The 1 iron

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the long irons recently, especially the 1 and 2 irons. My main question: How high would a great player like Hogan would expect to hit 1, 2 or 3 iron?
I know that balatas are supposed to spin quite a bit more than modern balls and fly quite a bit higher, but question this for 2 reasons: 1) I’ve never been able to hit one, and 2) I’ve read other reports that they were incredibly difficult to get airborne. For example, Luke Donald recently recounted that the balata had a low, flat trajectory
The other conflicting piece of information is the construction of modern irons vs vintage irons. Even modern blades like the VR Pros have a much lower center of gravity with the position of the muscle back when compared to Hogan’s MacGregor irons or the Apex IIs.

Does anyone have some new information about any of this? How high did Hogan really hit the 1 iron? What about those balatas… how did they behave compared to the new ball?

Thanks! Can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts!

Hogan was more of a low ball hitter… he was from Texas!

The balata’s were a much more sophisticated golf ball designed for excellent players. In the balata era, they also made balls for amateurs usually made of more forgiving materials or tougher to cut such as surlyn.

The balata ball allowed better players to curve and shape the ball much deeper into it’s flight path. They would keep curving well beyond the apex of flight, and usually all the way to the ground. The modern ball loses it’s spin quicker and basically falls straight down from it’s apex… particularly on longer shots… drives etc.

The greens in the past were different. Fast usually meant firm also… and soft was usually slow. Now greens are often soft but also fast. The balata ball worked into the greens in a way that allowed a good player to spin the ball sideways much more on the green. This was great tool for good players to access tricky pin placements.

Another advantage of balata was the ability to curve the ball out of trees or for recovery shots. A player like Seve would not like the modern ball… at least for recovery shots. He might not be in the trees a much with the modern ball, but he would want balata for escape route options. If you watch old footage of Seve, he wasn’t nearly as wild as people think. Most of today’s tour players are much wilder off the tee than Seve ever was.

As far as the 1 iron. It’s a great club to play. I have always had one in my bag since I first learned to hit it at about age 14. It never balloons, and I can keep it low, and I can’t ever hook it.

Nicklaus was known for hitting a high 1 iron. But the same kind of shot could be played by most with a 4 wood.

Nothing is going to test your golf swing like a 1 iron. If you are truly interested in learning to be a masterful ball striker, you will learn to hit the 1 iron. It’s the acid test. A quality golf swing will be able to control the ball better with a 1 iron than a fairway wood or a hybrid.

Interesting info. Thanks Lag. I think Nicklaus hit the 1 iron high because he used a pretty vertical hinge through impact. I wonder though, just how high the modern ball would fly when comparing the spin rates.