SINGLE LENGTH Q & A
The concept of making each iron in a set the same length is not new. Eric Cook’s Iso-Vibe Golf Company in Canada began offering single length sets of irons to the North American golf market in 1986. Perhaps the best known introduction of a single length set of golf clubs was the former Tommy Armour Golf Company’s release of their EQL single length woods and irons in 1989. Since that time, a handful of lesser known, under-marketed companies have offered single length sets of irons, mainly through an on line direct-to-golfer offering.
The concept of single length irons received a huge boost in general awareness from the publicity of amateur golfer Bryson deChambeau’s victories in both the USA National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and US Amateur championships in 2015 using a single length set of irons. Bryson deChambeau became only the 5th player to achieve this very prestigious amateur championship “double” in the same year, something that had only been done by Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore. All of a sudden a larger number of golfers became aware of single length irons and with it, a serious level of curiosity whether a Single Length set could be a viable change to make in their own equipment.
As is the case with any new and different golf equipment concept that gains awareness and attention, there are a lot of questions as well as a bit of misinformation and misunderstanding concerning single length sets of irons.
As the leader in golf equipment performance research, Tom Wishon Golf Technology is pleased to once again offer the most truthful, factual and understandable information to help golfers understand the concept of Single Length set design with the below set of frequently asked questions regarding the subject.
WHAT IS THE REASON A GOLFER MIGHT CONSIDER MAKING A CHANGE FROM NORMAL INCREMENTAL LENGTH IRONS TO A SINGLE LENGTH SET OF IRONS?
The technical basis behind the creation of a set of single length irons is to say that if all the clubs have the same length, the same total weight, the same headweight, and the same balance point it will enable the golfer to use the same stance, posture, spine angle, swing plane – the same everything in the swing. As such, the single length approach has a chance to offer a higher level of swing repeatability and shot consistency for each of the clubs in the set.
At the same time, it must be said that many golfers have achieved very good swing and shot consistency using irons built to normal incremental lengths which are very accurately custom fit to their size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics. However, if a golfer has suffered from chronic or occasional shot inconsistency, converting to a single length concept could result in improvement in shot consistency and on-center impacts to result in more greens hit in regulation and better ‘missed shots’.
WHAT IS THE TECHNICAL EXPLANATION TO SUPPORT AN ARGUMENT ABOUT SINGLE LENGTH IRONS BEING BETTER FOR A GOLFER THAN CONVENTIONAL INCREMENTAL LENGTH IRONS?
In a single length set of irons, every club is made so that everything that has anything to do with swing feel is the same in each club – same length, same shaft weight, same total weight, same head weight, same swingweight, same balance point, same MOI, same swing feel and the same shaft stiffness/bend profile design. The only element that is different and changes within a set of single length clubs are the loft angles, to enable the single length clubs to each hit the ball different distances.
Normal incremental length sets of irons cannot duplicate that many different fitting elements. While it is possible to build incremental length sets of irons to all be matched to the same MOI, each club will be different in total weight, head weight, swingweight, balance point and swing feel.
As such, the technical reason for creating a single length set of irons is to offer the golfer a chance for improvement in swing repeatability, swing consistency and shot consistency because every club is as perfectly matched for every possible aspect that has anything to do with swing feel.
WHY DID SETS OF IRONS EVOLVE TO BE MADE TO DIFFERENT LENGTHS?
The purpose of a set of irons is to have each iron hit the ball a specific different distance with equal distance gaps between clubs through the set. That enables a golfer to choose an appropriate club for the different distances golfers will find themselves from the greens when playing a round of golf.
Early club designers learned there were a number of things in the design of irons that would cause each club to hit the ball a different distance. First is a different loft angle on each iron, with the spacing in degrees of loft the same between each iron. Second is a progression of different lengths so the golfer’s clubhead speed would intentionally change to coordinate with the different lofts to hit the ball a different distance with each iron.
More recently, research into shot performance has shown that the distance between the different irons in a set comes 85-90% from the loft angle change from club to club, and 10-15% from the length change from club to club through the set. As such, length change within a set of irons is much less important for a distance difference between irons than are the differences in the loft angles through the set. This opens the door for a single length set to be a viable alternative to the conventional incremental length set.
