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Opinion & Analysis

What I learned from my single-length irons experiment

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Among the stories for this year’s Masters, the serious club folks show a serious interest in Bryson DeChambeau, specifically his single-length clubs. This evokes memories for me, as I experimented with a single-length set many years ago.

First a little history. Back in the mid ’80s, a golf pro by the name of Jimmy Shack from Royal Oak Country Club in Titusville, Florida, came up with a concept for a single-length set. He managed to get the Tommy Armour Company interested, and they came out with the EQL irons in 1989. They were a single-length set using the 6-iron length as standard. Despite a strong marketing push, they were relatively short lived and eventually disappeared into the great club box in the sky.

Fast forward to the mid ’90s when I was designing sets for Adams Golf and the idea of single length re-appeared, at least for my personal clubs. I read that Bryson is 6 feet 1 inches tall, and I strongly suspect his height was a factor in his single-length set. Before arthritis and age took their toll, I was 6 foot 3 inches tall, and was facing a personal club-fitting problem. It’s funny, but I clearly remembered my mindset at the time.

“Where was it written that a set of irons had to be based on a 37.5-inch 5 iron? Why couldn’t the 5 iron be 40 inches or 34 inches? Why did the increments have to be 0.5 inches?” I figured it all started with a Scotsman, who was probably 5-foot 9-inches or so, shaping a set of clubs that fit him. As decades passed, it became “standard.”

As I saw it, the objective with a set of irons/wedges was to have a club that went a maximum distance, working back to a club that went the shortest distance. The key factor was an equal gap from one club to another. Given this rather broad premise, I turned to the club-fitting system I had designed to see what evolved.

One of the keys in our club-fitting system was establishing a comfortable position at address. We measured knuckles to the ground standing erect (more consistent than fingertips because of hand size). We combined this with what we called maximum drop — how much the hands lowered gripping the club — the idea being a solid address position before we got into flex, lie, etc. 

One thing I learned is all of us are not ideally suited to a proper address position in conjunction with clubs we could play. For example, I am long from the waist up, which means to get a comfortable address position I needed clubs 3 inches over standard length, and they were simply too long. For a guy 6 foot 8 inches to 6 foot 10 inches, no problem, but for me, problem. I used to tell people that not everyone has a body that can handle the required length, so in some cases you have to bend over at address a little extra. Given that I couldn’t automatically fit myself, I started with the maximum distance and gapping and worked backward. It wasn’t about the clubs; it was about ball flight.

I remembered the equal-length story and started to experiment. I liked the length of short irons when I made them all like 6 irons, but 5 iron and down were too short. One thing that I’m taking as a given here is the readers understand the need for different head weights and lie angles. Add 3 inches to a standard PW and it becomes significantly “head heavy.” The playing lie changes, too, and all of those things have to be recognized. As I experimented, my emphasis was also on trying to make a set with constant inertia. I wanted the clubs to all swing the same so I would be more consistent controlling ball flight, even when hitting different kinds of shots.

After much work, I ended up with a “tri” single-length set, which I labeled The Oxymoron’s. My longer irons (4-6) were all one length, my 7-8 irons slightly shorter and the higher-lofted clubs were a little more than 2 inches over standard. I felt comfortable at address, so any gapping issues were attacked with loft. Every club had unusual head weights, and they were all were back-weighted — again, my approach to obtaining constant swing  inertia. I didn’t have a 3 iron, because another experiment resulted in a rather odd-looking long iron patterned after the Troon clubs of the 1800s.

How did the irons work out? They were pretty good; I think I would have really liked them with a bit more fine tuning. I’ll never know. We got pretty busy, and I essentially stopped playing for the better part of 10 years, so my inertial irons idea disappeared. We did introduce irons as a company, but they were industry standard specs. We didn’t influence the market; it influenced us. Besides, my clubs were for me and I’m not standard.

I’m not convinced there isn’t a way to improve a set of irons, so at 77 I’m still messing around. Do I think there is a place in the industry for single length sets? I’d say in the general market, no. Possibly in some custom fitting applications where the size of the player is outside normal standards.

