Wednesday, January 20, 2016

FAQ on Wishon Golf's New Sterling Single Length Irons

Tom Wishon has announced his latest model of irons, the Sterling Single Length Model irons. I’ve gone over the single length irons concept a few times with Bryson DeChambeau winning the US Amateur using a single length set of irons which prompted Wishon Golf to make their own set. But, here’s some FAQ’s on the concept:

Can’t I just make every club the same length regardless of the model of irons I use?

You could, but you would find it to be very ineffective. Here’s the specs chart for The Sterling Single Length Set:

(Click to Enlarge)

The big thing is that the head weights are all the same. In a typical set of irons, the head weights get incrementally heavier as the club has more loft (which means a shorter length club). Standard sets have a spec sheet that looks like this:

This all has to do with the heft of the club. Regardless if you use traditional swingweight methods or MOI matching methods; a set that is all the same length has to have the heads all the same weight. Otherwise, the shorter irons will be tremendously heavy and the long irons will be extremely light. That’s why the standard sets have incremental weights on the heads where the longer length irons which have heavier shafts because the shaft is longer…also have lighter head weights.

The other factor is the lie angles. Wishon has the Sterling Single Length irons all at 63 degrees (roughly the lie angle of a standard 8-iron). Most forged iron heads are easy to bend the lie angles, but it’s important to keep the lie angles the same and trying to do this on some irons heads made from harder steels will be difficult to do.

Did DeChambeau have his head weights and lie angles the same? If so, how did he do it?

Yes. I believe his lie angles were also quite upright (69* degrees or so) as DeChambeau has his hands set very high at address. To my knowledge, he had this Single Length irons concept in his mind and was looking for a company that could accommodate him and Edel agreed to help.

What are the advantages of a Single Length iron set?

I don’t know for sure until I try it out myself. I do know that with a Single Length iron set the irons will be MOI matched (give or take 10 MOI points) because the components to the club (head, shaft, and grip) are virtually the same exact weight.

I would also think the face contact could improve not only because of the MOI matching, but now the swing does not have to be adjusted so much from club to club. You can stand the same distance from the ball with the same posture and over time, develop a better feel of where the ball should be when you are striking it.

So, let me get this right…if I have single length irons the MOI will match and I will be all set with MOI matching for my irons?

Not exactly. First, the irons may not *exactly* match at first. You have to remember that there are tolerances from both shaft companies and club head manufacturers. I believe Wishon’s tolerances are to have the heads +/- 2 grams from spec. And similar tolerances exist for shaft companies.

So, let’s say you are supposed to get a 4-iron head at 274 grams and a shaft that is supposed to be at 115 grams. The head may come in at 272 grams and the shaft may come in at 113 grams. That will produce a lighter MOI than the 5-iron that comes in with a 275 gram head weight and a 115 grams shaft weight. However, the differences in MOI are minimal compared to your traditional incremental length irons.

The other factor is that while this will match the MOI of the irons (or come close), that particular MOI may not be best for you. For instance, I play best with a MOI on my irons of 2,725. I may put together a set of Single Length irons and the MOI may come out to 2,675 on each club. What I would have to do is add weight to each club (roughly 5 grams) in order to get each club close to 2,725. However, it’s much easier to just add 5-grams to each club instead of having to add 2-grams to certain clubs and 9-grams to others.

What do you think the disadvantages to using a Single Length set?

I would be skeptical of the ability to control your distances. However, I watched the entire US Amateur and DeChambeau won because of his iron play and putting (he also uses an Edel Torque Balanced putter). And what was impressive about his iron play was his distance control was uncanny.

I would also be skeptical of the ball flight and just getting used to longer shaft lengths in the short irons. I used 3/8” shaft increments instead of ½” increments and have found it very beneficial on the long irons which are shorter than normal for me. So, I don’t think the long irons being shorter in a single length set would be much of an issue.

I will say this, when it comes to understanding all facets of equipment design and club fitting, Tom Wishon is by far the smartest and most knowledgeable individual I have ever encountered. I always like to say that ‘I’ve never been steered wrong by Tom Wishon when it comes to equipment’ and I would be willing to bet that any possible issues with the Single Length iron set concept has already been identified, researched, tested and accommodated for by Tom.

How long should each iron be?

