One question that is quite often asked is “What length golf club a person should use?”
This is very difficult to address as it is not always a black or white answer.A good example of this can be found when shopping for jeans. For example, a man does not purchase jeans based upon their height, rather two important pieces of information.If that person knows what their waist and inseam measurements are, they can purchase a pair of jeans that will most likely fit (but not always) without having to try them on.Then the jeans can be selected or paired down based upon the color/finish and leg cut – both of which are personal preferences.
The most common method used to recommend the length of a golf club is a height-based chart. Custom golf clubs are usually available in two primary lengths (excluding juniors) and somewhat based on statistics, like the average height of an average male and female.The average woman’s height in the U.S. is approximately 5’ 5” (165.1cm), with about 68% between 5’ 2” and 5’ 7”. The average male is approximately 5’ 10” (177.8cm) with nearly 68% between 5’ 6” and 5’ 11”.The difference between the finished stock men’s and women’s clubs is usually 1” difference in the length.
With this in mind, some charts will use these proportions; that is for each 5” or 6” of height differential, the golf clubs should be 1” shorter or longer. Of course, each manufacturer has their own idea for what standard length of their clubs will be that is why the actual lengths were omitted and the Length Factor could be applied to what one would consider to be “standard length”.
Length Based Chart
6-9 to 7-0206 – 213Add 2″
6-6 to 6-9198 – 206Add 1 1/2″
6-3 to 6-6191 – 198Add 1″
6-0 to 6-3183 – 191Add 1/2″
5-9 to 6-0175 – 183Standard Length
5-6 to 5-9168 – 175Subtract 1/2″
5-3 to 5-6160 – 168Subtract 1″
5-0 to 5-3152 – 160Subtract 1 1/2″
4-9 to 5-0145 – 152Subtract 2″
For instance, we have a 5’ 5” lady and a 6’ 2” man.The difference in height is 9”.Using the ratio of every 6” of height there should be a 1” change in length then there should be a 1 ½” difference between their 5-irons. For example, recommend 36.5” for the lady and 38” for the man (or 36.75” / 38.25”). One might wrongly assume that that we should use the same proportions as is in this case where the women is 87.8% of the height of the man, therefore the length should also be 87.8% (or 33 3/8” which would be extremely too short). Height-based charts have existed a long time and based upon proportionality.
It is interesting in the fact that junior club lengths do not use this same 6” to 1” formula.Rather for each 2” (or 2 ½”) of added height equates to 1” increase in length.
For taller individuals, it is logical to assume longer golf clubs are recommended.But it should be noted that a 1” increase in club length does not necessarily make the club 1” longer from the floor to the ground.It is the sin of the lie angle that is the length component in the vertical direction. In the diagram on the left, a representation of a 1” at 61° amount to a vertical increase 0.874”. This will be important when we discuss methods other than height based charts.
Wrist-to-floor (WTF) Measurement
Wrist-to-floor measurement or WTF for short is a common method in which the golfer stands with their feet together in street / tennis shoes with their arms hanging straight down and relaxed. Then someone measures from the floor to the crease just above the wrist.That reading then is indexed by the golfer’s height to suggest the club length.The most common example of this is the Ping® Iron Color Code Chart.
Statistically, the average WTF measurement is 48.9% of the person’s height.If everyone was proportional to this percentage, then height-based charts would have the same effect.However, statistics are based on averages and not everyone will have proportionate arm lengths to their height, thus requiring not only different lengths than what their height may indicate, but also the lie of the club.
In the chart above, we can see that a 5’ 10” male on average will have a WTF measurement just shy of 34 1/4”, while the average female that stands 5’ 4” would be just a hair over 31 ¼”. The 6” difference in height equals approximately a 3” difference in the WTF measurement and to 1” length change.Well, at least in theory between men and women stock clubs.If you consider that a 48” junior golfer has a WTF measurement of nearly 12” less than the 70” golfer would suggest that the junior golfer get a 5-iron that is 4” shorter than a typical men’s club.However, the math does not add up as most junior charts will suggest a 48” junior to have a 5-iron in the neighborhood of 9” shorter.
Part of this can be explained by the fact that the WTF measurement coupled with the golfer’s height is only a starting point.The actual wrists at impact will be lower than the wrists in an erect, standing posture as the player will bend at the knees and waist and have a certain arm angle away from their body when swinging a golf club.Each person may have a slightly different comfort zone as to which of these angles feel best, thus the actual person’s wrist at impact will not always be the same proportion to the player’s WTF measurement when comparing one player to another.In addition, at impact the wrists may be slightly higher off the ground than at address.