In the business, there are things that are nice and play well, but aren’t technically different. And there are ideas that when fully tested identify a technical improvement to making clubs. It’s the latter that keeps us experimenting.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. SteveK

    Oct 7, 2017 at 2:27 am

    I just can’t seem to hit my irons pure and I blame it on the different shaft lengths. It’s so obvious that a single shaft length is the logical way to go. Why in God’s name do golf clubs need to be various lengths? Doesn’t that mean I must have 13 different swing planes?!!

  2. Mat

    Jul 1, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    It’s funny. Everyone bags either SLI or 1/2″ steps. The truth is that if you built a set at 1/4″ steps, you’d really get the best of both… SLI would fly more “normally” and land better, and the physical change would assist almost the same as true SLI. Imagine only 1″ between a 5-9 iron instead of 2″…

  3. Craig Waggaman

    Feb 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    I have been fascinated by the possibilities of single length irons ever since I started dabbling in club making many years ago. So i did something I have never done- pre-ordered a set of Cobra F7 One single length irons. I received them about a week ago and will be writing about my experiences on my golf blog:
    linkswanderer.com
    Feel free to take a look and ask questions or comment.

  4. Scientific Golfer

    Jan 7, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Ironic and pathetic …. the average golfer (95% of all golfers) keep seeking a golf solution that doesn’t involve physical conditioning, sport-specific training and then performance training. They just seek an equipment solution that avoids time commitment to the sport… and then delude themselves into buying a game with the ‘best’ equipment no matter the cost.

    What we are witnessing now is the squeezing of the last $$$$ from a declining delusional golf population and will desperately spend to rescue their fantasies. Look at the OEM advertising… it’s so obvious.

    Most recreational golfers and other sports don’t devote enough time to practice and refuse to admit they themselves are the fault of their incompetence. “If I could just adjust the clubs to my personal swing!” …. so the OEMs are producing multi-adjustable clubs for failures who have more money than brains!!! Sorry for the rant, and discouraging comments from others who have been hit with this reality.

  5. Andre

    Nov 17, 2016 at 7:27 am

    Very interesting article Mister Adams,
    You mentionned backweighting and constant moment of inertia. Just curious as to how you went about that and if you reached your target MOI. Did you try to obtain a certain swingweight across the set or else?
    Thank you

  6. Andre

    Nov 17, 2016 at 7:20 am

    Very interesting article Mister Adams.

  7. Ryan morris

    Oct 24, 2016 at 5:19 am

    I purchased a set of slc last week. Had the best round of my life and i play about 2 to 3 rds per week. I felt the real magic came in hitting the 3-5 iron (its was almost boringly easy). On the range and course, im showing zero distance loss. Its amazing the misconceptions out there, even the pro at the course said, im sure you wont…..well i bet if…..etc etc
    Regardless, they work. Getting people to try them will be the challenge. I did notice a little control issue with my pw, at first, but i think the range has sorted this out the last few days.

    • OB

      Sep 7, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Incredible, fantastic, wonderful, almost too good to be true …. which it is not!

  8. Ted

    Oct 6, 2016 at 2:36 am

    I own a set of EQLs: 2-7 are 7i length; 8-PW are 8i length. Easy as pie to hit; distances are predictable. 2 iron is dead straight unless I mess up the swing. Warm ups? Only need to hit 2 irons to warm up. Only drawback (for you chumsp who want a reason to reject the concept) is that the PW @ 8i length could be more accurate at shorter yardages, i.e., below it’s standard PW shot @ 8i length. Fix: choke down, put the ball back in the stance, and knockdowns are dead on. I also own PING BECUs, Cal BB Golds, and set of custom Alpha blades worth more than all these sets combined. Have owned just about every set/concept out there. Am now making a longer set of single length irons with some Matrix graphite X shafts because the concept works. Will go with 4i & 5i lengths to make the transition from these to the driver & woods more consistent through the round, and because I love to choke down & hit knockdowns. To each his own. If God wanted golf to be consistent, we probably would all be left-handers… (no offense, Phil)…

  9. Tour Pro

    Jun 13, 2016 at 3:18 am

    Adams clubs always sucked. What would he know?

  10. Brian

    Jun 12, 2016 at 11:59 am

    wishon Sterlings have resolved all of these issues and now we have the best option for single length on the market. Hundreds of sets have been sold and every client I have built for is thrilled with the results. Look up a competent club fitter from Tom Wishon’s site and you can try them.

