Single Length Irons: Shot height, long-iron droop, and shafts

Hi everyone, first post, sorry for the length, this seems like a cool place to talk shop. As an amateur club builder and serial tinkerer I am in the garage a lot messing with clubs. I have built about 40 clubs from scratch and have “modified” well over 100. I can tell in about 3 swings if a club will work for me or not. If it doesn’t work in 3 swings it ain’t gonna work under pressure on the course. Every club in my bag was strategically built by me and although I play single-length irons, my 4&5i are different than my 6-9i which are different than my PW-SW. Lately, my general theory is to get your swing to an OK/good place then dial in/build your clubs around that swing. It’s worked out well this year and I wanted to share a success story to start things off since this game mostly doles out despair but every once in a while your hard work and research pays off and you’re sucked right back in!

A while back picked up a book called “How Golf Clubs Really Work and How to Optimize their Design”. This old book explains, using physics, how and why just about everything happens to the golf ball and how club works. It’s an interesting read but very dry and scientific, these are physicists after all.

Background: I play traditional-loft single length iron heads with mid-weight steel shafts at 37” from 4i-SW. In stock form with a stock swing, the 4i @24* went about the same distance as the 5i @27*, which was only about 5 yards farther than the 6i (170y). This is called long-iron droop and it’s well known in the single-length world (tutelman has an article on it). 4i was already in garage-detention and the 5i was headed there, leaving a 40 yard distance gap from 170 (6i) to about 210 (7w). Tried SL hybrids, 9W, driving iron, variable length long irons but nothing was consistent or performed like my other clubs.

Shot Height:
In Chapter 10 about full iron/wood shots, it’s says that the 6i (around 30* loft, or modern 7i) has the highest peak ball-height of any iron in the bag.

I had exhausted the golf forums and articles searching for this information, it was the first time I read a simple explanation to my long iron droop problems: since single-length iron swing speed is about the same for all clubs (not 100% true, story for another thread), when dropping below a certain loft one begins to lose distance because SL clubs don’t get longer to speed up the head.

It seemed the solution was more head speed in these two long-irons (isn’t it always), but since my clubs are all 37” and I’m unwilling to go longer, I needed to find a shaft with more “kick”. To the garage!
Started off with a senior flex steel shaft I had lying around to see if that would help get the yards back and it did, but without perfect rhythm, dispersion was wider than my 5w. Next I cut/glued on an R flex steel shaft (I play “stiff”) which also got a bit more distance but this was a 125g shaft and the swingweight felt heavier than my sand wedge! No go. Hesitantly, I ordered some cheap stiff graphite iron shafts and built up the 5i, tip soft-stepped ½” and 4i soft stepped 1”. Both built ½” long at 37.5” length to compensate for the lighter shafts. Hit my distance goals but was missing everything right and could not get either club to turn over! Pulled the grips and cut them both down ½” to 37.0” just like the rest of my set, took them back to the range, and voila! I was absolutely blown away. 5i lands about 180 now and can hold a green (did it this Sunday on a Par-3 179y) and the 4i gets me about 185-190 with forward roll to 200y. Best part is both go pretty darn straight so dispersion blows away the hybrids and woods. My bag is officially complete, for now… but I have 4 putter heads coming in the mail!


First off, hello!! and secondly, wow, you probably know your bag better than anyone, given you build it!

The one length clubs question as come up repeatedly in my golfing circles. Many are a little concerned by the points you raise, i.e. there will be a sweet spot that one or two clubs will be in and then outside that you may find too much or two little speed for the shots/clubs you are playing. We hadn’t thrown shafts into the mix per se. Are you looking at the ‘kick point’ of the shaft for the longer irons or a completely different flex/weight?


Welcome! Well if you’ve found Dave Tutelman then you’ve really fallen down the rabbit hole of club building lol. I haven’t gone down the road of SL irons yet although I do see the logic in it.

I think Pinhawk came out with the Vertex Dual Length irons in order to help promote shot height in the longer irons, but of course that strays from single length.

I want to say Tom Wishon may have talked about this issue as well? I know he offered some nice 0.335" graphite hybrid/iron shafts to be shimmed into irons and hybrids to allow for greater shot height for those with maybe not enough SS to elevate the longer clubs. He also made some irons and hybrids to pair specifically with those shafts.

Again though if you’ve found Tutelman you probably know about everything I’ve just said. Interested to hear about your putters!


Hi @hackandsmile, nice to meet you. I built a variable-length set of 3,4,5 & 6 irons a few months back to remedy the long iron droop issue and cover the gap from 180-210. On the range I can groove these variable length clubs within a few swings, but rarely the very first swing! Played one round with them and the results were all over the place. This experiment in all cost me about $120 but it was well worth it to cement the idea that stepping up to the same length club every shot is a real advantage for me! Even half an inch longer or shorter throws me off. It’s all about repeatability, and that means I want to get up off the couch, grab any club in my bag, step up to a ball, and hit a playable shot without warming up. I’ve made excellent progress in 2022 using this approach, tested using the first shot at each range session which used to be a crapshoot but now is pretty good 9/10 times.

