Dave Tutelman --
August 19, 2007
This page added -- August 24, 2017
I had to opportunity to evaluate a
set of Pinhawk
single-length irons personally. My experience, by and large, bears out
what analysis and rumor suggested in the first two parts of this
I built a set of Pinhawk single-length irons, 5-9,
GW for my own use. I built them to the specs of my conventional 7-iron.
I did some A-B testing and a lot of playing golf with them. From time
to time, I
would switch back to my conventional set for a few rounds. Or perhaps I
would switch back to the conventional short irons but leave the
single-length "long" irons.
"Long" is in quotes because they aren't
really any longer, just lower loft. But I will retain the terms "long
iron" and "short iron" for the rest of this discussion.) I
will also call the wedge between the PW and SW a "gap
wedge" or GW. Pinhawk and some other manufacturers mark it with an 'A',
probably for "attack
took six months of experience before I wrote this article. For much of
that time, I was suffering from sciatica, which not only interfered
with my making a good swing but also limited my practice time. (Hey,
I'm 76 years old. The good news is that I'm still playing walking
golf.) In June, the back ailment was treated with a cortisone shot. It
has been mostly effective. I am finding that my initial impressions are
pretty similar to my pain-free experience, so what is in this chapter
is probably correct -- at least for my game.
The bottom line is: I
still have the single-length irons in my bag. They seem to be an
improvement in reliability over my conventional set. The improvement is
not huge, but (a) it is enough to notice, and (b) my scores are
The rest of this article is a lot of details of the evaluation and the
When I decided to build and try out a single length set, there wasn't
much doubt about which heads I would use. I mentioned on the previous
page that Pinhawk would probably be my starting point. Why
The choice was made a lot easier when Aaron Banach of Value
offered to make me a set to try. After some discussion, we agreed that
it would be better if he sent me only the heads; I wanted to make the
set to the same specs as my conventional 7-iron, to make sure I am
comparing apples to apples.
like the loft lineup. From my computer simulations, it would give
distances similar to what I get from my conventional club of the same
- The price is reasonable. It isn't as low as
lots of conventional sets, but the difference is easily attributable to
the lower quantity to be manufactured and inventoried. If
single-length sets become the norm, I would expect the prices to be
what conventional heads cost today.
- Nothing exotic is going on.
In particular, there is no high-COR flexing of the clubface. That makes
it easier to compare with the conventional irons I am used to.
Remember, the primary goal of this set is to evaluate the single-length
premise. If, in addition to single-length, I were to get heads with
enhanced COR, the comparison would no longer test only the value of
Immediately upon receiving the heads, I measured them. Assuming there
was no individual component selection in the set they sent me, the
quality control is very good.
- I'm used to weight tolerances of ±3g for irons heads.
All the heads here were between 270 and 272, with the majority at 271g,
a tolerance for the set of ±1g. (That was after subtracting 1g
for the plastic shrink wrap. I have learned over the years that 1g is a
good approximation for the wrapping weight. I like to leave the
wrappers on until the club is assembled, to prevent marring the heads
during assembly, so I usually don't get a chance to weight the clubhead
alone without a wrapper.)
- I'm used to loft tolerances of ±1°. I
measured loft and lie with an old, reliable Scotland L/L machine. The
8- and 9-irons were a half-degree high; the rest were spot-on.
- The lie angles were all 62° except for the 8-iron at
61°. I didn't want to talk about half-degree differences here; it's
hard enough to make sure you have the head aligned properly in the L/L
machine to get a precision of even 1°. You have to visually line up the
grooves with a guide line less than 1" long. So I'm impressed with the
consistency of the lies.
My measurement turned up something that may be a cause
for concern. The insertion depth for the shaft is 1-1/8" to 1-5/32".
That is in contrast to the usual 1-1/4" to 1-3/8" in most irons. So the
Pinhawk's insertion depth is about 10% less. A shorter insertion depth
will increase the stress on the shaft tip. Has that caused any problems
-- like snapping shafts? Aaron assures me that they have had no
in that regard, and I haven't had that problem in the six
I've been using the Pinhawks.
thing I noticed about the design: there is an "undercut" in the lower
flange. That in itself is not surprising; many irons these days have
undercut cavities, and this was even mentioned on their web page. What
was a little surprising was that this was minimal in the 4- and 5-iron,
but very deep in the wedges -- with a corresponding progression in
between. See the photo above for the 4 iron and gap wedge.
might they want to do this?
