Today? My money would be on Garcia
And so here still imbedded in stone lay Golf’s Excaliber. With the US Open returning this year to Merion, a course no stranger to our National Championship, this year being her 5th. However, Excaliber will surely remain intact.
The skill required to remove her lay buried in a technique long ago forgotten. A small man 5-7 140 pounds was the last to yield her magical powers.
On June 11th 1950, Ben Hogan pulled a one iron from his bag and rocketed a golf ball from 220 yards up the hill and onto the green assuring himself a place in the playoff for a second US Open title.
The skill to execute this shot from a tight lie using a thin bladed 1 iron with a rubber balata golf ball stunned a nation and showed the world what true mastery of the Great Game really was even with a winning score of 7 over par. The $4000 first prize collected pales to it’s historic significance even today.
A softer high spinning ball enabled master players to curve and shape the trajectory of the shot to match the intentions of the original course architecture.
Nothing separated the good from the greats like quality long iron play.
The Great Game, like any great game is defined not by it’s ease of execution but by it’s difficulty, it’s parameters and limitations.
While we all love hybrids and jumbo titanium drives for their ease of use, Our Excaliber remains embedded in stone. The Fibonacci sequence of biomechanical human movement required to unlock her powers will not be revealed at this year’s US Open. She lay safely and securely in the rock of technique that requires a flatter swing, heavier shafts and heads, a connected acceleration of both the hands and body pressuring the shaft through impact while applying forces in unison against the ground secured by steel spikes.
This isn’t old verses new, but a different methodology. The satisfaction derived from doing something more precisely like a great artisian. The cost of failure much greater with a slight miss hit, the reward much higher executing the perfect strike.
Hitting the blade is risky, but the trajectory more piercing and the higher spin rate of the balata ball assured a proper strike would hold it’s line in the exact curvature and trajectory envisioned by it’s executioner. Courses were built by savy people. The great designers offered masterful layouts for masterful players. They played the ball down and the rules were much simpler. The great courses asked questions even of the finest players. Trajectory was everything. The shape of the greens in both width and depth were intrinsically tied the trajectory of the arriving spinning white dimpled sphere. Golf is not about beating up the grand old lady, but respecting her.
Lower trajectories presented real sucker pins, and not every hole was intended to make birdie. The Great Game was a game of angles, of strategy and extreme patience. The Wee Icemon cometh.
Im not really sure what you mean by pull it from the stone, but if your asking how many players could hit good shots with a blade 1 iron off tight lies, alot of players could. It would take some time to get used to it if your used to hitting hybrids, but you dont have to have a perfect swing to be able to hit blade long irons. I have one i practice with alot and i gave it to my friend to try awhile back and i didnt expect him to hit it well but he hit 5 shots with it off a pretty tight lie and they were all very similar ballflight and went about 230 with a very solid ballflight, and he’s a very good player but not that great of a ballstriker.
Hitting five 1 irons 230 yds accurately in a row would be my definition of an excellent ball striker…but to summarize my points:
Hybrids and cavity backs are engineering solutions to this problem - “How do we make golf appealing to more people?” And as answer to that problem, they’ve been a phenomenal success.
Blades, especially long iron blades, are an equally well engineered solution to this problem - “Design a club for the most accomplished players who require the greatest accuracy and workability.” As an answer to that problem, they are a phenomenal success.
If the clock had stopped just before the revolution in club and ball technology and instead we had a revolution in golf instruction as is possible today with video analysis, tracking devices, k-vests, youtube gurus, etc…, then these “game improvement design innovations” would have been considered a liability, not an asset to playing the game.
The hardest thing to accept is that we don’t know what we don’t know. But to glimpse what playing with performance enhancing clubs has kept us from knowing, you’ll have hit a bucket of balata balls with an blade 2 or 3 iron. The difference between that experience and beating rocks with graphite and cast 304 stainless is what you don’t know about golf. Most (not all, but most) will wonder how in the hell anybody used those lifeless crowbars with teeny heads to hit the silly putty balls further than the end of the tee box, let alone carve up a course like Merion.