Regarding iron shafts, at 37" I just don’t think most people are going to pickup on the tip/mid/butt shaft-bend profile, it’s just too short. Unless you are in a senior flex which I think is just loose all over. I used the same flex in 4&5i graphite as the steel counterparts (stiff), but I soft-stepped the 5i 1x and the 4i 2x. Soft stepping means the shaft tip is cut about 1/2" less than what the factory suggests, which in general will make the tip section softer, increasing shot height. I have read that hard/soft stepping is for fine tuning and is no substitute for the correct shaft flex. I’ve personally tried hard-stepping these same graphite shafts in R flex and although they felt OK to swing and were looong, they turned over and ended left 1/3 of the time.

What I found in my experiments is that head-butt balance point makes the most difference in feel and that’s what needs to be fine-tuned. For example, my SL heads all weight about as much as 8-irons at 281g, which is swingweight heavy for a 7i length club at 37" (standard 272g 7i head weight), should probably be built to 36.5". That means all irons were initially pretty head-heavy meaning swingweight was a few points high. I have big hands so use 80g Jumbo non-tapered grips. They act as the first counter-weight across the set to bring the swingweight closer to a standard 36.5" 8-iron. The irons are still a bit heavy but I like my PW-LW at this slightly heavy configuration since they are ‘feel’ clubs. But 6i-9i are my full-swing clubs, I wanted those to move around my body a bit easier, so they each got an 8g counter-weight, effectively reducing the head-weight by about 4g or 2 swing weights. I started off with a 20g counter weight in these mid-irons and the heads released so violently my wrists hurt after a range session, back to the garage! the 1g head weight/2g back weight formula seems to work best.

Anyone wanting to try single length should do it. There are 4 or 5 sets out there that cost under $300 fully built. I especially enjoy the SL wedges for approach short game. The high-lofted wedges spin a ton, go very high, and land super soft due to steep decent angle, which means they can stick the hardest of greens. They also allow me to stand pretty upright to stay relaxed!


Hi @Kevomanc, LOL yeah Dave Tutelman’s site will make your brain hurt after not too long! I really appreciate what he did around single length testing though, including the computer modeling of different iron head sets and their theoretical distance gapping.

I actually bought the Pinhawk Vertex 3i last year to test out as a short driving iron (38"). It’s an absolutely gorgeous clubhead since the cavity-back is covered, it’s got a ‘hot face’ so it clicks and really goes when you hit the sweet spot, but I found that the offset of 7 or 8mm was waaay too much and I was snapping the head closed and hooking this thing 225 off the tee box most of the time. Tried taming it down with a steel shaft but I lost almost 30 yards total! Not sure what I am going to do with that club but it sure is pretty to look at, maybe a different graphite shaft or a hard-step to keep the face on plane…

As any curious golfer will, I’ve read a ton of Tom Wishon responses. I do remember him talking about shafts and how that could solve the droop issue. I don’t think he even had a 4i in his first set of Sterlings if I remember correctly because nobody could flight it. Edel makes a set of SL irons with different shaft profiles in each club which people seem to love. Those are like $2k irons though.

Cobra actually has the most interesting specs in their modern one-length setups. I don’t know all of the details but the Cobra irons have progressively more upright lie angles as the lofts go down, their theory is that you WILL swing your 4,5,6i harder than your 7,8,9i so they increase lie to allow for more shaft droop that a harder swing would cause (not to be confused with long-iron gap droop). I don’t necessarily agree with their theory, but also don’t think for a second that I swing my 6i the same as I swing my PW, so there is probably some method to the madness, I just think they may have gone overboard.

I’ll get to the putters later still have lots of testing to do. Putting is my 2023 focus, hoping to average 30 or less putts per round this time next year. Bought a face balanced head, 2 mallets (counterbalanced and a small-headed mallet), and a blade-mallet much like the Odyssey Double Wide from Diamond Tour Golf. They all have different head weights and toe-hang. Picked up a couple Superstroke Flatso’s (my current favorite) as well as a Winn counter-balanced 17" grip and a Winn counterbalance 15" grip like Victor Hovland uses. Time will tell.

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It is easy to come up with a lot of experiments, but finding the time and money can be the tough part. Something I may get back to when my youngest heads to college next year…I’ll have more time at least although less money.

I haven’t tried the single length route as I know a handful of people that did and they went back to more traditional iron sets. I think my next experiment may involve adjusting the gap between clubs. For a while now I’ve been interested in what Dan Connelly did with his TLT system. Instead of having 2.5" from PW to 5i I would likely have only about 1.5". I would still MOI the set and adjust lies accordingly. Of course this may only help my iron play and not my struggles with the driver and other clubs.


Awesome topic. I dabbled with SL irons with a slightly different theory. I play a 48" driver and traditional irons 1.5" longer than normal so I thought it would be interesting to do SL irons with lighter graphite shafts set to around a 4I length. I only reshafted 3 of the irons (5,8,PW) but it didn’t work out that well for me. The 8 and PW would balloon up way too high and had too much spin for me to control.

I still may dabble more in 2023. I’m a huge fan of Tom Wishon and played a set of blades he designed for many years. The SL set I bought were also his design.

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