Irons Complexity
(loft angle and length)

Both woods and irons have specifications that continue to evolve for a number of reasons, both technical and marketing. Consider, for example, how average iron specifications have changed in the past few decades.

1970 1980 1990 2000
3i loft 25 deg. 23 deg. 22 deg. 21 deg.
3i length 38" 38 1/2" 38 1/2" 39"
5i loft 32 deg. 30 deg. 29 deg. 27 deg.
5i length 37" 37 1/2" 37 1/2" 38"
9i loft 48 deg. 45 deg. 45 deg. 43 deg.
9i length 35" 35 1/2" 35 1/2" 36"

Average Manufactured Loft Angles and Lengths of
Irons by Golf Equipment Manufacturers

Referring to the chart, one can see where average iron lengths have become longer and loft angles have decreased. So if your playing partner is using his vintage Armour Silver Scot 5 iron to reach a par 3 and you are using your modern day 7 iron, the reason isn't necessarily that you are a better ball striker but simply that the modern day 7 iron has the approximate specs of the yesteryear 5 iron.

Multiple Iron Lengths are a Nightmare for the average Player

Adding to the complexity of iron selection is the fact the industry decided long ago to taper lengths from long irons to short by 3/8 to 1/2", club to club. So when you have finally settled on a new set of irons to buy you have really bought 8 or 9 different irons due to length differentials. This 'iron length complexity' is acceptable to players who constantly play the game but is probably the main reason the 'average golfer' never seems to improve scores from year to year per stats from the National Golf Foundation.

Another problem with irons is the wide variation in specs across clubs models, year of production and manufacturer. In a given year, manufacturer A may produce their 'pro line' 5 iron at a 27 degree loft while manufacturer B might set their 5 iron loft at 29 degrees and at a different club length. In addition, manufacturer A may also produce a secondary or dealer line of irons with a loft of 30 degrees which is about a club different than their 'pro line'. A golfer testing both might opt for the 'pro line' saying "I hit these irons about a club farther than their other product line". As you now understand, this isn't because the 'pro line' is necessarily 'a better make' iron, which it may be, but because the specs favor one set, distance wise, over the other. Besides, irons are for 'control' with distance being determined by loft angle (iron number) and distance should not be a comparison point for selecting a set of irons.

Usually manufacturers use the same iron head for both steel and lighter weight graphite shafts. To compensate for the much lighter weight of graphite, the club length for graphite is usually made 1/2 or 1" longer. Otherwise the clubs may feel abnormally light and hard to swing effectively -- try practicing with a shaft with no attached head and see how difficult it is to consistently swing with reduced weight resistance. Unfortunately, with the extra length for graphite, the club 'lie' angle will change meaning the club at address may not sit on the turf squarely. In fact, 'lie angles' too upright cause hooking and too flat, slicing. For this reason custom fit irons are encouraged by manufacturers .. and it is no wonder why.

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