The iron is used when the shot is beyond the range of the mashie. About eighty yards is all that one should, generally speaking, ask the mashie to do. Above that one should use the iron until something of greater capacity is required.

It is always well to try to get one's results from a club that has the work well within its power in preference to forcing another club to its limit. It stands to reason that one keeps greater command in this way.

The same rule holds good as between the iron and the cleek. A half or three-quarter shot with the cleek is frequently much better than a full shot with the iron.

I have already spoken of the importance in all iron play of standing well over the club. Of course the nature of the clubs themselves in some measure compels this; but it is a point of great importance, and as a player begins to understand his clubs a little better he should gradually start trying to consider the finer points in their make and their adaptability to his style and build. As a general rule the nearer one gets to the hole the more one must stand over one's club until when one has arrived on the green one is found addressing the ball so that a plumb line from the eye will drop right on to the ball. This in itself is a strong argument in favor of keeping in as close to one's work as practicable; for the greater the demand for accuracy becomes, the more one's desire to get one's eye into the line is seen.

The stance for the ordinary iron shot is not quite so open as for the mashie. I have in the chapter on gripping and soling referred specially to the importance of allowing the club to take its position naturally so that it lies on its sole from heel to toe and is neither cocked up on the heel nor put down by the toe. These are two grave errors. Possibly the worse is to be down by the toe. If one takes turf too heavily by the heel one is more nearly in a line where the power is developed, to wit, by the shaft, but if one happens to put the toe of one's club into the earth during a stroke, that is the end of it. The leverage at the end of the head being so much greater causes the shaft to turn in the hand, thus laying the face of the club back and irretrievably ruining the stroke.

The nature of the swing in using the iron must be learned from carefully studying the photographs and the explanation of the golf stroke. The regulation of one's distance is obtained by the length of the swing back. To put it in another way, when you want a shorter distance chop off some of your swing. This would apply in the case of the ordinary tuition where the drive is taught first. In this case you are being asked to add to your length of swing and you must do so in all ways in conformity with the general principles laid down in my analysis of the golf stroke.

In speaking of the iron shot Vardon says in The Complete Golfer: "When a few extra yards are wanted, put an additional inch or two on to the backward swing, and so on; but never, however you may satisfy yourself with excuses that you are doing a wise and proper thing, attempt to force the pace at which the club is traveling in the downward swing, or, on the other hand, attempt to check it. I believe in the club being brought down fairly quickly in the case of all iron shots; but it should be the natural speed that comes as the result of the speed and length of the upward swing, and the gain in it should be even and continuous throughout."

I am afraid that this idea of even and continuous acceleration of speed would if followed out upset the iron play of most people, especially if a consideration of the upward swing is also allowed to obtrude itself into the downward swing. I cannot say too often that whether it is with the iron or any other club there is only one thing to think of when one has arrived at the top of the swing and that is of hitting the ball. Absolutely nothing else must be on one's mind. Nothing else is practical golf. I should not even excuse one for thinking of my directions! "When at play the less one thinks of the book the better for one. That is how too many people abuse books. They stand in front of a little ball that they want to hit. Some one has written a chapter of ten thousand words on that one little thing and how to hit it with a driver. Of what use is that chapter at that time. Almost none! Part of it may be actively useful. Part of it may be sub-consciously used. Much more of it may be used in the study that night after dinner, and with a high-ball and a cigar to tone it down, to explain what was wrong with the stroke; and some of that session will be actively useful or sub-consciously used next time you go on to the links; and so on and so on until one gets too old or too wise - or dies.

There is something else that Vardon has to say about the swing in the iron shot that seems to me to merit consideration. This is it: "Try, therefore, always to swing back at the same rate, and to come on to the ball naturally and easily afterwards. Of course, in accordance with the simple laws of gravity and applied force, the farther back you swing the faster will your club be traveling when it reaches the ball, and the harder will be the hit. Therefore if the golfer will learn by experience exactly how far back he should swing with a certain club in order to get a certain distance, and will teach himself to swing to just the right length and with always the same amount of force applied, the rest is in the hands of Nature, and can be depended upon with far more certainty than anything which the wayward hands and head of the golfer can accomplish. This is a very simple and obvious truth, but it is one of the main principles of golf, and one that is far too often neglected."

What is "simple and obvious" to one person is a deep and hidden mystery to another. I think that this quotation is somewhat involved and misleading. Gravity and Nature with a capital N should be left out of the calculation in every way.

Here we only have to consider golf and art employed to assist us in using our natural advantages, or disadvantages; but the moment we begin to cumber our minds with such things as gravity and a personified edition of ordinary human nature we are splitting up our attention and intention more than is good for the iron shot.

First, as to gravity, forget it. One can use the good old pendulum stunt to illustrate the put because it is a perfectly sound example. I have seen Braid putting at such a rate that any respectable grandfather's clock could give him six inches start and then beat him to the ball. As a matter of purely practical golf there was even then much more of applied muscular force and command than gravity in the stroke, but gravity is useful as an example in putting and can be shown to develop power enough to do what is wanted on the green; but to talk of it as being in any way a considerable factor in the iron stroke is merely to make words and cloud the issue. If any one thinks otherwise swing an iron on a bearing and let gravity do its worst to a golf ball by lifting the club to the top of the swing and letting it fall against the ball. Gravity is a well established and venerable institution but the pace of a modern iron shot renders it absolutely unnecessary for us to give it any place whatever in our consideration of this stroke.

This is not merely captious criticism. It has a basis of very important practical golf behind it. If one permits any idea whatever of gravity taking any part of the command in the head of the club, it stands to reason that the influence of that

Stance and Address for Putting

Stance and Address for Putting.

Finish of Put

Finish of Put.


thought must be in the direction of making the iron stroke a sweep, which it most distinctly is not. Even James Braid, who in some places goes "right out" for the sweep notion, refuses to father it for the iron clubs. He says the stroke herein is a hit and the player must remember that.

It is of course of great importance to try to regulate your length by the length of your swing. It is of equal importance to try always to use the same amount of muscular exertion so that you may have one constant factor in your play, but any idea of leaving any part of the iron stroke to "Nature" is surely as futile as waiting about for Mother Nature to declare what kind of a putting style she means you to use. Moreover, even if one does accustom oneself always "to swing to just the right length and with always the same amount of force applied," the rest is not "in the hands of Nature."

These flowery and general statements are of no earthly use to any one who is seeking practical assistance in golf. They annoy me because they are so utterly different from what Harry Vardon would himself tell one. He would talk golf to one in his simple, straightforward, sportsmanlike manner. Instead of trying to leave you in the gloom with Mother Nature he would tell you that after you have obtained control of length and strength of swing there is much that remains to be done; and that it mainly depends on your own common sense and application, and that if you leave it to gravity and Nature you will never be able to play an iron shot.