One of the key things to understand is when the person’s WTF measurement is not proportionate to their height, then the length (and perhaps lie) of the clubs should be different than what their height would indicate.For golfers who have an actual WTF measurement greater than the chart, then the clubs should be longer and/or more upright than their height would indicate.Conversely, for golfers who have an actual WTF measurement less than listed in the chart, then the clubs should be shorter and/or produced with a flatter lie angle than their height would indicate.This explains why a tall individual could use “standard” clubs off of the rack if their arms were disproportionately longer.
For example, let’s say we have a 6’ 2” man that has an actual WTF measurement of 35.75” verses 36.19” in the table, as this person may have a little longer arms or shorter legs than average.We could simply adjust the length by reducing it by 1/2”.Remember above that the 1/2” of club length will not exactly the same as the 1/2” in the vertical direction (0.5” x sin 61° = 0.44”).If we did not make this change, then the golfer would have to grip down on the club, bend less at the waist or knees, or raise their arms higher producing a non-athletic position (in more extreme conditions).At 6’ 2”, the person might have been suggested a ½” longer club, but due to his lower WTF position standard length golf clubs may be fit fine.
Golf club lie also has an effect on the length as well. The diagram on the right shows the “Triangle” formed by the length of the club (A), distance in the vertical direction from the butt end of the golf grip to the ground (B) and the horizontal distance from the back edge of the heel of the club to butt end of the club (C).In the following charts, the lie angle of each club will be listed as well.
By altering the lie of the club, a manufacturer could theoretically change the B length.Below in the chart are 4 clubs that are the same length, but different lie angles.For each 1° increase in the lie angle, the butt end raised approximately 1/3” off of the ground with the center of the sole touching the ground.In lieu of making the club longer to accommodate a taller individual or one with a high WTF measurement, some golf clubmakers may opt to change the lie angle.
One of the reasons for this is due to the effect of golf swingweight of the club.All the combinations of length and lie in the following chart will produce a situation where the center of the sole of the club is touching the ground and the butt end is essentially the same height off of the ground.If we have a standard weight 5-iron (256g) and a lightweight steel shaft, the swingweights will be approximately that listed in the chart.
A common lie angle for a 5-iron is 61°, therefore the length of the 5-iron may be 37.25” to achieve the B length.This combo may be very well for a lady golfer that is 5’ 8” with a 33.25” WTF measurement.A C6.5 swingweight would be perfectly normal in what you would see in a standard length woman stock set.However, let’s say this was a man we were talking about that might have the same proportions of the lady golfer, or perhaps taller but with long arms.Instead of the shorter club with the lighter swingweight, the clubfitter or manufacturer may suggest a 38” 5-iron that had a 2° flatter lie angle.This would make the golf club swingweight in the normal range you would see for a male golfer.
It is easier to control the swingweight by manipulating the lie than by adding (or removing) weight from the head from a production standpoint. Most clubhead are made to narrow weight ranges from one manufacturer to another and there is a limit on how much weight can be added to a club. So you may see tall golfers get a combination of extra length and a more upright lie as not to make the clubs feel too heavy or shorter golfer a shorter length / flatter lie combination so that it does not become too light.
But, more importantly is making sure the golfer has the proper swing plane as a result of the length / lie suggestion that will allow the golfer to make solid contact.Furthermore, not just for one club, but the rest of the clubs throughout the set since most places fit on a mid-iron and build the rest of the set around that using normal progressions in length (i.e. 0.5” length increments).
A few years ago I fitted an individual that presented a unique challenge. His name was Mike and a professional in the medical field.Through referrals, he contacted me for a fitting.He explained on the phone that he had a birth defect in which his whole arm length was only the length of that to a normal person’s elbow position.He wanted to play golf, but physically could not bend far enough down to grip a club.I asked him to stop by as I had some ideas that I thought would help him out.
Mike was approximately 5’ 8”, but a WTF measurement of 43”.To put this in perspective, his WTF might be more equivalent of someone standing 7’ 4”.In addition, he was of average strength at best and not built like that of an individual much taller and physically stronger in which to compensate for heavier weights caused by the need for longer clubs.After some calculations, experimentation and fast-stetting epoxy we ended up making a partial set – a few of which I would like to share.His driver was only 2” longer than normal (47”), his 5-iron was 43.5” (5.5” longer than average) and his PW was 42” (6.5” longer than average).
Today, what I remember most about Mike was not his unique physique or the challenging fitting process, rather he was by far the happiest customer I could every remembered who picked up their clubs.He was so proud of “his” set of clubs. Finally he had something that fitted him that he could enjoy that the majority of golfers take for granted.
So unless you have average proportions, you might find that slight alterations in the length and lie might allow you to make better contact with the ball, lower your score and make the game more enjoyable.