Frequently Asked Questions About Sterling Irons™
With Jaacob Bowden
Sterling single-length irons are in great demand. Please see Engineered Golf, a professional club fitter located in North Bay, Ontario, for your set.
Listed below are my answers to some of the most common questions Tom and I have received thus far about Sterling Irons ™ and single length irons in general.
Are single length irons legal?
The Sterling Irons ™ were specifically designed to be USGA conforming. We’re currently in the process of submitting them to the USGA for approval. (Editor's Note: They have now been USGA approved as of March 2016).
What are the benefits of single length irons?
The main selling point of single length irons is that they are simply easier to play.
In a conventional set of golf clubs, each iron is made with a different length and weight…and they are meant to be played from a different ball position as you go from club to club. Golf is already hard enough and conventional iron design only complicates the game further.
On the other hand, single length irons are all the same length and weight. This means you only need one swing and one ball position as you go from club to club. For the average amateur who doesn’t play regularly, this can make hitting the ball easier and the game more fun.
For the better player and/or professional, you will be able to hit your approach shots much closer, make more birdies, and leak less bogeys. This is especially useful with the lower lofted irons in that 175-225 yard range that is so statistically critical to tour success. The Sterling Irons ™ in particular are built to be 8-iron length. This length ensures that you will hit the lower-lofted clubs more consistently in the sweet spot…while still not being so long-shafted that it feels odd to be playing 9-iron or wedges that are slightly longer than in a conventional set. If you want to hit the ball better, shoot lower scores, and have more fun…you should play single length irons.
Do any pros play single length irons?
Honestly, you shouldn’t play any clubs simply because a pro plays them. Typically, top tour players are paid millions of dollars to play clubs from a certain manufacturer and it is in their contract to switch to the latest clubs any time the manufacturer comes out with something new. Really you should play what best fits your own game.
That being said…the answer is yes. Bobby Jones apparently won the Grand Slam using single length irons. Moe Norman, a golfer who many consider one of the greatest ball strikers of all times, used single length irons. I used 1Iron Golf’s single length irons to shoot my first tournament round in the 60s in 2007. I also shot the Speedgolf World Championship record for golf score at Bandon Dunes with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using GRIA Golf’s single length hybrid irons. More recently, in 2015 Bryson DeChambeau used single length irons from Edel Golf to win the NCAA Championship and US Amateur. Bryson will be using his single length irons in next month’s Masters tournament, (April 2016).
Have single length iron sets been done before?
Yes, a Canadian company by the name of Iso-Vibe designed a set a number of decades ago. Tommy Armour came out with the EQL’s in the 1980s. My Ostrich Golf created the PureFit iMatch SLs, but are also, no longer in production. More recently, 1Iron Golf, GRIA Golf, Single Swing Golf, and Value Golf all manufacture single length irons. Edel Golf will also be coming out with additional set options in 2016.
What’s different about the Sterling Irons™ single length irons?
In designing Sterling Irons ™, we have had the advantage of both my, and Tom Wishon’s experience, the Internet for research, and modern technology for testing. I’ve been involved with playing and selling single length irons since 2007, and I knew the single length iron market very well.
Tom Wishon is a 40-year veteran of the golf equipment industry specializing in club head design, shaft performance analysis, and club fitting research and development. During the initial phases of working together, we scavenged the Internet to find every possible bit of information about what worked, and did not work, with single length irons. We then compartmentalized the feedback in to buckets and literally sat down at a white board to try to figure out how to retain all the benefits of single length irons, while fixing all the problems and common complaints.
We were also able to test all our prototypes with both human testing and robot testing on Trackman, which Tom has at his R&D facility at the Dalton Ranch Golf Club in Durango, CO.
We set out to design a cool-looking, customizable, and competition-legal set of single length irons based off an 8-iron length club (single length irons have historically been built from 5-iron to 7-iron length) that went the distances and trajectories that you’d expect for a set of modern day golf clubs.
We feel like we’ve done it!
The Sterling Irons™ are a huge leap forward in modern day single length iron technology.
What are the Sterling Irons™ specifications?
The clubs also have a weight bore in the hosel to achieve desired swing weights.
Why aren’t the major club manufacturers selling single length irons?
To our understanding, companies aren't making single length clubs as a result of misguided manufacturing decisions made earlier in the 20th century. Now that thousands and thousands of iron sets have been made this way, consequently we think the modern golf psyche is now so deeply entrenched in the idea that irons have to all be different lengths, that no major manufacturer is willing to take the risk at trying to change the design perception of the entire golf industry. Even though the science supports same length clubs, we're still stuck where we are because of a mix of stubborn tradition and a business risk that few will take on.
To elaborate more on the risk, one time I was talking to the former CEO of a major golf company and they were talking about single length irons...here is what this former CEO said:
"Same length has been done, personally I've been a fan but it's a tough concept to sell. Reality; In the US golf industry there are 6 major chains that buy product that is sold to what constitutes 85% of the market. All but roughly 2-3 % of the rest is sold in golf pro shops and they are influenced by the retailers. The buyers for these major chains only buy what is played on tour and pretty much in order of market share. Like it or not we dance to that tune. To introduce something like single length after investing in the design we'd have to spend millions on marketing and not so minor get tour credibility because no product is successful at retail without it."
- Anonymous Former Major Golf Company CEO
So even though this guy is personally a fan, the company wouldn't do it because the buyers for retail stores only buy what's played on tour...and it would cost too much money to get tour players to play same length despite the good concept!