It is a way of equalizing the weights of the heads, without
changing too much what they look like compared with a conventional set.
You are removing the most weight here from the shortest clubs, which
usually have the heaviest heads. The weight difference between a 4i and
GW in a conventional set is typically 42 grams, but they are all the
same weight in a single-length set.
In this set, all the clubheads look like their conventional
counterparts, and it's hard to add or remove that much weight and still
have conventional-looking clubheads. I measured the cavities as well as
I could with simple instruments, and conclude that, depending on the
club, up to 30-35 grams is
removed from the flange to create the undercut. That accounts for the
majority of the weight adjustment across the set.
BTW, I am discounting the idea that this is to increase COR in some of
the clubs, because (a) it is in the wrong clubs, the wedges, and (b)
the face thickness is over 1/8", which is too thick to exhibit spring
goal, of course, is to create a set of single-length irons with the
same specifications as my conventional 7-iron. "Specifications"
included length, swingweight, moment of inertia, flex, and grip.
did I deal with each spec?
- Length = 37.7
Yes, that is long. All my irons for more than a decade have been 5/8"
to 3/4" longer than the nominal "standard". Around 2004 an instructor
and clubfitter I have a lot of respect for, John Ford, pointed out that
I had "hole in the glove" syndrome. That's where you grip the club so
the top corner of the handle rubs the heel of the hand, wearing a hole
in the golf glove there. Why is this bad? Because in order to have
proper control of the club, the handle must extend fully beyond the
lead hand. I didn't want to change my stance and swing, so I decided to
cure the syndrome by lengthening my clubs. Since then, I have built my
irons longer than standard, and allow the butt of the grip to stick out
a bit beyond my hands.
- Swingweight =
- Flex = 275cpm.
Before someone who actually knows something about flex jumps
over me, yes I know that frequency is not a universal measure of flex.
But I chose a shaft with a very similar flex profile and weight to my
conventional 7-iron. The clubs were all the same length as my 7-iron.
I'm sure that more clubmakers today recognize frequency measures than
the more precise measures (like sum-of-EI).
So using frequency as a measure of matching is valid and perhaps even
recommended in this case.
Length is easy; just make it that length. I did, though through an
indirect method I use to build most of my clubs.
is easy, too. With all the heads the same weight (to within a gram of
nominal) and all the shafts the same weight (to within a couple of
grams of nominal), if they are the same length then they are the same
weight. And I have a swingweight
scale to trim the small differences. So that worked fine.
Moment of inertia is automatic. If clubs with the same head weights and
shaft model are
built to the same length, then both
swingweight and MOI are going to be the same. Swingweight and MOI are
only different across a set if the club lengths are different.
I used my favorite grip, the Star Midsize Wrap.
I prefer to play without a glove, so feel is important to me. Star
Grips may not be well-known big sellers, but their feel is (for me,
anyway) an ideal compromise between too hard and too mushy. Their
amazing longevity also helps, as does the ease of working with them in
the shop, but I get them mostly for the feel.
leaves shaft flex. The shaft model I used in my conventional set is no
longer available. Fortunately, I had in my basement a full set of
shafts, a house brand from Hireko, whose flex profile was very similar
to my irons. So I used them. A few had non-negligible spine, and they
were not all the same stiffness. But I have the instruments to measure
and compensate for this, and I did. When I was done, the clubs matched
remarkably well for flex. But in order to do it, the shafts require
different amounts of tip trim. You can see this by looking at the
picture of the set at the beginning of this article. Notice that the
gold bands on the shafts are not all at the same level. The fact that I
used an organized approach to dealing with the raw shafts can be seen
from the almost monotonical progression of the gold band across the set.
brings me to a discussion of other ways to set up the shaft flex. It is
possible to set the clubs up so the long irons have high-launch shafts
and the low irons low-launch shafts. It sounds like there might be some
advantages, but I didn't do it that way. Reasons:
Other articles on my site give more detail on the indirect method I
used to cut
the clubs to length and the method for matching flex on a set of irons.
- I asked Aaron whether he recommends it for his heads, and
he said no.
