Golf is a conservative game by nature. It is on the player to stick to the rules and to be honest with himself. Fundamentally, this centuries-old game hasn’t changed very much, but the same can’t be said for golf equipment. Golf has evolved from persimmon heads and hickory shafts, and the volume of innovations in golf technology over the past 30 years is mind-boggling.
Over the past few months, one particular type of golf equipment turned heads on the PGA tour, thanks to Bryson DeChambeau. Technically, it’s single length irons aren’t really a new technology, and have been around long before DeChambeau. In fact, Iso-Vibe Golf Company in Canada began offering single length sets in North America as early as 1986, and the idea itself goes back much further.
Making all the irons the same length makes sense. Golf is a game of repeatability, so it follows that the game could be made easier if only a single setup and a single swing were required.
However, in golf, anything even a little different invariably faces opposition. Most golf traditionalists treat the single length idea as somehow going against the spirit of the game. Some say it just looks ridiculous. Some test results question the effectiveness of the concept due to gapping issues and some lower swing speed players struggle getting long irons off the ground.
Proponents point to DeChambeau’s success, who followed up wins at the 2015 NCAA Championships and the US Amateur with five professional victories, a Ryder Cup appearance, and a strong showing in the 2018 FedEx cup. After a strong end to the 2018 PGA Tour season, Bryson is currently ranked #5 in the world.
Not a bad for single length irons, right?
DIAWINGS GOLF – KOREA’S ANSWER TO SINGLE LENGTH IRONS
Diawings Golf CEO and founder Sang-Hwa Jung is all-in on the single length concept. Despite having a non-golf related background in IT and Physics, Jung developed his own brand of ‘balanced’ golf balls, called “Real Line,” in 2012. Not long after, Jung left the company in the hands of his relatives to pursue other ways to make Golf easier and more enjoyable. With that one simple goal, Diawings Golf was born.
“I wanted to make golf clubs for the average golfer. I saw too many OEMs making clubs for the pros and better players, but not enough options for the amateurs. My in-depth studies showed pros are almost always able to strike the sweet spot, while amateurs hit it all over the club face. In addition, OEMs tend to make clubs for workability, but for amateurs, just hitting the ball straight is a much bigger issue. My approach is to design a club head for the average recreational golfer between 18-24 handicap. The aim is to make the ball fly straighter, even if it doesn’t find the sweet spot all the time. That way, the game can be enjoyed without having to spend a lot of time practicing.” – Sang-Hwa Jung, CEO and Founder, Diawings Golf
Many have understood the potential benefit of the single length irons, but one particular issue made it difficult to bring to market successfully. As mentioned, many golfers struggle to generate the speed necessary to launch long irons high or match their variable length counterparts for distance. With higher lofted irons and wedges, the opposite can be true. The ball goes too far due to the longer shafts.
By using a simple formula: [swing speed x mass = energy], Jung calculated how much mass is needed in the club head to adjust for the energy being delivered to the ball at impact. After hundreds of trials and tweaking lofts, Jung created the first version of Diawings. All heads weigh 285 grams, and all are the same length as a conventional 8-iron. The only difference between the individual clubs in the set is loft.
“I wanted to make my own version of the single length irons (initially named SL1), but I didn’t have the necessary funds. In September 2016, I turned to Facebook and literally asked my friends, acquaintances, and even strangers if they were willing to pay upfront for a set of the first 100 limited edition SL1 irons. Luckily, I was able to sell all 100 sets in the first week despite the fact that they would need almost 6 months to be made and delivered. Looking back, I am very thankful to those who believed in me and took the chance to try something new.” – Sang-Hwa Jung, CEO
Encouraged by the initial feedback, Jung proceeded to design and develop an entire lineup Diawings Golf clubs, including wedges, putters, and a draw-biased driver. Utilizing his skills as a golf ball maker, Jung later added ultra-long distance balls to his portfolio. To date, his company has sold over 1400 sets of the new SL2 version irons in the 20 months since he started the company.