  11. Justin

    May 27, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Before we start: I know… I’m always late for the party. Not just “fashionably late”- freaking late.

    Anyway, I see Single-Length irons as being on par with ideas like True Length. It’s not a fad, but it’s not going to threaten the status quo, either. Someone, somewhere, will benefit from these so-called quirky ideas. If it helps someone enjoy their time on the course more, I’m all for it.

  12. Jack Wullkotte

    May 6, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I’m not an engineer, mathematician, scientist, or scholar of any kind, just a klutzy old clubmaker, but, I can assure you that the market for a set of irons, all the same length is going to be minimal at best. Naturally, there’s always someone out there who will buy anything that’s new, because they have more money than brains. Way back in the 1950’s, while working for the MacGregor Golf Co., we made a set of irons for someone in which all the irons were the same length. He returned within a few months and requested that we make them all standard length. I believe the length was 37″ and I think the swing weight was D-6. In order to make the 3 iron 38 1/2 inches, we would have had to grind about 3/4 of an ounce of weight off of the head, 1/2 an ounce off the 4 iron and a quarter ounce off the 5 iron. The 6 iron head would have remained the same. We would have then had to add 1/4 ounce of weight to the 7 iron, 1/2 ounce to the 8 iron, 3/4 ounce to the 9 iron and 1 ounce to the pitching wedge in order to get a standard D-6 swingweight throughout the set. Our plant manager, Bob Lysaght told the guy to go suck and egg or buy a new set. True story.

  13. Jonathan Birch

    Apr 29, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    I’ve been playing the single-length irons from 1 Iron Golf for about 12 years and would never go back to traditional length clubs again. Once you get used to using the same swing and ball position with every iron magic happens. I’m not impressed with the other companies who have sprung up over the past couple of years offering single-length irons since it is painfully obvious that they are just climbing onto the band wagon and really have little, if any, experience in this area.

    • 300 Yard Pro

      May 31, 2016 at 1:47 am

      1 Iron are the biggest junk clubs. That’s their problem.

    • Christopher Fotos

      Jun 11, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      I, too, have been playing 1 Iron Golf clubs for something like a decade now. High quality — I’ve never had to replace the irons or woods during that time. I’ve gotta say I marvel a bit about the recent appearance of stories about single-length clubs without mentioning the continued success of 1 Iron Golf, which arrived at this destination quite some time ago.

      I don’t have it handy, but company founder David Lake has a booklet about the history of clubmaking as it relates to length. My recollection is imperfect but IIRC back in the wood-shaft days many clubs were single length. There are also anecdotes thrown out there occasionally about pros using custom-fit single length irons without talking about it. I remember one such tale claiming a set of clubs used by Nicklaus back in the days, now on display in Columbus, show many of the irons are single-length (they’re sitting in a bag).

  14. duke

    Apr 27, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    looking for set of old tommy armour EQLl irons! same length. Im 6’6″bad worn out back so before spending a fortune on custom made, thinkin this might be starting point.

    • Justin

      May 27, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      What do you consider a fortune? Value Golf has their Pinhawk SL set that starts out at $234. Throw in a GW, SW and LW and it bumps it up to $351. In that configuration, it comes with the Apollo Standard Stepless irons (personally, I really like these) and the Karma Black Velvet (similar to Golf Pride Tour Velvet) grips. You can have the shafts and/or grips swapped out, for an upcharge.

      As of right now they’re out of stock, though a couple of sites are saying they’ll be available in June.

  15. KevS.

    Apr 18, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Barney, you say playing lie angles must adjust through the set of a single-length irons…and yet on the TV broadcast for the RBC at Harbor Town, Nick Faldo said he’s discussed the set with DeChambeau several times and his set features a consistent lie angle for all irons regardless of loft. I believe Faldo mentioned all irons are 77 degrees (13 degrees upright), but don’t quote me on the specific numbers because I did not make a note of it. Frankly, I don’t understand how he plays tough trouble shots at times, and Gary McCord was also mentioning the specifics of sand bunker shots with a sand wedge the length of a 6-iron.

  16. Deano

    Apr 13, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    To all the Shank, Flop, and OB critics – what gives? This was a good article from a legend club maker. What’s Pebble Beach – LOL?