Wishon states that the irons are designed to be built at 36.5, 36.75 or 37” long. He also stated that at 37.5” long it may generate too much distance on the shorter length irons. I think it largely depends on what the golfer feels comfortable with as well as the MOI of the irons.

For example, I’m tall and may feel more comfortable with a 37-1/2” shaft. But, if that produces a MOI of 2,750 which is greater than my ideal MOI of 2,725, I may want to go to a 37-1/4” shaft. If I feel comfortable with a 37” shaft and it produces a MOI of 2,700 all I have to do is add about 2 grams of weight to the head.

I think as time passes by golfers and clubmakers will start to figure out better ways to fit Single Length sets.

Why has this never been done before?

Actually, it has been done. Tommy Armour did it with a model called EQL. But, the concept was too radical and I think the marketing behind it was poorly done. IIRC, Tommy Armour’s marketing was that they believed that the 8-iron was the ‘perfectly designed club’ and wanted to make the club the same length as an 8-iron and that’s why people should buy it.

That’s not exactly convincing.

Other companies have used this concept as well, but none of them have the reputation and expertise that Tom Wishon (or David Edel) carries with them.

I’m really not sure why this was never done before by manufacturers other than they probably thought longer irons should be longer in length for distance control purposes. I would think it would be very beneficial for OEM’s because it would be better for inventory purposes and quality control.

Will you be using these irons?

I plan on giving some of them a try before I commit to anything. For starters, they are cavity back irons and I prefer blades, mostly because of the sole grinds on blades are something I am used to and prefer. I would also have to tinker around with the shaft length and shaft that would work best for me and I would have to figure out what the best Sand Wedge would be for me. Currently, I use a 52* Titleist Vokey F-Grind as my SW and a 60* Edel Digger Grind as my LW. I’m a little skeptical of using a Wishon SW which I’m not familiar with and using a longer shaft SW out of the bunkers based on experience.

I would also want to see how far I could hit the 5-iron. I use a 20-degree hybrid (and a 17-degree hybrid) that I hit about 225-230 yards and a 4-iron that I hit about 210 yards with a 5-iron I hit about 197 yards. It’s very important for me to keep that type of gapping.

Therefore I would imagine that I will start off experimenting with the 5-iron, 5-hybrid, 6-iron, the PW and the SW and see what I think.

Will they make a muscleback head?

Tom has stated that he has considered it.  I know Tom is not the biggest proponent of muscleback heads because of their lower club head MOI and I'm certain that muscleback heads are not the best sellers.  But, if the Sterling Models garner enough interest, I do not see why he would not offer a MB model.

When will these irons be available?

Sometime in March.



NM Golfer said...

Frankly, except for the "hot face" on the longer irons, hey look like a Wishon branded knock-off of the Pinhawks. I was trying to get Jaacob Bowden to make some forged musclebacks SL irons but instead he chose to start with these.

I believe Terry Koehler (the wedge guy) who says Hogan company robot testing results proved properly struck musclebacks were more accurate and more consistent. I know you've also written/linked articles in the past that delved into this subject as well Richie. Though he has the requisite robot, Wishon was unwilling to repeat that muscle-back comparison testing suggesting that it would be a waste of time.

My experiment with pinhawk SL irons was inconclusive. I could not stopping hitting them fat and eventually returned to my MP-29s. I suspect I simply do not have the MOI properly dialed and need to try different shafts. But like you I am partial to muscle backs with thinner soles anyway.

Rich H. said...

From my experience, with longer clubs if the MOI is too heavy the golfer will hit them thin and if it is too light, they will hit them fat. With shorter irons the opposite tends to be true (too heavy = fat, too light = thin).

In the spirit of DeChambeau, I also tried the jumbo max grips. Could not hit them in the least. Way too big for my hands. I think a player like DeChambeau, who has so little wrist-cock in the backswing, the jumbo grips work better for him.

Wishon has said that these Single Length irons may not be for everybody. So they may be like the jumbo max grips where they fit certain types of swings and don't work well for others.

The one big question I have left in terms of design is the bounce angles. Kirk Oguri said he has researched people using SL irons and they still steepen their attack angle with the shorter clubs. But, I would think that the bounce should either be the same or close to the same. Can't wait to find out when these clubs come out. Even if they don't suit me, at least I can say that I tried them and they didn't work for me.