The Devil I know: I’m keeping my 3-iron

I like this club.  The fact I didn't know how to hit it for the first 10 years I owned it doesn't mean there isn't any magic left in it.

I like this club. The fact I didn’t know how to hit it for the first 10 years I owned it doesn’t mean there isn’t any magic left in it.

Every thing I’ve read recently says I should take my 3-iron, and maybe even my 4-iron, out of my golf bag.  Pundits and professional teachers alike say long irons are too hard for amateurs to hit well, much less control.

Hybrids and fairway woods are the way to go, they say.  The list of reasons include claims that hybrids and higher lofted woods are much easier to get higher in the air and are better designed to cut crisply through a tough lie in the rough.

That all may be true.  The breadth of hybrid clubs did evolve, as far as I can tell, from the Adams Rescue club, which was specifically designed to help amateurs recover from poor tee shots left too far from the green.

Increasingly, even the club manufacturers have joined the chorus of those espousing the benefits of replacing long irons with hybrids or non-traditional irons.

A recent perusal of the iron-sets available at my local Dick’s Sporting Goods included many more iron sets that didn’t include a traditional three-iron than did include it.  And it wasn’t even close.

Don’t even think about including a 3-, 4- and possibly even a 5-iron in your next set. Over the past 25 years, manufacturers have been gradually and silently lowering the loft on their irons in order to say their products “hit it farther.” As a result, the 3- and 4-irons have so little loft that they are virtually unhittable for the average golfer. The solution? Hybrids. – Tom Wishon, Links Magazine

Even the pros don’t like it.  Consider this survey of PGA, Senior, and LPGA Tour professionals published in Golf Magazine.

If you were allowed only 13 clubs, which one would you toss out?
Three-iron…………. 49%
Four-iron………………. 7%
Hybrid…………………… 7%
Two-iron………………. 7%
Five-iron………………. 6%
Five-wood…………… 6%
Three-wood………… 3%
Lob wedge…………… 3%
Putter……………………. 3%
Other……………………. 9%

Source: 2011 Survey of PGA Tour professionals.

That’s all good and well, but I call shenanigans.

I don't understand the whole "iron-replacement technology" craze.

I don’t understand the whole “iron-replacement technology” craze. I think I can have my cake and eat it too.

Granted, I was late to join the Hybrid Revolution.  I held out against change at all costs (par for the course for me) and had trouble imagining myself having use for a hybrid club.

However, an honest assessment of my game revealed that the gap between my 3-wood and 3-iron was actually hurting my ability to play and score successfully.  Once I broke down and actually acquired a hybrid, it took me a year to figure out to hit the damn thing effectively.

I will admit, my 3-iron was never at the top of my list of “scoring” clubs.  Before I endeavored to get lessons from a qualified teaching professional, my quality strike percentage with my 3-iron was probably 1 in 3.

It was a niche club that I used to hit low punch shots out of trouble and occasionally would provide a reasonable/possible chance to hit a long par 3.

However, now that I am developing something resembling an actual golf swing, I’ve found that my 3-iron is becoming an increasingly valuable tool.

Instead of being constantly afraid of sculling my long irons, I’m developing confidence that I can hit my 3, 4, and 5-irons with an appropriately high ball flight and with reasonable consistency.  They are, in fact, evolving into scoring clubs for me.

Perhaps its hubris, but I do feel like I can assert some measure of control when I put a good swing on the ball with my long irons.

Case in point: I hit the pin with a penetrating, slightly drawing 3-iron from 200 yards out from a good lie in the rough last week.  If I’d tried to pull off a similar shot with my hybrid, I’m certain I would have run the ball off the back of the green, if it was online at all to begin with.

I’ve never met the “average amateur” to whom a lot of this iron-replacement conversation is directed.  I don’t know what his or her swing looks or sounds like. Maybe the average amateur golfer doesn’t practice, or just as likely, doesn’t practice well or effectively.

I know that in years past, I may have made better contact with a hybrid or rescue than I would’ve with my long irons, which I suppose is what the whole hybrid marketing pitch is all about.  But I still wouldn’t be hitting either alternative well, I just would have been hitting my hybrid less poorly than I did the other clubs!

Perhaps it’s my stubborn nature, but giving up on the ability to learn to hit my long irons well feels like just that: giving up.   There is no good reason that I can’t learn to hit my long irons better, which is true of every club in my bag.

So, for now and the foreseeable future (read: until I’m too old or weak to compress the ball with a downward strike), the 3-iron stays in my bag.

6 thoughts on “The Devil I know: I’m keeping my 3-iron

    • Some long irons may seem impossible to hit, but they aren’t. Try switching to a hybrid the next time your’e having trouble.

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  3. While some longer Irons may be harder to hit, hybrids are more forgiving. The people that told you to take the 3 and 4 irons out of your bag were probably good hybrid players themselves. This being said every one plays golf differently. I have the conventional iron set that runs pitching wedge thru 3 iron. As well as the standard irons I also play a Taylor-Made 2 hybrid. This allows me to carry the same amount of clubs. Instead of substituting hybrids for irons like you spoke of I would try to implement both.

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