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Should everyone play single-length irons?



Recently, there’s been a lot of interest in a set of irons where each club is the same length. When a talented young player on the PGA Tour uses clubs this distinctive and different, it is going to generate some headlines. It has also sparked some interesting questions about matching clubs in a set in the golf equipment world. I have some experience in alternative ways to match a set of clubs. In fact, my first project at PING was to build an inertia-matched set of irons. I hope this article provides some useful information about matching an iron set.

The idea of a set of single-length irons sounds appealing: If every club has the same swing feel and can be swung on the same plane, it would seem easier to groove one swing for the majority of shots. However, current sets aren’t just different lengths — they’re also different weights, have different lie angles and generally optimized for length progression. They’re also optimized to achieve good distance gaps between clubs. So to begin this discussion, we need to pinpoint what makes up the feel of clubs.

There are many ways to describe the feeling of weight, especially in an object intended to be swung at high speed. For those wishing to explore this topic in detail, I recommend a book called “The Physics of Golf” by Theodore Jorgensen. It was one of the books I really valued during my first couple of years at PING. Jorgensen describes three ways to measure the feel of weight of a club. To understand, it helps to imagine the golf club as being made of a collection of little 1-gram weights, or masses, all stuck together, as shown in Figure 1. In the diagram, the black circles represent the grip, the grey circles the shaft and the blue circles the head (if it’s not abundantly clear, I’m not employed for my artistic abilities). Hopefully you get the general idea.


Figure 1: Diagram showing how a club can be viewed as a collection of 1-gram masses where the feel properties of the club are described by each mass and its distance from the pivot point.

Jorgensen’s 3 measures of feel are:

  1. Mass. You can feel this by picking up the club at the shaft and holding it. It is simply the sum of all the little 1-gram masses in the figure. Adding more mass, whether to the grip, shaft or head, will add to total club mass and make it feel heavier overall.
  2. The first moment (swing weight). You can feel this by holding the club at the grip and then pointing the head straight out in front of you. You can feel the “weight” of the club pushing down on your bottom hand, trying to rotate. This value is calculated by taking each little 1-gram mass and multiplying by the distance from the pivot point. It’s measured in mass-distance or inch-ounces on a standard swing weight scale. So if you add 1 gram to the head, you’ll feel the effect much more than if you added 1 gram to the shaft. Adding 1 gram to the butt of the grip can even make the club feel lighter by this measure. On an actual swing weight scale, the pivot point is 14 inches from the butt end of the club, for reasons no one is exactly sure about, other than it has worked for the last 20 to 30 years. If you were trying to match a set to a true “first moment,” you’d use a pivot point more like 5 inches from the end of the grip (between the hands).
  3. The second moment (club MOI). You can feel this better by waggling the club around. It is the moment of inertia (MOI) of the club around the golfer’s hands, and is often called angular mass in other engineering fields. This value is calculated by taking each little 1-gram mass and multiplying by the distance from the pivot point squared. It is really a measure of how spread out the mass is, and is often described as a resistance to twisting. This value is much more sensitive to even a small amount of mass added to the farthest location from the pivot point. You are used to hearing about the MOI of the club head around the center of the face — a measure of the “forgiveness” of the head. In this case, we’re talking about MOI of the whole club around the hands. Same physics principle, but different axis of rotation.

So why do we care about all this? Because there are two somewhat competing priorities: distance and accuracy. In theory, we would match clubs so that it’s easier for golfers to swing all of them accurately and consistently, but golfers also want more distance. Jorgensen starts his chapter on club matching this way: “I thought perfectly matched clubs should all swing the same and therefore… increase the precision of his game. I found, however, that most golfers were interested in clubs that would give them greater distance on the course…”

Our design intent is to find the optimal balance of distance and accuracy through a set of 14 clubs for any given golfer. One of the main levers to alter distance in particular is the length of the club. If a driver is 45 inches and the shortest wedge is 35 inches, that 10-inch differential plays a big role in achieving good distance gaps while maintaining stopping power with each club. For example, a 4-iron at 7-iron length makes it difficult to generate the same height or distance you’d produce with a standard 4-iron. Moreover, as we change length, it’s difficult to match all three feel measurements to get the clubs to truly feel the same. Table 1 shows some typical values of mass, swing weight and MOI for a few clubs in the G family. You can see that swing weight stays somewhat constant, but the mass increases from driver to PW, while the MOI decreases. This is a function of the design trade-offs made for each club in the set.


Table 1: Typical values of club mass, swing weight and MOI (around a pivot point 5 inches from the grip end) for selected G clubs in a set.

So, all that said, is there a benefit to having at least the majority of clubs in a set at the same length? It’s a tough question to answer, because the results can only really be built up over time using a single-length set on the course. The trade-off seems to be better consistency when switching from iron to iron in this set, but the driver and fairway woods will feel very different from the irons, and it might be a struggle to achieve good distance gaps in the set.

The fact that at least one player has had good results on the PGA Tour shows that a single-length set can be effective, but that does not mean that it would work for everyone. The most famous current exponent of the single-length iron set also plays extremely upright lie angles, is a dedicated disciple of the Golfing Machine instruction system, and has been working diligently at this for years. His single-length iron set is matched for mass, swing weight and MOI, and allows him to use the same swing plane for all of his irons. However, the metal woods are still longer, lighter and have higher MOI. It’s probably unrealistic to expect that just chopping down your shaft lengths will by itself make a big difference. You can see from Table 1 that to make a standard 5-iron at 7-iron length, we also need to add 20 grams to the mass of the club to make it match.

I suggest the best candidates for a single-length set of irons are higher swing-speed players (who don’t have trouble generating distance) who want to take the time to experiment with their game and determine objectively whether the pros outweigh the cons. I don’t recommend that anyone buy such a set on a whim. It takes a lot of effort to adapt a set designed for progressive lengths into a functional single-length set. If you are interested, at least go and talk to a master club-builder for advice.

In the future I could see this approach working for people just taking up the game. In that case, I foresee a set featuring just a few clubs, all the same length. Out of curiosity, I’m tinkering with some single-length irons and hybrids myself right now. As my scientific training taught me, I’ll remain skeptical until I can verify some measurable improvement in my results.