  17. Shallowface

    Apr 12, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    The Armour EQL was available from 1989-1994. I have all of those catalogs. I wouldn’t call that short lived.
    Not saying they sold very well as it’s been a long time since I saw a full set, especially when compared with the 845s which I find on a regular basis everywhere from Ebay to thrift stores.

  18. Ron

    Apr 12, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Barney and others….
    I tried the single length experiment a few years ago by taking a set of heads with an undercut
    sole and adding weight in the cavity for the 5 and 6 irons, and played with the 8,9,W a little too
    heavy. I have a loft and lie machine, so adjusting the lie angles to match was no problem. The
    set played OK, but I didn’t like the wedge being so long, so I didn’t give it a good enough chance before going back to my trusty Ping i5’s.

    When I bought my next new set (Callaway Xr’s last spring), I adjusted the length of them to
    have only a 1/4 inch differential from one club to another. This means that the difference between
    the 6 iron and the wedge is only 1 inch. This way, I feel I have the best of both worlds with the set
    being “almost single length”, yet maintaining weight increments. It works for me, and I guess in the final analysis, I guess that’s all that matters!

  19. MRC

    Apr 9, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Enjoyed your article Mr.Adams.
    Appreciate the nuggets and most of all, the fact that you’ve been there and done that!!
    Keep up the great writing.

  20. oldredtop

    Apr 9, 2016 at 8:09 am

    To those who would like some technical background on single length clubs, may I suggest a trip to GolfWRX contributor Tom Wishon’s website. http://wishongolf.com/designs/sets/sterling-irons-single-length-set/

    His company has just released a single length iron set and and there is a great deal of technical information there along with the philosophy behind his approach to single length. Are they for everyone? Certainly not. But for me, if Tom is willing to put his name on a set of single length irons, the concept is solid and worth a little study.

    • oldredtop

      Apr 9, 2016 at 9:39 am

      disclaimer: I am not financially affiliated with Wishon Golf Technology in any form or fashion. Just a happy customer. 🙂 (771CSI irons)

  21. Barney Adams

    Apr 8, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    Re Moe’s clubs. I made a set of irons he played with for several years. They were not single length. They were however very head heavy offset somewhat by oversize and heavier grips.

    • Bif

      Apr 10, 2016 at 2:04 am

      It’s what happens when you have small hands like yours Smizzle and can’t handle man-sized grips

  22. Ike16

    Apr 8, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Have played twice with my SL irons. All heads weighed 270 grams, shafts are Steel Fibre i70 tipped light R and all weighted the same at 37 inches, FLO tested, and finished with Winn W-5 grips. Every club is within 17 MOI points. Each has exactly the same lie. The feel of the swing with each is identical. Have to sometimes look twice at the number on the toe to make sure which one is used. The biggest challenge to date is getting used to wedges that are on the ground farther from my toes. That’s look, not feel. Next is forcing myself to play each in a coordinated (same) position. No more forward or back due to loft or length. These are cast heads and I have played forged for ages, but as a builder the challenge was too great to ignore. So far the playing distances are building trust and the plan is to keep these in the bag for the foreseeable future.

    • toad37

      Nov 7, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Would love an update… how are they working for you?

  23. Joshuaplaysgolf

    Apr 8, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    My buddy is playing with single-length irons. Actually just finally got his pinhawk heads in today. It’s been really interesting talking with him about the challenges he is running into and the process of getting things dialed in, as he made his old irons all single-length just to see if he liked it. What I’ve noticed more than anything, is he hits his mid-short irons MILES into the air. We live in Denver, so t’s relatively windy, and when even a slight (5-10mph) breeze picks up, he has to pay extra attention to conditions. This will probably get ironed out when he gets the new lofts dialed in, just my observation so far…but interesting concept. Especially for those of us with nagging backs.

    • Loser

      May 18, 2016 at 11:05 pm

      You cant just chop down a regular set and make them the same length.

  24. kn

    Apr 8, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Hi Barney,
    I enjoy reading your articles. I think DeChambeau has a hard row to hoe, especially if he wants to make golf his profession. He’ll have to win in a way nobody else has done it, and in today’s environment of cutting-edge golf equipment. He’ll always be playing with the wind in his face, so to speak. Until he wins, and it’s probably going to have to be a lot, he’ll just be considered a quirky egghead on the peripheral. That may be a tad brutal, but it’s also reality. If we all played with single-length clubs, maybe the story would be different.

