Game Management Begins In The Bag
I had a question from a reader the other day, where he revealed he only carried the pitching wedge that came with his irons and a 60 degree lob wedge – and of course, from there told me all about his problems in scoring range.

I think I’ve touched on this sometime in the last year, but thought I’d revisit the notion that, for most golfers, their set make-up is costing them strokes.

As the carts were staged for a tournament at my club this past weekend, I took some time to look into the bags to see what players were carrying. What I typically saw were 4-5 clubs with covers on them – driver to hybrids, and usually only 1-2 wedges. In my opinion, that is just backwards . . . regardless of what handicap a player has.

Let me try and explain.

It all begins with the driver.

In my experience, most golfers over about a 15 handicap would be better off without one at all. A 3-wood delivers more reliable performance, is straighter and less intimidating. It will leave that high handicap player in the fairway more often, and average distance will be better. At the very least, make sure your driver is not longer than 44”. It will be longer and straighter than what’s on the shelf at 45” plus.

But after that, how many “long clubs” do you really need ? For the average golfer, I’d say not more than 2 clubs to go from your longest RELIABLE iron to your driving club. In that regard, I think the 4-wood is given short shrift. It's plenty long, lofts the ball higher than a 3, and if you’re that far from the green, probably don’t need to be hitting “at it” anyway. For all but low handicap players, a shot over 190 or so is just to get somewhere around the green.

So, I think almost all golfers would be best served if they carried only two “woods” – a driving club (even if it’s a 2- or 3-wood) and 4 or 5-wood for longer fairway shots.

Hybrids are wonderful.

But few golfers really need more than one. A 19-20 degree hybrid will give you a great option from 175-200, depending on your game. It lofts the ball high, and is easy to hit from tough lies. If you don’t have one – get one. If you have 2-3, consider dropping one.

In your irons, the “modern” set is really a 4-PW or even 5-PW, depending on your length. Again, make sure you have a 15-yard gap between your longest iron and your hybrid. That’s plenty of precision at that distance. So, if you're carrying not more than two “woods”, a hybrid, and 4-PW in your irons, that’s only ten clubs. The putter makes eleven.

Are you ready to score ?

Now, after making the above mentioned adjustments to your set, you can put three “scoring clubs” in your bag to make sure you can get it on the green and in the hole efficiently when you are inside 100 yards. And those will help you tame any course much better than a bag full of long clubs. If you’ll get a 52, 56 and 60 degree wedge, and spend just a little time with them around the practice green, you'll always have multiple options when you face any pitch or chip. By selecting the right club, you won’t have to try to manipulate your hands or swing to hit it higher or lower, with more or less spin.

It’s a fact that the simpler and more consistent the technique, the easier this game gets. So, I’d love to hear from all of you as to what your bag make-up is. Please chime in and we’ll publish results.

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[ comments ]
John B says:
One of your better postings...your recommended bag almost mirrors mine (I am a 21 cap).
Driver, 16* 4 wood, 19* hybrid, 4-PW, GW, Sw, putter. I would carry a LW for my 14th club, but I just don't get to practice enough with it to be consistent, so it is better that I don't carry it.

My hybrid is about 185 or maybe 190 carry reliably and accurately (at least as accurate as my handicap allows!). My 4W is just for long second shots on par 5's with wide unrestricted fairways, or for the occasional tee shot that is really tight or when my driver is acting up. The 4W maybe gets pulled 2-3 times a round, and frankly the hybrid maybe the same. I tend to driver and then 4 iron or 5 iron a lot, as those are reliable clubs for me, even if I have to lay up. As I have learned not to force the ball long and to use maybe two five irons rather than a fairway wood and wedge, well, my handicap has gone from about a 27 last year to 21.6 this year, and falling.

