Single Length Irons Didn’t Start with Bryson
Ever since Bryson Dechambeau came onto the national stage at The Masters, single-length irons have been a major equipment topic. Bryson, however, is not the inventor of this concept, nor the first golfer to use them. Long before Bryson could drive a car, Jaacob Bowden was figuring out how to make single-length irons a reality and using them to great effect.
The Start of the Quest
Before coming to single length irons, Jaacob went through some of the same pitfalls that many of us have. He started with a haphazard set, then moved to a custom fit set of Callaway irons. Despite seeing the performance gains that we all know come from custom fit clubs, he allowed the influence of “better players” to push him into heavy, forged blades. When he did return to cavity backs, it was a fitted set of Wishon 550C forged irons. This set was custom fit and a big improvement, but Jaacob still wasn’t totally satisfied.
As he thought more and more about how to better his set, he came to the idea of a single-length set of irons. The potential benefits seemed obvious to him: you could use the exact same swing, ball position, and set up throughout the entire set. Unfortunately, the problems with converting a traditional set to single-length were obvious, too. Iron heads get heavier as the loft goes up, so a lot of work would be required to even that out. Also, the lie angles would require a lot of bending, perhaps enough to break them.
This led Jaacob to the internet. His research told him that he wasn’t alone in thinking that single-length irons made sense: Bobby Jones and Moe Norman had used them, too. He also learned that single length irons had been tried by Tommy Armour Golf in the 1980s..they just hadn’t succeeded.
Success…and a Setback
Finally, Jaacob found 1Iron Golf, a company devoted to the single length iron concept. Four months after buying a set, Jaacob shot his first round in the 60’s, and in a tournament, no less! As he continued to play with this set, he drove his handicap down to a +5.8 and started to play professionally. He even made some cuts at Tour events.
Then the USGA, in a backwards attempt to fight distance, implemented their groove rule. This took Jaacob’s non-conforming 1Iron Golf set out of his bag and put him back into conventional irons. He shopped the idea of single length irons to a couple of well known club makers, but couldn’t find anyone who was interested. Despite the setback, Jaacob continued to play professionally, finishing 5th at the Speedgolf World Championships at Bandon Dunes in 2012.
After switching to a different single length set, the GRIA Golf NOVA hybrid irons, Jaacob found his way to the winner circle. At the 2013 Speedgolf World Championship, he shot the championship record for golf score with a 72 in under 56 minutes. Despite his success, Jaacob wasn’t satisfied with the irons and continued to pursue a set that would be exactly what he wanted.
The Birth of Sterling Irons
In 2013, Jaacob went back to Tom Wishon, and this time Tom got on board. They started planning the set in October of that year with all of Tom’s wisdom, Jaacob’s experience with single-length irons, and modern tools like Trackman.
Jaacob set six goals for this new set:
1) Be cool-looking
2) Conform to USGA rules
3) Be adjustable for loft and lie
4) 8-iron length, so the wedges wouldn’t feel overly long and the long clubs would be easier to hit
5) Have correct distance gapping
6) Go the distances and trajectories that one expects from modern irons
In April of 2016, Jaacob and Tom met all of these goals and launched Sterling Irons. The timing couldn’t have been better as the aforementioned Bryson Dechambeau was just bringing the concept to the masses.
In the few months that Sterling Irons have been on the market, the feedback has been very positive. You can read my review of them HERE. The response has been so good that a 4-iron is currently being worked on and is expected to be ready in the fall. There’s also hope that lefties will be able to benefit from Sterling Irons some time in 2017.