WHY HAVE SO FEW OF THE BIG GOLF COMPANIES CREATED AND OFFERED A SET OF SINGLE LENGTH CLUBS?
Chiefly because of a lack of confidence that such a different type of set could garner enough demand to justify the cost of development and marketing to be able to last for 2 or more years in the market. When Tommy Armour Golf offered their single length EQL model, it did not exactly show much in the way of longer term success for the costs associated with its development and promotion. For a major brand golf company to be successful introducing a new set of irons, a multi-million dollar marketing campaign must be created to generate a demand that has to result in selling 25,000 or more sets or else the entire development of the model was a waste of time and money. At present, few of the major brand golf companies wish to take the risk.
Golf has always been a game steeped with traditions. Golfers as a whole have demonstrated a general and consistent tendency to not deviate too far outside the norm of such traditions in the game.
This is also true when it comes to certain aspects related to golf clubs. It has been proven over and over that developments in the design, shape and concept of golf clubs have to remain within a narrow range of change – if you go too far outside the box of tradition, golfers will reject such changes and will simply refuse to purchase the clubs if they are considered to be “too different”.
Most of the golf companies have believed that a single length set of golf clubs would push things too far in the minds of most golfers so the sets would not be able to sell in a high enough volume to justify the cost of development, inventory and marketing.
WHAT ABOUT SINGLE LENGTH CLUBS FOR TALL OR SHORT PLAYERS? SUCH PLAYERS REGULARLY ARE FIT FOR “OVERLENGTH” OR “UNDERLENGTH” IRONS IN CONVENTIONAL IRON SETS. WHAT ABOUT “OVERLENGTH” OR “UNDERLENGTH” IN SINGLE LENGTH SETS?
That’s a very interesting point in Single Length set fitting. Think about it this way, using the following example. Let’s say you have two golfers and after a fitting analysis for a conventional set of irons, it is determined that Golfer A needs his lengths to be +1” over standard, while Golfer B is best fit into a standard length set. That means the 5 iron in Golfer A’s set would be 39” while the 5 iron in Golfer B’s set would be 38”.
But let’s say that both Golfers become aware of the Single Length concept and express an interest to be fit into such a set. And let’s also say that the Single Length set both see is offered in a “standard” single length of 37”. Does Golfer A need his Single Length set to be 38” since he was advised to use a +1” over standard length in his conventional set of irons?
Probably not, and here’s why. In Golfer A’s conventional set of irons, 37” is the length of his +1” over length #9 iron. While in Golfer B’s conventional iron set, 37” is the length of his standard length #7 iron. Thus it could be said that the 37” single length would be a proper fit for either golfer, even though in a conventional set Golfer A measured to need +1” longer than standard.
In the end, there may be an occasional situation in which a golfer who needs a longer length in a conventional iron set may need the length of a Single Length set to be a bit longer than the length range the set was designed to follow. However, we do urge clubmakers to try to keep all golfers within this range between 36.5 and 37 inches for purposes of more successfully fitting the golfer to a suitable total weight + headweight feel in the clubs. But in the end if the golfer has a specific preference for a certain single length for his irons, comfort does rule. We do not recommend the irons be built to a length greater than 38” if possible.
IF THE CLUBS ARE ALL TO BE MADE TO ONE LENGTH AND ONE LIE ANGLE, WHAT IS THERE FOR GOLFERS TO BE CUSTOM FIT IN A SET OF SINGLE LENGTH IRONS?
Every one of the key fitting specifications in any set of irons, that’s what – the lofts, lies, shaft flex, shaft bend profile, shaft weight, total weight, headweight feel (swingweight or MOI), grip style and grip size. Not only that, but it is possible that some golfers could be more comfortable with a slightly different single length than other golfers. In short, even though the lengths of each iron will be the same, what that length should be as well as each one of the other key fitting specifications should be custom fit and custom built for each golfer.
Single length does NOT mean “one size fits all” in the manner of the way big golf companies sell their clubs in standard form, off the rack. Single length sets still need to be properly custom fit to each golfer based on their size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics for the best single length and lie along with the right shaft weight, shaft flex, shaft bend profile, swingweight/MOI, set makeup and grip size/style.
