If you are getting a twinge in your back when you swing the club, it may be that your golf clubs are too long or too short. Even if you are in no pain do you sometimes feel that you are not hitting the ball as well as you could? Again, the length of your clubs could be the problem. So, if you have been asking the question: “What length of golf club do I need?” and wondering how you make sure that you are playing with the correct length of the club for you. We are here to help. That is the question we are going to answer in this article.
Why it matters
This question matters a lot. Having the wrong length of the club can ruin your game and your enjoyment of the game. A golfing buddy of mine, who has been playing for years, always had trouble when using a standard-length driver. He had taken lessons to improve his swing, but he was still not happy. In fact, he had stopped using a driver altogether in favour of a 4 iron.
Then one day he borrowed his playing partners 1 iron, a difficult club to play well with, I think we would all agree, and he found he was driving straight shots at a reasonable distance and feeling very comfortable. He then realised this driver was a good two inches shorter than the club with which he usually played. He went out and bought a whole number of shorter clubs and has not looked back since.
How to calculate the length of club you need
Let’s start by keeping it as simple as possible. There is a calculation which you can do which will give you the basic answer. If you are buying golf irons:
Check the length of the club you own or are thinking of purchasing. (you can do this by visiting the manufacturer’s website, they always include information on shaft length in the specifications of each club). Measure your height and apply the following formula.
- If your height is between 6 feet 9 inches and 7 feet
Add two inches to the standard length
- If your height is between 6 feet 6 inches and 6 feet 9 inches
Add one and a half inches to the standard length
- If your height is between 6 feet three inches and 6 feet 6 inches Add one inch to the standard length
- If your height is between 6 feet and 6 feet 3 inches
Add half an inch to the standard length
- If your height is between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet
You will be suited to a standard Length
- If your height is between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 9 inches
Subtract half an inch from the standard length
- If your height is between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 6inches
Subtract one inch from the standard length
- If your height is between 5feet and 5feet 3 inches
Subtract an inch and a half from the standard length
- If your height is between 4feet 9 inches and 5feet
Subtract 2 inches from the standard length
“Is that all I need to know?” you may be asking. Unfortunately, there is more to it.
Other factors which you need to take into account
Firstly, the length of your arms is very, very important and these may not be in proportion to the rest of your body. You may be completely unaware of this, it doesn’t necessarily mean you look odd, and it may well be something you have never thought about before.
You can measure this yourself, but you will need someone to help you and a fixed metal tape (a tape measure is too flimsy and won’t give you an accurate enough measurement).
Then get your helper to measure from the crease of your wrist to the floor, while you are standing relaxed in your usual golf stance at set up. You can then input this measurement into this dynamic online calculator which will give you the length of the club which you need.
The next thing which can affect the length of the golf clubs you need is your playing style. Some very experienced, and outstanding golfers find that playing with a slightly longer or shorter club than the standard for their height, suits and improves their game. Ask advice from your more experienced golf buddies.
Customising your clubs will change their performance
One word of warning here. If you tailor your clubs or if you order a set of clubs at a different length from those which you have been using, the clubs will be affected in other ways.
The feel of the clubs and the flex on the shaft will be different. A longer shaft length will increase the weight of the club. If you change the shaft of a club, then it will also alter the flex, making it softer. Conversely, if you shorten the shaft, then the flex will be stiffer. If you are choosing a new set of clubs in a longer or shorter version, you might consider changing the flex you usually use to compensate.
A longer shaft on a driver will also increase the speed on the clubhead; this may make it more challenging to get that sweet spot and hit the ball right. If you are in danger of this, then take a look at a bigger clubhead with perimeter weighting which will be more forgiving.
If a putter is too long, you will compensate by standing too far back from the ball, and that will spoil your eye contact. It is also probable that you will push your elbows to your side and this will mean you will not be able to make the natural pendulum move which good putting entails. If your putter is too short, then you will get too close to the ball, and this can mean the heel of your putter lifts off the ground and you will not hit the ball well.
The shaft length on your putter should enable you to get your eyes directly over the ball just before you take your shot. Your height will be the primary factor in determining which length is right for you, but your stance will also matter here. So, use the guides above and any others you come across as just that, guides, an indication of what you need but an indication which will need adjusting for you. The main thing is that you feel comfortable and that you hit the ball well, making contact with the sweet spot every time.