So far, so good, but there were times when the road ahead looked bleak. The first 100 SL1 sets were made in China to lower manufacturing costs and retail prices. Though the feedback from consumers was generally positive, Jung was far from satisfied with the quality. In May 2017, he decided to shift all production to Okayama, Japan. Jung takes pride in the fact that every single component for his clubs is made, cast, ground, polished and assembled exclusively in Japan. He only uses steel and graphite shafts made and purchased directly in Japan for fear of knockoffs, and eventually approached UST Mamiya in person to request a specific shaft solely suited to his irons.
At first, Mamiya refused, being averse to selling to non-Japanese companies. But Jung persisted with repeated visits and requests to the Japanese manufacturer. Eventually, they yielded to Jung’s tenacity and drive for quality and agreed to design a special ultra-light shaft specifically for Diawings. The resulting high-quality graphite shaft features the Diawings logo displayed proudly next to UST-Mamiya’s world-renowned logo. Jung laughs quietly as he recalled all the people he had harassed to learn about club making and design in his quest for the best possible irons he could produce. He believes his passion for quality was what won the Japanese club makers and shafts manufacturers to his cause.
“The Japanese manufacturers were always shocked when I asked for better materials and workmanship. They would say that other buyers were much more concerned with decreasing costs, while everything I requested was actually adding to the cost. My goal was to create performing, high quality clubs to rival most OEMs, but to charge as little as possible to the consumer.”
Jung insists his company is more about quality than profit. It’s not an uncommon story, but it’s true that the initial SL1 iron set cost half the current price, as did his drivers and putters. It was Jung’s way of thanking those who believed in him from the start and supported him in making golf easier and more enjoyable for a wider audience.
The current price of a Diawings 9-piece Iron Set (5-PW, 46, 50, 54 wedges) is 899,000krw (about $800) for NS Pro steel shafts and 999,000krw ($900) with UST-Mamiya graphite shafts. Not only can you get an entire iron set for less than $800, it comes with three premium forged CNC milled wedges at no extra charge. Jung even had extra light (~40 grams) grips made especially for the irons to maintain the ideal swing weight needed for the discussed energy transfer.
Although his prices have increased significantly from the original offering, he is not making a lot of money by anyone’s definition. Jung is still determined to keep prices as low as he can. “I like to say my golf clubs perform twice as much as what you actually pay for.”
A full set of Diawings driver, woods, irons, wedges, and a putter can now cost up to $1700, which isn’t inexpensive, but I challenge anyone to find another high-quality brand that casts, forges, mills and assembles all 14 clubs exclusively in Japan. Keep in mind all clubs also come with the aforementioned NS Pro or UST Mamiya shafts, with every club sporting its very own quality leather head cover. Diawings also features maraging steel face similar to those found in clubs like the PING G700.
BUT DO THEY PERFORM?
Okay, so I get the clubs are well-made in Japan and have great shafts. But do they actually do what they claim? Do they help the average bogey player hit the ball better and more consistently? And lest we forget, Diawings also claimed to be nearly a full club longer than conventional length irons, even without jacking the lofts.
I was skeptical when I first read about Diawings about a year ago on Facebook. I’ve played golf since middle school and currently maintain a 7-handicap, but am still always looking for something to help improve my game. I was naturally drawn to the promise of easier golf with longer distance but held off from purchasing the irons for two reasons. One, I am a single handicap golfer who doesn’t need the help of a game improvement category iron; and two, the irons just didn’t look good with its thick topline and the long clubface. In particular, I thought the black plastic cavity badge with the gold letters looked especially ugly and not befitting a better player like me. Throughout the year, however, the more I read about Jung’s assertions and performance claims the more curious I became. So, when I came across the opportunity to test the irons for myself, I jumped at the chance.
Jung also shares tons of golf tips and tidbits he has collected over the years with his 3,000+ followers on his blog. Reading the blog shows that disgruntled golfers unhappy with their Diawings are quite rare, with most testimonials glowing to the level of a cult following. Jung explains his unusually high level of loyalty is an accidental side-effect of regular updates he shares with his followers. By describing his ideas, plans, and research results in detail, he’s come to earn the readers’ trust and respect for his passion. Jung further explains as his followers learn more about the involved processes and the theoretical basis of the new clubs, they become more confident in the product right from the beginning.
