With an NCAA championship, the US Amateur title and a trip to the Masters on his resume, Bruson Dechambeau has everyone wondering if single-length Irons are the way to improve your game.
When physics major, and soon to be PGA tour professional Bryson DeChambeau won the NCAA individual title, he was using a set of unique irons. You see, every iron in his set is measured at 37.5” in length, the same as a standard 6 iron. But when he followed up his NCAA victory by winning the U.S Amateur Championship, the golf world began to wonder if there was something we were all missing.
For me, the idea of using single length irons was not new. I had been thinking about the idea for quite some time. In 2011, I read an ad for single length irons by a company call One Iron Golf. The premise is that we all have one iron that just ‘fits’ - our favorite club. Think about it. Do you have an iron you hit better than all others? One that just feels…right? For Bryson DeChambeau, that club is a 6 iron. For me, it’s a 7.
And there is a more to this principal than the wild ramblings of a mad scientist. If we are to look back into the history of golf club manufacturing, irons, then made with hickory shafts, were manufactured to all be the same length. However, the process was expensive and time consuming. (Hence the stigma of golf being an elitist game as only the most affluent patrons could afford to buy clubs) Over time, this process was abandoned in favor of the mass production, and the standard irons we buy off the rack today were born.
I couldn’t let go of the premise. It just made so much sense to me. Imagine if every club felt like my 7 iron. My 3 iron would be the same length, but with a lower loft, so the ball would fly farther – hypothetically speaking. When I purchased a used set of MP-68 irons to replace some of the worn irons in my current set, the new ones came with a 3 and 4 iron, which I didn’t need because I had hybrids in place of those irons. That left me with two clubs to tinker with. I replaced the shafts in the PW-5 in the new set, so I now had a set of Dynamic gold S300 shafts to also play with. The plan was to take the 3 and 4 iron head, and fit them into two single length iron shafts.
How we played Mad Scientist.
The problem with using a standard set to do make a set of single length clubs is that clubs today all have different lie’s and head weights. The head of a 3 iron is lighter than that of a 7 iron.
Swing weight is measured in letters – from A to G, and the numbers 0 to 9, though G goes up to 10. A0 would be the lightest measurement, and the heaviest would be G10. The manufacturers' standard for Mizuno Mp-68 irons is D2, but most men’s sets are D0,D1.
So herein lies the problem. In order to achieve a consistent swing weight throughout the set, a longer shaft is required on a lighter head. A 3 iron head weighs less than a 7 iron.
(Disclaimer: This is where I defer to the experts in figuring head weight vs swing weight, etc. I’m in over my head here.)
What is important to understand is that a 3 iron head weighs less than a 7 iron, therefore putting a 3 iron head into a 7 iron shafts results in a extremely light swingweight that renders the club basically unplayable UNLESS, you do something to increase the weight.
Taking the shaft cut to fit a 7 iron, we placed small weights inside using epoxy to hold them in place, the attached the Mp-68 head. We then took the 8 iron shaft and again added the weights, but also extended it to 36.75” (the same length as the 7 iron) and adjusted the lie to match the stock 7 iron at 61.5 degrees. I now had a 3 and 4 iron that sat exactly like my 7 iron.
Unfortunately we struggled to match the D2 weight of the standard set. The best we could do was get the new 3 and 4 irons to a C7. In terms of feel, they definitely felt a little lighter, but I still felt like I could play them this way. So off the range I went.
At set up, the club felt and looked like perfect. The faces looked like a 3 and 4 iron, but my set up felt like I was hitting a 7 iron. I was giddy with excitement. “If this works, I’m changing all my clubs!” I thought.
Can you guess what happened?
As you may have suspected, the shots came off extremely low and to the right. But I kept at it, playing with ball position to help get the height up. Eventually I reached a point where I could hit a low 3 iron stinger that travelled about 220 yards. If I hit it off a tee, I could also gain some height, though I would never call it a high shot. My concern was that if I was hitting this club into a green, it would never hold, but rather run straight through.
Back to the club maker I went and we adjusted the loft from the standard 21 degrees for the 3 iron to 23 degrees, and the 4 iron from 24 to 26. (Note that the standard loft of a 5 iron is 27 degrees).
This change did help get the ball up a little, though not a significant amount. Throughout the year, I put them in the bag and would use them sporadically in game situations. The few times I used the 4 iron, (mostly on a second shot into a par 5 where I could run the ball on the green) it worked out alright, though misses were still low and to the right.
I have since put these clubs back to standard as I couldn’t see any benefit to my game or increase in accuracy. Granted, this was only a trial and error experiment to satisfy my curiosity, but I do believe there is more to this. If I had the resources Bryson DeChambeau has at his disposal, I would likely be playing a set of single-length irons. The truth of the matter is that a set of irons like this requires such tinkering, such trial and error, that having this kind of set available to the public is not likely to happen.
There is an option...
A company called One Iron Golf does make a single length set that you can buy – for over $1000 for the, ”pro-line set” (a term I use VERY loosely as no true player would ever call these a players set) - and they do offer a money back guarantee – though be careful, you will have to pay return shipping as well as fill out all the duty forms for a refund on duty paid if you live outside the US. I did order a set to try and as soon as I set down the lob wedge I knew these would never do (think frying pan). The company claims that every player from a senior to a plus handicap needs the same shaft, (a theory I still can’t get my head around.) Not surprisingly, when I hit the 8 iron, if felt ‘sloppy’ and loose, although I will admit that most of the shots found the target. Personally, I don't think this set is a viable option for most players, but if you are looking to try out a single length set, this might be a way to curb your curiosity.
I would love to have a tour van at my disposal and a master club fitter waiting anxiously for me to return so he could tweak a club here or there and send me back out to the range to try again. (Can you imagine spending your day this way? I'd have died and gone to heaven!)
But until we all have access to a tour van and the hours necessary to spend on the range figuring things out, I’m not sure we will ever see single length iron sets for the masses.
Although… Cobra has made set of single length irons for Bryson to use…and he has this with him this week at Augusta for the Masters. One thing we know for sure. If he happens to win at Augusta National, the demand for companies to make single length irons may go through the roof!
To better golf,
Read more about single length irons from Tom Wishon, someone who really knows what he's talking about:) here.
Here is the Golf Digestix article on DeChambeau's Cobra irons.
When Bryson DeChambeau used a Cobra King F6+ driver at the Arnold Palmer Invitational it fueled speculation that the top-ranked amateur would sign an endorsement deal with Cobra upon turning pro after the Masters. That theory gained more credence after last week’s Georgia Cup, an annual match-play clash between the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur champions, when DeChambeau put a set of same-length Cobra King Forged MB irons in play in place of the custom-made, same-length Edel irons (shown) he had been using. As with his Edel irons, all of the Cobra irons are 37½ inches long (approximately the length of a 6-iron) and have a lie angle of 73.5 degrees with the clubs bent as much as 12 degrees upright to achieve this. Each of the heads weight a matching 280 grams, which required holes to be drilled into the 3- through 8-irons so that tungsten could be added. It’s a process that, according to Cobra tour rep Ben Schomin, took nearly four days to complete. Whether DeChambeau uses the Cobra or Edel irons this week at the Masters for his amateur finale is unclear, but one thing is for certain: Given the painstaking process required to make DeChambeau’s irons, it’s no given that same-length irons are a commercially viable product.