Born in the 70s, learning to golf in the 80s, playing competitively in the 90s, having kids in the 00s, and rebuilding my game in the 10s have given me a front row to the most exciting wave of technology advancements in golf. For good or for bad, these advancements have altered the game of golf so much that course architecture can't keep up with the vast range in golfer abilities. There are now places like Sweetens Cove, in Tennessee where player can even change the hole by choosing their own tee box or bring their dog along. No kidding! Even Peyton Manning has played it.
Internally, I am a traditionalist ... but I do like ideas that return fun back to the game. My grandfather taught me all the rules and etiquette but my fondest memories are having fun playing the game with him and then my buddies. Even on the worst ball striking days I still enjoy the course and camaraderie.
The same goes for golf gear. I prefer the feel of blades and smaller heads on woods but certainly take advantage of improved tech that is approved by the USGA. From someone who started off with actual wood clubs, progressed to the original Taylormade woods, and even swings steel fiber shafts depending on the day, let's look at the surge of popularity on the utility iron.
My first Titleist 712U
With a super smooth KBS Tour C-Taper shaft, I didn't hit my driver off the tee for about a year unless necessary when carrying the Titleist 712 utility iron.
Did I lose you with golf gear nerdery already? Don't worry. I'm not much of a gear hound but do know I hit the C-Taper about as good as any shaft on the planet. With 230 off the tee, a 220 carry, playing with an 8 handicap, most holes are within reach at the courses I play. I never missed with the thing. I wasn't even looking for one. Someone suggested it so I threw it in the bag and had a great experience.
So, why is it not still in my bag?
The one that got away.
Because I am an idiot!
I was in the midst of changing irons and needed both my sets to upgrade without investing too much cash in the trade. The 712U put me over the top to get a really dreamy set of irons. I went back to a hybrid iron to gap my 19 degree distance and didn't look back.
Until the struggle on the tee returned ...
Golfers go through peaks and valleys at all parts of the game. Sometimes the valleys are there all at the same time. Can't putt, chip, approach or drive. Confidence is waning. You spend all your time thinking about getting rid of the shanks and what you might do to get that edge back.
For me, it was another change in irons, ridding myself of a nice hybrid iron, and suddenly remembering the fond days of my 712U. I thought about searching for a used one on eBay or the many, great, local used club retailers. Then a friend send me a link for a Ping i200 2 iron with the same KBS Tour C-Taper shaft. I missed out on the deal but it got my thinking about what else might be out there.
Pick the right utility iron for you
You have to be happy with the price and the shaft. But you also have to happy when you look down at the club. There's something about the look of the club that gives a golfer confidence. How it looks when squared to the ball and how it feels when brushing the grass.
The 712U by Titleist looks so good that I looked at the newer models. Unfortunately, they were not giving me that same feeling. I looked at several brands knowing that I tend to lean towards Titleist and Ping. The Ping i200 was definitely in the mix but it was hard to find the right deal.
After receiving a $25 coupon from Dallas Golf (thanks guys!) my hope was to find something to try. If it didn't work it would hold high trade value with the discount. I found a G400U with a KBS Tour C-Taper shaft, pulled the trigger and picked it up locally.
Yesterday I got out at one of the local clubs and couldn't wait until the short, par 4, 5th hole. With a nice and easy, smooth, but committed, swing, I hammered my drive right up the gut while listening to the ring of the wonderful Ping sound when the sweet spot is hit.
Yeah ... that utility iron is sticking around for a while. :-)
The moral of the story.
When you get a coupon, use it. Just kidding. The reality is I could still be hammering that Titleist 712U. Don't be swayed by the age of clubs that you really like. The current technology is not going to be surpassed by much for a while. Golf balls are the real players out there ... that's a story for another day.
This is not a utility iron versus hybrid iron argument. In fact, the hybrid iron craze is not a craze. These are legitimate ways to improve you golf game. For some reason, I just don't hit them that well. I have a steep swing and hit a low ball. I've hit blades most of my life. The iron "feel" that is derived from a utility iron not only does well off the tee but gives me some confidence that was desperately needed.
If you love your hybrids, stick with them! Don't come near the utility irons! One exception would be to replace a wood to get more accuracy off the tee. You will lose distance but there's no harm in leaving the driver at home if you are spraying it all over the course.
Remember ... comfort, feel and enjoyability should be top priority in choosing the right club. Golf gear knowledge can be left up to the professionals to help guide you.
I may be the worst salesman in the history of online sales. That being said, I am not selling anything. Nor do I for a living. I just wanted you to know my journey in choosing the right utility iron, losing it, and gaining it back. It took several brands, lots of amateur play, a lot of clubs swapping, and some good buddies that know what I like.
Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Get out there and play!
All the best, jerry