2017: My Year with Single Length Irons

I just put in a “pre-order” for a set of Cobra F7 One single length irons.  Specs are +1/4” and 3* up.  How did I come up with this? A long, personal fitting session? No, of course not. I used Ping’s online fitting program and that is what came out. I ordered 5-SW at 37.5 inches.  They are going to be a little late as Cobra is waiting for the 3 degree up heads, but I hope to have the clubs by the beginning of February.

Why did I do it?  I have no idea. Despite the fact that I switched to graphite a few months ago to help with golfer’s elbow, I ordered steel shafts- to save some money and because I wanted the set to be as consistent as possible in order to test the one length concept. Besides, I get to see if my tumeric supplement really works!

Many years ago, I experimented with club-making for a while. One of the questions that fascinated me was the possibility of single length irons, but the difficulties of doing it were well beyond my skills.  Like many, I was fascinated when Bryson DeChambeau roared onto the golfing scene with his physics jive and his single length Edel clubs. I looked at Tom Wishon’s single length clubs but they were too expensive and so when I saw that Cobra was coming out with a set that I could pre-order at a discount over retail, I jumped at it. Maybe I should have tried them first? I don’t think that would work.  The only way to see if something as different as this will work is to try them over a long period of time.

The Test: My handicap at the start of the test is 6.9.  The ultimate measure of single length irons for me will be to see what my handicap is at the end of 2017. Besides my Cobra F7s, the remainder of my clubs will stay the same: a Nike Vapor Fly driver, Vapor Fly 4 & 7 fairway woods and Srixon 4 hybrid. I may switch out the fairway woods to my old standby Srixon Q Star 3&5 woods. My putter will remain the same as well- Odyssey Fang 2-ball. I occasionally send this putter to “time-out” and switch in something else. My lob wedge will not be single length.  I am keeping my Scratch digger/driver lob wedge that I love to chip with. I’ll try to use the Cobra sand wedge out of traps but may default to my lob wedge if I get frustrated.

What do I expect to happen?  Mostly, I expect to have fun!  I love to experiment with clubs and swings, so this appeals to me. Beyond that, my expectations are minimal.  In fact, it could be an expensive disaster, since these clubs will probably be hard to re-sell. I have some trouble with trajectory on long irons and this could make that even more of a problem. I like irons that are longer than normal, so I am hoping the extra-length short irons won’t seem that unnatural to me. But who knows?  I worry about gapping and will be very interested in seeing real world lengths I get from each iron. Even more worrisome is an article I just read by club making guru Dave Tutleman who, while positive about the one length concept, seemed skeptical of Cobra’s implementation of that concept. Cobra has 5 degree gaps from the sand wedge to the 7 iron.  Then the gap drops to 4 degrees between the 7 and 6 and only 3 degrees between the 6 and 5 iron. On the surface, this seems to be backwards. The shorter lengths in the longer irons suggest the need to increase loft gaps to make overall yardage gaps more even. The longer lengths in the 8 iron to SW would likewise imply smaller loft gaps to offset some increase in distance coming from the longer lengths.  Cobra may have addressed this issue in the head designs- we shall see. The shafts are the same, as far as I know, so I don’t think trajectory/distance issues are addressed there, though they could be.  The forged versions of the irons do have a flighted set of KBS shafts.  A specially designed set of flighted shafts that flight even lower in the higher lofted clubs and even higher in the lower lofted irons would make the most sense.  It would also, no doubt, add to the cost.  You could use similar weight but different shafts across the set but that runs counter to the single-length philosophy of everything feeling the same across all the irons.

Actually, I think that at the end of the year, I probably won’t have changed my handicap much one way or another.  I have been changing irons often and am used to adjusting. Despite the current wisdom in favor of personal fittings, I find that most decent golfers (decent in the sense of hand-eye coordination) adjust pretty quickly to whatever they are playing. Let’s see if that’s true in this case.

My scoring wedge around the greens is my lob wedge which I use for about 90% of my pitch shots. Since I will keep that club, the effects of the single length irons will be felt most strongly in greens in regulation.  I don’t have historical data so I won’t worry about collecting new data with the single length irons.  I will let changes in my index be the only real number that counts, but I think that number will be most strongly influenced by GIR. Will single length irons lead to more greens hit with my 5-7 irons? If so, that should help, unless the longer lengths in the 8 iron through sand wedge lead to the opposite. My handicap is also affected by my ability to make 2-3 birdies per round. While that depends on putting skills it is also affected by proximity to the pin. So whether I am able to make birdies will also help me decide about the virtues of single length.  Distance control and consistency (both in distance and in proximity to target line) are important.  But with new irons, I can’t be sure how much of either comes from the single length or from the design of the irons themselves (and the stock shaft I am using).  So I will talk a lot in my posts about all of these things but all I can do is report my experiences.

Here are the gaps and distances I would like to see from this set of Cobras:

SW (55*)- 100 yards

GW (50*)- 112.5 yards

PW (45*)- 125 yards

9 iron (40*)- 137.5 yards

8 iron (35*)- 150 yards

7 iron (30*)- 162.5 yards

6 iron (26*)- 172.5 yards

5 iron (23*)- 180 yards

If the short iron gaps are more than 12.5 yards, I’m not sure I will like that and this would point to the logic of a smaller loft gap from 7-SW.  On the other hand, Cobra has always been a leader (for better or worse) in stronger lofts on their irons, so I am not surprised by the specs for this game-improvement set. On the positive side, I really like to be able to hit an 8 iron from 150 yards under benign conditions and this set may allow me to do that even though I am losing some distance as I creep up in age (64).  If so, maybe the larger gaps will win me over.

Initial thoughts on the success of single length irons in the market:

I think there is a big problem for the commercial success of single length irons. Low handicappers won’t adopt this concept.  They are good ball strikers, often more “traditional” and conservative in club purchasing habits,  and confident with what they are already playing. Higher handicappers who have played for a while might well benefit from this concept, but they will be reluctant to put out the money for a new set and likely to get frustrated with trying to adopt to a very different set of clubs. The natural market for these clubs is the new golfer, who could learn the game using single length clubs.  The problem is that new golfers aren’t very aware of trends in golf equipment and are being advised by people the vast majority of whom have never used single length clubs and so have little reason to recommend them.  Plus, they are hard to find and will likely remain that way.  The one thing that could change this dynamic would be a couple of very successful years on tour for Bryson DeChambeau. If that happens, lots of people will be more open to trying single length irons.  I guess that is what Cobra is banking on in hiring DeChambeau as their single length ambassador.

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