Hopes to get to the high teens this year.
Swerb says:
Terry, great piece. Really enjoy reading your entries and glad I found the site.
DeepRough says:
Great post as usual Terry. Nice work on the new site, love the look!
Jim says:
I couldn't agree more. I just recently pulled out my four iron and now start with the five iron. I have four wedges, PW, GW, SW and LW. I may hit a four iron once a round and even with a 1 handicap still don't hit it as well as I would like. You are correct in that you only need a couple of clubs for long range shots.
George says:
I agree with 95% of what you say, with the exception that I believe most players are better off with a hybrid 4 vs. a regular 4 iron. I've never figured out why most players don't carry more wedges. I carry 3 plus PW and use them all every single round.
Blue says:
Like your work.
Thoughts and Q. With the proliferation of de-lofting clubs by numerous companies to make golfers think their hitting longer, I find the use of the iron numbers useless anymore - in addition to extremely confusing when trying to have a meaningful discussion of grooving swings for distances in a discipline practice program like yours for wedges (glad to see you mark your wedges by degrees of loft!). My thoughts all start with degrees of loft - starting with the driver, through the woods, hybrid/long iron transition, and onto wedges.

I would like your reaction to the following bag. The rational is more focus on consistent yardage spreads (15 yds between clubs) and more tools inside 110 yards as you believe, too. Here are the 14 sticks:
10.5* Driver
15* 3 Wood
21* Hybrid
25* Hybrid
30* Hybrid
35* Hybrid
40* Iron
44* Iron
48* Iron
52* Wedge
56* Wedge
60* Wedge
64* Wedge
William Marshall says:
Larry, you are dead on here. I'm guilty myself and have been looking hard at which scoring club(s) make up I need to put in the bag. I can make room in the bag by dropping my Driver, 3 or 5 wood on any given day, depending on the course and situation. I carry a 3, 4, 5 hybrid (21, 24, 27 degrees). The 3 hybrid (190) and the 5 wood (195) are too close on yardage but with quite different trajectory. Both come in very handy when the need for going under or over comes up. The 27 degree (5) hybrid and my 6 iron are too close also (170 / 160) and I usually drop the 6 iron to add a 56 or 60 degree wedge. Why would I not think I always need them ?? Frankly, I cost myself strokes by using them too much and poorly. I seem score better with a very conservative approach which rarely puts the ball close or in too much trouble. I think I just fall in love with the higher degree wedges and try shots I am not prepared to hit with them. Thiry years and six handicap strokes ago I hit them fine but not now. (7 vs 13) I need to do what is needed to make them the strength of my game because I am never going to pound the driver with the kids again or hit a five iron 200 yards unless I blade it downhill.
Obviously, the more loft on the club, the more skill (ie: correct practice and couse management) is needed to get the real benefits because there is so little room for error as we run out strokes and read estate to work with. I have a closet full of wedges from 48 - 60 degrees that have failed to win a permanent place in the bag. The highest loft in my bag today is a 54 degree "sand wedge" which came in the set and is matched to all the other irons. It works quite well around the greens by opening the face, shortening the swing, etc but it is not what is needed to hit it "tight" as often as needed to save the hole. I need to be right where you say and drop the current "SW" (54) and add the 53, 56, 60 (matched set) then go to work. I'm sure my putting would be better if I did not start so far from the hole so often. Thanks for your insights. Sometimes I need to be told what I already know. Bill
wedgeguy says:
Blue, you first . . .
You don't say what your handicap is, but you show a lot of care in selecting your set. My observations would be as follows: 1) There would seem to be a large distance gap between your #3 wood at 15* and your first hybrid at 21*. 2) 40* is a typical 8-iron, so you are relying on hybrids to replace the 6- and 7-irons, which I would think might be costing you some shotmaking skills at those distances. 3) The 64* wedge is a tough nut to master, and I don't think it is right for that many golfers, particularly high handicap players.

But if this mix works for you, who am I to critique it?
wedgeguy says:
William, you don't mention what kind of irons you play, but if your only "go to" scoring club is the 54* that came with them, you are right that a good set of wedges could help you significantly. Might I humbly suggest that you try the EIDOLON V-SOLE. I only recommend them because they are absolutely the best in the game -- we guarantee that with the only 100% money back guarantee in golf.

