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It seems only natural to investigate how our great golfing heroes set up their gear.  After all, it is safe to assume that touring pros have tinkered with a wide range of setups, eventually settling on a makeup that is optimal for performance at the highest level.  The problem for us onlookers is that on those rare occasions when a touring pro’s full specs are published, they are usually characterized relative to “standard”.  For instance, when one hears that Bubba Watson plays his irons “2 degrees upright”,  it doesn’t provide a lot of useful information without clarification of what standard is for that particular frame of reference.

I went ahead and did a little research to identify what exactly “standard” has been throughout the years.  It is generally accepted that in the last 50 years, manufacturers have offered increasingly strong lofts, increasingly upright irons, and increasingly longer clubs.  But how much?  When?

I used Titleist as a baseline.  Their website offers a history of club specs going back to their earliest irons in the 70′s.  I plucked out the data for their standard set makeups and plotted it up.  In the later years when more than one iron model was offered per year, I chose the “blady-est” iron.  In this way the chart tracks the specs for a standard Titleist blade.

The right side of the chart shows a few random sets (non-Titleist) for which information was available.  I also added in Tiger’s 2012 specs (somebody published  a screen capture from Nike) and Arnold Palmer’s specs from the early 60′s (somebody measured the limited edition Palmer irons that were built to match his specs from the 60′s).

In general, the commonly accepted trend is shown to be true.  Lie angles have moved upwards (for the same club) as many as 4 degrees although the change has been greater in the longer irons (shorter irons have only moved a degree or two more up).  This has tended to bunch the lie angles together in a much tighter dispersion for the 8 club iron set in recent years relative to early on.  Titleist’s 3-pw now cover the range of 60 to 64 degrees (4 degree spread) whereas 8 club Titleist sets in the 70′s covered 57 to 64 degrees. [Click to enlarge]

Lofts have gotten stronger (decreased) over time.  The change comes out to be about 2-3 degrees per club across the board.  For this reason, a standard set of 2-9 in the 70′s is now roughly equivalent in loft to a 3-pw. [Click to enlarge]

Lengths have gone up about 1 inch, corresponding to the change in lofts (turning a 5 iron into a 6 iron, etc.) [Click to enlarge]

I hope you find these charts useful, either as references for setting up your own sets or as context for understanding how great players through history have modified their gamers relative to standard.

For those who like tables better than charts, here’s the full spreadsheet I used to compile this data[Excel format] –> Standard Specs Spreadsheet

Happy (flag) hunting!

One Response to “What is Standard?”

  1. Avatar of 67 W693's 67 W693\'s says:

    Riley,
    This is such good writing that I felt compelled weeks ago when I first read it to compliment you on this, and now I am finally doing it.
    I have passed along a link to this to several friends, encouraging them to join this forum.
    Much of what is in this offering is not news to me. When I have, in the past, remarked to younger players about the equipment changes that I have witnessed in over fifty years of playing competitive golf (and that the 7 iron they are playing is actually a 6 iron…or a 5 1/2 iron) it falls on deaf ears.
    The organization, depth, and detail of your writing is stunning. I do not recall having made a remark like this for quite some time, even though I teach and tutor English at a private school in our State with high achieving students.
    (I do, however feel that any player who uses a long putter, belly putter, or the like should be included on your list of “Traditional Gear Awards for the Modern Top 100″ with an asterisk.)
    When I was a youngster and Sam Snead debuted the croquet putter it did not take the USGA long to close the door on that. They were the rage for a time (a very short time) at the country club where I caddied (the pro shop was filled with them), and it was great to see the generous men who supported us every season (but who could not putt) rolling putts in from all over and enjoying themselves enormously.
    Thank you for all that you do.
    JT

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