Single-Length Irons

Sterling single-length irons (photo courtesy of Wishon Golf)

Ever since Bryson DeChambeau signed with Cobra Puma Golf in April 2016, golfers around the globe have been waiting anxiously for Cobra to release a set of single-length irons.

The date appears to be Nov. 1, although Cobra is not confirming an introduction strategy at this point.

DeChambeau has emerged as the single-length poster boy. All the irons in his bag are the exact same length — 37.5 inches, including wedges, which normally are shorter, and long irons, which traditionally have more length.

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Bryson DeChambeau (photo courtesy of Jeff Dezen Public Relations)

Not only are the irons the same length, but they also exhibit the same shaft weight, total weight, shaft flex, bend profile, headweight, swingweight, MOI (moment of inertia), balance point, pendulum duration and feel.

Furthermore, golfers with single-length iron sets are able to use the same stance, ball position, posture, spine angle, swing plane, angle of attack and release on every iron shot. The goal, of course, is repeatability.

“I want to be able to address every iron shot in exactly the same way,” DeChambeau explained. “I want the same spine angle whether I’m hitting a pitching wedge or a 5-iron.”

DeChambeau turned 23 on Sept. 16, but the single-length concept should fit especially well with senior golfers, some of whom are three times his age. Many seniors have spent a lifetime trying to harness their swings, and replicating all the elements of a sound swing is the primary goal of the single-length regimen.

Waiting for Cobra

Cobra is on-board with single-length. “Based on consumer demand and our own testing, we think there’s something there. We’re investigating,” said Cobra Puma Golf president and chief executive officer Bob Philion, who has guided the company since Puma purchased Cobra Golf in April 2010.

Some golfers don’t know Cobra’s history, but the company has a very long and distinguished tenure as a cutting-edge iron manufacturer. For example, in 1992, the King Cobra OS (oversized) iron appeared in the world marketplace and became the biggest selling iron in golf for several years.

Industry insiders are guessing the new single-length Cobra irons will be announced before the end of the year and will be widely available for the 2017 season.

The single-length saga includes some of the brightest designers in the golf industry. Ever since Tom Olsavsky took over in 2013 as Cobra’s vice president of research and development, Cobra has attracted attention with a comprehensive mixture of multi-material and forged irons. Single-length irons are next.

Much of the credit for Cobra irons also belongs to Tom Preece, who headed Cobra R & D before Olsavsky.

Meanwhile, DeChambeau made his mark by winning both the NCAA Division i title and U.S. Amateur crown in 2015. He used  a single-length iron set hand-made by clubmaker David Edel, known mostly for highly personalized wedges and putters.

Wishon Enters the Picture

There’s more. Several small companies, notably Wishon Golf in Durango, Colo., already are selling single-length irons. Founder Tom Wishon talked about the frenzy surrounding the new irons: “It seems that more golfers are aware of the concept of single length. Our (initial) business has been more than three times greater than any other iron head I’ve brought out. I think it probably will continue.”

Tom Wishon
Tom Wishon   (photo courtesy of Wishon Golf)

Wishon’s Sterling single-length iron set includes a 6-iron through sand wedge (including a gap wedge). At the strong end of the set, golfers have a choice of a 5-iron or 5-hybrid. Even the hybrid is precisely matched to the irons.

The Wishon clubs are available from custom clubmakers, and the International Clubmakers Guild has spent months carefully analyzing the single-length phenomenon. This includes a general endorsement of Wishon’s philosophy that a shorter length of 36.5 inches is more beneficial than 37.5 inches for many golfers.

They are more consistent and easier to control, Wishon contends.

Single-length irons may sound like the answer to a multitude of persistent golf problems, but some people continue to argue against the single-length hypothesis:

  • The lower-lofted clubs may achieve shorter carry distances than similar irons in a conventional set, they argue, although Wishon has outfitted the stronger irons in the set with high-COR faces that increase spring-like effect and thus provide more distance.
  • The higher-lofted clubs, naysayers contend, may produce longer carry distances because the extra length creates more club speed.
  • Thus the distance gaps between the irons may not be uniform.
  • The single-length set may simply seem weird to some golfers who are accustomed to one-half inch length increments between their irons.
  • There is some sentiment that golfers with higher clubhead speeds may achieve more benefit than golfers with lower clubhead speeds, but think about it: This can be true with normal irons as well. Some weaker golfers cannot hit conventional long irons high enough for a satisfactory trajectory. So they switch to hybrids or fairway woods.
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Sterling 6-iron    (photo courtesy of Wishon Golf)

Regardless, single-length mania is with us, thanks to DeChambeau and his devotion to this revolutionary fitting method. Either steel or graphite shafts can be used in single-length iron sets, depending on the preference and feel of the individual golfer.

However, all golfers should be aware that irons and metalwoods have separate identities. Drivers, fairway woods and hybrids are not normally made with a uniform length. While consistency and repeatability are the hallmarks of single-length irons, metalwoods are required to produce a wide variety of longer shots.

Buying a set of golf clubs can be something of a puzzle, but single-length irons may be part of the solution. Cobra appears to be taking its time to make sure the single-length idea will be clearly understood by golfers around the globe.

As always, it is crucial for players to thoughtfully test clubs with different specifications before making a purchase.

—James Achenbach, Senior Golf Insider