My new set of Pinhawk single length irons

While researching and writing the recent posts about single length irons, I was also busy on the other side of the equation assembling and experimenting with a set of single length irons.

As the saying goes ‘the proof is in the pudding’ so I have attempted to put the theory into practice.

This is what my new set looks like.

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As indicated earlier, I decided to go with Pinhawk heads, which are specifically designed for single length iron sets.  The set consists of ten clubs, from flop wedge to 4-hybrid.  The heads are cast stainless steel, cavity back,  made with 431 steel which is a little softer and more bendable than the 17-4 steel used by most major OEM manufacturers.  The heads throughout the set from flop wedge to 4-hybrid each weigh 272 grams (+/- 1) and have a lie angle of 62.5 degrees.

I experimented with various lengths ranging from 35 to 37.5 inches.  I eventually ended up with 37 1/16.  If you are wondering about the 1/16 of an inch,  it has no significance.  What happened was that as I experimented with different club lengths, hitting them at the Golf Dome, there was  one particular iron that I was hitting most consistently.  When I measured it precisely it was 37 1/16 inches in length so I just built the entire set to match that club.

At a length of 37 1/16 inches and using a 70 gram graphite shaft and a 50 gram grip the swing weight comes in at D1.

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The table below indicates the off-the-rack specifications of the Pinhawk heads I am using.  I suspect that some minor loft adjustments may be required to ensure proper ‘gap’ distances between clubs.

 

Pinhawk Iron Set
Club 4 5 6 7 8 9 PW GW SW LW
Loft 20° 25° 30° 35° 39° 43° 47° 51° 55° 59°
Lie 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5°
Weight (grams) 272 272 272 272 272 272 272 272 272 272
Offset (mm) 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3

Source:  Value Golf

 

I have already done some lie adjustments on a few of the irons to promote a more upright swing plane.  A few of the irons have been bent as much as 2.5 degrees without any breakage.

The final lofts and lies will not be arrived at until the clubs are tested in ‘on course’ conditions.

Below are links to the series of posts previously written on the topic of Single Length Clubs.

Who are Homer Kelley and Bryson DeChambeau

Standard length and loft for irons

Single length golf clubs

Advantages and disadvantages of single length irons

The effect of club length on swing speed and distance

The effect of loft on carry distance

Unless something miraculous or untoward happens in the next few months at the Dome I won’t write another post about these clubs until the grass is green and the birds are singing again.

Fore!

 

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Effect of Loft on Carry Distance

 

loft picture

The Effect of Loft

The loft of an iron has a much greater effect on the distance your ball will carry than does the length of the club (swing speed).  Many in the golf industry estimate that with irons, the ratio is  as high 20:80,  meaning that loft has 4 times the effect on distance as compared to swing speed.  At a swing speed around 78 miles per hour and a club length of 37 inches every degree in change of loft will result in a much greater difference in distance than a 1 mph change in club head speed.

The long and the short of it is that when you reduce the length of your irons to a 7 iron length (in the case of the irons longer than a 7 iron), and lengthen the shafts on the 8 iron to the wedges to the 7 iron length you will affect swing speed generated by those clubs.

How to compensate 

With single length irons the change in loft is the primary factor in terms of compensating for the loss in distance with the 3-6 irons, and the gain in distance for the iron through wedges.  The lofts on the longer irons are strengthened while on the shorter irons they are decreased.

There is another factor that plays into this as well, that being club head weight. Physics tell us that when a moving object (the club head) strikes a stationary object (the ball) the amount of force applied to the ball is dependent on two factors, the speed of the moving object, and its weight.  It is akin to a 20 ton truck travelling at 60 kph and striking a light standard knocking it over, and a Smart-car traveling at the same speed striking the same  light standard and scuffing the paint on the pole.

Because the heads on single length clubs are all the same weight (around 272 grams) the head on the 4 iron is 20-25 grams  heavier than a traditional 4 iron and will exert more force causing a slight increase in distance.  The head on the pitching wedge which is approximately 20 grams lighter than the traditional weight  will exert less force and cause a slight decrease in distance.

Conclusion

By varying the loft of the irons, other than the 7 iron which is the standard, it is theoretically possible to build a set of clubs that are all the same length and still hit the ball distances very similar to traditional clubs while at the same time  ensuring the wedge to 8 iron don’t go to far and the 3 to 6 iron go far enough to maintain a workable ‘gap’ in terms of the different distances each club will hit the ball.

In my mind the disadvantages addressed in an earlier post can be compensated for, leaving only the advantages, which I would argue are so beneficial that a strong argument can be made at least putting the concept to the test as opposed to dismissing it out of hand.

As indicated in an earlier post I am in the process of assembling a set of single length irons.  I have experimented with lengths ranging from 35 to 37.5 inches and different combinations of lie angles.  I am getting close to arriving at what will be my ‘final’ specifications and when I do I will be writing a post about the finished product.

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.

 

Advantages and disadvantages of single length irons

When you think about the concept of a set of irons that are all the same length both advantages and disadvantages become apparent.

Advantages

  1.  Because each iron is the same length (roughly equivalent to a 7 iron)  your set up position will be the same with each club in the set.  You will be standing the same distance from the ball with each club.  The ball position (forward or back in relation to your feet) will be the same for each club.
  2. Because all clubs in the set are the same length and have the same lie angle your swing plane will be identical for each club.  With conventional clubs the swing plane with the short irons is more upright (than a 7 iron) and more flat with the longer irons. Theoretically it is easier to master one swing plane than multiple swing planes.
  3. As the shafts are all the same length and the heads all weigh the same each club will have an identical shaft flex and  swing weight.
  4. MOI (moment of inertia) will be identical for each club.
  5. The bounce angle and offset for each club is identical (with the exception of the sand wedge).