    • Mike

      Apr 8, 2016 at 7:26 pm

      I couldn’t disagree with this more.

      • Grim

        Apr 8, 2016 at 8:47 pm

        Even if he won a couple, it still wouldn’t be enough, he would have win 40 or 50 events

    • Buddy

      Apr 8, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      Until he wins? U.S. Am doesn’t count?

      • Buddy's an eejit

        Apr 9, 2016 at 12:48 am

        Have you looked at who’ve won the US Am in the past? Tells you everything about your question

        • Guy

          Apr 9, 2016 at 9:30 pm

          Sure there’s some past winners who didn’t do much on tour. But the stat meant was “until he wins” which he has. As someone who can’t even win a club championship, I feel some respect should be payed to winning the U.S. Am.

        • Scott

          Apr 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm

          Yeah like that Tiger guy and that Jack guy and that Arnold guy. Those guys did nothing.

        • 300 Yard Pro

          May 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm

          He won the top two Am events the same year. Only people to do that were some losers called Jack and Tiger. I wonder what happened to those losers?

    • Loser

      May 18, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      He contended at the Masters, pounding tons of the best in the world and backed it up with a T4 at Harbor.

  25. Alex

    Apr 8, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Great read Barney. My question is, while I have been fitted for clubs before I feel that at 5’6″ (on a good day) I should try to have my irons cut down more than the standard 0.5″ for us little guys. So, if I were to go closer to 1-1.5″ off would I need to add weight to the club heads? Would this really be beneficial? Because, I love my putter at 32″ and I’m fairly upright putter.
    Thanks

    • Barney Adams

      Apr 8, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      Best I could suggest is have one club shortened and bring out the lead tape. let your shots answer.

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Opinion & Analysis

Pick three golfers to build the ultimate scramble team. Who you got?

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It’s officially scramble season. Whether it’s a corporate outing or charity event, surely you’ve either been invited to play in or have already played in a scramble this year.

If you don’t know the rules of the scramble format, here’s how it works: All four golfers hit their drives, then the group elects the best shot. From there, all four golfers hit the shot, and the best of the bunch is chosen once again. The hole continues in this fashion until the golf ball is holed.

The best scramble players are those who hit the ball really far and/or stick it close with the irons and/or hole a lot of putts. The point is to make as many birdies and eagles as possible.

With this in mind, inside GolfWRX Headquarters, we got to discussing who would be on the ultimate scramble team. Obviously, Tiger-Jack-Daly was brought up immediately, so there needed to be a caveat to make it more challenging.

Thus, the following hypothetical was born. We assigned each golfer below a dollar value, and said that we had to build a three player scramble team (plus yourself) for $8 or less.

Here are the answers from the content team here at GolfWRX:

Ben Alberstadt

Tiger Woods ($5): This is obvious. From a scramble standpoint, Tiger gives you everything you want: Long, accurate, and strategic off the tee (in his prime). Woods, sets the team up for optimal approach shots (he was pretty good at those too)…and of course, arguably the greatest pressure putter of all time.
David Duval ($2): I’m thinking of Double D’s machine-like approach play in his prime. Tour-leader in GIR in 1999, and 26th in driving accuracy that year, Duval ought to stick second shots when TW doesn’t and is an asset off the tee.
Corey Pavin ($1): A superb putter and dogged competitor, Pavin’s a great value at $1. Ryder Cup moxy. Plus, he’ll always give you a ball in the fairway off the tee (albeit a short one), much needed in scramble play.

Brian Knudson

Rory McIlroy ($4): I am willing to bet their are only a handful of par 5’s in the world that he can’t hit in in two shots. You need a guy who can flat out overpower a course and put you in short iron situations on every hole. His iron play is a thing of beauty, with a high trajectory that makes going after any sucker pin a possibility.
Jordan Spieth ($3): Was there a guy who putted from mid-range better than him just a couple years ago? If there was, he isn’t on this list. Scrambles need a guy who can drain everything on the green and after watching 3 putts to get the read, he won’t miss. His solid wedge game will also help us get up and down from those short yardages on the Par 4’s.
Corey Pavin ($1): Fear the STACHE!! The former Ryder Cup captain will keep the whole team playing their best and motivated to make birdies and eagles. If we have 228 yards to the flag we know he is pulling that 4 wood out and giving us a short putt for birdie. He will of course be our safety net, hitting the “safe shot,” allowing the rest of us to get aggressive!

