Iron Fitting: Dave PattonTitleist believes that each and every player should be well-fit for the clubs they play. This is the story of how Dave Patton, a competitive golfer with a near-scratch handicap, was fit for new irons by Jerry Smith, a head pro in Pennsylvania.
Dave Patton had been playing Titleist Forged 680s, but was looking to move to the recently introduced Titleist Forged 735.CM. Like many good golfers, he wants to maintain the feel and ball flight he has with forged, muscle-back irons but wanted a little more ease of use from his longer irons. The last time Dave was fit for irons, he went from a 6 handicap to a 2.1 index nearly overnight.
I fit Dave with his Titleist Forged 680s several years ago. His irons are standard length and 2° upright. In a 6-iron, that's 37.5" and 64.5° (62.5° is standard). A club with a more upright lie angle than the swing's plane will dig in towards the heel, turning the clubface over slightly and robbing the player of distance and accuracy, as shots will tend to go left.
Watch the Divots
Ben Hogan often said that he "dug his game out of the dirt." In iron fitting, the divots don't lie (but they can, if you pardon the pun, help you find the correct lie!).
After watching Dave hit a few 6-irons, I put him in a "standard/standard" club - that is, a stock loft and lie (37.5", 62.5°). Dave measures 5'11" and isn't a real tall golfer, nor does he posses an overly upright swing. My first hunch was to get him back to the standard setup, but Dave proved me wrong as his shots became much weaker and the toe started digging into the ground a little more than normal.
There are no failures in iron fitting, just bad matches. The "standard/standard" club told me that Dave probably swings a little more upright than it looks. To make sure he wasn't changing his swing to adapt to the different irons I was giving him, I handed Dave a club with his specs from the Titleist fitting cart. He began hitting it well again. I can't fool Dave!
Trying Some Things
Next, I moved through a series of clubs to fine tune Dave's specifications. He hit a +1/2"/standard (length/lie) iron a little deep on the toe. A measuring +1/2"/2° up he hit too high on the face due to the added half an inch. As a test, I cycled through these clubs from swing to swing, and the results were the same every time.
Iron Fitting Sheet
Eventually, I gave Dave a Titleist Forged 735.CM measuring 37.5" with a lie of 64.5°. We were back to his standard specifications, and again he hit the ball beautifully. His divots were just a tiny bit deeper on the heel side, but oftentimes better players will tend in that direction. Toe-deep divots, on the other hand, are the bane of high handicappers.
Dave's fitting proves one of the truths of iron fitting: barring physical injury or a drastic change in swing, a golfer's specifications should remain fairly consistent. It still behooves every golfer to check up on his specs periodically, especially when he or she is purchasiing a new set. Perhaps, as in Dave's case, you will find that the specs you have now are the same as you will have five years from now, but at least you will have confidence that you are playing the proper equipment.
Jerry Smith is the head professional at Tam O'Shanter of Pennsylvania, where he conducts dozens of fittings and lessons per week for recreational golfers. Jerry is a Class A Member of the PGA of America and a Titleist Staff Member.
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