As someone who is both far too tall and also gets through sets of irons at a prodigious rate, I find myself in quite an unusual position. I often come across sets on the various secondhand market places out there, but these are quite a long way from what most people would consider my ideal specs. This has led me over the years to think quite a bit about the best way to go about fitting the taller golfer.
Fitting itself is, of course, a whole other can of worms. Is it vitally important or a complete waste of time? should we all get fit for drivers but not worry about putters or is the opposite the truth? This is slightly off-topic for this particular discussion so Let’s start with the premise that fitting is important for you and you have decided to get clubs that fit (whatever that may mean.)
What Exactly Does Fitting Mean?
Before getting on to the case of the taller golfer like me (or you I would guess if you are reading this) Let’s start be defining what exactly it means to get fit. For me, fitting means getting the clubs that give you the best possible chance of playing well and also enjoying the game. Both of these are important. Very few of us are lucky enough to be paid for hitting the course. This means that we don’t have a pay cheque on the line and we are allowed to play stuff simply because we want to. Those butter knife blades might not be perfect for your game but if you want them in the bag, I say go for it. However, let’s get them with the best lie/length/shaft/grip combination possible to give you the best chance of enjoying hitting them just as much as looking at them in the bag.
Taller Golfer=Longer Shafts?
The most obvious fitting variable for taller golfers is shaft length. I am 6ft 6 inches tall (1m98) and anyone seeing me would immediately assume that I play clubs longer than standard. Of course, that is a whole other debate because what does standard even mean anymore? For the sake of argument, let us just say that it means a 37 inch 7 iron.
In fact, I do play clubs that are slightly over an inch longer than this standard most of the time, with my seven iron being around 38 and a quarter inches long. No surprises so far. However, I also regularly play iron sets that have a 37-inch seven iron and sometimes clubs that are even shorter than this. Is a longer shaft inevitable? Yes and No.
Why Is the Shaft Longer?
I can hit clubs that are all sorts of lengths. In fact, we all do this all the time. Even in a standard length set, the driver might be 45 inches and the wedge, 35.5. Nearly a ten-inch difference. This is quite a lot. Even if you play single length irons as I often do, you will be going from perhaps a 37-inch wedge to this driver. So in fact, overall length isn’t really what matters for us. What might be more important is how long to make the shortest club.
Ultimately, this is really about comfort. If I swing a club that is 35 inches, I don’t automatically swing over the top of the ball. The body and brain are amazing at compensating and making things work. This is why I (and many others) can hit a normal set fine but choose not to most of the time.
If you watch my hit a standard wedge, it looks like a child’s club in my hands. Over time and especially as I get older, how much do I really want to be crouching over the ball? what is this doing to my back? Longer clubs seem to be the answer here then.
The Disadvantages of Longer Clubs
Of course, this problem with longer clubs are that they are also longer to hit. Hitting a two iron is a tough ask for many, both because of the lack of loft but also because it is over 40 inches long in many cases. I might find that I don’t want to hit anything shorter than 37 inches. I make my wedges 37 and I feel quite comfortable standing over them. However, I also find that my five iron is now 40 inches long rather than 38.5. Suddenly, hitting the middle of the face seems like a tricky proposition.
So what can you do about this? Actually, there are a couple of solutions. The first one, as I have said quite a bit before, is to use single length irons. This is actually a really good solution for tall golfers because it adds length where we want it without it being added where it makes life more difficult for us. Another option is to reduce the traditional half inch gaps from club to club. Making this 3/8 or 1/4 of an inch means that by the time you get to a five iron, it is actually quite manageable. This is actually the basis for a technique called True Length Technology (TLT) which I haven’t tried but does make a lot of sense.
The third option is actually not really a fitting option but more a question you should ask yourself. As i said previously, I can play standard length irons. The photo below shows my posture as I am about to hit a standard length seven iron. You might be tall but depending on how you actually prefer to swing a club, you might be more comfortable and more efficient with standard length and simply somewhat more bent over at the waist.
Wrist to Floor
The other question that is part of fitting for us taller players is the distance from wrist to floor. Overall height is just one part of the equation. If you have very long arms, you might find that your hands hang in the same position as someone who is much shorter than you. This is something that a good fitter will pick up on and video makes this quite easy to see.
There is also the simple question of how you like to swing. Just because you are built in a particular way, it doesn’t mean that you should hit a particular length club. There are countless examples of golfers over the decades who have made a very good career hitting things that many would consider wrong. Ultimately, the person swing the cub is you and if you want something to feel a certain way, that is the way it should feel.
The Other Fitting Variables
In my opinion, a lot of people get hung up on length when it is simply one of the variables that can be adjusted. It is important to remember that all these variables are also interlinked and changing one will affect the others. An example of this is the golfer who now feels comfortable over his new wedge that is 37 inches long rather than 35.5. Unfortunately, when he starts to swing the club, it feels like a sledgehammer! why is this?
The head is now further away from the centre of the swing and feels heavier. This is the essence of swingweight. The overall weight of the club hasn’t really changed massively by adding in an inch and half of hollow steel. The feel is quite different and depending on the golfer, could make this new club close to unplayable. This is why club head weights change by about 7g as we go from one club to another. The overall feel of the club stays more or less the same.
There are options here of course. If you are tall but also quite strong/well-built, this extra weight could be a blessing. It will help you feel the club, stop it getting out of control and make for better ball-striking. You can also change shaft weight. I was playing with a set that were over length and had 130 steel shafts in them. As much as I loved these clubs, the back nine felt like I had been out chopping wood all day! My current set is slightly longer but the shafts are 70g graphite. Similar length, very different feel.
Lie angle and Length
The other fitting variable that comes into play a lot for taller (and shorter) golfers is lie angle. I explained more about what that actually is here, but it is basically the angle between the head and the shaft. Quite often, a lazy fitting will put a taller golfer into an inch over and two degrees upright. This might be right or wrong and is going to be very golfer dependent. For example, I currently use almost exactly this but it is simply because it encourages me be slightly more upright which helps my bad back and also gives me the ball flight that I want.
I know other tall golfers who will see lie angle very differently. I used to exchange regularly with another tall golfer (my height) on a forum who said that he was very happy playing standard length but wanted his clubs at least 4 degrees upright from standard (and once again, standard doesn’t really exist.) On the other hand, there was a very interesting forum thread on golfwrx discussing this very issue and the idea of playing much longer clubs but without changing lie angle had a lot of support in order to avoid feeling cramped when swinging.
To me, both of these points of view are valid. Today, I prefer longer clubs but my back isn’t’t in the same state as twenty years ago either!
Choosing a Grip and Putting it all Together
The final option is of course grip. Once more, this is a personal choice and might make more difference than you think. I have jumbo grips on my clubs and really enjoy the thick feeling in my hands. Others use midsize or less and yet others will do something like put Bryson’s huge oversize grips on their clubs. This is also going to add/subtract weight and change both the feel and the performance.
Overall then, there are many ways to skin this tall cat. Fitting for a taller golfer might be more length but there is no ‘must’ there. If you feel comfortable hitting standard length irons, then don’t be pushed into longer. Remember too that everything has a pay off. A 38-inch nine iron might me comfortable at address but can you swing it? does it still work with this shaft when you get to your favourite four iron? This is truly the point of a fitting and for those of us on the edge of the bell curve, we shouldn’t be scared to try different options to really see what fits.