I did it, I would not be testing the concept of a single-length set
compared to a conventional set. Instead, I would be innovating in the
single-length space. That's not a bad thing to do, but I intended this
to be a comparison, not an optimization.
finally got around to building the single-length set in February of
2017, almost two months after the heads arrived. I was having a very
busy winter, with a few consulting jobs. On top of that, I was bothered
by sciatica which limited my ability to swing a golf club, and the
climate of the New Jersey shore makes winter golf an iffy thing -- so
there was no strong motivation to finish the clubs to play them.
they were built, of course, I was itching to try them out. My sciatica
made practicing uncomfortable, so I jumped right into a round of golf.
I played with some of my regulars at Colts Neck GC, which had been
modified for winter play. Temporary tees and greens shortened the
course to a par-68 executive course. That made it possible to use the
new irons for almost everything. I used the driver on two holes, where
there was a forced carry. Otherwise, it was irons for every shot; I
wasn't even carrying a fairway metal or hybrid. I teed off with the
4-iron on the par-fours and par-fives. Used my conventional-length sand
wedge for actual
greenside bunkers and my putter on the [temp] greens, but otherwise
shot was with the Pinhawks.
I wound up with the best score in
our foursome, which probably would have happened anyway. But it is
notable that they were using drivers from the tee and fairway woods
from the fairway; I was limiting myself to long irons for both. A few
observations for this first experience:
continued to use the single-length set for the rest of the winter and
into the spring. Then I started switching with my conventional set for
3-6 rounds. I quickly came to the conclusion that I liked the
single-length long irons (4, 5, and 6), but continued to switch out the
short irons (8, 9, PW, GW). I will detail the specific
I found between my single length and conventional sets below, but
suffice it to say that I have overcome any problems and now hit them
more accurately and consistently than my conventional set.
- I hit the 4-iron
very well off the tee, with a few exceptions in the middle of the round
(see below). I had a lot
of solid hits that went almost as far as my
buddies' good drives (and further than their not-so-good drives), and
mostly where I aimed them.
- I am getting a good distance range.
The eight clubs seem to give me as much range as the seven irons plus
4-hybrid in my conventional set. Perhaps a bit more, in fact. I'll need
to verify it with actual
score was comparable to a pretty good round at this course as it is
normally set up. It is usually a par-71, but in the winter par-68. I
81, and I'm normally pretty happy with an 84 for the summer setup.)
- Where I gave up strokes, it could be I'm having trouble
getting used to a single-length set. Specifically:
the first five holes, I was long twice with a well-struck iron; well
beyond the green, so it cost me a stroke. In each case, the ball was
high and straight, but it flew the green. I used the experience to
reassess what distance to expect. I continued to be long more often
than short, but not past the back of the green again.
- In the
middle of the round, I hit a few very thin worm-burner 4-irons off the
tee. (Though "off the tee" is not quite accurate; I only used a peg
twice. Usually I picked a spot on the teeing area simulating a good
fairway lie, and hit from the ground.) My problem? Let me speculate. I
think I was trying to put a 4-iron swing on it. My 7-iron swing was
clearly the thing to use; I was not going to reach the ball if I
assumed the club was a 4-iron length.
- My chipping and short pitching left a lot to be desired.
Too many fat hits. Gotta get used to the longer PW and GW.
tend to hit my irons pretty high anyway, so I was not unhappy at all
with the trajectory of the low-lofted irons. (4i at 20° and 5i at 25°.
I was getting lovely flights from them.) As expected, I was hitting the
lofted clubs (9i, PW, GW) very high on my full swings. Plenty of
distance -- that was not a problem -- and the shots hit and stopped;
but I'll have to see if it is playable in the wind.
to "calibrate" the set, to make my distance chart for the single-length
iron set. It was a long wait before I found a good day for it. In order
to have good measurement, there needed to be little or no wind and a
temperature over 60°F, so it wasn't until May that I did it.
methodology was pretty informal. Hit six shots with a club. Set my GPS
to "track" and walk out to retrieve the balls, carrying a clipboard. At
each ball, I write the distance reading on the GPS. So I have a
six-shot sample for each club. Apart from the relatively small sample
size, the results were probably polluted by the fact that sciatica was
limiting my ability to make a full, aggressive swing.
results were a little shorter than I expected, but not much. The
results were also more scattered, in both distance and direction, than
I had expected. With 20:20 hindsight, the results are probably
consistent with a bad ball-striking day on the course. I'll have to go
back and do it again sometime.
