Not all shots are created equal. If you are in the middle of the fairway with a pitching wedge, you may be going pin seeking. However, if you have a 4 iron in, you may just hope to hit the green, or in some cases just want to get it air-born. The moral of the story is that our goals with our scoring clubs differ than with our long irons, so why play the same iron model?
What is a Split Iron Set
A split set, also referred to as “blended” or “combo sets”, is an iron set where you play more than one type of iron head in your bag. Often, manufacturers offer preset “combo sets” where the long irons are replaced by hybrids but the shorter irons are their game improvement style head. However, a “blended set” generally consists of two or more styles of iron heads where the shorter irons tend to be more bladed/player like, and the longer irons tend to be more forgiving and have more pop to them.
Benefits of a Split Set
As discussed in the problem, you should have different goals with each of your clubs. With your scoring clubs you are likely attacking the pin. For this you need distance control and accuracy, something offered by a more player’s like iron than your typical game improvement iron. This is because the lofts are more traditional, the faces tend not to be as hot (or generate less ball speed), and it’s easier to manipulate ball flight. However, the downside of any players iron is that they tend to be less forgiving. With your long irons you need forgiveness, height, and that hot iron face. Game Improvement or Player’s Distance Irons offer these characteristics to you! Situations you may be hitting these clubs may be long par 4’s and 3’s or second shots into par 5’s where your goal may be to just hit the green anyway you can. You don’t need to be super specific on your carry distance. You may not even be looking at the flag. With a split set, you get the best of both worlds: Control when you have an opportunity to score, and forgiveness and easy distance when taking on a more difficult shot.
Where to Make the Split
I love split sets. I’ve played them almost exclusively for the last 5 years. I think its a great tool in the belt of a fitter, BUT they aren’t for everyone. First question you have to ask yourself is can you stand the look of dissimilar irons in the bag. This may seem silly but there are players out there that despite benefitting from a split, they can’t stand the fact not all their irons look the same. Sadly, if this is something you can’t get over, this option isn’t for you.
Assuming looks aren’t an issue, and you are interested in the concept of a split set, the next thing to ask yourself is the following hypothetical: “You are in the middle of the fairway, no wind, and there is a moderately tucked pin. At what distance are you still going for that pin?” This answer is different for everyone. It may be your 9 iron, for others they may feel confident all the way through 5 iron. For me if I have 7 iron or less, I’m likely taking on that pin, so that’s where I make the split in my set, between 7 and 6 iron. You may choose to take this even further and make a second split if you play a 4 or 3 iron and opt for even more forgiveness at the top of the bag.
For some players, they may look at the center of the green with all their irons in which case a more forgiving option would be best throughout the bag, and a split set may not benefit them as much.
Another reason to explore a split set is for someone looking to play a set “they can grow with.” This is something we hear often, “I’m a high handicap, but I don’t want to buy a set I’m going to outgrow.” Clubs are expensive, you want to get the most out of them. However giving a 20 handicap players irons 4 iron through pitching wedge may be a tall task for that player. However, starting with a more players iron in the short irons can allow that player better longevity with their set without punishing themselves currently. In addition, since this player is committed to improving, they will be able to challenge themselves to become a better ball striker.
Split sets are a bit of a newer trend. You see more and more players using them on professional tours, and manufacturers are starting to catch up. Look at some recent releases, for instance Srixon MKll Irons, Callaway 2023 Apex Series and the Titleist T-Series of irons. All of these irons have one thing in common, they were made to be blended. Whether you are playing Zx7, Zx5 or Zx4, they all have the same top-line making them indistinguishable at address making them great for blending. The new Apex MB, CB and Pro look nearly identical in the bag, and only at address do you notice marginal differences. Less so, the Titleist T-Series irons all look very similar, where you could almost play all four irons models in a set, and not have someone bat an eye looking at your bag.
Mind the Gap
The one thing all players and fitters have to keep in mind is gapping issues at the split in the set. First off, more forgiving irons tend to have stronger lofts than players irons. Second, the tend to have hotter faces. Despite this, through a proper fitting, and analyzing the spec sheets of each iron, a large gap should be avoidable by altering lofts as necessary.
Ultimately, to determine if a split set is for you, the best thing you can do is go through a fitting so you can try multiple types of iron heads and have a professional fitter help lead you in the right direction.