It's just about money and risk and not what's best for the golfer!
How long does it take to get used to the Sterling Irons™?
The answer to that will depend on the person. Some people might start playing better with them immediately. Others may take several weeks or more of practice and play to adjust.
Regardless, we feel the important thing is to be open-minded and give them a chance to work for you. We are confident they can help your game.
How far will I hit the Sterling Irons™?
How far you will hit conventional or single length irons depends on your present swing.
Someone who swings slower will have tighter distance gaps and won’t hit the ball as far. A faster swinger will have larger distance gaps and have more distance. But mostly the gaps are designed to be somewhere in the 10-15-yard range.
It also depends a bit on the loft of the club. All else being equal, a 45-degree pitching wedge will go farther than a 47-degree pitching wedge. Keep that in mind when comparing these clubs to others you may have hit.
Can the Sterling Irons™ be bent?
Yes, they can be bent +/- 4 degrees.
Why is there no 60-degree lob wedge?
In part, we decided to not include a 60-degree lob wedge because, quite frankly, most amateurs have such great difficulty hitting them. In fact, my Dad hasn’t used his lob wedge in years.
That being said, the Sterling Irons ™ wedges are made from 8620 Carbon Steel, which means they are made from a soft enough steel that the loft angles can be bent up to +/- 4 degrees. In this way, you could effectively create a lob wedge from the existing 55-degree sand wedge.
For example, you might bend the PW from 45 to 46…the GW from 50 to 52…and the SW from 55 to 58. This creates a nice even loft spread between your wedges and giving you one at the end of the spectrum that is higher lofted.
In a perfect world, the set could have included several wedges of different loft and sole angles. Perhaps we will add more wedges in the future if there is the demand. But for now with this first generation, the design that we’ve chosen has the flexibility to work very well for the vast majority of golfers.
Will you add a 3 or 4 iron or hybrid to the set?
A 19-degree 4-hybrid was originally designed with the set.
One of the historical problems with single length iron sets was that the club distance gapping was slightly bunched. One of the ways we addressed that was to spread out the loft gaps by 5 degrees from sand wedge down to 8-iron and 4 degrees from 7-iron to 5-iron versus the more normal 4 and 3 degrees gaps with conventional iron sets. Because of this the Sterling Irons™ 5-iron and 5-hybrid already get you down to 23 degrees, which might more normally be a modern conventional 4-iron. So in a way, there already is a “4-iron”.
As for the actual 19-degree 4-hybrid, during testing, I had no problem getting the ball up in the air with this club. However, I am a highball hitter and have PGA TOUR level club head speed (PGA TOUR club head speeds typically range from 105-125 mph). For some of the more normal and slower swinging testers, a number of them had difficulty getting the ball high enough for it to be playable.
Since about 75% of golfers have driver club head speeds between 85-105 mph, we decided to hold off on including the 19-degree 4-hybrid in this first generation of Sterling Irons ™.
That being said, we still have the tooling die, which means we can still have some manufactured if we get enough requests.
I was kind of hoping for a “player’s” set. Will this be coming in the future?
Similar to conventional iron sets, there can be never be a single design that appeals to all players. This first generation of Sterling Irons ™ is primarily targeted towards the 75% of golfers who are swinging a driver between 85-105 mph. But that doesn’t mean slower or faster swingers can’t play the set. (I am playing them!)
If enough interest is shown in designing a set targeted more specifically for higher swing speed players, we would certainly consider adding a set like this to the line-up.
Why do the clubs have progressive offset?
One of the issues that we observed with traditional single length iron sets was that the lower lofted clubs sometimes had peak shot heights that were too low and the higher lofted clubs were peaking too high.
Tom had the clever idea of incorporating progressive offset in to the Sterling Irons ™. This offset puts the center of gravity a little farther back from the shaft bore centerline which can help increase launch angle.
This helped solve the problem of too low of shots with the lower lofted clubs.
Is the center of gravity from the shaft line the same from club to club?
Yes. Tom designed all the Sterling Irons™ heads with the same blade length to keep the CG relative to the face centerline the same from head to head.
Couldn’t I just cut down my current set of irons to be the same length?
You could, but they are not designed to do this. You would have to add length to your higher lofted clubs as well as grind off weight. On the lower lofted clubs you would need to add a lot of weight. You would also have to adjust the loft of the clubs to get the right distance gapping, but this could effectively change the bounce of your clubs and create a club that skips or digs too much. Then there’s the problem of achieving consistent peak heights with all the clubs.
On the other hand, the Sterling Irons™ are specifically designed to be built with a single shaft length using a single ball position.
Are the Sterling Irons™ available for left-handers?
Not yet. We aren’t particularly happy about this. It’s not because we are discriminating against lefties. Rather it’s simply a cold, distasteful financial decision.
You see, statistically, left-handed sets never sell more than 8% of the units of a right-handed model. At this point, we have no idea how popular the Sterling Irons ™ will be. So at this point it just didn’t make sense to take the financial risk. However, our hope is that the Sterling Irons ™ become popular and that there is enough demand to also offer left-handed sets.
(Editor’s Note: In the interim, if you are left-handed and still wish to play single length, then Engineered Golf is fitting and building modified Wishon golf clubs that replicate the Sterling Irons ™ very well. In fact, the high-COR concept in the lower lofted heads of the Sterling Irons ™ have been developed from Wishon’s earlier high-COR models. Left-handed sets are available from 21 degrees of loft through to 58 degrees in different combinations of hybrids, irons and wedges).