New Looks

Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - Contents - BY MIKE STACHURA

The lat­est on sin­gle-length irons.

‘I’ve heard from a mul­ti­ple ma­jor­cham­pi­onship win­ner that within eight years you’ll see a quar­ter of the play­ers on tour play­ing sin­gle-length irons.”

Those are the words of sin­gle-length ad­vo­cate David Edel, the golf in­ven­tor who de­vel­oped the one-of-a-kind, sin­gle-length irons that helped make Bryson DeCham­beau fa­mous. Whether that hap­pens and whether av­er­age golfers should con­sider them are in­trigu­ing ques­tions given that more com­pa­nies are us­ing non­tra­di­tional ap­proaches to shaft lengths.

Of course, the fact is, only one full-time player on the PGA Tour, DeCham­beau, is us­ing irons in which the shafts are all the same length. And just a few months into their track­ing by in­dus­try an­a­lyst Golf Datat­ech, sin­gle-length irons ac­count for less than 2 per­cent of all the irons sold in the United States. Still, that’s well up from zero just six months ago.

The ben­e­fits are at once ob­vi­ous and com­plex. The same shaft length for ev­ery iron means pos­ture, ball po­si­tion and the swing are the same for your 4-iron as they are for your wedge. But how do you com­pen­sate for lost speed or ex­ces­sive flight to pro­duce the dis­tance gaps cru­cial to ac­cu­rate iron play?

With two mod­els that are both out­selling its tra­di­tional-length ver­sions, Co­bra is the first ma­jor brand to ex­plore this idea in decades. (Sev­eral other tra­di­tional-length iron brands con­tacted by Golf Digest de­clined to com­ment on the ad­van­tages of their prod­ucts, per­haps leav­ing the door open to em­brace sin­gle-length iron sets later on if the sit­u­a­tion changes.) Tom Ol­savsky, vice pres­i­dent of re­search and de­vel­op­ment for Co­bra, be­lieves the dis­tance ben­e­fit is hid­den but real in sin­gle-length irons.

“It’s ap­peal­ing to the idea of sim­plic­ity and con­sis­tency,” he says. “We know that dis­tance sells, and it can be a hard ar­gu­ment to make that con­sis­tency gives you more dis­tance. But if peo­ple try it and find it to be eas­ier, they’re go­ing to find that it does go far­ther.”

Man­u­fac­tur­ers who’ve passed on sin­gle-length irons for the mo­ment say there are dis­tance prob­lems with the set.

“The sin­gle-length irons we’ve seen hit su­per-high wedges and su­per-low long irons,” says Brian Schielke, se­nior prod­uct man­ager, golf clubs, for Cleve­land/Srixon/XXIO. “Peo­ple strug­gle hit­ting their long irons too low as it is. This just ac­cen­tu­ates that prob­lem.”

Our test­ing of sin­gle-length irons at Golf Digest’s Hot List Sum­mit last fall found golfers were mixed in their as­sess­ments. Nine of our 16 play­ers pre­ferred the tra­di­tional-length ver­sion over the sin­gle-length op­tion, but seven rated the sin­gle-length model equal or bet­ter.

Tweak­ing each shaft can pro­duce more height on lower lofts or con­trol tra­jec­tory on short irons. A more flex­i­ble face can also im­prove the long irons. The Co­bra King F7 One and Edel’s SLS-01 feature dif­fer­ent iron de­signs within the set to op­ti­mize ball flight. The Ster­ling sin­gle-length irons, de­vel­oped by com­po­nent-club guru Tom Wis­hon and teacher and speed golfer Jaa­cob Bow­den use an 8-iron shaft length for con­trol but add flex­i­ble faces to the 4-iron through 7-iron.

An­other idea: The Equs A-1 irons of­fer three groups of irons within the set fea­tur­ing three shaft lengths (4-iron, 7-iron and pitch­ing wedge). “By re­duc­ing the whole set down to three swings, you’re im­prov­ing your con­sis­tency and how you play be­cause you have less swings to learn,” says long­time physi­cian and first-time golf in­ven­tor Mike Ly­tle, who de­vel­oped the A-1 with Jeff Sheets, the vet­eran club de­signer be­hind more than a dozen brands. The chal­lenge of ac­cep­tance, how­ever, re­mains.

“Golf ac­tu­ally is slow to evolve,” Sheets says. “When you choose to go off the beaten path, the cus­tomer tends to re­sist.”

Great Amer­i­can #534 we’d like to see win the U.S. Open.

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