One Length Irons vs Variable Length Irons Debate

One Length Irons Vs Variable Length Irons – Should You Make The Switch?

In theory, One Length irons have simplified the game of golf. It’s an attractive idea, because every golfer wants to become more consistent, and they will happily spend money to help achieve that consistency. 

But are One Length Irons actually a viable option for most players? In this article, we look at the strengths and weaknesses of the single length concept. Let’s get started. 

Article Summary

Why are One Length Irons more consistent?

1. Your Can Use Your 7 Iron Swing For Every Iron In Your Bag

Most golfers feel very comfortable hitting their 7 iron. This is important, because One length irons are built to replicate the weight, length and feel of a 7 iron. This allows you to apply your 7 iron swing to each and every iron in the bag (and yes, that includes gap wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge, if you go all-in with the one length method).

2. You spine angle, swing arc and ball position become constant

Let’s take a second to review what the word constant actually means. This snippet from vocabulary.com sums it up quite nicely. “In math and science, a constant is a number that is fixed and known, unlike a variable which changes with the context.

When you put one length irons in the bag, you are establishing a mathematical constant in your golf game. It makes perfect sense that this can lead to consistency improvements for amateurs that have limited time to practice (and professionals that actually have an open mind). 

One Length Irons Benefits

In the image, you can clearly see how the swing arc (steep/shallow) changes with each club, and also how the length of the club affects how far away from the ball you should stand (ball position). 

People often think about ball position relative to how far left or right the ball is in their stance. This obviously has an impact on how you deliver the club into the ball, but it’s it’s not the only aspect of ball position. 

More specifically, the length of the club in your hands also determines how far away from the ball you should stand. Intuitively most people know that they stand closer to the ball with a lob wedge than they do with a driver. This aspect of ball position doesn’t receive nearly as much attention, but it’s vitally important to this discussion about one length irons. 

If you play variable length irons, your spine angle, swing arc and ball position (how far away from the ball you stand) alter with every single club in your golf bag. It’s hard to imagine how this would improve the consistency of your swing. In fact, changing your spine angle, swing arc and ball position (when using variable length irons) sounds like a recipe for inconsistency. 

3 Your practice time can become much more effective

Bruce Lee said it best. “Don’t fear the man that has practiced 1000 different techniques. Fear the man who has practiced the same technique, 1000 different times.

With One Length Irons, you can apply Bruce Lee’s consistency maxim to your golf game. Instead of practicing a slightly different swing for every club in you bag, all your full length iron shots become one and the same from a physiological perspective. 

Whichever way you look at it, practicing the same swing with every single iron is likely to generate consistency benefits in the long run. It may take some time to adjust,  but if you stick it out, it could be one of the most important shifts that will ever happen in your golf game. 

How do One Length irons work in the short game and wedges?

There is a perception that the shorter the club, the easier it is to hit. However, this logic can only extend so far (no pun intended). For instance, there’s a reason your sand wedge is 35″ rather than 29″. 

At a certain point, a golf club can become too short for you to hit with contorting your body into an uncomfortable address position. When a club is too short for you, the most common tendency is to bend over excessively. This can make it far more difficult to maintain a good posture when you address the ball, and a consistent spine angle for the entirety of the swing. 

This is problematic, because when  hitting balls with anything less than a full swing, knowing where your swing will bottom out has a massive impact on your confidence levels and your technical proficiency. A consistent spine angle can make it easier to hit down on the ball with a shallow angle of attack (good chipping technique), and establish a consistent ‘bottoming out point’. This is significantly better than stabbing at the ball with a steep angle of attack (and very little confidence in where the bottom of your swing actually is). 

To put it another way, the longer the shaft, the less you need to bend your spine when you address the club behind the ball. Obviously a shaft can also be too long, but a 7 iron shaft strikes a good balance between long and short. I appreciate that there will be naysayers to this idea and I’m totally fine with that. All I’m saying is that hitting a chip with a 7 iron (ie the one that is currently in your golf bag) really isn’t as difficult as some people might suggest. You can stand taller over the ball, and this actually makes it much easier to rotate around your spine. 

In other words, switching to a lob wedge with a longer shaft could actually be a viable cure for your short game woes. 

Ultimately, if your short game is inconsistent and you struggle with making good contact with the ball before the turf, the overly short length of your current lob wedge might be a contributing factor. Conversely, if you are super confident over short chips and pitches with your current wedge setup, converting to One Length Irons may have limited benefits.

What You Need To Know About One Length Wedges

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1. You will hit One Length wedges further than normal wedges

This is because the longer shaft increases swing speed with higher lofted clubs (an inevitable consequence of the longer shaft).  As a result, you will need to practice your finesse swing (ie less than full swing) in order to get good with one length wedges (you should be doing this anyway). 

2. Your angle of attack should shallow out (this is a good thing)

The longer the club, the shallower the angle of attack will be. This goes back to the swing arc discussion. 