ARE SINGLE LENGTH IRONS BETTER FOR AVERAGE TO LESS SKILLED GOLFERS OR ARE THEY VIABLE FOR GOOD PLAYERS AS WELL?
During the time between the mid 1980s and mid 2010s when only a few isolated companies offered single length sets of irons, most people were led to believe that single length irons were more aimed at average to less skilled golfers. It can be said that Bryson deChambeau’s success in winning the NCAA and US Amateur in the same year (2015) followed by 5 wins on the PGA Tour and well over $10 million in earnings from 2017 to 2019 has pretty much blown that thought out of the water.
As with normal sets of irons aimed at average vs good players, the main differences fall in the areas of traditional vs game improvement iron HEAD designs, coupled with fitting differences in the shafts, total weight, swingweight (headweight feel), lie and grip size/style. Most companies that offer Single Length irons are not likely to offer multiple clubhead models as they do with conventional length iron models unless the demand for such a delineation in Single Length head model were to become large enough to justify a better player version to contrast to the game improvement version.
WHAT IS THE POTENTIAL DIFFERENCE IN USING A SET OF SINGLE LENGTH IRONS VS A SET OF CONVENTIONAL INCREMENTAL LENGTH IRONS?
There are three primary areas in which previous Single Length irons have fallen short of the performance golfers are used to with their conventional incremental length iron sets.
Depending on the single length chosen, the golfer may lose enough clubhead speed with the lower loft irons to cause a loss of distance for the lower number irons in a Single Length set vs in a conventional length set.
Also depending on the single length chosen, the golfer may find that shot distances with the high loft irons and wedges are longer than the golfer was used to in the conventional length set. This could happen if the single length is more than 1” longer than the length of the high loft irons/wedges in the conventional set.
Following from both #1 and #2 above, the distance gaps between each single length iron could be compressed, shorter than what the golfer was used to with the conventional set of irons.
It must be noted that the main reason these problems have occurred with previous Single Length iron sets are because the sets were made with conventional steel clubheads with the same lofts and 4* loft gaps used in conventional iron sets, coupled with a single length that was >1” shorter than the low loft iron lengths and >1” longer than the high loft iron lengths in the golfer’s conventional set. In other words, by customizing the length, the lofts and loft gaps, and the clubhead design, it is possible for a modern Single Length set to overcome these previous problems that have been seen with other or previous Single Length sets.
CAN A CONVENTIONAL SET OF INCREMENTAL LENGTH IRONS BE CONVERTED INTO A SET OF SINGLE LENGTH IRONS?
Not without either a lot of lead tape on the lower loft heads and a lot of grinding of weight off the higher loft heads in the conventional set. Not to mention the potential difficulty of bending the lie angle of some of the heads to the required lie for the golfer for the one single length chosen. For all intents and purposes, it is just not feasible to build a single length set from an existing incremental length set of irons.
In a Single Length set, all the clubheads must be designed and manufactured to be the same exact headweight AND with the same lie angle. This is a requirement for the Single Length clubs to all end up with the same total weight, same swing weight, same head weight feel and same balance point – the elements that ensure each club exhibits the same swing feel.
Golfers who are interested in a Single Length set are going to have to test hit clubs properly engineered and manufactured for assembly as a Single Length set to be able to try the concept. It is completely impractical to alter an existing iron set to the Single Length concept.
WHAT ABOUT WOODS OR HYBRIDS? CAN A SINGLE LENGTH SET OF WOODS AND HYBRIDS ALSO BE A VIABLE CHANGE FOR A GOLFER TO MAKE WITH HIS OR HER EQUIPMENT?
Absolutely. But the hybrid and wood heads have to be designed with different head weight than what is normal for conventional hybrid and fairway wood head designs so they can be built to a single length and still be able to achieve a normal range of swingweight or MOI for proper weight feel for the golfer. It is not possible to adapt a hybrid or fairway wood head designed for conventional lengths to be used for a single length option.