Ronald Montesano

Dustin Johnson ($4) – Bombmeister!!!
Lee Trevino ($2) — Funny as hell (and I speak Mexican).
Sergio Garcia ($1) – The greatest iron player (I speak Spanish, too).

Tom Stickney

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Lee Trevino ($2)
DJ is longer than I-10, Seve can dig it out of the woods, and Trevino can shape it into any pin.

Andrew Tursky

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Jordan Spieth ($2)
Anthony Kim ($1)
Are all the old timers gonna be mad at me for taking young guys? Doesn’t matter. DJ has to be the best driver ever, as long as he’s hitting that butter cut. With Jordan, it’s hard to tell whether he’s better with his irons or with his putter — remember, we’re talking Jordan in his prime, not the guy who misses putts from 8 inches. Then, Anthony Kim has to be on the team in case the alcohol gets going since, you know, it’s a scramble; remember when he was out all night (allegedly) before the Presidents Cup and still won his match? I need that kind of ability on my squad. Plus AK will get us in the fairway when me, DJ and Spieth each inevitably hit it sideways.

Michael Williams

Tiger Woods ($5)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)

Corey Pavin ($1)

Tiger is a no-brainer. Seve is maybe the most creative player ever and would enjoy playing HORSE with Tiger. Pavin is the only $1 player who wouldn’t be scared stiff to be paired with the first two.

Johnny Wunder

Tiger Woods ($5): His Mind/Overall Game

Seve Ballesteros ($2): His creativity/fire in a team format/inside 100

Anthony Kim ($1): Team swagger/he’s streaky/will hit fairways under the gun.
A scramble requires 3 things: Power, Putting and Momentum. These 3 guys as a team complete the whole package. Tiger is a one man scramble team but will get himself in trouble, which is where Seve comes in. In the case where the momentum is going forward like a freight train, nobody rattles a cage into the zone better than AK. It’s the perfect team and the team I’d want out there if my life was on the line. I’d trust my kids with this team.
Who would you pick on your team, and why? See what GolfWRX Members are saying in the forums.
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Opinion & Analysis

Is equipment really to blame for the distance problem in golf?

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It’s 2018, we’re more than a quarter of the way through Major Season, and there are 58 players on the PGA Tour averaging over 300 yards off the tee. Trey Mullinax is leading the PGA Tour through the Wells Fargo Championship with an average driving distance of 320 yards. Much discussion has been had about the difficulty such averages are placing on the golf courses across the country. Sewn into the fabric of the distance discussion are suggestions by current and past giants of the game to roll back the golf ball.

In a single segment on an episode of Live From The Masters, Brandel Chamblee said, “There’s a correlation from when the ProV1 was introduced and driving distance spiked,” followed a few minutes later by this: “The equipment isn’t the source of the distance, it’s the athletes.”

So which is it? Does it have to be one or the other? Is there a problem at all?

Several things of interest happened on the PGA Tour in the early 2000s, most of which were entirely driven by the single most dominant athlete of the last 30. First, we saw Tiger Woods win four consecutive majors, the first and only person to do that in the modern era of what are now considered the majors. Second, that same athlete drew enough eyeballs so that Tim Finchem could exponentially increase the prize money golfers were playing for each week. Third, but often the most overlooked, Tiger Woods ushered in fitness to the mainstream of golf. Tiger took what Gary Player and Greg Norman had preached their whole careers and amped it up like he did everything else.

In 1980, Dan Pohl was the longest player on the PGA Tour. He averaged 274 yards off the tee with a 5-foot, 11-inch and 175-pound frame. By 2000, the average distance for all players on the PGA Tour was 274 yards. The leader of the pack that year was John Daly, who was the only man to average over 300 yards. Tiger Woods came in right behind him at 298 yards.

Analysis of the driving distance stats on the PGA Tour since 1980 show a few important statistics: Over the last 38 seasons, the average driving distance for all players on the PGA Tour has increased an average of 1.1 yards per year. When depicted on a graph, it looks like this:

The disparity between the shortest and the longest hitter on the PGA Tour has increased 0.53 yards per year, which means the longest hitters are increasing the gap between themselves and the shortest hitters. The disparity chart fluctuates considerably more than the average distance chart, but the increase from 1980 to 2018 is staggering.