  • Shorter club = steeper swing arc
  • Longer club = shallower swing arc

Because One Length Wedges have longer shafts, it will shallow your swing arc and as a result, the angle of attack into the ball. This is a big benefit, because it increases the margin for error when chipping and pitching. 

Simply put, if your angle of attack is too steep, you are more likely to hit the ball fat, and you are more likely to hit the ball thin. By implementing a shallower swing arc, you can potentially decrease the frequency of fat and thin shots. Better yet, you won’t even have to put any conscious effort into shallowing the angle of attack. It is an inevitable consequence of using a golf club with a longer shaft. 

3. You can maintain a better posture over the ball

Instead of bending over excessively, One Length wedges make it much easier to maintain a more upright posture at address, and throughout the swing. The better your posture, the easier it should be to rotate around your spine. This can improve your ability to bottom out at the exact same position on short shots, which can potentially set the foundation for a newfound level of confidence in your short game. 

Biggest Weaknesses of One Length Irons

There are 3 primary weaknesses with single length irons. 

1. Distance Gapping Can Be A Problem

The single greatest weakness of One Length irons is club gapping (maintaining a consistent distance between clubs). The gaps between your short irons can become too big, while the gaps between your long irons can become too short. In this regard, variable length irons definitely have the advantage, although Cobra have made good strides with the gapping in the Forged Tec One Length Irons. 

2. Short Irons & Wedges Can Travel Too Far

We mentioned this earlier but it’s worth repeating. The increased shaft length on short irons and wedges will naturally increase clubhead speed (longer shaft = higher clubhead speed). As a result, your lob wedge, sand wedge and gap wedge are likely to travel 3-10 yards further than they currently do. 

3. Long Irons Might Launch Too Low & Not Travel Far Enough

This is partially why One Length Iron Sets often don’t include a 4 iron. The shorter shaft decreases swing speed in the longer clubs. This can make it more difficult to launch the ball high and generate the optimum level of backspin with longer clubs. Lower launch + less backspin = less distance.  This is the biggest weakness of One Length Irons. 

On this point, it’s worth mentioning Cobra have released a Utility 4 iron which can help compensate this issue with the 4 iron specifically. The Cobra Utility One Length 4 iron has an optimized center of gravity to help launch the ball higher than a traditional 4 iron. This helps to compensate for the shorter shaft length. 

Lastly, you are most likely to see this issue when comparing the distance of your 5 iron and 6 iron. With variable length irons, the distance gap between 5 and 6 iron should be about 10-15 yards. With one length irons, the distance gap between 5 and 6 iron will likely drop to 6-8 yards. 

What if you're still on the fence?

If you want to experiment with the One Length concept without going all in, my recommendation would be to buy a One Length 56 degree wedge and start experimenting on the range and short game practice facility of your club. If you can wrap your head around hitting a slightly longer sand wedge, you should find it very easy to convert to One Length Irons. 

Also, if you find it too difficult to adjust, selling a good quality second hand one length wedge shouldn’t be that difficult. This is the most cost effective way to trial the One Length concept, without a club fitter salivating all over your credit card during a fitting. 

Alternatively you can try GlobalGolf’s UTry program. With this program, you are effectively renting the clubs before deciding if you should buy them. In the case of one length irons, this is probably the safest way to give it a fair go, without any major financial risks. 

Should you just stick to variable length irons?

Despite all the benefits that you can potentially unlock with one length irons, there are still a bunch of reasons to stick to variable length irons, namely: 

  • You don’t have to readjust any aspect of your game
  • The distance gaps between your clubs will be more consistent
  • You should hit variable length long irons further than one length long iron equivalents
  • You might find that wedges are more comfortable with shorter shafts
  • There are far more companies to choose from, including Ping, Taylormade, Titleist & Callway

Final Thoughts

In the end, it comes down to this. 

1) Are you willing to sacrifice distance in your lower lofted irons in order to gain consistency and accuracy improvements across your full set of irons?

If you are okay with the slight distance loss in the lower lofted irons, you could definitely be a candidate for one length irons. Despite this slight drop with your 4,5 and 6 iron, you may find that you hit significantly more greens in regulation overall. To me, that seems like a very reasonable trade-off. 

2) Can you wrap your head around playing wedges with longer shafts?

You might be surprised to find out how many people see big improvements in their short game after switching to One Length wedges. These comments from users on Cobragolf describe the improvement better than I can. 

Testimonial 1

I am a convert. One length irons and wedges have improved my handicap significantly (originally 14, now 8). The wedges have been the greatest improvement, bladed and topped shots have reduced significantly after a short (one to two rounds, or one range session) transition period. If you traditionally have difficulty with your wedges (especially if you blade or top your shots), don’t let one or two fat shots with these new wedges discourage you, this little step back will be overcome and you’ll show long term improvement.”

Testimonial 2

I already play the one length irons and was having trouble with my wedges so I decided to go with the cobra one-length wedges (56 and 60 degree) and I am extremely happy! I thought it would take a while to get used to but two rounds later I am hitting them better than I’ve ever hit my other wedges. Great products and the free speaker was nice also! 🙂

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