Not Even God Can Hit a 1-Iron

Jason Sobel writes an elegy for the 1-iron:

The golf world is in danger of losing one of its most beloved figures, as the 1-iron, winner of countless major tournaments and a longtime aid to history’s greatest champions, is close to officially expiring, with almost no major club manufacturers currently producing the product. Reportedly on the verge of extinction for the past several years, an older Tommy Armour model 1-iron is still clinging to life in the bag of PGA Tour professional Joey Sindelar, but hardly any other versions are being used on the pro tours. “I’m not sure that it’s dead, but it’s certainly in the final stages of intensive care,” said Sindelar, who used the club to win a playoff at the 2004 Wachovia Championship.

According to the Darrell Survey, a company which documents club use on the PGA Tour, the 1-iron was put into use only 50 times during tournament play in 2005, with Sindelar accounting for more than half of those occasions. The amount of players using the club on tour has dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2005, only 0.75 percent of professionals used the 1-iron; that figure is down from 17.10 percent in 1996.


While the 1-iron lived for years in professional bags among other long iron clubs, it was a feud with a cousin, the hybrid club, that ultimately led to its undoing. A recent creation of golf equipment manufacturers, the hybrid quickly replaced the 1-iron in most bags, and has also had a hand in the decline of other long irons and fairway woods around the world. “When I first started using this 1-iron, there weren’t these other choices around,” Sindelar said. “There were some metal fairway woods, but now the things they can do with these clubs is incredible.”

The tribute ends with an old joke that came to mind immediately when I saw the story:

And then there’s this idea, suggested by legendary professional Lee Trevino, which epitomizes most players’ feelings about the 1-iron: “If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”

Few golfers would find a 1-iron (or, indeed, even a 2-iron) useful. Most hackers find woods much easier to hit than irons (my old golfing partner Steven Taylor was a rare exception to that rule) and the rule allowing no more than 13 14 clubs in one’s bag makes a 1-iron a luxury even for those with perfect swings.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rodney Dill says:

    I believe its 14 clubs in one bag.
    Usually a 6 iron is the longest iron I hit before switching to my 9 wood.

  2. James Joyner says:

    That’s right–it’s been a while since I’ve played. And the biggest wood I ever used was a 7. I typically carry a 1, 3, and 5 because that’s what my cheap set came with.

  3. My fairway wood play has substantially improved. I have a nifty 5 Wood that I use in places where I exclusively used a two iron back in the day when we played. I have even been hitting my 3 wood pretty well of late.