If you are new to the game of golf, you will quickly find that it is much more complex than the uninitiated would suppose it to be. Most people have seen a set of golf clubs, whether on television or in real life, and may have casually noticed that the golf clubs were different lengths. But it is only as you start investigating the game further or actually playing that the reasoning behind this variability makes sense. So, why are golf clubs different lengths?
Shorter lengths provide more control with high lofted clubs that create back spin on the ball. Longer clubs allow a longer swing and more momentum, which provides power for long shots. Player height influences how much above or below the standard length each club should be for that person.
Within each set, golf clubs have different lengths to facilitate the various functional requirements in the game of golf. Between golf club sets, there are also length differences to accommodate player height variations. While tradition favors variable-length clubs, you can now buy set with single-length irons.
Golf Club Length Is Linked to Function
In a sport like baseball, hitting the ball as far as possible is always the goal when batting. In comparison, golf requires the ability to achieve a whole range of ball movements.
This includes hitting the ball so that it travels long distances, reaches a certain height to clear obstacles, or moves only a few inches to fall into the hole.
The different golf clubs within the same set, with their variations in clubhead shape and size, as well as the shaft angle and length, ensure that the golfer has all the necessary tools required to make any shot on the golf course.
Golf Club Length Influences the Power of a Swing
As we mentioned above, sometimes, you want the ball to cover a large amount of ground, and at other times, you only want it to move a few feet. It’s one of the reasons why golf is such a great game; you have to balance power with precision and gentleness.
The length of a golf club has an impact on how far a golf ball will travel because it influences the amount of power each swing can generate.
With a longer golf club, the distance the clubhead has to travel between the furthest point of a person’s backstroke, and the teed-up ball is further than it is with a shorter golf club.
This allows more time for the club to gather momentum with the swing, thus producing a more forceful hit and a further shot.
Differences in Golf Club Length Helps With Club Loft
Club loft is the angle of the face of a golf club that gives the golf ball an upward trajectory when hit. The term “loft” can also be used to refer to the upward trajectory itself.
Height is beneficial for certain shots, but the downside is that it can create a relatively large degree of backspin on the ball. To allow you to be able to hit the ball with greater precision and counter the backspin, the clubs that are designed to create high amounts of loft also have shorter lengths.
The reasoning behind this is that shorter clubs provide more control. It makes sense if you compare it to drawing with a pencil.
If you hold a pencil right at the back, near the eraser, then you have very little control over how the tip is moving. However, if you grip the pencil close to the tip, then you have a much greater level of control.
In addition, the back spin (which detracts from the forward momentum to a certain extent) means that these clubs are best used for shorter shots, so the loss of power that accompanies a shorter golf club does not negatively effect golf club’s intended function.
Types of Golf Clubs and Their Standard Lengths and Functions
There are between 12 and 14 golf clubs in a standard set, but there is a certain amount of mixing and matching that each golfer can do to tailor their set to their individual game.
As you will see in the table of club, function, and length below, the woods are the longest clubs, and they are used for the longest shots, then the putter has the shortest length for rolling the ball on a few inches. However, some people do prefer a longer putter.
For the irons, the loft angle increases as the iron number goes up, which is why the length decreases as the iron number goes up. This is also true for hybrids, which can be used to replace certain irons.
Pros and Cons of Different Length Golf Clubs
The main pro of variable-length golf clubs, and the one that is particularly attractive to the majority of players, is the fact that it both allows the range of swing power to be optimized and allows compensation for the increased club loft, as opposed to compromising one for the other.
The primary con for having golf clubs of differing lengths is that you have to adjust your swing for every club.
As you can imagine, you will have to stand closer to the ball for shorter clubs and further away for longer clubs. This also changes the angles between the club, the ground, and your arms. Learning the optimal swing for each club is particularly difficult for beginners.
The Role of Tradition on the Length of Golf Clubs
Golf club sets with single-length irons are available (we will discuss them shortly), but the centuries-old game has certain entrenched traditions. One of the main traditions is to use different length clubs.