In 1980, there was 35.6 yards between Dan Pohl (longest) and Michael Brannan (shortest – driving distance 238.7 yards). In 2018, the difference between Trey Mullinax and Ken Duke is 55.9 yards. Another point to consider is that in 1980, Michael Brannan was 25. Ken Duke is currently 49 years of age.

The question has not been, “Is there a distance problem?” It’s been, “How do we solve the distance problem?” The data is clear that distance has increased — not so much at an exponential rate, but at a consistent clip over the last four decades — and also that equipment is only a fraction of the equation.

Jack Nicklaus was over-the-hill in 1986 when he won the Masters. It came completely out of nowhere. Players in past decades didn’t hit their prime until they were in their early thirties, and then it was gone by their early forties. Today, it’s routine for players to continue playing until they are over 50 on the PGA Tour. In 2017, Steve Stricker joined the PGA Tour Champions. In 2016, he averaged 278 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour. With that number, he’d have topped the charts in 1980 by nearly four yards.

If equipment was the only reason distance had increased, then the disparity between the longest and shortest hitters would have decreased. If it was all equipment, then Ken Duke should be averaging something more like 280 yards instead of 266.

There are several things at play. First and foremost, golfers are simply better athletes these days. That’s not to say that the players of yesteryear weren’t good athletes, but the best athletes on the planet forty years ago didn’t play golf; they played football and basketball and baseball. Equipment definitely helped those super athletes hit the ball straighter, but the power is organic.

The other thing to consider is that the total tournament purse for the 1980 Tour Championship was $440,000 ($1,370,833 in today’s dollars). The winner’s share for an opposite-field event, such as the one played in Puerto Rico this year, is over $1 million. Along with the fitness era, Tiger Woods ushered in the era of huge paydays for golfers. This year, the U.S. Open prize purse will be $12 milion with $2.1 million of that going to the winner. If you’re a super athlete with the skills to be a golfer, it makes good business sense to go into golf these days. That wasn’t the case four decades ago.

Sure, equipment has something to do with the distance boom, but the core of the increase is about the athletes themselves. Let’s start giving credit where credit is due.

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Golf swing videos: What you absolutely need to know

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Let’s start with a game. Below are 5 different swing videos. I want you to study them and decide which of them is the best swing. Take your time, this is important…

Please, write your answer down. Which one was it?

Now, I am going to tell you a little secret; they are all the exact same swing filmed simultaneously from 5 various positions. JM1 is on the hand line but higher, JM2 is on the hand line but lower, JM3 is on the foot line, JM4 is on the hand line and JM5 is on the target line. Same swing, very different results!

So, what did we learn? Camera angle has an enormous impact on the way the swing looks.

“If you really want to see what is going on with video, it is crucial to have the camera in the right position,” said Bishops Gate Director of Instruction and Top 100 teacher Kevin Smeltz. “As you can see, if it is off just a little it makes a significant difference.”

According to PGA Tour Coach Dan Carraher: “Proper camera angles are extremely important, but almost more important is consistent camera angles. If you’re going to compare swings they need to be shot from the same camera angles to make sure you’re not trying to fix something that isn’t really a problem. Set the camera up at the same height and distance from the target line and player every time. The more exact the better.”

For high school players who are sending golf swing videos to college coaches, the content of the swing video is also very important. You have 5-15 seconds to impress the coach, so make sure you showcase the most impressive part of your game. For example, if you bomb it, show some drivers and make sure the frame is tight to demonstrate your speed/athleticism. Likewise, if you have a great swing but not a whole lot of power, start the video with a 5 or 6 iron swing to showcase your move. Either way, show coaches your strengths, and make sure to intrigue them!

Now that you have something that represents your skills, you need to consider how to format it so coaches are most likely to open it. I would recommend uploading the swings to YouTube and including a link in the email; a link allows the coach to simply click to see the video, rather than having to mess with opening any specific program or unknown file.

When formatting the email, always lead with your best information. For example, if you want a high-end academic school and have 1550 on the SAT lead with that. Likewise, if you have a powerful swing, lead with the YouTube link.

Although these tips do not guarantee responses, they will increase your odds!

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