Disadvantages

  1. Because each club is the same length and the heads are all the same weight your swing with the 8 iron through lob wedge (which are longer than a conventional set) will be faster and the ball will go further.
  2. With the 3-6 irons (which are shorter than a conventional set) your swing speed will be slower and the ball will not go as far.
  3. It may be difficult to achieve the traditional 10 yard ‘gap’ between clubs.

In a subsequent post I will examine the impact of club length on swing speed (and distance), as well as the effect of club loft on distance with a view to eliminating the two ‘disadvantages’ to single length irons.

 

Zach Johnson switches clubs

It is not unusual for golfers on the PGA Tour to switch equipment.  Most players including Tiger and Phil did so at some point.

The question is:  is it about the equipment or is it about the sponsorship money that flows from such deals?

Brooks Koepka recently signed with Nike.  As they say in the golf industry money talks, and Nike speaks with ‘a loud voice’ when it comes to sponsorship money.

That is why Zach Johnson’s equipment change comes as a surprise.  As a 12 time winner on the PGA Tour with two Majors, the most recent being the 2015 British Open, Johnson could probably get an equipment deal from a number of big name companies. But Johnson did not sign with Nike, Taylormade, Ping or for that matter any of the big names in the golf equipment industry.

He chose instead to join Billy Horshell, Chris Kirk, Ryan Moore, Charles Howell III, James Hahn and Rocco Mediate (not unknowns but also not in the golfing elite) and signed with an equipment company called Parsons Extreme Golf.

If you have never heard of Parsons Extreme Golf  you are not alone.  Parsons Extreme Golf is an unknown.  It is a company recently formed by Bob Parsons of Go Daddy fame with the aim of manufacturing  “the best clubs in the world” regardless of price.

The clubs Johnson will be playing are the PXG model, an innovative hollow core design with tungsten screws on the perimeter.  It would appear to be a very forgiving players club with a very thin face.

 

A better look at the injection-molded TPE that's added to every 0311 iron. 

PXGIrons

The Specifications for the irons as provided by the manufacturer are as follows:

pxg-specs-900x707

In the past some players on the Tour have stumbled, some mightily, after making an equipment change.  It will be interesting to watch Zach Johnson in 2016.  Johnson is known for his ball striking, especially with his wedges.  As one of the shorter hitters on the Tour, Johnson relies on his irons and wedges to get it close on par 4’s and 5’s. That is key to his success.

I’m thinking for Johnson to have signed with Parsons Extreme Golf, they must also have spoken with a fairly ‘loud voice’.

Single Length Golf Clubs

What are single length clubs?

As the name implies, single length clubs are a set of golf clubs where all the irons (but not the hybrids and woods) are the same length.

I first started dabbling with the notion of a set of irons that were all the same length long before the Internet was prominent.  Back then (late 70’s early 80’s) there were very few, if any, good sources of information on the topic so basically I reverted to the tried and true method called experimentation.

What caused me to start down that road was a realization that I think all golfers come to at some point in time, that being: there are one or two irons in the set that you hit much better than the other irons in the set.

For most golfers, that one favorite club that feels better and results in better shots is the 7 or 8 iron and in some cases the 6 iron.  I’ve heard many golfers say, “if I could just hit the rest of my clubs like I hit my  seven iron, I’d be a pretty good player”.

Back then I did not understand much about swing planes, and had only a rudimentary understanding of the prevailing principles of golf club construction.

To address this issue I decided I needed to get some instructional material about how major manufacturers assembled golf clubs and the principles they employed so I purchased some books on golf club assembly.  Before I knew it, I was  assembling golf clubs at first for my own use and soon thereafter for friends and fellow golfers.

Traditional golf club length and head weight

Traditional golf club assembly principles dictate that clubs are progressively longer through the set.  Wedges start around 35 to 35.5 inches in length and then each club is built 1/2 inch longer so by the time you get to a 3 iron it is around  39 inches long.

To accommodate these changes in club length the lie angles change starting around 64 degrees for wedges and progressing to  59 degrees for a 3 iron.  The head weights also change starting around 300 grams for a sand wedge and arriving by increments at 230 grams for a 3 iron.  In theory the difference in head weight and shaft length from a wedge to a 3 iron should result in a set of clubs that all ‘feel’ the same.  The shafts are ‘tipped’, which means shaft material is removed from the lower end of the shaft to make them progressively stiffer as the heads get heavier.

Mass Produced Single Length Clubs

In 1986 the Tommy Armour Golf Company produced a set of clubs called EQL (equal length).  These clubs featured a head very similar to the Armour 845’s which were popular at the time.  The difference was all the heads weighed around 260 grams and all the irons were the  length of a 6 iron.  Because the idea of single length irons was considered too radical a departure from the norm, Armour was not able to get any prominent professionals to play or endorse the clubs.  As a result the idea was scrapped and production was halted.

The EQL irons were inspired in large part by Moe Norman’s swing.  Norman, who used a single plane swing, choked down on most of his irons to the point where he was in reality hitting what amounted to single length irons.

I have a set of EQL’s and they are pictured below.

 

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EQL2Although I have played these clubs with some success I was never a fan of the  offset Armour 845 heads.

My Winter Project

Being a fan of Bryson DeChambeau who uses not only single length clubs, custom-made for him by Edel Golf but also a single plane swing, I have decided I need to build myself a set of new single length irons.  Although you can now purchase custom-made single length irons the cost is substantial.

I have settled on Pinhawk heads.  They are available from flop wedge through 4 iron (with an optional 4 hybrid) with a lie angle of 62.5 degrees and a head wight of 272 grams throughout the set.  The head I have selected is pictured below.

pinhawk-sl-single-length-irons (1)

I will keep you posted.

Standard Length and Loft For Irons

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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.