What’s In Your Bag?

The mechanics of your swing are important. That’s why we encourage weekend players to take golf lessons and read golf tips. But what you carry in your bag is also important. You can cut strokes from your score even before you get to the course by tailoring what’s in your bag factors like the weather, the course’s firmness, and the types of shots you’re most likely to face.

Phil Mickelson carries 18 or 19 clubs with him weekly. He chooses the 14 clubs he’s going to use based on course and conditions. By choosing the right combination of clubs, he expands his shotmaking options. Increasing your shotmaking options can chop strokes off your scores and reduce your golf handicap. Let’s review some club choices.

The Driver

Previously, choosing the right driver would have been a complicated process. It would have entailed a lot of trial and error and club hunting, as well as a long search for the right head-shaft combination. But no longer. Today you can buy head-shaft combinations that click together with a wrench. Instead of spending time looking for a club with the right head-shaft combination, you can assemble it with a few twists of the wrench.

Some professionals carry two shafts—one an inch longer than the other—and three similar clubheads with slight differences in loft. They then create the combination they need. With this approach, you don’t have to modify your setup or swing to fit different clubs. Instead, you can make the same swing and let the club do the work.

The key with the driver is choosing the right head-shaft combination. If it’s cold outside or you’re playing a course where you want more run, use the longer shaft and a clubhead with less loft. To hit higher tee shots, use a shorter shaft and a clubhead with more loft to produce more backspin and a steeper angle of attack.

Hybrids/Irons

Besides using different head-shaft combinations, you can interchange a hybrid and a 3-iron. Use the hybrid—which goes about 10 yards further than the 3-iron about 80 percent of the time—on courses where the rough is thick. Using the hybrid also let’s you drop the 4-iron and add another club, like a lob wedge or a gap wedge to your bag. The 3-iron is great on courses where the rough is thinner.

The benefit of interchanging these clubs is that you can swing the same way with both clubs. However, you will create different divots—a small divot with your 3-iron while the hybrid skids along the grass like a fairway wood. Also, with a hybrid, match the lie angle and shaft specs to the rest of your irons. That way you can swing the same way with all of them.

Wedges

 The right combination of wedges offers the best chance of dialing in your short game. Many players use a three-wedge combination—a pitching wedge, a gap wedge, and a sand wedge. That combination works well on many courses. But you might also consider adding the super-lofted wedges—the 60-degree and the 64-degree.

These wedges are great for different shots. The 60-degree wedge has 10 degrees of bounce. It’s good for standard greenside bunker shots or rough, and when the ground is spongy. The 64-degree wedge, with only 6 degrees of bounce, is ideal for sliding under the ball from tight, firm lies. But be careful. This club can be nerve wracking to hit. The trick is giving the grooves enough time to grip the ball and send it upward and forward.

Putters

The key with putters is matching the ball and the clubface. Having a putter with an interchangeable face works well because you don’t have to get used to two different putters with two different feels.

If you use a firmer ball, use a putter with a softer face. It keeps the ball from coming off the clubface hot and produces a nicer sound, which is a consideration for some. If you don’t like the sound of the ball coming off the clubface, you could struggle.

If you use a softer ball, use a putter with a harder clubface. It makes the putter lighter and produces a better sound than a softer clubface. It also preserves feel and prevents the ball from coming off the putter with a spring-like effect.

If you want to slash your golf handicap, take another look at the clubs your bag. Matching your club set to the course and the conditions can cut strokes from your scores without even taking a shot. Expanding your bag increases your shot making capabilities. It also gives you the best chance of conquering the challenges you face on any given day without even taking a golf lesson or digesting a golf tip.

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