You are at the range and drop a ball on the ground (or place it on a tee). You grab a custom golf club randomly out of your golf bag and then try to hit the ball with club. It could be any club. Plus it simply doesn’t matter if the golf club is 32” or 48” since you only intent is to hit the back of the ball with the front of the face. The first in a sequence of things you do is set the clubhead behind the ball and then stand far enough away from the ball that your arms feel comfortable, and then you alter your hand height. This is all a subconscious response. The most amazing thing is you don’t ask what length is the club. Length itself is very important as it helps control the distance you hit the ball as well as develop consistency is the length is fitted correctly.
But before we can address those issues, we first need to know how is golf club length measured in the first place? While one would think that measuring the length of the club would be simple and universal, you might be surprised it is not. So let us explain several of the methods you may encounter.
The method most used involves placing the club in the playing position with the center of the sole touching the ground. This is how we measure our clubs at Hireko. A 48” golf club rule is placed along the backside of the club with the tip of the rule touching the ground by the club’s heel. The final length is measured at the edge of the grip cap (and not the very top). This method is used in all cases except putters that the shaft is not located at the heel.
In this method, it is critical that the lie of the club be positioned correctly. If the club is placed with the toe raised higher off of the ground than the heel, then the measurement will less than measured with the center of the sole touching the ground. Conversely, if the heel is raise higher off the ground than the toe, then the measured length will be increased. Those not careful in positioning the club correctly can easily
be off +/- 1/8” or even more.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) has a method outlined in the Rules of Golf. The USGA uses an apparatus that has a piece of angle iron as a stop that forms at a 60 angle from the horizontal. Why 60°? Probably because this was the mid-way point of lies from years back when the driver was 56° and the wedges 64°, plus 60° is good even number. In addition, they measure to the very end of the grip cap and not the edge. This difference amounts to approximately 1/8” in the addition of the grip cap. The USGA does have a limit of 48” for any club, besides the putter, which has no length limits. However, they exclude putters using this measuring technique. For a detailed explanation, go to the following link: http://www.usga.org/equipment/protocols/clublength_r1_1.pdf
Yet another method is from the Long Drivers of America (LDA). They measure club by placing the shaft flat against the wall with the toe of the driver positioned on the ground. This will result in a much longer length than the other two methods mentioned before. Depending upon the lie of the driver can also contribute to the final length. The LDA has a 50” length limit for sanctioned long drive competitions.
Regardless of the method one uses, the key is consistency. This is why there are jigs or fixtures for measuring club length. A prime example would be a product that Hireko offers that is produced by Mitchell Golf. The Clublength Ruler Soleplate works in conjunction with a 48” aluminum ruler and can be laid flat on a table or workbench. There is a roll pin that the bottom of the club’s sole rests against. This is a rather inexpensive item that can speed up and accurately measure club length on a consistent basis.
For putters, length can be measured a number of ways because of the position of the hosel and/or golf shaft in relationship to the heel. As mentioned before, the length on heel-shafted putters can be measured the same way as an iron or wood. Let’s look at two other options. In Option A, this represents a non-offset center-shafted putter like a Titleist Bullseye. Measuring length is not referenced by the heel, rather the shaft axis so the 48” rule is placed alongside of the putter’s shaft at the point it intersects the ground up to the edge of the grip cap.
In Option B, this represents an offset putter. Because the shaft is ahead of the face of the putter, the ruler is not placed in-line with the shaft, rather along the back side of the shaft like an iron would be measured. The difference being that the ruler would touch the ground somewhere other than behind the heel of the club.
While these methods have been used to measure golf club, it does not necessary illustrate the length we are most concerned with, which is the distance from the golfer’s wrists to the ball. After all, the end of the golf grip correlated with your wrists unless you choke down (or grip down lower) on the grip. More importantly the target is the ball, which should be position in the center of the face. Perhaps a more accurate reading of the length of the club should be like the following diagram. This would take into account all the other methods and simplify length measuring.
One way to understand how this would help determine the proper length is to look at the Odyssey hockey putter Adam Sandler used in the movie Happy Gilmore. Because the blade length was so long, he would have to stand much further away from the ball at address. Thus the effective length of the putter was much longer than had it been a normal putter at the same length measured in the conventional manner. In addition, this would also change the plane the lie reading of the club is measured as well.
No manufacturer measures custom golf clubs in this manner, perhaps out of traditional or that the length is being measured in the plane that the lie is referenced from the shaft / hosel, but may be a plausible method of measuring length someday in the future.