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Paul is the Vice President of Engineering at Ping, coordinating a department responsible for club design, development, innovation and testing. He moved there in 2005 after completing a PhD studying Solar Flares in the Mathematics Department at St Andrews University, Scotland. He has spent most of his time with Ping in the research department working on the physics of ball flight, the club-ball impact and many other aspects of golf science. Some of his projects at Ping include the nFlight fitting software, iPing, Turbulators and TR face technology. The idea behind these articles is to explain a bit about popular scientific topics in golf in a way that is accessible to most. Hopefully that will be easier than it sounds.



  1. Pingback: Is Every Golfer a Candidate for Single Length Irons? | FORE Golf Custom Clubs

  2. Bruce Gerhold

    May 27, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I built and play a set of 2 length irons with matched MOI. Love them and will not change back to standard. Some info below.

    First:, excellent explanation and illustration of CLUB MOI. I am a PhD Mechanical Engineer so I recognize that MOI matching provides a true match. Considering the three matching methods, I will add the comment that total weight does little ir anything. The “swingweight matching” has simply been a sales tool because it is easy to measure and illustrate. However, keep in mind the most important feature of a golf club is ball striking – that is a process of motion which is described by the subject Dynamics – the science of predicting motion of an object knowing the applied force and the object weight and weight distribution. This is not simply a “theory”, this is what landed people on the moon, guides space probes for billions of miles, as well as describes object motion on earth. We need not examine the equations: but note that the “swingweight” concept (mass times distance) does NOT appear in the equations of motion and therefore, has nothing to do with club motion or club matching. The club MOI is the key object parameter for circular motion – like the golf swing. If you want matched clubs, use club MOI – see Wishon Golf.

    Second, a few comments about building a set of 2 length irons from standard available club heads, shafts and grips. Dr. Wood is correct: one must adjust the weight of commercial heads to build a 1 or 2 length set of clubs. I found that this is easily accomplished making a 2 length set instead of single length set because it decreases added weight. My set features short irons 9,8,7,6 all 36 inches long, all shafts trimmed like an 8 iron. I matched head weight by adding tungsten powder + shafting epoxy to the heads that need weight. I used Hireko Golf Prophet CB iron heads because of good feel and the recess on the back of the iron is a convenient place to add weight. You will add 7 grams to the 7 iron head and 14 grams to the 6 iron head. For the 9 iron, I left the weight alone and simply made the club a1/4 inch shorter ( calculation using calculus; verified by measuring club MOI). For the long irons 5 and lower numbers you do the same weighting procedure to increase the head weight to equal a 5 iron head and you make the clubs 37 inches long – again a calculus prediction that was verified by measuring the finished product. Long iron shafts are the same brand as short iron and are all cut like a 5 iron.
    With 2 length irons, you have one swing but play the long irons about 1 ball ahead in your stance. Very simple, very repeatable, all distance gaps between clubs are 10 to 15 yards just like multiple length irons. This too is predicted by Dynamics, but is a subject for another discussion.
    One or two length irons will be very helpful for beginners and intermediate skill players. If your are a 5 handicap, you already mastered the complexities of multiple lengths and standard construction so you may try and experiment, but you may not change.

    • Jim

      Jul 17, 2016 at 2:30 am

      Bruce, I’m having a hard time understanding your logic behind the 2-length set that you made. You said that you took your short irons (6-9) and weighted all the heads to equal that of the 9-iron head, but then used an 8-iron shaft (which would mean you soft-stepped them) and made them to 36″ which is a standard 9-iron length, but made the 9 iron -1/4″ shorter (even though it weighed the same as the other heads?). And then with your long irons you weighted all the heads to that of the 5-iron, then used a 5-iron shaft (so not soft-stepped like the short irons) and made them to 37″ which is 1″ shorter than a standard 5-iron. So the final set will result in shafts in the 3-5 irons which play true to flex and are 1″ shorter than standard length, while the 6-9 iron will play to a slightly softer flex and be standard length? Why the two different lengths and flexes? Isn’t the whole point of doing something like that to make everything feel as close to the same as possible?

  3. Dave

    May 25, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    Yo Smizzle do you have a life . You are not the only one with an opinion

  4. baudi

    May 25, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    If the prodigy of Bryson Dechambeau will set out positively, my guess is it will only be a matter of time that some big oems will offer a SL-set.
    Not as radical as his irons and probably not offered as 1 set of SL-irons but more likely in 3 (or even 2) departments to cover long, mid and short distances.

  5. leo vincent

    May 25, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    so much talk about single length clubs just wait until De Chambeau wins on tour and it will really explode.Many people have replaved the 3 and 4 irons with hybrids which go higher anyway negating some of the problem of low trajectory with those clubs also using a shaft with a lower kick pt in the lower lofted clubs while keeping all other things the same will further mitigate this factor.The wedges should be left out of the discussion.An easy way to try the single length method is get five 7 iron heads preferably forged because you are going to be doing some bending but only for loft by using 7 iron heads the weights and lies will already be constant.Assuming the heads are all 32 degrees of loft bend one head 8 degrees strong to make the 5 iron one 4 degrees strong to make the 6, one 4 degrees weak to be the 8 and one 8 degrees weak for the 9 install 5 7 iron length shafts and you have your set.The main drawback is by changing the lofts by bending the bounce of each club is changed but this a way to see if single length irons are a viable option.In a standard set of clubs the 5 iron is only 1 inch longer than the 7 and the 9 iron 1 inch shorter than the 7 so the change is not as drastic as many think.

  6. Blake

    May 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Everyone just needs to practice and quit trying to BUY a cure all. nothing replaces practice

  7. Brent

    May 25, 2016 at 11:57 am

    I am 47 years old. I am 22 months into my golf career. Yes, I STARTED playing golf at age 45 in July 2014.

    Starting out, I took 3 months of lessons using my first set of clubs (Adams a12os). My ‘game’ was a mixed bag as you can imagine being such a novice. The different set ups, ball positions, swing planes, lengths, and weight just confused the hell outta me and I had no consistency. So, I basically played with a 7 iron, a 3 wood, and a putter. Let’s just say I was double or triple bogy golfer. Sure, I would get a par now & then …. largely based on luck.

