Charlie Woods inspired me to try blades, irons with a tiny sweet spot, hoping they would improve my game.
Last December golf fans were treated to a new star. Twelve-year-old Charlie Woods dazzled at the PNC Championship, a tournament where major champions tee it up alongside family members. The young Woods outshined his father, Tiger Woods, dropping bombs off the tee, firing darts at pins, and draining tough putts. Team Woods closed with 11 birdies to come in second in the tourney.
But as the drama unfolded, I was taken aback by something the commentators mentioned. The younger Woods was playing blade-style irons and not more forgiving cavity backs. Hmm? Why on Earth would he do that?
As it turns out, I was late to this news. Tiger outfitted his son with blades early on, according to Jack Nicklaus during the 2020 Masters telecast.
“Charlie is starting to play golf, and he’s getting a really good swing,” Nicklaus said. “[Tiger] says, ‘I’ve got blades in his hands so he learns how to play golf instead of learning with all those forgiving golf clubs.’ I think he’s very wise.”
With my interest piqued, I wondered if two of the game’s GOATS felt blades were the correct choice for a beginner. Should I swap out my gamers for something less forgiving? Could blades improve my ball striking?
I put the thought out of my head for the next eight months. But when PXG dropped new 0317 irons at the end of summer, my mind wandered back to Charlie Woods. Perhaps a set of blades could help my ball striking.
Truth be told, I hadn’t been on the golf course much that summer. But when I did play, my over-rotation and ego were getting the best of me. Drunk on the distance and spin my cavity backs were providing, I was simply trying to smash every approach shot, when I should have been focusing on maximizing control.
I asked Brad Schweigert, one of the 0317’s designers and PXG’s chief product officer if he thought blades could help a golfer like me get better.
“Maybe for some people,” he said. “The smaller blade size could increase focus and places a larger penalty on mis-hits.”
I also checked in with my coach, Lee Hunter, to gather her thoughts. “Absolutely! Blades don’t lie!” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful way to learn golf because the ball goes precisely where the energy sends it. They’re refined surgical instruments, and if you use your core efficiently and allow your arms to just swing, tour blades are heaven.”
Ok, why not give it a shot? I bit the bullet and put the 0317s in the bag and took off for the range. In anticipation of a post-Presidents Cup tournament, I started to practice with them and after a few sessions they started to feel good…really good. My swing got tighter. It had to in order to make consistent contact near the tiny sweet spot.
On the course, I’ve been hitting about three more greens in regulation. So far, I’ve shot nearly as many rounds in the 70s as I have in the 80s, which is certainly going to bring down my 11.0 handicap. That’s not to say every shot I’ve hit with the irons has been pure. I’ve certainly scooped more than a few short iron shots and I cold shanked a 6-iron my last round, which led to a double bogey. But a shank with a game improvement iron would have been just as disastrous and I still managed to scratch out a respectable 78 on a narrow course with tiny greens.
As the rather odd golf cliche goes, “It’s not the arrows, it’s the archer.”
Tightening my swing is what has led to more consistent contact. The blades merely forced the change. But that’s the thing about the golf swing: Your mind controls it and sometimes you need a little help in changing the thoughts that run through your head.
“Practicing with them might be the way to go,” Hunter concludes. “Then, you can go back to your perimeter weighted clubs when you’re on a tight golf course.” They won’t be as workable, “but you’ll have more refined skill having practiced on a blade that sends the ball precisely where it’s meant to go.”
She’s probably right. By April, when the golf season starts in earnest again, I’ll likely put my PXG Gen 5 irons back in the bag. Distance is a helluva drug. Hopefully by then, my mind and body will have both fully absorbed the lessons of the blades and maybe I can hit even more greens.