Golf is an industry driven by technology and the advertising dollar. Any club you care to mention, from driver to wedge, will be full of the latest and greatest in innovation from speedslots to cup faces. Almost all of this technology is centered on the idea of creating more distance. In short, distance sells. Nobody is ever going to buy a club that isn’t longer (or at least as long.)
This is actually a shame for two reasons. Firstly, it is often an outright lie, or at least a pretty good effort at bending the truth. Most amateurs don’t realize that things like COR (the coefficient of restitution, or trampoline effect) of drivers are actually limited and have been for some time. That new driver really isn’t going to be any longer than the old one.
It has also pushed the distance claims from woods to irons and this is big reason number two. We are being brainwashed into believing that irons are distance clubs. Looking at the latest super game improvement irons, they scream “longer!” The numbers seem to back this up. Suddenly your seven iron is going as far as your six iron! Amazing. Well, it is until your realize that this new seven iron IS your six iron! It has the same loft and length so it isn’t really that surprising.
But surely this is great, isn’t it? I mean, who doesn’t want to have another fifteen yards on their pitching wedge? Actually, the answer should be ‘Nobody’ Hitting irons further doesn’t make sense. Suddenly you are knocking your pitching wedge 130 yards. So what do you do from 120? Or 110? Just how many wedges are you going to need to put in your bag?
And it is even worse than this. This potential distance, is exactly that-potential. If you are not hitting the center, you aren’t getting it. distance tests are performed using machines like ‘Iron Byron’. These can replicate swing after swing where the ball hits the center of the face.
But what about the rest of us? Those mere mortals who don’t pure every shot? And don’t feel bad because even pros don’t always find the center of the club face. well, the manufacturers will say that they have you covered there too. New technology keeps ball speeds constant even when you hit it off-center.
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‘Fantastic’ you cry. now we can happily mishit and still get a decent result. not so fast. This technology does help when you hit it slightly off center. however, most of us will have a few shots that are right on the toe or off the bottom of the club. A forgiving club isn’t going to solve this. Likewise for those fat and thin shots. what we really need is to hit the center more often.
So the only solution is hours hitting balls on the range. Actually, no, it isn’t. There is one genuine innovation in iron technology that can really make a difference to ball-striking and so to how well you play and how much more you could enjoy the game. What is it? Single length iron technology.
Funnily enough, this isn’t just some new-fangled way of imaging clubs or a gimmick designed to make a quick buck. This s the way that golf clubs were originally made. Before mass-produced, steel-shafted clubs came into being in the 20s and 30s, most sets were single length. A clubmaker would build individual clubs based on the best fit for a given golfer.
So why change? As always, it was simply a money question. With mass-production, it was simply faster and easier to make sets that were in half-inch increments, because you could be sure that there would be at least one club in there that would fit the golfer, regardless of size and there was no need to fit. The head weights changed by 7 or 8 g from club to club to keep the swingweight about the same and the lies became gradually more upright as you went through the set.
Now instead of having one swing for all clubs with just loft changing, suddenly we were trying to change a little from one to the next. Goodbye solid, consistent swing, hello fats and tops!
Think about this for a minute. Pick your favorite iron. Maybe it is that eight iron that you always seems to hit well. Stand behind the ball. Just feels right, doesn’t it? Comfortable stance, just the right weight, swing feels good and the ball flies. But when you try it with the six iron, suddenly things aren’t quite as good. sure, you hit some nice shots, but there is always that one that is a little heavy.
This is perfectly normal. Although club manufacturers will tell you that their sets are perfect, that the head weights, lengths and other specs are checked and that this leads to the same feeling throughout the set, this is far from the case.
Unless your set was built for you by an experienced club maker who has the time and equipment to check everything with you (and you have the time and budget to do this too!), it is almost certain that your clubs aren’t helping as much as they could.
Sure, if you are a premium ball striker, you will probably adapt. If you aren’t regularly shooting close to par, however good you think you hit it, you are making it hard for yourself. Playing with an MOI (moment of Inertia) matched iron set is great. The clubs feel almost the same throughout the set. If the lies are individually set (and regularly checked) you can play some good golf and hit the ball well. If you are playing a set from any major manufacturer, regardless of if you were fit for them, you AREN’T playing this sort of set.
A single length iron set is always perfectly matched. Not close, but exact. The length is the same. The shaft is the same. The head and grip weight is the same. The only thing that is different is the loft. How much more consistently do you think you could hit the ball if you were basically always hitting the same club? How much more effective would your practice be if every iron shot you took helped with ALL your irons? No more hitting your wedges great and shaking as you stood behind your long irons. No more having to choose to practice just part of your iron game.
So is there any down side to this? I would argue that there isn’t. a common criticism of single length (often from those who have never played them) is that they are all the same length there fore they will all go the same distance. Look, I have played various single length sets for three years. I have never encountered this. do you really think that the distance gaps between clubs come from club length?
The axis of rotation when you swing is somewhere between your shoulder blades. This means that the swinging part is actually a combination of shoulder width, arm length and club length. Lets call it 60 inches for a seven iron. How much distance do you think half an inch is giving you? In fact, there have been various studies done on this and loft has been proven to be the main element in iron distance.
But lets imagine for an instant that this extra club length is really giving extra distance. Remember the first point I made about the golf industry and distance? Do you really thing that hitting an iron further is helping your game? Of course not. The ONLY thing that matters is being able to hit the ball a precise distance (and direction) every time. As far as this goes, there is simply nothing better than single length.
Having one swing means you hit the center of the club face more often. This means more confidence and far more consistency. You can stand with your six iron in hand knowing that it will go 170 yards, 150 yards or whatever and it will go that distance every time.
This brings me to my favorite thing about single length irons. when a pro takes his stance, he isn’t thinking about whether he will miss-hit the shot. He is aiming for a precise area. “I want to play for the right side of the green and leave that uphill putt.” for the rest of us, we are hoping for a clean contact.
Imagine playing when you can start seeing the course like a pro. Of course, we aren’t all going to end up on the pga tour, but thinking about where you want to place the ball because you know that the contact will be good is my definition of game-changing. In an era dominated by slots and cupped faces, this might be the only true technological revolution that can transform the game for the average golfer.