Standard Length and Loft For Irons


Is there such a thing as a ‘standard’ set of golf clubs in terms of length and loft?

The answer is yes and no.

In the days of drivers with steel shafts and persimmon heads, the standard length for a driver was 43 inches.  With the introduction of graphite shafts and titanium heads the new standard for drivers is 45+ inches.

In terms of irons, in the 1970’s most golf manufacturers adhered to what was known at the 24/38 rule when it came to iron loft and length.  That rule says that the average male golfer could be expected to hit a golf club with 24 degrees of loft and an overall length of 38 inches approximately 170 yards.  Irons with a lower loft or a longer shaft was reserved for the very accomplished or elite players.  In the 1970’s on average a 3 iron had 24 degrees of loft and was 38 inches long.

Fast forward to today and despite the improvements in club heads, shafts and grips the 24/38 rule still applies.  The average male golfer still hits a club with 24 degrees of loft and an overall length of 38 inches, 170 yards.  What has changed is that the number assigned to the club has changed from a ‘3’ to a ‘5’.  In terms of specifications, today it’s the 5 iron and not the 3 iron that has around 24 degrees of loft and an overall length of 38 inches.

What caused this loft and length creep?  In a word, marketing.  The large golf club manufacturers found themselves in a very competitive situation and in an attempt to set themselves apart, manufacturers would produce clubs with claims of greater distance. Remember those ads that claim ‘our clubs are one club longer”, or “two clubs longer” than the competition? Well, they were not really one club longer.  When you take a 7 iron and substantially decrease the loft and extend the shaft by up to an inch  you have effectively turned it into a 6 iron and yes, 6 irons  will go further than 7 irons. Between 1970 and the present most if not all club manufactures have strengthen the lofts, and extended the shafts on off the counter iron sets, effectively creating a new ‘standard’ in terms of iron loft and length.

The table  below shows how the loft and length of clubs has changed from 1970 to the present.  The data in this table represents industry averages.  There are some variations that fall outside the averages;  for example the new Titleist AP1 irons start with a 19 degree 3 iron, as do the new Taylormade  PSi irons, with more aggressive lofts throughout the set.    

Loft Length
Iron 1970 Current 1970 Current
3 24 20 38 39
4 28 23 37.5 38.5
5 32 26 37 38
6 36 32 36.5 37.5
7 40 34 36 37
8 44 38 35.5 36.5
9 48 42 35 36
PW 52 46 35 35.5

The next time you hear a commercial about irons that go further, check the lofts and lengths before you buy them.  It might be much more economical to simply take a sharpie and write a different number on the bottom of your iron and perhaps lengthen the shaft by a half an inch, than buying into the hype and spending money on a new set.

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Scratch Golfers Turn Par 4’s and Par 5’s Into Short Par 3’s

Bridges hole 4

Depiction of the 97-159 yard par 3, 4th hole at Bridges Golf Course


In a previous post I talked about how high handicap golfers tend to score better (relative to par) on par 3 holes as compared to par 4’s and par 5’s, and how the opposite is true for scratch and low handicap golfers who score better  (relative to par) on par 4’s and par 5’s.

There are several reasons for this:

1)   The shorter the par 3 the easier it is to score well.

2)   Most high handicap golfers tend to play off the forward tees which means that for them most par 3’s are in the range of 150 yards or less.  Many scratch or low handicap players will play off the longer tees with an average distance closer to the 190 yard range.

Let me provide a number of examples for average distances of par 3 holes off various tees at two local courses:

Bridges Golf Course, Starbuck, MB

White tees          133 yards

Blue tees             153 yards

Black tees           178 yards

Southwood Golf and Country Club, Winnipeg, MB

White tees          152 yards

Blue tees             175 yards

Black tees           197 yards

So on par 3 holes high handicappers have significantly shorter tee shots to contend with than golfers playing of the back tees.

3)   In many sports there is no substitute for speed.  In golf there is no substitute for distance.  Generally speaking, low handicap golfers hit the ball further than high handicap players and in many cases are also more accurate.  Low handicap players, even though they may play off the longer tees, tend to have shorter approach shots into the green than high handicap players on par 4’s and especially par 5’s.

This disparity in distance off the tee means that for many high handicap golfers their approach shots on par 4’s and par 5’s are longer than their normal tee shot on par 3’s, whereas for low handicap players their approach shots on par 4’s and par 5’s are shorter than their typical tee shot on par 3’s.  In some cases par 5’s become two shot holes for the scratch player which further promotes lower scores.

The long and the short of it (pun intended) is that low handicap golfers because of their additional length and accuracy have the ability to turn their approach shots on  par 4’s and par 5’s into short par 3’s.

The shorter the “par 3” the lower the score.

Manitoba Amateur and Match Play Venues for 2016

Golf Manitoba has announced that the 2016 Manitoba Match play championship will be contested at the Elmhurst Golf and Country Club on June 4, 5, 8, 9 and 11th 2016. Off the Blue tees Elmhurst plays to a par of 71 with a course rating of 72.7 and a slope rating of 126

The Manitoba Mens Amateur will be contested at the Minnewasta Golf and Country Club in Morden Manitoba from July 18-21, 2016.  Off the back tees, Minnewasta plays to a par of 72 , with a course rating of 72.3 and a slope of 130.

The qualifying venues for neither event  have been announced yet.

Updated January 26, 2016

Date Event Venue
May 28 & 29 Match Play Championship Qualifier Transcona Golf Club
June 4, 5, 8, 9 & 11 Match Play Championship Elmhurst Golf & Country Club
June 6 Women’s Alternate Shot Pine Ridge Golf Club
June 23 Men’s Amateur Qualifier Transcona Golf Club
June 25 Men’s Amateur Qualifier Minnedosa Golf & Country Club
July 4 – 6 Women’s Amateur & Men’s Mid – Amateur Championship Breezy Bend Country Club
July 11 & 12
July 13 & 14
Junior Championship
Junior Championship
Portage Golf Club
July 18 – 21 Nott Autocorp Men’s Amateur Championship Minnewasta Golf & Country Club
July 25 – 27 Senior Championship Glendale Golf & Country Club
August 13 & 14 Men’s Rural Championship Teulon Golf & Country Club
August 17 & 18 Junior Bantam Championship Assiniboine Golf Club
August 23 Provincial Men’s Interclub Championship
Grand Pines Golf Club
August 25 Women’s Interclub B Championship
Maplewood Golf Club
August 30 Women’s Interclub A Championship
The Links at the Lake