    Because the different set ups, ball positions, lengths, etc confused me so much, I looked into single length play (specifically, David Lake’s One Iron Golf). I read every single word on his website and the downloadable PDF. It all made sense to me & was ‘logical’. So, when my Adams clubs were stolen, I quickly purchased a set of One Irons from David Lake.

    The One Iron set I ordered had 5 iron through PW, a 5 wood, and a 7 wood. I have since added the 3 wood. I do not hit a driver off the tee …. I use the 3 wood. The irons are all the same length, head weight, lie angle, bounce, shaft flex, MOI, grips …. the ONLY variable is the loft (which is in progressive 4 degree increments). The woods are all the same length, head weight, lie angle, bounce, shaft flex, MOI, grips …. the ONLY variable is the loft (which is in progressive 4 degree increments). The head volume on the woods do vary, but the head weight is identical.

    Thus, I have 2 setups/swings to groove …. 1) my iron swing, and 2) my wood swing. It has been a God send for me. I hit clean shots with FAR FAR more consistent & solid ball striking. My golf buddies who have 30 or 35 years of experience compared to my 2 years, are pretty damn impressed at where my game is (relative to theirs) in such a short time. Now, believe me, most on this forum would whip my ass out on the course …. I am not claiming to be a “good golfer”. What I can say is that my scores have dropped significantly (shot a 49, 50, 51, 48 my last 4 times out). Consistent bogey golf (45/90) is my goal …. I think I’ll get there by this time next year.

    As other posters have stated, I think Single Length/Lie/Weight/Flex/MOI concept makes a lot of sense for NEW golfers, not golfers with years of experience who have crafted their game over time with standard clubs.

    One last note: Do not think of “Single Length Irons” as a conventional set all cut to the same length. Obviously, that would not work. It isn’t “Single Length” only …. in reality it is “Single Length/Lie/Weight/Flex/MOI” clubs.

    • Pt

      May 25, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      That’s great! But allow me to let you in on a secret.
      In golf, it doesn’t matter what the equipment is – as long as it helps you hit it fairly well in the direction you want, at the distances you can control.
      But the crux of the game is…….. you have to know how to putt. You have to know how to get it in the hole on the green. Your reported score means nothing, unless you tell us how many putts you had while getting those scores. Then you really know how your score broke down. Of course, it helps to be able to get the ball closer to the hole with your shots from the fairway….. as well as getting into play off the tee.
      And your SW and LW (if you have it), are a different length than the irons, right?

    • cgasucks

      May 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      You shouldn’t have 2 different swings (one for irons and one for woods). The swing is the same for all clubs. Ball position and stance differs as the club gets longer.

    • Regis

      May 25, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      There are more than a few legends of the game (Nicklaus to some extent) that believe that there is one swing for normal shots and that all shots should be played from the same position vis a vis your left heel with the only variable being the width of your stance. Yet others believe moving the ball position progressively back as each club gets shorter. I personally believe that there are different swings for driver and fairways than for irons and you can hear all sorts of absolutes as far as how to play a fairway wood off the deck. When you get to the top ball strikers, they may focus on which groove on the clubface they want to be the point of contact. I wouldn’t over think it.

  8. Howard Garson

    May 25, 2016 at 11:13 am

    The end of the article says it all. If you are interested in trying single length irons, see a professional club fitter. Getting the right length and weight shaft is critical, as is getting the proper distance gapping. That is why a major OEM will never succeed in making a set for retail. There are too many variables for the correct fit. Tom Wishon has dealt with the height issue of the 5 iron by also making a 5 hybrid for those that have a problem hitting the same length 5 iron high enough. Single length is not for everyone, just like there is no length 6 iron that is for everyone, or one shaft flex or one shaft weight. Whether you want to try single length irons or traditional variable length irons, seeing a professional clubfitter is the only way to play to the best of your ability.

  9. Rachel

    May 25, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I’m absolutely shocked that a Ping employee would find negatives about single length irons (which they don’t produce).

    *eye roll*

    • M

      May 25, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      If a customer wanted to custom order single length irons through PING they could. The CTP weights or the addition of tungsten through the WRX dept would allow for the added weight necessary for the single length.

      • Jim

        Jul 17, 2016 at 2:32 am

        Yeah, but you’d have to make all the heads the same weight as the PW because you can’t make that head any lighter than it is. And I don’t think a SL set where they’re all made to PW length would work very well.

  10. Scott

    May 25, 2016 at 9:54 am

    What I do not agree with in the article is that high swing speeds are required to provided enough distance separation on single length clubs. That is true on traditional length clubs also. My wife hits her 5, 6 and 7 irons all about the same length, the same with the 8 and 9, and the majority of her wedges.

    I have noticed that the majority of golfers (good and bad players) have much better posture on their long irons vs. their wedges. They are way too hunched over on their short clubs, which results in every poor shot imaginable. Since most bad golfers don’t hit enough greens with any club, giving them one posture to work with, I believe, would help with their consistency dramatically.

  11. ButchT

    May 25, 2016 at 9:38 am

    Thank you for sharing your expertise and opinions!

  12. Scudder Graybeal

    May 25, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Remember Tommy Armour EQL clubs? Big mistake.

    • 300 Yard Pro

      Jun 5, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Big mistake? The only mistake is they were ahead of their time and did not catch on. Remember persimmon woods were still being used then. Metal drivers had not even been heard of yet.

  13. Scudder Graybeal

    May 25, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Most of your readers are too young to remember the Tommy Armour EQL model of irons way back when. Every club was the length of a six iron. That set bombed big time and was off the market quickly.

    Now some young guy comes along (DeChambeau) with a home made set like that and all of a sudden the industry is talking about it again. Then there were titanium irons. They bombed. Remember Featherlite golf clubs, Mac Golf, etc. They were all the next big thing.

    • Shallowface

      May 25, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      I have no idea how well they sold,but they were available from 1989 through 1994. I have all of those Armour catalogs.

    • Tour Pro

      Jun 19, 2016 at 5:16 am

      EQLs were 5 iron length, no custom fitting or shaft options, bad distance gaps. Thats why they were a failure like your posting.

