What Are the Long Irons in Golf?

Long irons can be played off the tee

The term "long irons" is traditionally applied to the 1-iron, 2-iron, 3-iron and 4-iron, as a group. Today, nearly all golfers use only the 3-iron and 4-iron from the long irons group, and many golfers don't even use the 3-iron anymore. In fact, some golfers no longer carry any long irons, for reasons we'll get into.

A traditional set of golf irons included the 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8- and 9-irons, plus pitching wedge. A 1-iron and 2-iron plus a sand wedge were often offered as add-ons. The lower-numbered irons are both the longest in terms of shaft length (as measured in inches), and the longest in terms of distance they can hit the golf ball. Hence the term, long irons.

However, 1-irons are virtually non-existent in golf, outside of the professional golf tours (where they are not common, either). In fact, no major OEM golf club company still manufacturers 1-irons, outside of special, custom orders.

And 2-irons, while still manufactured, are used pretty much only by the most-skilled golfers and are almost never seen anymore in off-the-rack asssembled golf club sets.

That leaves, for amateur and recreational golfers, the 3-iron and 4-iron still standing as the long irons within a golf set. But, as noted at the top, even those two irons are beginning to be replaced.

What has replaced the 1- and 2-irons, and is now gradually replacing the 3- and 4-irons for many golfers? Hybrid golf clubs. Hybrids exploded in popularity in the 21st century precisely because, for various technical reasons, they are easier for most golfers to play compared to long irons. In fact, golf club manufacturers often market hybrids specifically as replacements for long irons.

So many golfers' bags now include, rather than a 3-iron, a 3-hybrid; and rather than a 4-iron, a 4-hybrid. (Some golfers even replace some or all of the mid-irons with hybrids.)

But, back to the original question: What are the long irons? The longs were the 1- through 4-irons; today, the 3-iron and 4-iron remain as commonly used long irons, but even those are beginning to be replaced by hybrids.

Photo credit: "015 - A back injury prevented Joe Yorke from hitting too many drivers today, but his rifled 3 iron was still well past the bunker on 18!" by PiktourUK is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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