The effect of club length on swing speed and distance

My last post identified a number of disadvantages of single length irons, primarily, hitting the wedges to 8 iron to long (because the shafts are longer than conventional) and hitting the 6-3 irons to short (as the shafts are shorter than conventional clubs).

Apart from hitting the ball squarely, that is without the club face being overly open or closed to the target  line and club path, the two factors that most influence distance are swing speed and effective loft.

Effective loft is the actual loft of your club head at impact as opposed to the stated loft on the club you are hitting.  If your hands are ahead of your club head at impact you have a good chance of matching the effective loft to the actual loft of the club.  If the club head passes your hands at impact (flipping) the club will be de-lofted and the ball will fly a shorter distance.

Club Head Speed and Ball Carry

A couple of issues come into play.  With the driver each MPH of club head speed generates approximately 2.4 yards of carry if the swing speed is in the 110 MPH range.  Just as a point of reference the average swing speed on the PGA Tour is 112 MPH, which translates into an average carry of 269 yards.

At lower swing speeds, around 90 miles per hour, each MPH of club head speed generates approximately 2.3 yards of carry.  Again as a point of reference, the average swing speed on the LPGA is 94 miles per hour which works out to an average carry distance of 220 yards.

As the swing speed decreases with the shorter clubs the carry distance per MPH is also reduced.  A typical 7 iron swung at 78 MPH (the average on the LPGA) results in a carry of 141 yards, a distance of 1.8 yards of carry per MPH of club head speed.

With single length irons, the 7 iron is the unofficial standard in terms of overall club length, in the range of 37 inches, and good male amateur players will swing a club of that length around 78 MPH.

The question is what happens when you take a 6 iron and reduce the length by one half-inch.  Based on averages a one half-inch reduction in overall club length will result in the loss of 1.5 to 2 MPH of swing speed which means your 6 iron will carry 2.7 to 3.6 yards shorter at a length of 37 inches than it would at 37.5 inches.  By the same token, an 8 iron which would normally play at 36.5 inches when extended to 37 inches will fly 2.7 to 3.6 yards further.

In the next post I will look at the effect of loft on ball carry distance.

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7 thoughts on “The effect of club length on swing speed and distance

  1. Daryl Currie

    Very interesting Menno,I believe as ameteurs we spend to much time on club head speed,and very little on hand position at impact! Loved the article!,,,HNY!,,keep em coming!??

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. leslightfoot2017

    Menno, I am contemplating switching over to single length clubs and single plane swing. I use Jumbo grips because of the arthritis in my hands and have been using graphic shafts. Are there any club makers in Winnipeg that can fit/build a set of single length clubs according to the proper specifications?

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  3. Rob Williams

    Truly enjoyed your article, which begs me to ask: When a ball is struck by woods i.e. Driver, 3-Wood, 5-Wood of the same make and same length and at the same speed, what are the distance differences? Please advise me if I am wrong, but I believe if the loft angle of “any” club was the same, I believe the carry and total distance of the ball would be the same, irrespective of the size of the club head. Your thoughts?

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  4. Interesting comments on speed vs length, I was curious about that so thanks for the info.
    One point of information on single length that might change your opinion on distance lost/gained is that on single length all heads are the same weight (as are the shafts) but on variable length the head weight decreases with the longer clubs (as total club weight must still be the same per club and with longer shafts the extra weight must come out of the head).
    So there is more mass in a 3,4,5 iron head for single length and that mitigates the slightly slower swing speed and the opposite is true for 8,9,wedges. I believe there were some Iron Byron tests that showed that.

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    1. Menno Zacharias

      Hello Bigbigeasy: You may be confusing overall club mass, and swing weight. Whereas most well made traditional length clubs (variable length) will have a consistent swing weight throughout the set, the actual overall mass of the individual clubs varies through the set. For example in a typical set of traditional steel shafted irons the overall mass of the pitching wedge is in the range of 430 grams while the 4 irons has an overall mass around 385 grams.

      The main mitigating factor in terms of ensuring that the single length longer irons travel the appropriate distance is not so much the greater mass in the club head but rather it is the result of the stronger lofts.

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      1. Menno, thanks for the note. I think we’re in agreement on the variable length head weights, to keep the swing weight identical with longer/shorter shafts you need to change the head weights. Ironically, Bryson DeChambeau just did something that ties into my comment about a single length iron having more mass than a variable length (in the longer irons) as he recently halved the weight of his grip and added the savings into the club heads, to keep his swing weight the same, as higher mass in club head translates into more distance.
        On your single length loft comment, I’ll have to disagree as I have a “1 Iron Golf” set of single lengths and they have de-lofted their irons to the former original standards. I saw Titlest 718 AP1’s are 25 degree and Callaways were 23 degree for their 5 iron vs my 27 degree ( the maker is such a purist that he only puts the loft degrees on the club bottom, he no longer stamps 5,6 or whatever iron it used to be called as most makers vary quite a bit) (Titlest varies from 24-27 degrees on the 5 iron in their range of clubs) And some manufacturers vary the graduation between clubs, I think Callaway had 4 degree delta on longer irons, 4.5 degree on mid and 5 degree on wedges. So, it gets pretty complicated when you now have to compare different shaft lengths (and flexes), head weights and lofts on what is supposedly the same numbered iron.

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