Looking At Your 'Team'
Golf is a funny game, especially when it comes to the way we buy equipment and put our sets together. Most golfers eagerly embrace new technology offered by the club companies, as we are all constantly searching for that new ‘secret weapon’ that will make the difference in our scoring. At least, I’m assuming that somewhere behind each purchase you make – whether it be a new driver, fairway, hybrid, irons, wedges, putter, balls ,etc. – we have hope that this is another piece of the puzzle that will help lower your handicap.
But as quickly as we seem to embrace these new individual bits of technology, we also seem equally as hesitant to back away and look at the entire arsenal of clubs we carry to assess them as “a team”. They are always and only used one-at-a-time for the shot at hand, but collectively our clubs represent the team we’ve assembled to go into battle with the golf course, right? And just like any good team, that requires balance and complementary strengths.
It’s NBA finals time, so think of your set of clubs like a basketball team. Great coaches look for chemistry and compatibility, for sure, but they also have to make sure they have balance. To have a bunch of big men and no speed doesn’t work. Nor can you have a bunch of defensive specialists and no outside shooters. The team that wins the Championship every year has balance.
And so should your golf bag “team.”
But few of us do, in my observation. Technology has given us more distance with everything in our bags, from driver to pitching wedge, but every golfer has a physical limit at the long end of the set. No matter what technology you buy, there is a limit to just how far you can hit the ball. And you’ve probably reached it, unless you haven’t purchased any new long clubs in 10 years or more.
But this has come at a cost. Particularly as you’ve purchased new sets of irons, you’ve gained distance with your short clubs because they continually get stronger in loft and longer in length. It’s great that you now hit your irons a full club longer than you used to, but what have you done to cover for the short end distances that you lost by doing so? If you were hitting a PW 115 back in 2000, and hit your new one 125-130, what do you hit from 115 now?
The typical bag set make-up that I see includes a driver, 1-2 fairways, 1-3 hybrids, and irons from 4-P. Some golfers still carry a 3-iron, and some extend hybrids all the way to the 5 or 6. That’s a personal thing for your ‘team’. But all golfers have gained distance with all these clubs, which has given them fewer options in scoring range than ever. And scoring range is where you will beat the golf course, whether that means winning a PGA Tour event, or breaking 80, 90 or 100. You won’t do that with the lower lofted clubs from long range.
So, let’s take a “typical” golfer who hits his 5-iron 170 yards. Some of you are longer, some of you shorter, but follow my logic here. That means he hits a driver somewhere around 250-260 probably, and pitching wedge 120-125 or so. He carries a 3-wood, 2 and 3 hybrid and 4-PW and two more wedges. So he has five
clubs for all his shots outside 170, but only three clubs for all his shots inside 120-125. If you are playing the right tees for your skill level, you shouldn’t have more than 8-10 shots a round that are outside 5-iron range, so do you really need 5 clubs for those? Over 1/3 of your set for what amounts to 8-10% of your shots?
But the typical 85-shooter will have as many as 15-20 shots from inside PW range, including approaches and recovery shots. So you have only two, maybe three clubs for what amounts to 25-30% of your shots. How much sense does that make?
Think about that, because I’m going to continue this on Tuesday.
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I've actually been tinkering with my "team" quite a bit lately, trying to find the best combination for me. Recently, I pulled my 5i out of the bag and added a second sand wedge instead. I had been carrying one cavity-back SW, but the second one is more of a blade. My thinking here is that it's easier for me to get the ball "up" for close-in loft shots (example: have to get over a bunker, but the pin is right behind the bunker) or for bunker shots. The cavity back, meanwhile, stays in the bag because it's easier for me to use for a full strength shot from the fairway.
Isn't it simply about managing your gaps? I remember reading somewhere once that 4* of loft between clubs = 10yards (in theory). If you use that as a staring point, it should be pretty easy to figure out where you want your set to be. Personally, I carry 4 wedges (48*, 52*, 56*, 60*). The stock PW that came with my set is 43*, and the lofts go up from there. I'm not carrying a fairway at the moment. I tend to swap out the longer clubs (4i, 5i) depending on the day, and replace them with different hybrids that I've acquired. Just trying to find the right fit for the longer clubs. Trying to find the right mix.
Terry, you just described me to a "T" as a "typical" golfer (and last Saturday I shot an 85). Just the other day, I went to test some new hybrids because my current 2- and 3-hybrids are really dated. My thinking was to find one 19* hybrid that can cover 190-215 yards so that I can add a lob wedge to my "team" on a regular basis. Looking forward to your continuation on Tuesday.
Duke of Hazards says:
i have that same huge gap in my lineup mjaber. my PW is 45* and next is 52*. My next set will likely have a 46* PW and then I'll probably switch to a 50*.
If you think about the hole you are playing while still on the tee box, you should be able to engineer it so that you are approaching with whatever club you want. On a 350 hole Driver/wedge doesn't always work. 4/9 at least for me works quite well more consistently especially off tight approach lies. If the course is lush in the fairway, I'll go D-3w/wedge.
Just saying figure out what you want to approach with, and choose your club off the tee that way. Don't just automatically grab driver
I have spent years perfecting my team, and have the team adjusted to me and the gaps are consistent throughout. I have set of three Eidolon wedges gapped 4 degrees apart so from my 46 degree PW down is 46-50-54-58, but I don't use them because for some reason those tight gaps screw with my mind. So I use the wedges that I bought from the manufacturer of the set and those are gapped 5 degrees apart and that seems to work better for me. I recently learned how far each wedge shot flies and it has helped knowing that. 3/4 swing PW is good for about 80; AW 60; SW 40-ish. Still struggling with the finesse shots under 60 yards.
