips

Stretching/Warming Up: Senior Golfer Tips

Senior Golfer Tips

Stretching/Warming Up: Senior Golfer Tips

Maintaining balance, overall fitness and practicing regularly with a pro are keys to staying on the links well into your golden years 

Golf maintains its popularity since many players with reasonable health have the ability to play throughout their entire lives. In fact, I have seen players still playing well in their 90s — while others create a lifelong goal of shooting their ages.

It has been reported seniors over the age of 50 comprise nearly 33 percent of the golf population. Unfortunately, physical challenges and injuries occur more regularly as we get older, such as weight gain, loss of strength, flexibility and arthritis… just to name a few of the common health problems associated with age.

The National Institute on Aging concluded that adults lose about 10 percent of body strength by the time they reach 50 and 12 percent to 18 percent by the time they reach the age of 65. So it should be no surprise seniors are searching for more distance due to the loss of strength, flexibility and clubhead speed.

Similar to most golfers, many seniors begin to over swing in an effort to make up for lost distance. Increasing swing speed will certainly help hit the ball farther, however, it does not guarantee more distance. Every 1 mph of swing speed equates to 3 yards of distance.

Seniors need to swing as hard as they can and still maintain perfect balance throughout the swing. Missing the sweet spot on the club face causes a dramatic loss of distance. Therefore, players need to create solid contact and maximize their swing speed for longer and straighter shots.

Improve Balance

Seniors searching for additional distance should focus on balance, tempo and impact position. Tempo directly influences balance throughout the swing. Practice maintaining a smooth tempo and slow take-away to help ingrain an effortless swing. Once your arms and body work cohesively together, you will produce a consistent tempo, maintain balance and ultimately improve impact position.

Practice hitting half and three-quarter shots with your feet together to learn how tempo and balance complement each other. If you swing too fast, you will lose your balance.

Fitness Increases Potential

Gary Player should serve as a role model for every golfer! Player has focused on personal health and fitness his entire life and is currently in amazing physical condition even in his late 70s.

Seniors should consider a strength training and stretching program to improve their overall physical fitness. Improving strength and flexibility will allow seniors to hit consistent and longer shots, and most importantly, help prevent injuries. Visit your doctor, trainer and golf professional to develop a realistic plan to improve your health and golf swing.

Visit Your Local PGA Professional

Schedule an appointment with your local PGA golf professional for a club fitting session and lessons. Lighter equipment, such as lightweight graphite shafts will promote faster swing speeds and longer shots. In addition, the correct shaft flex, kickpoint and ball will improve ball flight and carry distance.

Seniors with arthritis should try an oversize grip. The oversize grip is more comfortable and avoids placing extra pressure on the hands and fingers while they wrap around the grip.

Practice with a Purpose

Productive practice will help keep your skills sharp.  Approximately two-thirds of your score will be within 100 yards of the green. However, the majority of golfers spend two-thirds of their time hitting drivers and full swings. As you get older, a loss of distance will result in fewer greens hit in regulation. Focus on the shots around the green that will directly correlate to lower scores. Keep your short game sharp to off-set the loss of distance. A loss in distance does not mean you lose the ability to chip, pitch and putt.

 

Putting: Green Games

Putting: Green Games

Putting: Green Games

Putting: Green Games

“Make’s Game” and “Tornado”: Fun ways to improve your putting

Teeing it high and letting it fly is what golfers love but not necessarily what they always need on the practice range. 

Remember, putting accounts for about 40 percent of a golfer’s total strokes per round. So, we all need to focus our time and energy if we want see some those easy strokes disappear. 

We all know that putting practice is not nearly as fun as hitting golf balls on the driving range. Still, when we consider how much putting accounts for one’s score, we all need to find a way to practice our putting more.

Putting is all about attitude and confidence. Competition and a few games will allow you to work hard on your putting while making it way more fun.

Here are a couple of my favorite games to play to make putting practice more enjoyable:

“Make’s Game”

If there is only one game you can play with yourself, it would be the “Make’s Game.”

All you need is one ball and a few holes on the practice green. The objective is to create 18 different putts from 10 to 20 feet long.

Now, the idea is simple, just focus on making the putt — speed control does not matter. We want to ingrain confidence by hitting aggressive putts. 

Visualize these putts as you would while putting in your next round of golf. After you have completed 18 of these putts, make a note of how many putts you made. Compare your notes after a several weeks, and see how much you have improved.

“Tornado”

The other great game to play is called “Tornado.”

You need one hole, one golf ball, and seven tees placed around a hole looking like a tornado. Place the first tee three feet from the hole and continue to place each tee one foot farther back than the previous, resembling a tornado, until the last tee totals nine feet.

The tees should surround the hole so all types of breaks are practiced. The objective is to note how many putts it takes to make all the different length putts.

Monitor your progress over a month and have fun. That goes for all these games, er, practices. 

 

Chip Shots

Short Game: Chip Shots

Chip Shots

Short Game: Chip Shots

The most important shots in golf may be the chip shot.

Why? Because most players miss the green short, long, left and right. And most of us often need a chip shot before a putt.

Therefore, becoming the best chipper you can be will probably lower your scores faster than mastering any other shot, including the putt.

If you sometimes just “don’t get it” when you receive instructions to improve your chipping, maybe you need a non-golf analogy to help picture what’s being presented. A strong chipping image is to adopt the equivalent of baseballs “check swing” as your chipping technique.

Sure, you’ll still need to understand why the professional is asking you to address the ball back in your stance, leaning some of your weight towards the target and choking down on the club handle. But during the stroke and as you hold your finish, picture baseball’s check swing.

Imagine First Baseman Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins at the plate. The first pitch is high and outside. “Ball one,” the umpire yells. The second pitch looks good coming out of the pitcher’s hand, but at the last moment, Mauer decides that it’s drifting outside of the strike zone and tries to stop his swing in time.

He tries to “check” his swing.

If Mauer used the technique of swinging the end of the bat ahead of the handle, he could never check his swing (And it would be one ugly swing, to boot.) It also would be called a strike every time, but that’s not how the bat is designed to be used anyway, as any red-blooded American baseball fan knows.

The handle of the bat is leading the swing with the end of the bat following. This allows him to avoid having the end of the bat pass the handle before he wants it to.

Now watch a professional golf tournament on television, and look at the top players when chipping. Watch them hold their follow-through, and see if you notice the check swing.

Do you create a check swing when you chip or are you swinging the clubhead only? Does your clubhead pass the handle of the club in your chips?

Do you hold onto your finish to look and see if you made a check swing, or did the umpire call a strike? It’s not a bad analogy.

Do you like practicing, or do you find it boring sometimes? Maybe it seems boring because you are not using your imagination enough. Maybe you should pretend that you’re Joe Mauer (although maybe not so far in the 2014 season) and make that check swing.

I think you will like the umpire’s ball call — and your golf results!