DIAWINGS VS GAMER IRONS
I tested the standard SL2 irons with Nippon NS Pro regular steel shafts against my current gamer, the PXG GEN2 0311P with AMT S200 steel shafts. In comparing 8 irons, both clubs have the slightly bigger profile of a game improvement iron.
Right from the beginning, the Diawings had 9 to 11 more yards in carry distance, with less spin. I checked the lofts for both clubs and found both were nearly the same (34 vs. 35 degrees). The launch angle and spin ratio were slightly lower by about 1 degree and 400-800RPM. The ball also rolled out a few yards more.
Overall, the Diawings played nearly a club longer in my mid-irons (6, 7, 8), and nearly a club and half longer in my 9-iron and pitching wedge. Only the 5-iron showed similar carry distance with a few more yards of roll. And as expected, all the irons in the set were as easy to swing and hit as an 8- iron, leading to a tighter shot dispersion and more confidence in the long irons. The only fault I could find was the distance between clubs didn’t match my ideal 10-12 yard gapping, and the black cavity badge still looked ugly.
I was quite impressed. The feel and sound weren’t quite to my liking, but certainly tolerable. The Diawings were also more forgiving than some of the other game improvement irons I’ve recently tried. I have since played two rounds with them, and both times played very well. Despite the fact that I wasn’t used to playing with R-flex steel shafts, the Diawings were still long, straight, and easy to hit. I enjoyed my iron play much better with these single length irons than I had with my gamers of late.
I also cured the distance gapping issue between irons by playing all irons EXACTLY like an 8- iron. After talking with Jung, he advised me to narrow my stance with the ball slightly more towards my right foot to ensure downward impact. The secret, he explained, is that they are all designed to all be hit with a descending blow like a short iron, as to help the average golfer avoid the reverse pivot.
With this information, I found that the iron distances were much more uniform throughout the set, and the distance gaps returned to my normal 10-12 yards. My wedge shots which at first went nearly 145 yards (not a bad thing, is it?) amazingly returned to my normal 125 yards simply by adjusting the ball position like an 8-iron shot. I guess there is something to Jung’s calculations, after all.
IS DIAWINGS THE REAL-DEAL?
Are these the best feeling irons and with a lot of spin and workability? Heck, no. I’ve tried far more buttery-feeling clubs that spun more.
Are these the best clubs ever made? I highly doubt it.
But Jung’s goal was never about the best feel or workability for the better golfer, nor did he promise that we would all be hitting the ball like Tiger Woods. From the start, he was all about making a specific set of clubs for a certain segment of golfers (between 18-25 handicap) to help them hit it farther and to make the game easier to play. Through these benefits, Jung wanted to make the game of golf more enjoyable for the average golfer who didn’t have a lot of time to practice (which is especially true in Korea, as described in my article on Golf in Korea).
In my opinion, Jung has delivered on that promise and Diawings irons perform every bit as well as he claimed they would, and at a price point, we can all be happy to enjoy this great game with a lot less stress.
I haven’t yet tried the Diawings Driver, fairway woods or putter. Each of these clubs also has certain special features that Jung had implemented to help the average golfer with slices and yips. From what I experienced with the irons, I am sure they’ll be helpful to many golfer, as well.
Jung is now looking further ahead. He spends nearly every waking hour on how to improve his products through better design and materials and obsesses about quality in the smallest detail. The look of the irons is still not to my taste, but I am sure he will realize that design can also be a huge purchasing factor for golfers and improve accordingly. I am also proud Diawings is the result of 100% Korean ingenuity. I only wish a time will come when Korean golf manufacturers gain a strong foothold in the industry, and their products are embraced by Korean golfers as whole-heartedly as we do other exotic brand golf clubs.
For now, Diawings is still a work in progress. Jung is busy preparing to enter the North American market, and his products are starting to garner serious interest from other Asian golf markets. An English site for Diawings is also in the works.
When asked if he was satisfied with how far his small company has come in the last two years, Jung simply laughs and says, “Sure, it’s been great. But more than anything, I’m in it for the fun and the look of gratitude on a beginner’s face when he tries my products.” And that’s something I can agree with whole-heartedly.
For more information in English, you can contact James at [email protected]