My Year with Single Length Irons- Part 5: Continuing Positive Experiences

I was going to wait for a while before I published another post on my new Cobra F7 One length irons, but reader John asked me a couple of days ago if I had any updates.  So here is an update.

After returning from Kiawah Island, I have played 5 rounds here at the Pete Dye River Course outside of my home in Radford, Virginia.  Scores were 76-76-76-81-85 and my index has gone from 7.2 to 6.7.  Nothing to complain about there.  The 85 was a round where I decided to chip with the Cobra sand wedge (7 iron length- though I choked up for less than full shots).  I think that cost me a few up and downs.  On the other hand, I used the sand wedge out of a little pot punker on the 18th hole to a back pin and put it within a foot of the hole for a happy ending par.

The irons remain a little more consistent than my old set and continue to please with the intangibles- meaning I feel good hitting them and like how they feel and how they fly.  I don’t regret buying them and I hope I continue to get my index down to around 3 or 4 by late Autumn.  I switch back the the regular tees in April and that usually helps my index as the course rating is harder by 2.6 strokes.

At some point I need to give some more empirical observations on distances for each club.  So far, I will just repeat what I have suggested in other posts.  I expect summer yardages to be 100 yards for the sand wedge and 150 yards for the 8 iron.  That is just slightly longer (5 yards) than my Adams XTDs that I gamed before the Cobras. My anecdotal observations so far suggest gaps are OK between these clubs, but I really don’t know that for sure. I just know that I usually feel comfortable choosing a club and knowing the distance.  In fact, I have grown comfortable with these clubs faster than I usually do when I switch irons- which is fairly frequently as my friends will attest to enthusiastically.

I guess my advice to other golfers at the moment would be that if these single length clubs appeal to you, don’t be afraid to try them.  They are nice clubs that look and feel good. in my experience, they are not miracle workers- they don’t play the game for you.  But you already know that. But neither are they a disappointment. Quite the contrary.  They are lots of fun to play and talk about. I would love to hear from other single length irons users about their experiences.

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My Year with Single Length Irons- Part 3: Arrival!

I got an e-mail from Cobra telling me my F7s were on the way.  As always happens, they were due to arrive one day after I left for a week of golf at Hilton Head with my friend Peter who generously offered me a bedroom in the condo where he was staying.  By the way, Hilton Head is a great place to go in early February.  I suppose you risk some bad weather, but it was nice enough to play golf almost every day and the island was blissfully uncrowded.

Anyway, the long drive back was made easier by the anticipation of opening the box from Cobra when I got home.  Here are some pictures:

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I give Cobra credit for getting all the wing weights between D0.5 and D1.5.  That is far better quality control than many new clubs I have measured. Fortunately, the lengths were all the same as well. I guess it would be embarrassing to see single length irons and not be able to measure and cut accurately. I can’t measure lie angles, so I will assume the clubs came bent 3 degrees up as requested.  The only glitch was in the actual length of the irons. I had asked them to come +1/4 inch which would make them 37.5 inches.  My Golfsmith club measuring device (you sole the middle of the iron on a moveable metal plate and then measure the tip of the grip) showed them to be 37.25 inches. Could be we just measure clubs differently.  No big deal.  Love the bright blue Lamkin grips.

Next: First time on the course..

My Year with Single Length Irons-Part 2: Conversations with Cobra

My new single length irons are still on order and I hope to have them by the first week of February.  In the meantime, I began to have second thoughts about ordering them with the stock True Temper F7 shafts. So wrote to Cobra to get some information about these shafts and why they were chosen for these irons. Cobra has an efficient and professional customer service department and my questions are almost always answered (via e-mail) within a day or two.

Cobra essentially answered my query by telling me that the True Temper F7 steel shafts (107 grams, mid flex, mid torque, parallel tip) were proprietary shafts that didn’t really match up with any standard shafts in the True Temper lineup. They went on to say that there was nothing unique about the shaft with regard to its use in single length irons (they use the same shaft in the normal length F7 irons).  They do use a flighted KBS shaft (taper-tip) as the stock shaft in the more expensive forged version of the single length irons.  A flighted shaft makes sense as it will be harder to get the longer irons airborne considering the shortened shaft length. Cobra suggested that the True Temper shafts were also designed to launch higher in the longer irons. Parallel shafts are all the same, right? I guess you could tip them differently to create a slightly softer (higher-launching?) tip in the longer irons.  That’s beyond my club-making expertise.  Maybe a reader (if I ever get any) can enlighten me.

In any case, I decided to change out the stock shafts with Nippon 950GH shafts in regular flex. I have used these shafts before and liked their feel and performance. Since the shaft chosen can be fitted in the conventional way (according to Cobra) and doesn’t really affect the single length club characteristics, I figured why not?  They were a no-charge upgrade.  So, at least for Cobras, the heads are where all the differences are with regard to the single length irons. As far as I know, I think that just means changing the weighting of heads to achieve consistent swing-weights with the single length clubs. I know Wishon uses different technology in the heads of the lower irons to create a faster face and make up for potential distance loss from shorter lengths and less hot faces in the short irons to have the opposite effect.  I think Cobra has similar technology in their F7 irons, but I think it is the same technology whether you order single length or standard irons.

The reason for playing with the face speeds is, I assume, to create proper distance gapping between irons. So I sent the following question to Cobra. “Let’s assume a 100 yard sand wedge- what yardages would you predict for each of the irons down to the 5, given your design.”  They answered as follows: The distance gap between your irons would be the same as a normal variable length set, only difference that we noticed in testing was towards your longer irons like the 4 and 5 you may lose about 2-3 yards since you arent swinging those clubs as fast as you would when they are normal length but thats where most players, not everyone, is replacing long irons with hybrids.

Losing distance in the longer irons makes sense, not only because of slower swing speeds associated with shorter shafts, but also because of smaller loft gaps in shorter irons which is the result of almost all manufacturers jacking up lofts in shorter irons to make you think you are hitting their clubs further. This would suggest that in single length irons, something needs to be done both to improve distance in the 4-6 irons and also to increase trajectory. I don’t really see that Cobra has done this in the F7 One irons and that would lead me to predict that I will have trouble getting height on my 5&6 irons and will hit them relatively shorter (in terms of distance gaps between irons).  Maybe that’s why they didn’t actually answer my original question and just told me distance gaps would be the same as a “normal” set. As I mentioned earlier, the consistent 5 degree gaps from 7 iron to sand wedge in my set worry me a bit. Normal gapping (whatever normal means these days is usually around 4 degrees. A wider gap combined with a longer length (all irons are 7 iron length) suggest the distance gaps might be too wide in the short irons. We’ll see.

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.