Because hybrids were originally conceived to be an easier to hit alternative to low loft irons, it is best to think of the hybrids as being a part of the set of irons. In terms of single length fitting and performance this means single length hybrids should be the same length as the single length irons so every club from the lowest loft hybrid to each of the wedges will be identical for every element that contributes to swing repeatability and swing feel – same length, same lie, same shaft, same shaft flex/bend profile, same total weight, same headweight/swingweight, same MOI, same balance point – so the golfer can use the same stance, posture, spine angle and swing plane to have the best chance to achieve an improved level of shot consistency and swing repeatability.
Fairway woods on the other hand cannot be built and played at the same single length as the hybrids and irons. If this were done the golfer would never be able to achieve the same distance with woods made to the same single length as the hybrids/irons because that length would be so much shorter than normal fairway wood lengths that it will bring about a significant drop in clubhead speed and shot distance.
When fairway woods are built to be played at a single length, that one length will need to be longer than the single length irons but shorter than the normal lengths for most fairway woods. Based on a rough industry standard length of 43″ for the 3-wood, Wishon Golf recommends that the length for single length fairway woods should be between 40-41″ for men, 39-40″ for women.
In a single length set of woods the golfer will not typically play a full set of #3, 4, 5, 7 fairway woods. For golfers with a driver clubhead speed of 95mph or higher, we recommend the set makeup for the single length woods be #3 and 5, followed by a single length hybrid/iron set makeup of #4h, 5h/5i, 6i, 7i, 8i, 9i, P, G, S. The choice of 5 hybrid vs 5 iron is also made on the basis of clubhead speed. If the player has an 8 iron clubhead speed above 75mph he can usually play the 5-iron as the first iron in the set. If the 8 iron speed is under 75 but above 70mph we recommend the 4 and 5 hybrids, with the first iron being the 6 iron. Under 70mph we feel the player will do better with #5, 6 hybrids, 7 iron to SW and no 4 hybrid.
For golfers with a driver clubhead speed under 95mph, we advise the single length wood set makeup be the 4w/7w, followed by a single length hybrid/iron set makeup of #5h, 6h/6i, 7i, 8i, 9i, P, G, S. The choice of 6 hybrid vs 6 iron is also made on the basis of clubhead speed. If the player has an 8 iron clubhead speed above 70mph he can usually play the 6-iron as the first iron in the set. If the 8 iron speed is under 70mph we recommend the 5 and 6 hybrids, with the first iron being the 7 iron.
WHY HAVEN’T OTHER TOURNAMENT GOLFERS BEGUN TO CHANGE TO SINGLE LENGTH IRONS SINCE BRYSON DECHAMBEAU’S SUCCESS ON THE PGA TOUR ?
If you think normal amateur golfers cling to tradition and resist change, just wait until you take a look into that trait among tour pros and very serious competitive amateurs. Shoot, there are still a lot of those players clinging to a muscleback blade in their irons!
But one can never say never. Even though Bryson deChambeau is a top ranked touring professional, among other pros the concept of single length irons is likely seen as being too much of a change to have to get used to. Touring pros achieve shot consistency over years of practice coupled with an inherent swing talent. To make a change to a single length set after decades of playing conventional incremental length irons would be too difficult or too much of a challenge to get to the point of consistency and confidence for the vast majority of pros.
This is why after years of observing and guiding clubmakers in the fitting of single length irons, we are convinced the real benefit of single length is for regular golfers in a range from beginner to high single digit handicap players. Single length offers a better chance for improved swing repeatability and better shot consistency for more greens hit and better misses with the irons. Players from beginner to high single digit handicap tend to have more of a problem with swing repeatability and shot consistency than low single digit handicap golfers.
SHOULD I SERIOUSLY CONSIDER BUYING A SET OF SINGLE LENGTH IRONS?
We’re a little prejudiced at Wishon Golf because we feel the major changes we have made in the latest single length design of the new EQ1-NX irons, coupled with our depth of understanding of the concepts of proper fitting of Single Length sets, make it a possibility for a very high percentage of golfers to gain a significant improvement in swing and shot consistency.
We know from 6 years of single length iron development that the Wishon Golf EQ1-NX Single Length irons have all the requirements to deliver a seamless transition for shot distance with each club compared to a conventional set, while at the same time offering the main benefit of the Single Length concept of identical swing motion and feel for every club.