I did get one important result
out of it. My 4-iron distances were barely distinguishable from my
5-iron distances. That was true for the median, the average,
the maximum. By all those measures, there was only 3-4 yards
difference. So I packed away the 4-iron and started thinking about a
hybrid for the next distance beyond the 5-iron. (More on that below,
where I talk about set makeup.)
the six months between that first round in February and this writing in
August, I played most of my golf using the single-length
set. I play
three rounds in a typical week, so we're talking about almost 80 rounds
total. Occasionally I would swap them for my conventional irons for a
week or two. That only happened once with the long irons but three
times with the short irons, before I decided the single-length set was
I experienced pretty much what I expected from the long irons,
There was an unexpected benefit from the shorter
5-iron. The 5-iron is the longest (well, lowest-loft) iron I carry. If
I need to do a punch or knock-down shot to keep the ball low, that is
the club I use. Now that my 5-iron is shorter than it was in the
conventional set, that shot is easier to execute. I can hit the
low-flying, long-running knock-down further and much more
than I used to. Last week, over the course of three rounds, I had three
I could just punch out from behind a tree (and almost certaily lose a
stroke) or be much more agressive about a full-distance shot that stays
below the tree branches. In all three cases, I decided to go for it;
and I pulled off all three, saving a stroke in each case. With my
conventional-length 5-iron I probably would have screwed up two of the
reliability, due to the shorter length.
But I need to qualify this. For at least a month, I found myself
hitting a lot of 6i-4i shots thin, sometimes nearly a dead top. I
think I still had the mindset (the mental "feel") of a conventional
set, and was imagining swinging a longer club. After the first month,
that miss seemed to go away; it is not a problem any more, but took
some getting used to.
trajectory, due to the shorter length. That tended to be
- Less backspin.
- No loss in
In fact, I often find my best-struck long irons to be longer than I
could expect from my conventional irons with the same
designation. I believe the extra distance is roll after
since I've got a
lower trajectory and less backspin.
- Decided long
I don't think this is any worse than my conventional clubs, which
also suffer from long iron droop. But the droop was measurable and
It took months to convince me to make the single-length short irons
part of my permanent bag. I had a few problems getting used to them.
Once I did, I was hitting them better than my conventional short irons.
But it took several switches between conventional and single-length
8-iron, 9-iron, and wedges before the decision was solid.
Here are the problems.
The bottom line is that all my problems with the high-lofted
single-length irons are overcome by making sure my release is not
early. I should have some shaft lean remaining at impact; flipping is a
no-no. I don't know why this seems more critical with the single-length
set, but it has been my experience.
After that first "honeymoon" round in February, I ran into a problem
with the 9-iron and wedges. I found it too easy to "flip" my hands at
the ball and have it go too high and land well short of where it
should. Over the months I have been using them, I have found that the
problem goes away if I focus on making a swing with forward
lean at impact.
- Moon balls.
Even with my good strikes, the ball goes much higher than it does with
my conventional clubs of the same loft. The extra length just seems to
launch the ball higher. I still get my distance.
(Often my distance and then some. On days when my short iron swing is
good, I may get another half club out of the wedges.) I have not had
occasion to play these clubs in a strong wind yet. All that height is
likely to be a problem there.
- Fat hits on
full swings. This has not been a general problem. But for
the first nine after I switch to the
single-length set after playing several rounds with a conventional set,
it is a recurring problem.
This makes a certain amount of sense; in fact it is the complementary
problem to hitting the long irons thin that I mentioned above. My body
and my mind expect the club to be shorter than it actually is, so the
bottom of my swing is lower. The problem is usually gone after less
than nine holes, but I found I have to do something to make that
Surprisingly, the solution is the same as the solution to ballooning:
don't release the club too early. I'm not certain why it works, but it
I'm sure you're aware that this is good advice for full swings with all
clubs (except driver) anyway; the divot should be after you hit the
not before and not even directly under the ball. (Driver and pitches
are exceptions to this rule.) I'm not an instructor, and I'm reluctant
to claim a "magic move" to make this happen correctly. There is plenty
of instruction around emphasizing this. One of my favorites is Bobby
Clampett's "Impact Zone" book, videos,
and instruction program.
had expected to have a problem with short pitches and chips with the PW
and GW. That was a place I thought the extra length would cause fat
hits. It didn't happen, once I got beyond the first few rounds with
them. I don't know why, but if anything I am more
reliable with the single-length wedges. I can't attribute that to the
"same swing" theory behind single-length clubs; these are swings I
never make with any club longer than a 7i, and seldom with clubs longer
than a PW. Sorry, no good scientific explanation from me.
