Lofts explained: How can iron lofts keep getting stronger?

Thomas Tanner
Feb 02, 2018
4 minutes

Iron set loft can be so confusing! The question ‘what did you hit there?’ asked to try and gauge what you should hit has almost become obsolete because lofts vary so much from manufacturer to manufacturer, and even in the models offered by the same manufacturer. Comparing them all can be as confusing as comparing mobile phone contracts!

Back in the 1960's and 70's iron sets were simple and lofts largely standard. An average set from 3-iron to pitching wedge ran from 24 to 52-degrees in four-degree jumps, with the 7-iron having 40-degrees of loft.

However, as golf has evolved, the race for distance has become more and more prominent and to say this new club goes further than its predecessor, traditional lofts have been strengthened year on year. Think of stamping a 6-iron with a 7-iron badge and you can see where we’re coming from. As a customer you're happy because you’re suddenly hitting your new 7-iron much further! And the manufacturers are happy as they have a distance story to bring to market. All of which has meant that some modern sets of 3-iron to pitching wedge run from 18 to 44-degrees! So how can they do this and still get the ball in the air? To answer we first need to understand there is no industry standard regarding lofts.

What manufacturers work on instead is launch and how can they get a 34-degree 7-iron to launch the same way a 40-degree one did back in the 1960s. Think of a good player with three square windows stacked in front of them. They expect their long irons to fly through the bottom window, mid irons through the middle window, and long irons through the top window. Developments in technology and refined manufacturing processes have advanced so much that modern game improvement clubs with ultra-thin faces and precisely placed centres of gravity can achieve the balance of having stronger lofts for distance, whilst still launching through the correct window. More recently we’re starting to see a split between game improvement clubs (strong lofts for distance) and better players clubs which are keeping to an almost retro or standard lofting system.

Some examples:

Ping even have two lofts offerings in some of their irons; their standard G700 7-iron is 29.5-degrees and their ‘Power Lofted’ version is 28-degrees.

Whereas better player irons which are typically blades feature slightly higher, more traditional lofts.

These are some way short of the irons Jack and his buddies played with, but they feature enough tech and a low enough CG to get the ball launching as you’d expect. Game improvement clubs with stronger lofts while fixing a possible distance issue, create a new issue the other end of the bag. If you hit your pitching wedge 150 yards and your Sand wedge 100 yards you will need to bridge the distance gap with one, two, or even three extra ‘gap’ wedges – and which lofts you put in is another conversation entirely.

Further reading

One of the most confusing things when assembling a set of golf clubs can surround the choice between an 18 degrees fairway wood, hybrid and/or utility iron. They may all share the same loft, but this does this mean they do the same job?

Although golf clubs are lumps of metal on a shaft, every millimetre of the clubhead is sculpted to the tightest of manufacturing tolerance to make sure they perform as expected, when required.