What Is Offset, and Why Are Some Golf Clubs Designed With It?

There are Two Primary Benefits to Golf Clubs That Include Offset

A golf iron with offset
See how the leading edge of the iron face is set back relative to the shaft? That's offset. Cleveland Golf

"Offset" is design feature in golf clubs that was first a feature specific to game-improvement clubs but is now found in most irons and many woods and hybrids. When the leading edge of a clubface is set back from the hosel or neck, the club is said to have "offset." Another way of saying it is that the shaft appears to be in front of, or ahead of, the clubface (because it is) when offset is present.

Tom Wishon, a veteran golf club designer and founder of Tom Wishon Golf Technology, defines offset this way:

"Offset is a design condition in clubheads in which the neck or hosel of the head is positioned in front of the face of the clubhead, so that the clubface appears to be set back a little from the neck of the club. (Put another way, offset is the distance that the forward side of the neck/hosel of the clubhead is set in front of the bottom of the face of the clubhead.)"

Offset originated in putters to help golfers get their hands ahead of the ball at impact, but is now used in most irons and many hybrids and woods aimed at mid- and higher-handicappers. And it's pretty typical these days to find small amounts of offset even in golf clubs built for low-handicap golfers.

Two Big Benefits When a Golf Club Has Offset

"When a wood or ironhead is designed to have more offset, two game improvement factors automatically occur, each of which can help the golfer," Wishon says.

Those two benefits of an offset design are that it can help a golfer square the clubface for impact, improving the odds of a straight (or at least not a sliced) shot; and it can help a golfer get the ball up in the air. Better golfers don't necessarily need help with those things, so golf clubs designed for low-handicappers don't necessarily include offset (although most do, at least in small amounts).

Here's what Wishon says about these two benefits of offset:

1. Squaring the Clubface and Offset: "The more offset in the clubhead, the more time the golfer has on the downswing to rotate the face of the clubhead back around in order to arrive at impact closer to being square to the target line. In other words, offset can help a golfer come closer to squaring the face at impact because the clubface arrives at impact a split-second later than with a club that has no offset. So this benefit of offset is to help reduce the amount the golfer may slice or fade the ball."

2. Higher Launch and Offset: "The more offset, the farther the head's center of gravity is back from the shaft. And the farther the CG is back from the shaft, the higher the trajectory will be for any given loft on the face. In this case, more offset can help increase the height of the shot for golfers who have a difficult time getting the ball well up in the air to fly."

Does Offset Really Help Fight a Slice?

Yes, but more in a wood than in an iron, Wishon says.

"With offset, the clubface arrives at impact a split second later than with a clubhead that has no offset or in which the face is in front of the neck/hosel of the clubhead, which is the case with woodheads," Wishon says.

That split-second difference allows a split-second more rotation of the golfer's hands, allowing a tiny bit more time to get the face into a square position.

Why is the effect of offset on a slice greater in woods than in irons? Wishon answers:

"One, woods have less loft than irons, which means the slice from an open face at impact is greater. Two, the difference between a typical woodhead - in which the face is in front of the neck/hosel - compared to an offset wood is greater than the difference between a non-offset iron and an offset iron."

The Amount of Offset Varies in Golf Club Design

How much offset any give golf club has is entirely dependent on the manufacturer and the target audience for a club. Clubs aimed at better golfers have less offset (or even none); clubs aimed at higher handicappers have more offset. Within a set, the longer clubs (in terms of shaft length) will likely have more offset, if it is present, while the shorter clubs (short irons, wedges) will have less.

Club makers often list the amount of offset on their websites or other marketing materials under the "Specifications" label. Offset is typically listed in millimeters or as fractions of an inch (expressed as decimals). In irons, a high amount of offset can range into the 5mm to 8mm range, or quarter-inch to third-inch range.

The largest offset measurements are found in putters, where offset is often characterized as a "full shaft" or "half shaft" or "one-and-a-half shafts" worth of offset.

Related Term: 'Progressive Offset'

The term "progressive offset" is most commonly applied to iron sets. It means that the amount of offset changes from club to club throughout the set—more offset in the longer clubs, less in the shorter clubs. For example, in an iron set with progressive offset, the 5-iron would have more offset than the 7-iron, which would have more offset than the 9-iron. This is typical today in golf sets that use offset, and so the term "progressive offset" isn't used as often as it once was.