Which of these equipment technologies (both equally effective solutions to the different problems the were designed to solve) were our great courses designed to accommodate? For anything built before the late '70’s, that would be blades.
Here I invite Lag to comment as he’s played many more of these great courses and has the skill with a blade to accept their challenges as their architects brilliantly devised them.
Not sure I could pull it out of granite, but I would give sandstone all it could deal with.
Pull it for the stone?
I would have thought we would have had to “dig it out of the dirt.”
Pull it from the stone?
I would have thought we would have had to “dig it out of the dirt.”
The term “pulling the 1 iron out of the stone” is referring to the technique used to slot the club deep into the 4:30 line coming into a flat entry aka the “GOD MOVE” and finishing the swing off with a excellent accelerated pivot thru and past the ball (Module 3 work) with no stalling.
That is true.
If youre talking about this then I would agree nobody today does it as well as Hogan, but you dont have to do this to be a great long iron player. Most players today arent trying to do this and they dont have to be as good with long irons as players from the past because theyre not used as often. But i would think anyone willing to put enough time and effort in could learn to hit a blade 1 iron consistently well.
Ibcyp…You’re absolutely right. Today’s tour players are not trying to hit long irons. And for a very good reason. The golf game they earn their livelihood playing does not require that skill. The long iron approach shot has been virtually eliminated by rough that you can spin the ball out of, the near absence of out of bounds stakes and club/ball technology that makes 300+ yd. drives routine.
But engineers “fixing” golf with equipment technology wasn’t the only influence the game has suffered. Television was a big force in creating the “bomb and wedge” game we have today. Originally broadcast cameras were very heavy. Fixed camera placements at the tee and the green had to suffice to bring the action to viewers. Play at tees and greens could easily be halted to allow for commercials.
And I also wholeheartedly agree that anyone willing to put enough time and effort in could learn to hit a blade 1 iron consistently well.
And when they do they will find an “unfixed”, non-televised game of golf that is infinitely more interesting and rewarding to play. It’s the Game of the Greats.
I think this qualifies as a good example of long iron play. Sandy Lyle’s 1-iron shot from the fairway bunker on 18 to win the 1988 Masters. Picked clean, like your wallet at a street festival. Yep, that’ll do it…
That was a 7 iron he used.
You’re right, I stand corrected. He hit his 1-iron into that bunker. I was looking at some of his long iron play on youtube. He was a great long iron player.
Perhaps I should clarify what I mean by 1 iron:
Sandy Lyle did use “one” iron to hit from the bunker to the green at 18 in the 1988 Masters. The rules of golf prohibit the use of more than “one” club to execute “one” shot.
As lbcyp points out, the “one” club he used from that bunker which was 160 yd.s away from the green was a 7 iron. A 1 iron is much longer and less lofted than a 7 iron.
Long iron play from the fairway has always been the most challenging shot confronting a golfer. This is what often separated the good from the great. At the professional level, removing this from the game has made golf far less interesting to watch.
Long iron play is the most difficult from a technical standpoint to execute, particularly under pressure. I think one of the points here is that these potential heroic situations are simply not offered to today’s tour players. We won’t see a player hitting 1 iron into 18 at Merion. For one, there won’t be any 1 irons in any bags, and second, the hole will not play long enough even at 460 to require such a shot. I think we will see a lot of 8 irons and even wedges being played into 18. This is not how the hole was intended… and I doubt there will be any mention of the most critical element, that being the arriving trajectory of the approach shot.
Ive always like these two. The first one is Nicklaus hitting a 1iron from 238 uphill and into the wind with a tiny headed forged club. And the second one is Curtis Strange at 4:01 hitting a 2 iron into 18 at The Country Club. No matter what swing style you have you just have to be great through the ball to hit shots like this, you cant really get away with mediocre swings with these clubs and still hit good shots which is why theyre so good to practice with.
Absolutely, the Nicklaus shot is a great example of the “heroic” opportunities Lag refers to.