  14. Jimmy D

    May 25, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Misleading title and weak article… The Physics of Golf actually supports the concept of single length irons, and Tom Wishon (Sterling Irons) and David Lake (1-Iron Golf) +others already sell irons designed and manufactured as single length; it would be absurd and exceptionally difficult for an individual to modify an existing set (as Edel did for Bryson). All of the SL clubs have identical specifications except for loft, which means they all have the same balance, total weight, swingweight, MOI, feel, etc. Since all of the clubs have identical shafts and lie angles, the setup, alignment, and swing plane can be the same for all of the irons (which by design should be the same as your favorite club). Since loft is the primary determinant of distance, those with slower swing speeds can still achieve consistent distance gaps by using 5 degree changes in loft (vs the 3/4 that traditional manufacturers use). BTW, Tom Wishon uses higher COR faces in the lower lofts to help with distance gap concerns.

  15. Ryan Christensen

    May 25, 2016 at 2:38 am

    I will build everyone in favor of equal length sets a set of their choosing, so long as we go play for money when the clubs are complete. SL clubs are dumb for everyone outside of a small percentage of a small percentage of golfers. They will kill what little chance you have at enjoying the game and make everyone around you miserable due to your constant ramblings about swing plane. Physics doesn’t change due to what you believe would happen if Big OEM would just produce what you obviously know to be best. Thank you Dr. Wood for at least trying to slow the rampant effects of the Internet a bit. It was a solid effort, perhaps a bit more about the effect changing length has on max height, and how due to maths, the result is a change in distance. Might of helped. I doubt it, but who knows.

    • Smith

      May 25, 2016 at 7:27 am

      You completely forget that a vast majority of golfers and the vast majority of consumers are casual golfers. This is what is wrong with Golf. Everyone only thinks about the few percentage that actually play in sanctioned events, tournaments, and so forth and completely ignore the majority of golfers that pay the bills.

      A vast majority of golfers who just show up Saturday with a set of clubs that has never been, and will never will be fitted are the folks who would truly enjoy the game from a single length set of clubs. The problem is NO ONE wants to tap into that potential because they are so ingrained on getting fitted. Single Length irons are the best for learning the game, because it is ONE swing. ONE swing between all your irons. The one problem a vast majority of golfers have issue with is the swing, so give them one swing, and let them enjoy the game.

      • Ryan Christensen

        May 25, 2016 at 1:56 pm

        There is only one swing! You swing every club, driver to putter the same. This is the simple fact that weekend golfers cannot seem to grasp. SL clubs would be a disaster for a causal golfer who already struggles to find a consitant ball flight. The picture at the top of the article is a perfect example, that’s an nFlight readout that shows trajectories throughout the set. Length progression is what allows all of the max heights to be in the same neighborhood. A SL set would be really high in the short irons and excessivly low in the long. For a casual golfer, this means that distance control is out the window and most of their clubs go the same yardage. Not to mention, they would need a more in depth fitting for SL irons! The point of them is to find the iron you hit best and build the rest of the set around that. This would also require actual club builders who can control a lot of variables and manufacturing that can control head weights, shaft weights and grip weights to the gram. Which they cannot. Some come close but then the price would be so high, no one could afford them. What your forgetting is that there are people who have dedicated their lives to this game and have already thought of these things.

        • Smith

          May 25, 2016 at 4:45 pm

          incorrect. Every separate lie angle, and every separate ball position represents a different swing plane. Single length clubs means one swing plane across all irons. There is absolutely no evidence to support your claim.

          Tell me, is it easier to swing the 7 iron over and over or swing each individual club in a different setup with a different ball position for each club?

          And yet the correct build for them is to find the one that they do the best with and base everything else on that one.

          • Ryan Christensen

            May 25, 2016 at 11:22 pm

            Whatever dude. Put them in play then, best of luck to you.

        • 300 Yard Pro

          Jun 5, 2016 at 7:32 pm

          You clearly have never played a set.

      • Blake

        May 25, 2016 at 5:38 pm

        You think casual golfers are paying the bills for courses??? lol thats cute

  16. tlmck

    May 25, 2016 at 12:41 am

    Because if all you people switch to single length irons, we cannot fill your bag with all those useless 3 degree loft difference clubs and line our pockets. Seriously, most high handicappers and occasional golfers could do very well with single length irons and single length woods. Say a 5 degree loft gap between clubs. Driver,4w,7w and 5,7,9,SW, and putter. And instead of making clubs lighter and longer, make them shorter, heavier, and more flexible. I am not a golf club maker although I have built several component sets for myself and others. I am also a retired manufacturing engineer so I know about weight and motion, etc… Using my keen eye for detail, I also have observed what other golfers have done in my 35 years of playing. Telling some to use the 3 wood that they hit 220 off the tee instead of the driver they hit 190 is sometimes a futile task.

    • Jake from State Farm

      May 25, 2016 at 7:40 am

      Part I agree with, and part I disagree with. One of the problems with golf in the older days was the heavier club issue. Clubs had to get lighter and as a result they got easier to swing, but you can go too light. So far a lot of research backs shaft weights around 100-110g as being ideal for 90%+ of golfers out there. So if I was to build a set to sell I would keep the weight in that range for shafts.

      I do agree with the lofts, and that is probably one reason OEMs use to say why single length clubs won’t work. With single length clubs you have to have at least 4* gaps which is what the gaps used to be 30 years ago. The loft jacking causes the gaps to shrink in the long irons. OEMs bank on the distance through loft jacking so to reverse course and go to 4* gaps at start at a 24 or 25* 4 iron which is the lowest loft that is comfortable to hit, would cause several clubs in the bag to not hit as far.

      However; It can still be done. You market a single length iron set around easy of play, not distance, and people will bite. OEMs seem to forget the motto “you build it, they will come”. There are currently 3 quality brands that build Single Length irons. One, does it like a mass marketing should be, a standard length of a 7 iron with standard lie of a 7 iron, and upon request you can have that adjusted. The other two push more for a quality fitting to get a set, which is a turnoff to the masses.