@Duke... I'm only 1-degree off from my highest wedge (48) to my first iron (pw- 43*). I got the 48* specifically for that reason. I knew when I got new irons that my pw would be jacked up and I needed to cover that gap between the stock PW and my gap wedge.
I think this depends on your game. If you are 250 driver and 170 5-iron, then Terry is probably right and you should think about replacing a longer club with an additional wedge. However, I think average driver is more like 220 and 5-irons are shorter than 170, I know I am, so I need the longer club configurations to reach long par 4's in 2. My PW is only 110 full out and I can adjust the distance down to 90 and 100 yards pretty well, so I'm pretty comfortable with just 2 wedges.
When I decide to "mess" about and play 7 iron 7 iron for 300 ish par 4, I leave the ball "Very" close. I love my r9 irons, and although I like my wedges, it seems a slight mishit makes a "Lot" of difference in the result, and i'm more likely to leave it close with a 789 then a PW GW LW SW.
I think its the FULL stroke compared to doing math with the in betweens... and margin of erro.
As for the team: I have D 3H 4i-9i PW 45 50 54 58 64
I hit 4i 190-205 and I hit my 3H from 220-250 so no need for a 3W or 5W. I prefer the wedges for sure, I just need to get better with them.
Duke of Hazards says:
yeah, mjaber. i'm counting on my next set of clubs not being 'jacked' up. will likely be player cavities, so the pw is usually 46. right now, i have a 35 yard difference between those 2 clubs (my 45 and 52), so I've made adjustments by practicing different chokes and 3/4 swings with my PW, which has actually worked out okay, but it's still not a comfortable gap, right along the lines of what Terry is talking about. i hardly ever use my 4i (hybrid), .... in fact, can't remember last time I hit it during a round. i could just as easily ditch the 4i and just choke the 3i for the very rare occasions when I need a 190 carry club, add another wedge in there.
Another issue with the piecemeal way we assemble our sets is that it's pretty likely that your grips aren't all the same size.
Particularly in graphie, shafts taper from the butt end in varying degrees and this can affect the grip size, particularly under the trail hand. My driver has an Aldila NV shaft and I have to add a bunch of tape under the trail hand to get it to match up with the rest of my set.
This issue doesn't help with our consistency, I assure you.
PW is 46*, then I have a piecemeal wedge set at 51*, 54* and 58* -- seems to work okay. Can't hit a 60* or above to save my life, and the 58 has been pretty versatile and can flop the bejeepers out of my 54* Eidelon! Love that v-sole...
A few of my team members will be retiring soon to make way for some new talent. Driver, 3-wood, putter--I'm looking at you.
Tim Horan says:
I have started leaving out team members for certain courses that I play and rarely use my 4, 5 or 6 irons favouring two hybrids 18 and 21 degrees. My biggest gap therefore is from 21 degree to 7 iron. Knock down 21 degree is more reliable than my six iron. I am always tinkering with my team leaving lob wedges out in favour of an additional iron or leaving the fairway out to bring in the lob wedge again. I depends on three things...the course I am playing, the weather and my last game.
Clubs are part of it for sure, but much bigger is the swing. I have three wedges other than my PW - 52, 56 and 60. But I also use an assortment of partial swings and choke downs to change those distances way more than the irons. Don't get me wrong, there are caes where I'll choke down on a 6 irons to keep the ball lower, or partial swing a 9 iron to bump and run off a baked lie, but it's usually the wedges which are dialed in using varying grips, stances and swings. And that's help up throughout time.
Wow - some awful spelling/grammar errors there, should read "cases where I'll choke down on a 6 iron" and "that's held up throughout time".
One of my goal this summer is not only improving my game, but making my "team" of clubs checked for proper length, lie, and flex.
Since I have been piece meal my team together, when I took some measurements, I've noticed that: I have different shaft for my wedges vs irons, my Scor 47* wedge is actually 0.5" longer than my 9 iron, etc.
So, I will be making some adjustments to my existing lineup, rather than a whole replacement. I like my current club set up, however, I think I can use some adjustments to make it a improved team.
By this logic, all golfers should be carrying 3 putters: one for long putts over 30 feet, one for mid range putts and one for short putts because we "have only one club for what amounts to 45-55% of your shots". That logic is absurd! If you are an archer or basketball player whether you shoot at target 15 feet away or 75 feet away you use the same tools to accomplish these very different tasks. Terry, I think you are skewing the numbers to favor adding an extra wedge to someone's bag.
To reply to your team metaphor, at least half of my clubs perform multiple roles in my bag. All of the golfers I know hit many different shots with many of their clubs. I have a 100 yard 4 iron punch shot I am very consistent with. Another scoring club will not replace that shot. My little hybrid chip shot is not going to be accomplished with another wedge regardless of the face angle or degree of bounce.
Most golfers don't need another club. They don't need new clubs unless the ones in their bags have been played for more than 400 - 500 rounds. What they need another round of golf and/or a few hours working on their short game around the green. Promoting practice and encouraging people learn to use the tools in their golf bag will make us better golfers. If someone goes and practices their short game and realizes they don't have a 60 yard full swing shot they learn a 60 yard half swing shot. Problem solved! Or, better yet, they learn to not leave themself the 60 yard shot in the first place.
We learn to hit better golf shots only by taking more golf shots - not by buying new clubs!
That's my 2 cents.
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