At one point, during the time I knew the long irons were staying in the
not so sure about the short irons, I mentioned to Aaron the possibility
of a mixed-philosophy set. It would have conventional short clubs and a
on the longer clubs. That suggests a product: a partial set of shorter
conventional heads with all the characteristics of
the Pinhawk except the constant weight. He was receptive to
the suggestion, and even came
back with a few more to attack the problem. (Of course, no promise to
products in the near future.) Here was his response.
There are some that love the
overlength "shorter" clubs and some that
don't for the reason you explained. We think a 2-tiered length set
might be worth exploring in the future. Simpleton Golf did something
similar to this but it never got off the ground (like many other good
ideas in golf). Tom Wishon contends that single length clubs should be
built mostly to 36 1/2" for just this reason, that the shorter irons
don't have as much shock to the system so to speak. But that also makes
the 4 and 5 iron harder to launch so it really depends on the player.
It might be worth a future experiment for you to try a 36 1/2" length
since you don't have trouble with the long irons at 37". It would be
interesting to note if Tom's theory would work in your case. Now for a positive experience two years after I started using single-length clubs. It was surprising because it highlighted an advantage
I had not thought of, nor seen in the advertising for single-length
irons. I was playing a walk-on round at a local course, and was paired
with a threesome of guys about my age (77 at the time). One of them
started hitting really bad short game shots a few holes after we
started. He was the best golfer of the three, but was giving back a lot
of strokes near the green. I asked him about it, and he said he was in
a lot of back pain bending over the wedge shots. I asked him whether he
had tried longer wedges, and he said they were too heavy. I explained
the single-length system to him, and offered him the use of my wedges
for short shots. He played the back nine using my wedges if I was
somewhere nearby, said he felt a lot better, and played a lot better. I
hope he tried to obtain wedges like that of his own. I don't know him
well enough to be sure he would follow up on it.
There is one more thing to talk about: how my set makeup was affected.
The key to that was the gap wedge, but the implications affect other
clubs as well.
I had never used a gap wedge before; I stuck with irons that had close
to the typical mid-1990s loft lineup of a 28° 5-iron and a 4° loft
interval between clubs.
It is getting hard to find them, but my last couple of sets were only
1° stronger than that, and I bent the PW to 48°. Combine that with a
wedge, and you have a pretty workable set without a gap wedge.
Pinhawk set has a gap wedge, and I wanted to test the clubs as the set
the designer intended. So I included the gap wedge. I have found it
useful, mostly in partial swings within 60 yards of the hole. I also
have the full-swing yardage dialed in, but I always had a partial PW
that distance anyway. The value of the gap wedge is a trajectory
between that of a PW and a SW, where I have a combination of rough or
bunker to clear and distance to run on the green.
But adopting the GW has
left me with a problem: one more club in the bag than the Rules allow.
I solved that by cutting down from three hybrids (#2, #3, #4) to two. I
built two new hybrids, one a little stronger than my #4 (at 22°) and
the other between my #2 and #3 (at 19°). I used two older heads that I
was always fond of, and an "old reliable" shaft that always worked well
with those heads. The combination is serving me well. I now have a
bigger gap between my 3-wood and my longest hybrid, but I don't think
that is a problem. See my earlier comments about proportional
I consider them better in theory, just hard to remember. My new lineup
is closer to proportional gaps for clubs longer than the irons. There
aren't many hybrid-metalwood gaps in a set, so not too much to remember.
The bottom line is that the
single-length Pinhawk irons are still in my bag, and I no longer
consider myself experimenting. I don't know that they will stay there
forever; progress marches on, and it is my business (well, my hobby
anyway) to be on top of what is happening. But they are my game clubs
for the foreseeable future.
Last modified -- 5/7/2020