      The ideal Single length setup would be a standard 7 iron length 37″ with the standard lie of a 7 iron 61.5*, use shafts around 110g and keep the swing weight around D2. Build the set with 4* loft gaps starting with 24* with the 4 iron. You’ll get lofts of 24, 28, 32, 36, 40, and 44. Now you cut the need for a GW by allowing a PW to be 48* and use a 4 or 5 degree gap for the remaining wedges. No yardage gaps, length and lie fit the standard profile of clubs today, which means the 90% of golfers who never get fitted can still play them without any issues.

      • tlmck

        May 30, 2016 at 11:41 pm

        Along with the heavier weight, I would also advocate something I call the “gravity swing”. Basically you take the club back at a slow to moderate pace with a slight pause at the top, then you let the weight of the club take over the downswing with the hands and arms just along for the ride. In short, you let the weight of the club do all the work.

        I adopted this method umpteen years ago and have never looked back. Of course, it is sort of my natural motion so it may not work for all. Whenever I try to swing with lighter weight shafts, I simply pull every thing left. For reference, I use a 70 gram driver shaft, 78 in the 3 wood, 85 gram in the hybrid, and 128 grams in all the irons. All are also tipped halfway between R and S flex to match my speed and spin requirements. I also swing these clubs a few miles faster than their lighter weight counterparts.

    • Bogey Bill

      May 25, 2016 at 11:03 am

      Bravo, timck! You’re exactly right. I had to take a limited set on vacation several years ago–something about the car being full of Her stuff. Played better than usual. With the concurrence of my doctor (who wrote me orders to play golf!), I’ve been playing with D,H,5,7,9,PW, SW, P ever since, carrying them in a Wellzher Sunday bag (his orders included walking and carrying). An 8-degree gap is as close as 95% of all golfers really need and the hybrid takes care of controlled tee balls, long shots from the rough, and many chips. I looked at single length, but they’d be really tough to build–I build component clubs, too.

      Fitting clubs starts with matching a shaft to your swing and then determining lie and length (for each club, not just the 6I). Grip size is also important; more people need a bigger grip than they realize.

  17. Johny Thunder

    May 24, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    Bryson’s been playing this way for a long time – and there’s certainly no reason a newcomer to the game might not want to try this approach. With a properly designed set – weights, flex, lofts, etc – there’s no reason it couldn’t work reasonably well. For those who already play, yes, it would be an adjustment of significance, and probably wouldn’t work for the majority who try it. (Unless they’re completely determined to stick with it).

    The title is silly; has anyone, anywhere, ever suggested “everyone” should play single length? I’ve not seen that. I’ve seen a few suggest that no one should – which is equally ridiculous. It’s another option in an extremely vast array of equipment and approach options.

    Phil Mickelson has 42 tour wins; should every right-handed player play lefty?

  18. Joe

    May 24, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    I don’t understand why many think that single length clubs will be hard to adjust to. You are swinging the same length, same MOI, same weight iron for every shot……..what is to adjust to?

    Just about everyone can consistently hit their 7 or 8 iron. Now, with SL it is the same every time. No, reason you can’t hit draws or fades, or get consistent distances.

  19. LL Cool Single Length

    May 24, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    If only them ladies would love all your short single length haha get it, lmaoooooooooooooooo

  20. Joshuaplaysgolf

    May 24, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    All the absolutes and disagreements over this is very confusing to me. It’s an interesting philosophy that if you are interested in, you should try it. It’s great that they are putting out detailed information on the pros and cons, as it isn’t an easy switch to make and should be done thoughtfully. But if you think its absurd and is a bunch of hype, don’t try it. and leave it at that. How are you going to hate on someone trying to find something that works for them? Isn’t that what all of us are doing? I feel like a lot of people take a very defensive position on this that is more a fear of the different than anything else.

    Golf is about what works for YOU and what feels right for YOU, not trying to be squeezed into someone else’s box. If your biggest argument (and again, why are we arguing??) is Bryson, let the kid be pro for more than 3 hours before making your final conclusion on his ceiling.

    • Shallowface

      May 25, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      The point about Bryson is that if this method is truly revolutionary, we should be seeing revolutionary results NOW. A win here or there (and even that has yet to happen) isn’t enough to suggest we’ve all been going about it the wrong way all this time. AND believe me when I tell you no one is more interested in unconventional approaches than I am, because so very few of us ever have any real success with the conventional.

  21. Shallowface

    May 24, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    To date, Bryson has had no wins on tour, some decent finishes, and some missed cuts. Same as any number of other players. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit if a year from now he is using conventional equipment.

    • 300 Yard Pro

      Jun 5, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      Bryson won the NCAA Champ and US Amateur in the same year. The only two other people in golf history to do that were two losers named Jack and Tiger. I bet those two losers are garbage men now.

      What do you mean he has no wins?

      So Bryson has some missed cuts. The cuts that he has made are a T4 and T7. That’s still better than what most rookies on the PGA Tour do.

      • joejoe

        Sep 18, 2016 at 3:51 pm

        and he just won the finals to get his tour card

  22. George

    May 24, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    I guess it is easier for OEMs to market against the single length than to actually make one. This is just a bunch of mumbo jumbo to market against the norm. They probably have the next two years worth of irons already designed just dont want to jump on this train. Wait 2 years and you will see about every OEM with a single length set. Also it is easier for them to sell off the rack than custom build for every golfer. Not Golfsmith custom a true custom fit. So I see why they are all dogging on the single length set. Dont want non off the rack items for easy sales. Nothing worng with that just harder for them to be true custom

  23. Brad

    May 24, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Mr. Wishon has built Sterling irons. Strange of you, Mr Paul Wood, to have written and published this article on venerated golfwrx, yet not mention the only set available today that takes all the issues into account that you seem to feel are insurmountable. A single-length set built by one of the premium clubmakers in the US. A man responsable for so many firsts in the industry. Please, forgive me if you are yet to be aquainted with Mr. Tom Wishon. please – do so. He is extremely kind and has many articles published on
    I should note that a google search on “single length irons” reveals the Sterling irons as the third hit in my browser. YMMV. Web browsers can be fickle.

    • Brad

      May 24, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      oops. web browsers are indeed fickle. seems I double posted. many apologies….

