Martin Hopley
By Martin Hopley

The concept of a single length for all golf clubs is not new. Back in the time of hickory shafts they were usually the same length.

When steel shafts were made legal in 1924 then things changed as the weight of the material meant that variable lengths had to be introduced and then the current accommodations for head weight, swing weight, swing plane, ball position and set up lead to a change in the game that we now recognise as normal.

The single length theory was briefly revived by Tommy Armour Golf irons in 1989 with the EQL range on the back of the success of their market leading 845 irons, but it was too different to catch on.

Single Length Irons

So why have they come back now? Two reasons. Firstly shaft and head technology has improved through the use of new materials that make the concept viable again.

Secondly, it has a high profile advocate in former physics student and PGA Tour player Bryson DeChambeau.

Bryson DeChambeau

Only the fifth player to win the US Amateur and US NCAA in the same year, following Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore, he and his coach Mike Schy believe in the theory and have proved its worth.

So the single length iron concept is not dead, but dormant because the theory still stacks up. The idea is that by having all your irons the same length then you keep the swing weight and set up the same from one club to the next.

This makes it simpler to learn and practice as you have only one set up to use and it will work with whatever type of swing you have, whether it is single plane or the more usual 2 plane swing.

Single length iron swing plane

As ball position, posture and alignment are fundamental for good golf, then by having one set up for nine clubs instead of nine for nine will deliver more consistent results over time.

The perceived wisdom is to make the shaft length around the same as your 6 or 7 iron, so 36.5 to 37 inches for men depending on your height. Then you need to create range of heads with the same head weight and different loft gaps to a usual set so there is a consistent distance gap between all the irons in the set.

Single Length Irons

Having tested several single length sets, I was impressed with how closely the distance gaps matched my current set.

The long irons were almost identical, but it was just getting used to standing at a lower posture than I would do for a flag that looked further away than it should.

Single Length Irons Comparison

The flight is very similar but because of the lower swing speed, the loft may be higher and the heads need to have a deeper CG and higher launch than a traditional iron to get the ball up and going the same distance. That is why you won't see a single length iron set go much beyond a 5-iron, although I have tried a few single length 4-irons and they have been fine.

The shorter irons are where it gets interesting because the lower lofts of 45° or more tend to hit it fractionally longer than before.

The temptation is to grip down on the shaft for pitches, but there is really no need to do so as the heads perform as well as most other pitching clubs. Even chip shots and bunker shots can be played with the longer shaft very easily for anyone with a nervy short game, the longer shaft gives more balance and takes the hands out of the shot a little more to make it more of an arms and shoulder swing.

Depending on the set, it probably would be worth investing in specialist sand or lob wedge with a decent level of bounce for getting out of severe trouble or if you need more feel.

Now that the high profile DeChambeau is on tour and has the backing of a major manufacturer, then this could be the start of a long term revolution in the way golf clubs are made.

It may be hard for existing golfers to change, although those with a jumpy short game or back problems should check this out as the benefits of a single, more upright posture can improve more than just scores.

The future is where the single length set becomes more interesting as a starting point for beginners to get into the game because of its simplicity and manufacturers are starting to offer the same set in variable or single length shafts for the same price.

Whilst it is just irons that are currently single length, work is already underway to investigate whether fairways and hybrids could be combined into a single length graphite shaft that would then leave a set with four lengths of club, namely driver, hybrids, irons and putter.

Watch this space, or should I say length?


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