Golf technology and why clubs have got longer
If you have been shopping for clubs, you may have noticed that there is a lot of variation in club lengths (and other specifications as well, but that is for other articles). This variation has advantages, it gives us all lots of choice, but it can also be a bit confusing.
There is another issue when we are talking about club length. Modern golf technology has meant that clubs have got longer over the past few years.
There has been a significant change. In the late 1970s, the standard length for a man’s driver was 43 inches, and a 3 iron was thirty-eight and a half inches. The driver is now usually forty-five inches for a man, and even women’s drivers are far longer than men’s drivers were back in the 1970s. So why has this happened? It is mainly about distance, the longer a club is the further you can hit a shot. This idea is the theory at least, of course, there is a price to pay for this distance, and that price is it is harder to hit the ball. And if you mis-hit the shot, it is not going anywhere you want.
Clubs are longer than in the past, it is more likely that your golf clubs are too long for you rather than too short.
As I have already said, it is harder to play well with longer clubs. Many professional golf coaches are tearing their hair out as players turn up at the practice range with the latest driver which promises them they can hit the ball dozens of yards further than they have been able to before.
In fact, professional coaches tell me, often this longer club is harming not hindering these golfers’ games. A longer club is less forgiving; you will need to work on your posture, the angle of your shot and your swing. Unless these are correct and adjusted to the length of the club, you will not be able to get the distance you want. Remember that you will never get distance unless you hit the ball accurately.
I have talked a lot about height and arm length when selecting your club. But perhaps the most critical factor in choosing how long your club should be is your skill level. If you are an average golfer then the chances are you will get more distance with a shorter club, because you will hit the ball better.
The maximum shaft length allowed by the rules of golf is 48 inches. Not every top player plays with the longest shaft around, it all depends on their style. That’s a good lesson for us all, what is the best shaft length for you will be about your game. And remember that accuracy is what counts. An inch on the shaft length might add to the speed at which the ball moves, but that will not translate into the distance you want if you mis-hit the shot.
Lie angle and why it matters
Another factor to consider with your irons is the lie angle. The lie angle is the angle between the shaft and the ground as measured when you are in a normal playing position with the sole of the club on the ground. These lie angles vary from club to club and from manufacturer to manufacturer, lie angles are about fifty-three to fifty-six degrees in drivers, about sixty-five degrees in the short irons and over seventy degrees in a putter; which is best for you will be partially dependent upon your height and the relative length of your arms. What you are looking for is a club which when you hold naturally has its sole flush to the ground. If you find you have to change your posture to make this happen, then adjusting the lie angle of your club may help.
Why does lie angle matter? You may be asking. It affects the accuracy of your golf shots. Working out what angle is best for you is complicated as it depends on many factors and how they interact with each other. Your swing action, your stance, your height and body shape and your skill level will all come into the equation. As it is so complicated a session with a professional club fitter may be the best way forward. Club fitting is a highly skilled activity where a fitter will match your golf clubs to both your physical attributes and your style and skills. There are three choices with lie angles, the standard which your clubs come with, a flat lie angle, which is lower than the standard (this is sometimes just called flatter) or an upright lie angle. The lie angle is vital in all clubs, but it is crucial in the irons in your golf set, this is because the club has a higher loft on the clubhead so if the lie is out the effect is more significant. A good club fitter can usually adjust the lie angle by altering the hosel on the iron. To find out more about lie angles, check out this site with its excellent graphics
Check out this latest innovation
One beneficial change has been the increasing number of golf manufacturers who offer clubs in varying shaft lengths. Wilson’s ‘custom fit in a box‘ system has been a leader here; this provides not just different shaft lengths but also different lofts, flexes and grip sizes.
What length golf clubs do I need conclusion
To sum up, it is quite likely that your golf clubs are too long, so start by checking out our height chart to identify the issue
If you do need to adjust your clubs we recommend you do this:
Go to a club fitter to get the right length of shaft for you and to ensure your clubs, especially your irons, have the correct lie angle for you.
When you are still learning the game of golf, or if you are continuing to improve then expect to change your clubs as your handicap drops. You may not be ready for a longer driver at the moment, but in a year’s time, things may be very different.
Remember that length is not all in a golf club. Accuracy counts as much as speed when you put distance on the ball.
Let us at Golfing Pursuits know what you think and if you have any questions about the length of your clubs then contact us, and we will do our best to answer. And so, let us know if changing the length of your clubs has improved your game.