    • Paul Wood

      May 24, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Brad, I am aware of Tom Wishon and I have a lot of respect for all that he has done in the industry. Not mentioning his single length set was not meant as any kind of slight. It’s hard to figure out how to say as much as possible in a short article. This topic could fill a whole book chapter easily. I’ve generally tried to avoid talking about anyone else’s clubs in a positive or negative light. By sharing the link here in the comments you’re helping golfers who are interested check it out, so that’s a good thing.

      • Stretch

        May 26, 2016 at 8:57 pm

        I have a lot of experience with using non standard length irons and woods. The key to single length irons is to adapt the lofts to the speed of the player. Some would use the old 3 and 4 degree gaps, some 5 and 6 degree lofts, perhaps others more large gaps. If Ping can crack the code they would rule the market place.

  24. Brad

    May 24, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Mr. Wishon has built Sterling irons. Strange of you, Mr Paul Wood, to have written and published this article on venerated golfwrx, yet not mention the only set available today that takes all the issues into account that you seem to feel are insurmountable. A single-length set built by one of the premium clubmakers in the US. A man responsable for so many firsts in the industry. Please, forgive me if you are yet to be aquainted with Mr. Tom Wishon. please – do so. He is extremely kind and has many articles published on
    I should note that a google search on “single length irons” reveals the sterling irons as the third hit in my browser. YMMV. Too far down to look I guess.

  25. John boy

    May 24, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    First and foremost, you CANNOT use a single length set from a Driver to a wedge, LOL, so you are way off on that. This article should have stuck with irons only and nothing else. There are no issues gap wise with a proper single length set of irons. Tons of research to back this up, so you are way off point.

    Second, you only recommend this for high swing players? Really? Who is paying you to write this. That is total garbage. The whole Single Length debate is always been centered around how much more beneficial it is to someone first starting out, because they only have to learn ONE swing with their irons. So suggesting that the average guy stays away is completely against all research on Single Length irons.

    Clearly this article is heavily biased and manipulated to make single length look horrible. 1. because you are trying in driver, wood, hybrid, and wedges into the single length. 2. you don’t back up or support any of your 3 measurements for a single length set. All you do is show the differences in a normal set. In a single length iron set all the SW are the same, the MOI is the same, the Lie is the same. Everything is exactly the same, so telling people you have to match MOIs and SWs is all BS. True single length irons are literally the same from top to bottom and the only difference is loft. There is no balancing act. One you determine the best of your 3 parts, your set, that is the setup for every iron. No variation what so ever.

    I think you tried converting a traditional set into a single length set and it didn’t work out. That is the only way the numbers don’t match up, and is the WRONG way to build a single length iron set.

    • Whackenputter

      May 25, 2016 at 10:51 am

      John Boy,
      I wish you would have written the article instead of the author. You obviously know the more about the subject and how to present an unbiased evaluation than him.

      The MOST IMPORTANT point, in my opinion, in the whole SL discussion, and playing golf in general, is MUSCLE MEMORY. With single length IRONS (which is the only question to ask) one trains ones muscles for one single movement, NOT NINE (or seven, or whatever).

      The conventional golf swing is so complicated that major tour professionals cannot even maintain it from week to week. This is demonstrated by the players bouncing all over the ranking from one week to the next.

      I am convinced that by learning ONE SWING for all (or most of) the irons, a golfer will be more consistent.

      Regarding hitting for distance, that is not as important as accuracy, IMO. It seems to me that for everyone not in the top 30 golfers in the world, putting the ball right where you want it, rather than somewhere 300 yards away, will be more helpful in lowering their scores.

      It also seems to me that I should not rely solely on face angle to determine my distance. I have noticed that I can hit harder or softer to control the distance. If I am only using one memorized swing, varying the speed of the swing is much simpler than remembering how my muscles felt the last ten times I used an eight iron as opposed to a seven or nine iron.

      I am convinced that matched single length irons allow the body to learn one swing well and apply that every time one uses irons, instead of trying to guess what you think you might remember about how you last swung a particular iron.

      • Brian

        May 25, 2016 at 2:08 pm

        I’m not pro/anti SL irons. I’m sure they would be great for some and awful for others. The part I don’t get, however, is how Pro- SL iron lovers claim that you only have to learn “one iron swing” instead of multiple iron swings? Unless, there is some golf course that I am unaware of that is completely flat, then the angle is going to change from swing to swing regardless of the SL club due to the lie. Ball above your feet or below your feet instantly changes the theory of “only one set up”.

        • John Boy

          May 26, 2016 at 9:53 am

          The “one swing” is a simple concept. Regardless of the lie the ball rests on, you still position the ball in the same place in your stance.

          For example, lets look at how you would address the ball from a 4-9 traditional set. The 4 iron you stand more upright because of the lie and length. You place the ball more forward in your stance. As you go down to the 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 you start to do 2 things. 1st, you stand closer to the ball and more flat. 2nd, you adjust the ball position further back in your stance. This means from a flat lie perspective you have 6 different combinations to swing the club correctly on plane to make an effective strike. Now when you factor that into a downhill lie it doubles to 12 different combinations because you also have to adjust for the downhill lie for each club. And for each additional possible setup you add another 6 different setup potions for the ball. That means using the traditional flat, uphill, downhill, higher left foot, and higher right foot, you have a total of 30 different swing combinations you have to learn and use between all your irons.

          Now with Single length irons it is different. There is only 1 combination for all the irons. Example, where you place the ball with the 4 iron and how you address the ball is the same for the 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 iron. Now when you go to a downhill lie you double that, meaning 2 combinations. Obviously using the same math above for a typical lie settings you’ll run across: Flat, downhill, uphill, higher left foot, higher right foot, you will have a total of 1 swing combination for each lie. Meaning a total of 5 swing combinations.

          So now it is simple math. Is it easier to learn and use 30 different swing combinations using a traditional setup, or is it easier to learn and use 5 swing combinations with single length clubs?

          • Brian

            May 28, 2016 at 11:03 am

            This was my point. I don’t I agree with the 5 swing combinations, but I definitely agree that it isn’t “one swing” like the SL concept advocates want to believe. Lie and the shot required dictates set up.
            I tend to believe, a ball 1″, 2″ 3″, and 4″ below your feet, would require 4 different swings, since the angle has changed four times with a club of the same length.
            Like I stated, non pro or against, whatever works for the golfer. I’m just stated that there isn’t one set up and one swing in the Sl iron concept.

