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Game Improvement: A Crash Course on Single-Length Irons

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A set of single-length Cobra King irons. (SUBMITTED)

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. — Admittedly, when I first heard about single-length irons, I thought it was a gimmick.

The emergence of Bryson DeChambeau on the PGA Tour three years ago brought the concept into the public conversation, but you’ll notice that no other high-level player has joined the party.

But then again, when it comes to game improvement, whether a touring pro buys in to a method should matter little to those of us who aren’t paid to play. All that matters is whether it works for you.

With that in mind, I was excited to try my hand at the single-length game earlier this week. Craig Clawson, creator of Single Length School on YouTube, welcomed me out to Murrysville Golf Club to take a test drive.

The challenge was simple. I would hit my approach shots on the front nine with my traditional-length irons and then switch set of single-length irons on the back side.

Obviously, this isn’t a terribly scientific approach, since the two sides of the course aren’t the same, but I was very interested because it was an opportunity to put the concept to the test under playing conditions. Besides, if you want a data-driven analysis of the benefits of single-length, there are places out there to find exactly that.

As far as this one player’s experience, I was intrigued by the first impression of Clawson’s Cobra King irons, which he had fitted for the typical shaft length of an 8-iron. (Note: 7-iron seems to be the standard for the publicly-available sets out there.)

The first single-length club I hit was the 5-iron, which I struck well, but carried about five yards shorter on the practice range. Consistently I was a little shorter than usual with the lower-lofted clubs — 4-hybrid through 7-iron.

Clawson describes a “mental block” that a lot of experienced players get with those clubs, mostly with convincing yourself to set up closer to the ball and further back in your stance. I can’t say that was a huge stumbling block for me, but the swing felt a little less powerful without the usual shaft length.

From the 8-iron on down, however, it was a different story. I chunked one pitching wedge early, but other than that I flushed the higher-lofted clubs. I also added about five yards of carry to the pitching wedge and 9-iron, a difference I attribute to the slightly-wider swing arc.

But also, I felt more athletic and powerful, both during setup and in the midst of the swing with the ‘shorter’ clubs. I wasn’t as hunched over as I usually am with those clubs and it was a nice change to be able to stand taller and release the club a bit more fully than typical.

Even on a half-swing pitch shot with the single-length gap wedge (48 degrees of loft), the pivot felt more natural. I chose not to chip with the single-length clubs — didn’t want to waste those short-game reps — but Clawson advised that he’s able to ‘trap’ chips better with the longer wedges, and thus add more spin.

My first-blush takeaway from the experience is that, if I made a change to my iron length, I would likely make the higher-lofted clubs longer, but leave the lengths on my lower-lofted irons the same. I don’t think I would make the transition to an all-single-length set as of now.

That’s why you try before you buy, right? Thanks much to Craig for indulging my little experiment, and to the crew at Murrysville Golf Club, most notably owner Jack Kerrigan, for the hospitality. More to come from here next week!

PGN’S ON COURSE

Craig and I debriefed at the 18th green, as he shared more on his experience with single-length irons and what newcomers to the genre can expect:

A 15-year veteran of sports media, Matt Gajtka (GITE-kah) is the founding editor of PGN. Matt is a lifelong golfer with a passion for all aspects of the sport, from technique to courses to competition. His experience ranges from reporting on Pittsburgh's major-league beats, to broadcasting a variety of sports, to public relations, multimedia production and social media.

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