One of the most vigorous competitors in women's golf, Beverly Hanson was the leading Ladies PGA money winner in 1958 and also had the lowest strokes-per-round average. Born in Fargo, N. Dak., Beverly has worked as a newspaperwoman and grapefruit rancher. She started golfing seriously in 1945 and gained national fame in 1950 by winning the U.S. Women's Amateur. Beverly has an exceptionally well-rounded game, but is known chiefly for her great skill with the long irons.
The long irons are my favorite clubs. This is an odd preference, because for most women they are the terrors of the golf bag.
It seems to me that women dislike the long irons mainly because they are afraid of the straighter, smaller faces. This is understandable, but it's unfortunate that more teachers don't point out that the longs are lighter, whippier and, once under control, infinitely more accurate than any other club in the bag—except perhaps the putter.
In approaching a lesson with the long irons, I first try to get the pupil to relax, to get and stay loose. I want her to have the same flexibility in the knees that she has in dancing. Only this kind of flexibility produces the freedom through the shoulders that leads to a smooth and easy swing. For if the natural male swagger makes for more ease in swinging a club, his extra strength and power also get him into more trouble on the course. His problem is learning to control his power; a woman has the easier task of learning to build up to power. When a man makes a mistake with a long iron, he's in trouble—as well as in the rough. When a woman makes a mistake, she may fall short of the target, but the chances are that the ball will be in the direction she wanted it to go.
The successful way to use the two-, three-and four-irons is based entirely on swing. Now, if women do have a disadvantage in golf it is that they move from their hips almost exclusively, while the golf swing is a one-two movement that works out of the shoulders.
A perfect illustration is the Hula-Hoop. If you put a Hula-Hoop on a woman she can learn to use it in a matter of moments, but a Hula-Hoop on a man is a Hula-Hoop lost. He has to learn a completely new movement. Well, the same thing is true of a woman swinging a golf club. The woman golfer must learn to let her arms and shoulders swing freely away from her body; she must learn to use that one motion to describe an arc.
Remember, a golf swing is actually a negative way of creating power. The power is held in check on the backswing; it builds up on the downswing, it springs into action coming through the ball and it diminishes on the follow-through. But the power itself is produced by the arc, which in turn is produced solely by the shoulders and arms. The natural swagger with which a man walks produces a golf swing; it helps him to learn the motion more quickly than most women. But that doesn't for a moment mean a woman can't learn it, or do just as well with it as a man.
I also tell my pupils that the stance gets wider as the number of the club decreases. In other words, it is widest for the two-iron, narrowest for the nine. It should never be wider than the shoulders, but since the stance is the foundation for the swing, the more expansive swing demanded by the long irons demands a wider stance.
Having adopted a fairly wide stance, the pupil is swinging the club like a dream. She's loose and easy, both knees are flexible, and her hands are gripping the club correctly. It's a fine start, but that doesn't guarantee that the ball is going to travel 140 or 150 yards to the green. The difference between an iron used well and a horror on the fairway lies at the point of contact between the clubhead and the ball.
We already have established that a long iron has a straighter face than any other club. O.K. But don't let it throw you. If you want the ball to go true, rest the club on the ground, let the shaft lean toward the body and grip the club as it truly lies. The rule for other clubs applies to the long irons as well: If you want the ball to go low or to the left, close the face slightly; if you want to slice, open the face. Unless you're in an unnatural lie, let the face alone do the job for which it was designed; I meant what I said when I emphasized the control it is possible to get from a long iron. Any one of these clubs will respond to a hairbreadth change in opening or closing the face.