    • Whackenputter

      May 25, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Please ignore my first paragraph above. I over reacted.

  26. Dan Drake

    May 24, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I’m ready to get started on this myself. I have a set of TMAG MC’s from 2011 that had the weight port in the back. I want to used these as the heads for a single (or perhaps double, long +med & short+wedges) length set. Coincidentally, these are the same irons that Dechambeau used to make his first real set of single length clubs, so I know it can be done. Thank you Mr. Wood. Your reputation precedes you and I look forward to your contributions to this great site!

    • Petet

      May 25, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      It is amazing to me that the industry is a-buzz since DeChambeau appeared on the scene with his custom made SL clubs. You would think he invented the things (he didn’t btw–the concept has been around for longer than he has been on this earth). If you are interested, there is a huge body of knowledge that is out on the web regarding SL clubs. However, your expertise only seems to go so far as trotting out your passing knowledge of a few failed golf club experiments. Do you know why they failed? Or is that all you need to know, that they failed?

      Once you know why things fail, you can adjust for those issues. Where would we be without Edison’s years of abject failures with the light bulb? Yet light bulbs are ubiquitous now, aren’t they? Bet you even have one or two in your home.

      Current SL iron sets have been pretty well designed to allow for many of these issues (Wishon’s Sterlings, and Value Golf’s Pinkhawks). Each one takes a slightly different approach, but they both have good working products. I am a clubmaker with over 20 years of experience and have been toying with this idea for quite awhile. However, I didn’t attempt to try and build a set because components didn’t exist that would allow one to create a set that would to do this. Customizing a current set required too much welding/grinding to make it worthwhile. Now there are off the shelf sets and also component sets available.

      I personally play a set of Pinhawks, 5-PW. I have an additional 54 degree gap/sand, and a 58 sand/lob. The 5-PW and 54 are all same length/swingweight, MOI. The 58 is a little shorter at an inch over standard, which is what I have played my standard clubs at all these years. My driver and three wood are 43.5 and 42.5. My hybrids are all same length at 40 inches. I have very reasonable 10-15 yard gaps between every club. I have no problem playing competitively and carry a 9 handicap. You simply make the same swing with each iron and the 5 degree loft increments take care of the distance. I will note that as someone else stated above, you still have to have a repeatable swing to play good golf, regardless of whether or not you use SL or standard golf clubs. SL simply takes a few more of the variables out of your game in the are of iron shots.

      BTW–to those out there that still talk about muscle memory: the whole issue of muscle memory is bogus. Read an article or two on brain science. Muscles don’t store memory. Period. Brains create neuronal patterns that govern muscle movement. Words have real meaning, and punctuation matters! Educate yourself. Remember the old saying: it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth (or write an editorial) and remove all doubt.

  27. Muscle memory

    May 24, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Hard to fight off decade(s) of muscle memory.. Bryson has had this swing for 11+ years, right

    • 300 Yard Pro

      Jun 5, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      Bryson did not start the single length irons and one plane swing till 2011. You math very bad.

  28. Philip

    May 24, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Personally I like clubs that change length to loft – gives one a lot more creative options when in tricky situations – for example, taking a shorter club and hooding the club face and playing it back in your stance; or taking a longer club and choking up on it and making a smooth swing for a lower flight; or even taking a longer club when the ball is below your feet and taking less of a swing …

    • Jay

      May 24, 2016 at 6:43 pm

      OMG!!…and you can hit draws and fades and flop shots and running pitches…thanks for the tutorial on all the shots you can hit on a golf course. As if length is somehow inhibiting you from choking down or flighting the ball. What in the world are you even talking about??? It’s like someone mentioned how nice the weather is and you told us how much more you like polyester jackets rather than denim. It’s completely irrelevant.

      Personally I like potatoes because it gives you more options. You can mash them, and fry them, and bake them……….

  29. Charlie

    May 24, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Never a positive response from this guy…

  30. Shanks

    May 24, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    I think single length irons are the best way to go for golf, the distance claims made by club companies today are getting outrageous. I hit a Wishon single length 7 iron against my ’16 Apex Pros and a Hogan Radial 7 iron. The distances were within a yard of each other. But to have the same swing, same set up every time you go to hit a ball. That’s the way to go, especially for amateur golfers. Less to worry about and an easier way into the game for many. I bet many of the detractors on here have never hit a SLI (single length iron) and would venture that once fitted for a set they would have better ball striking and flight over the set that they currently use.

    Paul thanks for the technical article, unfortunately too many people refuse to see change as a good thing and I don’t see this SLI becoming mainstream although it would probably be the best thing out there for growing the game of golf.

    • Hawk

      May 24, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      There is no reason why this can’t be mainstream. It would be very easy to base a SL set off the current industry standard 7 iron length and the industry standard 7 iron lie. Based on that, you can easily create a mass market single length set that a vast majority of golfers could fit into.

      Considering the argument of “getting fit” yet so many still play standard length anyways, the argument for needing to be fit, is mute.

      I think OEMs are afraid to produce a set because it would change the golf equipment landscape if it actually caught on and took off.

      • Shanks

        May 24, 2016 at 4:41 pm

        I couldn’t agree more. The industry has resorted to jacking lofts to “promise” more yardage out of every new set. While single length wouldn’t cure this it would help change the way a lot of people think about approaching the game from an equipment perspective.

  31. Matty

    May 24, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    IMO, it’s probably best to have 37 or 37.25 inches on the 4-9 irons and about 35.25 or 35.5 inches on the wedges instead of the Dechambeau method of having 37.5 inches on all irons and wedges.

  32. Chris

    May 24, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Great article. I have been studying and tinkering with this as well. I like the fact that you are considering a more practical swing weight measurement, from a point between the hands, rather than 14″ fulcrum as all SW scales measure. Good stuff!

  33. Mark

    May 24, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    1 rookie and the whole world is wrong. Ask Tommy Armour how the EQL went….time to kill this techno drivel for good.

    • Brian

      May 24, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      The EQL’s were different head weights and MOI. That would be like comparing the Motorola Razr to the Iphone6, the tech is completely different. Not saying SL irons would/would not work, just saying that the modern ones should never be associated with a past failed attempt that does not contain the same technical specs.

