The distance conversations have been going around again. There were even talks on social media about a specific pro who can hit a 5-iron 230 yards. What they are not telling you is that his 5-iron is basically a 3-iron loft. This is why the number on the club does not matter. Yes, it will matter to each individual golfer as long as they know how far they hit each club but it doesn't matter if it is a 5-iron or 6-iron when the two clubs have the exact same loft.
This is something more and more golfers need to be aware of. Each loft will determine not just the distance but also the trajectory and height at which the golf ball will fly off of each club. Because of this, it gives golfers a false sense of gaining distance when they buy new golf clubs. Just because you hit your current 8-iron further than you did your old 8-iron it does not necessarily mean you actually hit it further. The delofting of all clubs by manufacturers to give the illusion of distance is most likely the reason.
I put together an image of just how bad this illusion is. The image has different club manufacturers with equivalent clubs and shows how one company has multiple sets with different lofts between the sets. The red circles show where the 33° loft would be in each set. You will notice it ranges from between a 6-iron and 7-iron to a 9-iron depending on the set.
Here is the biggest problem with the lie about distance. If you are used to hitting a PW with a 48° loft and buy a new set that the PW is a 36° loft you basically just switched to your lowest club being your old 7-iron. Now you hit the PW longer but also at a lower trajectory which does not allow the ball to stop on the green as fast. Also if your next wedge is at 52° of loft you now have a loft gap of 26° from your PW to your 52° wedge. That equates to about a 2 club gap. This is why the number on the bottom of the club is basically irrelevant. The loft of each iron matters.
The best thing a golfer can do is stop worrying about how far they hit each club by number. Worry about how far you hit each loft and make sure the lofts are gapped properly so there are not any large distance gaps you won't have a loft for. Below is an example of my current lofts and the approximate carry distances of each club. I say approximate because it can change each round by a few yards. One day I may carry my PW 138 and the next day 142 depending on how I am swinging and the conditions.
There are benefits to many golfers using game-improvement irons that hit the ball further. It can make the game more enjoyable for golfers to hit an 8-iron 150 yards instead of 130 yards but at the same time, it is also what is causing the distance myth and why newer golf courses are being built longer. Wouldn't golf be more enjoyable playing more consistently with better trajectories and no gaps between clubs? Wouldn't it be more enjoyable scoring well from 6500 yards instead of 7500 yards if you didn't worry about hitting the golf ball far?
In my opinion, the USGA and R&A should put loft standards on clubs. A PW can only be between a loft of 48° and 44° and so on with each club. This would not only make things more equal between manufacturers but also limit the gaps golfers would have between some of their clubs. It would also dial the distance back that professionals are hitting certain clubs. Of course, some golfers will always hit the ball further than others but it would be due to the swing and not the clubs. At a professional level, it would make par 5s more challenging when a golfer has to hit a 3-iron from 230 yards instead of a 5-iron because the lofts have standards.