While the single-length irons are gaining popularity, they are still viewed as custom sets, and most big manufacturers only sell variable-length sets because this is the guaranteed market and making single-length clubs are too fiscally risky at the moment.
Player Influence on the Length of Golf Clubs
Before we get to golf club sets with single-length irons, we have to mention that there are differences in club length between people as well.
It makes logical sense to assume that a golf set with clubs that are the perfect length for a person who is 5’9” will not suit someone who is 6’7”.
Furthermore, someone who is 5’9” but has a wrist to ground length of 35” will need different length clubs to a person who is also 5’9” but who has a wrist to ground length of 33”.
Fortunately, manufacturers are very aware that the length of golf clubs needs to be different for people of differing heights and am lengths, so you should be able to find the right set of golf clubs for your dimensions.
Should All Your Golf Clubs Be the Same Length?
Tradition says that all of your golf clubs should be the same length. However, more and more golf players and smaller golf club suppliers are investigating golf club set with single-length irons. This revolution can be traced back to one man, a player named Bryson DeChambeau.
Why Bryson DeChambeau Uses Single-Length Irons
While Bryson DeChambeau is not the pioneer of single-length irons, he is certainly the man who made them famous. DeChambeau switched from traditional variable-length clubs to single-length irons around 2010, when he was 17 years old.
When asked about his decision, he said that he preferred having a consistent swing, no matter which club he was using and that using the same length club meant there were fewer moving parts that could be messed up.
However, his decision was not based on a whim or fancy. He studied Homer Kelley’s book, The Golfing Machine, and he also had the advantage of being a former physics major at Southern Methodist University.
Benefits of Single-Length Irons
The main benefit of single-length irons clubs is what Bryson DeChambeau finds so attractive: not having to adjust your swing between the clubs. When the clubs are all of different lengths, you have to consider where you stand in relation to the ball, the angle of the club and your arms, etc.
Another advantage is that the chosen length of the single-length irons is typically shorter than the lower iron numbers, which means that these would be easier to control than their longer counterparts in a variable-length golf set.
Drawbacks of Single-Length Irons
Lower numbered irons with shorter lengths may provide better control, but only through sacrificing swing power, which means that they cannot produce the same amount of height as that club would in a variable-length set. In addition to height, you also sacrifice some distance with shorter low numbered irons.
Similarly, because the higher number irons are a little longer than their variable-length golf set counterparts, you sacrifice some of the control over club loft.
Is It Easier to Play With Single- or Variable-Length Golf Clubs?
If you are just setting out on your golfing career (whether professionally or simply for pleasure), then you might find it easier to begin with golf club sets with single-length irons.
You can work on perfecting one swing instead of having to master multiple swings at once.
However, if you have already been playing golf for a while, then switching over to single-length irons may seem more difficult because you have to adjust your whole play.
Yes, you only have to use one swing, but when you grab a certain iron, you will automatically assume the position for swinging with that club. You will then have to adjust to the new position, which can become frustrating.
Moving from traditional clubs to single-length irons may also set your game back a bit, which can be disheartening.
Ultimately, it’s not about which set is easier to play golf with; it is about which set better suits your game. While a market is growing for single-length irons, it is unlikely that they are going to completely replace the variable-length sets, even in the distant future.
Sets of golf clubs that are different lengths to accommodate people of varying heights make common sense, but longer and shorter shafts within the same set require an explanation. The explanation is sensible when you consider the whole design of each club and how this serves its function on the golf course.
Woods need to get the golf ball longer distances, and they do not have club loft to counter. So, the best way to utilize these clubs is to give them a long handle, which allows enough momentum to gather during the swing to achieve the long distances.
Irons (including hybrids and wedges), with their increasing loft (angle), need more control than power, which is achieved through shorted lengths. As the club loft increases, the shaft length decreases proportionally, so each is adapted to perform its function well.
The biggest drawback of the variable lengths in golf clubs is that you need to adjust your swing for each different length. Eliminating this is what draws people to single-length irons.