  34. Richard Seepaul

    May 24, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I pray that Bryson DeChambeau sticks to his guns re:
    1) Single Length Iron set.
    2) Same Club MOI in iron set. (Wood set and Wedge Set)
    Hopefully this will not be perverted by “club sponsorship”

    In addition I hope he retains his tour card and wins on the PGA tour.
    He would then become very hard to ignore.

  35. Richard Seepaul

    May 24, 2016 at 10:58 am

    I agree that having single length irons that all require the same physical effort to swing will very likely result in improved consistency in tempo, ball striking and distance for a golfer.
    I would love to have a set like this.
    The article does acknowledge the difference between “ClubHead MOI” and Club MOI which is a good thing because the MOI term is frequently used in the “press” w/o indication of which MOI is being referenced.
    I would be really interested in knowing how one goes about making a set of clubs that are BOTH “Club MOI” and “Club Swing weight” matched while being same length; assuming that this really means the set of irons are all the same length, swing weight AND all have the same Club MOI in kg per cm squared w/o differing shaft bend profiles between clubs in the set. That would be quite a feat.

    I would guess that every component used to build the club: Grip, shaft and head would need to be easily controlled for weight all w/o impacting shaft flex / bend profile between clubs.
    PXG Iron heads look like they have enough small weight inserts that may permit post head manufacture influence on the iron “head weight” and “iron head MOI”.
    This would NEVER fit the off the shelf club retail, sell to the sheeple, model and would thus need to be rendered insignificant or blasphemy via “expert testimony to the contrary” or blogology.

    • Paul Wood

      May 24, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Richard, if we were to build a set from the ground up, then it is somewhat easy to match Club MOI, Club Swing Weight and Club Mass with a single length iron set. We would design each head at the same mass. We could actually use the same shaft and grip on each club. What is a lot more challenging is trying to take an existing set and modify them to be single length. The question of whether people would swing each club in such a set the same is an interesting one to me.

      • Richard Seepaul

        May 25, 2016 at 3:23 pm

        Fair enough, you need to control every aspect of every component used in the build.
        If you can’t then there are compromises to be made by both sides; customer and service provider.

  36. EagleM.

    May 24, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I strongly believe an average player will benefit more from a single length iron vs a high swing speed player. A club builder or an engineer may consider many things you just listed such as MOI, Swingweight, Projecting, Spin, Swing Plane, Angle of Attack, etc. But, for an average player there really is the one major concern I believe. That is the club contact. Speaking from my own experience, hitting the ball consistently to get it up in the air was the single most challenge when I first started this game. Nothing else mattered more for than to fly the ball in the air rather than rolling it on the ground. 🙂 Distance or anything else was a secondary. But, having to adjust different iron lengths, ball positions, different swing paths, etc just complicated the matters a lot as a beginner. We just had to accept that fact a golf is hard to learn, and many indeed gave up during the process. But, was there a real/tangible benefit in mastering all those different lengths and added complications that comes from those, I must ask.

    Come to think of it. I can see one economic reason why the club builders/manufactures may prefer non-single length irons. Beside all MOI, angle of attach, etc, etc, the single iron set will use more of the raw materials. One may say, it involves more research to produce non-single length irons, but at this point when non-single length irons are so well established and when the single length is the new thing. I think there is research cost on single length. And, for the manufacturing stand point, also the single length is slightly more costlier to produce because they use more steel. So from what I am thinking is that… I think many club builders see that there will be benefit from single length irons for some golf populations, but hesitant to jump onto the wagon because they are not sure if there really is enough demand to justify the added expenses.

  37. Alex

    May 24, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Hi Paul,

    I’d love to see PING take a shot at making a customer order only single length set, particularly with the upcoming iBlade release (maybe the SL concept would work better with the i’s, so you’d have more control over trajectory in the long irons). It would be a more conservative way to gauge interest in the concept, though I suppose the R&D costs could be prohibitive.

    With your advanced usage of CTP’s at PING, an outsider such as myself sees the possibility of weight matching, as well as the other factors you mentioned, very possible to do single length sets. I think many of us are just waiting for a major OEM such as yourself to go ahead with it. Being a PING man myself, I want it to be you guys!

    • Paul Wood

      May 24, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Alex, we’re looking into it. In theory we can process such an order through our WRX department (the name similarity is purely coincidental). It’s challenging for the club builders, so we’re trying to build some guidelines on what we can do and can’t do and what’s reasonable for the customer to expect out of the set. Our wide range of CTP weights does help a lot in this case. In my experimental set, the only club that required serious grinding to bring the weight down was the pitching wedge.

      • golfraven

        May 25, 2016 at 12:51 am

        That to me would be good reason to play Ping long term and not changing to other brands – currently playing Ping irons.

  38. mr b

    May 24, 2016 at 10:28 am

    man, the single length iron talk is quickly being beaten to death. I am rather over the slew of articles about this, topic not only on Wrx but every golf publication, seeing as only a fraction of a fraction of the golfing population would marginally benefit from this financially and time consuming experiment.

    • Whackenputter

      May 25, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Respectfully, do you have any research to validate your position or is it based on your (I will grant honestly experienced) opinion?

      Might it be possible that many who only occasionally play golf, or many of those who have tried and given up, would benefit from a much simpler and achievable learning curve?

      Perhaps only a tiny percentage of devoted golf amateurs and touring professionals would benefit from single length clubs. But I assure you, that, as a novice golfer, I really want to get a set of single length left handed irons to learn with.

      Having been a high performing amateur athlete in two unrelated sports, I know that the secret to high performance is training ones body to do simple things so well it becomes unconscious. Instead of learning eight different ways to swing my irons, each only a half inch different from one another, I would rather learn one way to swing all of them.

      I think it makes more sense for me to learn one good swing very well and conform my clubs to my swing than to take someone else’s opinion of how long eight clubs should be and try to memorize eight different swings to conform to that strangers opinion.

    • 300 Yard Pro

      Jun 5, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      You’re not enough over it to comment on it. So you DO have some interest in the subject.

  39. dennis clark

    May 24, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Spot on. Good explanantion Paul.

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy



New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?



Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?



You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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19th Hole