Hope we can have a chance to prove that to you.

Wayde says:
I have quite a basic set:
9.5* driver; 15* 3W; 18* hybrid; 3 - pw; 52* and 58* wedges; and my favourite scoring club from the fringe, my putter. I'm a beginner with a high handicap, so my 3 and 4 irons are used only for longer punch shots for the time being. They're great in the wind, and I don't have to swing them very hard for the ball to roll quite a long way. My 18* hybrid is my long fairway shot, but more often I'll just hit a couple of 6 irons (or a couple of longer punches with my 4 iron). My 9i, pw, 52, 58, and putter give me just the right amount of variety I need for the short game, I find.
My driver is a beast of a thing for me to hit, 45" long and 9.5*, (907D2) so I'm usually taking my 3W off the tee. Still, I love my driver :) It's control is slowly improving at the range and as long as I can keep improving with it on the range, I'll keep trying.
wedgeguy says:
Wayde, As a new golfer, my suggestion would be that at least the 3-iron, and possibly even the 4 could be "retired" at least for now. Those are difficult clubs to master. And if your driver is a club you want to "master", try playing it gripped down an inch or so for a while. It's much easier to control at 43.5-44 inches in length. I've written posts on this in the past. The key is that you are a new golfer who is hooked and committed. Welcome to the club!
Wayde says:
hi, yes my 3 and 4 irons are essentially retired. I can't work the ball with them like I can with the 5 and 6, so I don't play them on course unless I just feel like having a bit of fun and taking a chance :) They're still just range clubs really.
Also I really like gripping down about half an inch with all of my irons, and about an inch with my hybrid and woods, I feel it gives me a lot more control without too much distance loss. Using a shorter shaft doesn't really do it for me, I prefer to grip down a bit. I can only carry my 3W about 220-230 anyway (teed), so it's not like the extra bit of length is going to transform me into a big hitter or anything.
hey thanks for all the help, your site is really good. It's nice having a place to get knowledgeable advice.
wedgeguy says:
Gripping down on clubs is something I alway advocate, Wayde, so you are right on target with this approach to shotmaking.
Tim Horan says:

Playing off 10 and using Kanegolf 304 MB blades...

I carry the following with alternatives in brackets depending on the course and weather. (All numbers refer to degrees)

9.5 Driver 427cc
13 Fairway (15 Faiway)
18 Rescue (21 Rescue)
24 iron (4)
28 iron (5)
32 iron (6)
36 iron (7)
40 iron (8)
44 iron (9)
48 wedge
52 wedge
56 wedge
60 wedge
Futura Branding Iron

Leading on to a later post... I have my clubs loft checked at the beginning of each season and change my irons every 2/3 years. Playing 36 holes each week throughout the year the grooves quickly wear out on short irons and being a digger rather than a picker the longer irons get strained after two seasons.
birly-shirly says:
Driver - when it's wide open.
15 Fairway wood
19 Hybrid - great utility club out of marginal lies and is easier than the 2 iron to hit at less than full throttle, so covers a 20 - 25 yd spread. Too easy to turn over off a tee, unless there's a strong left to right wind blowing.
2 iron - overlaps in distance with hybrid, but shorter, heavier shaft makes it reliable off the tee, and provides a lower flight in the wind.

Rest of bag is 3 - PW - but lofts are old-style, so PW is 51.
SW is 56 - and I'm seeing how I get on with a lob swing, rather than a lob wedge for now. So far, so good...
silentfink says:
Right now I'm going with the following setup:

Driver - 10.5*
4-Wood - 17*
Hybrid - 19*
Hybrid - 23*
5-Iron - 27*
6-Iron - 31*
7-Iron - 35*
8-Iron - 39*
9-Iron - 43*
PW - 47*
GW - 52*
SW - 56*
LW - 60*

We'll see how this setup goes. I have a 3W, 5W, 21* Hybrid, and 4-Iron that I can swap in, as needed.

PS GW, SW, and LW are V-Sole... ;)
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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