When asked how long a man’s legs should be, Abraham Lincoln supposedly replied, “Long enough to touch the ground.” The same is true for golf clubs. A club length that suits one player won’t necessarily suit another, which is why there are professional club fitters. With respect to off-the-shelf clubs, there is no organization authorized to set standard lengths for golf clubs. But a survey of major manufacturers shows that standard golf club lengths are fairly uniform across the board.
Rules of Golf
The rules regarding golf club construction are found in Appendix II of the Rules of Golf, published by the United States Golf Association. Section 1c states that golf clubs other than putters may not exceed 48 inches long. The clubs are measured by laying them horizontally, placing a 60-degree plane under the sole (bottom) of the club head, then measuring from the top of the grip to the point where the plane touches the ground. All clubs, including putters, must at least 18 inches long. Putters with straight shafts are measured from the top of the grip to the sole, directly down the shaft. For putters with crooked shafts, extend an imaginary line horizontally from the top of the grip, then measure down to the sole, moving parallel with the upper part of the shaft.
Graphite Vs. Steel
Standard graphite shafts are longer than standard steel shafts. Golf.com editor Scott Kramer states that graphite woods “typically come one inch longer” than their steel counterparts, while graphite irons are about a half-inch longer. Graphite shafts are longer, Kramer notes, to help golfers build greater clubhead speed, thereby gaining more distance on their shots. Shorter golfers or those who are uncomfortable with longer shafts can order their graphite shafts shorter to match the length of a comparable steel-shafted club.
In a 2010 “Golf Digest” article, PGA Tour player Bubba Watson said the typical off-the-rack driver is 45.5 inches long. As of 2012, Callaway drivers are 45.5 to 46 inches long, according to the company’s website, while Cleveland lists drivers ranging from 45.25 to 46.25 inches long. According to "USA Today," Cobra began marketing a pair of 48-inch drivers – the maximum legal length according to the Rules of Golf – in early 2012. “Golf Digest” notes that a longer driver can help a golfer generate greater distance, but only if the player hits the ball squarely and at high speed. Otherwise, the magazine says, “a shorter driver may actually be the best avenue for increased distance for some players, because glancing blows with a 48-inch club may cost you distance.”
Irons and Hybrids
The so-called longer irons are just that – they’re longer than the other irons in a set of clubs. Unless you special order a 1- or 2-iron, the 3-iron is the longest iron typically sold as of 2012. In a typical set of clubs, each iron after the will be a half-inch to three-quarters inch shorter than the one before it, with wedges slightly shorter than the 9-iron. For example, Callaway lists a set of irons for players of average skill that begins with a 39-inch 3-iron and moves down to a 36-inch 9-iron, using graphite shafts. Its steel-shafted counterpart set is a quarter-inch shorter across the board. Callaway’s wedges range from 35 to 35.25 inches long. PING’s website lists a steel set beginning with a 38.75-inch 3-iron and concluding with a 35.5-inch 9-iron, plus wedges at 35 to 35.5 inches. The company’s hybrids are a bit longer. Its 3-hybrid is 40 inches long, while its 6-hybrid is 38.5 inches long. The lone 2-iron that PING sells is 39.25 inches long. Titleist lists irons with lengths similar to other manufacturers, also noting that its women’s set is 1 inch shorter than a standard men’s set. Titleist also manufactures a 41-inch hybrid that’s the approximate equivalent of a 2-iron.