Are you playing with the right clubs in the bag?

Doug Hammer Scottsdale, AZ (Sports Network) -- I pose this question to you all, not because you need to consider the brand of clubs you are playing, but do you have the necessary clubs in the bag to give you the best chance to shoot a good score? I fit golf clubs in the Callaway Authorized Performance Center at Troon North in addition to my duties as the Director of Instruction and we start our fittings by assessing the equipment a person is currently playing. This assessment includes judging what a person's set makeup consists of as a starting point.

Over and over again we see a consistent pattern in an amateur's sets. Too many woods and hybrids and not enough wedges. This is a common problem as everyone wants to hit the ball further and hybrids and fairway woods have never been easier to hit. If you are playing out of deep rough, or just flat out struggle with long irons, then you should have a hybrid or two in the bag. You probably don't need to replace the 2, 3, 4, and 5 irons though!!

Also, fairway woods are certainly more forgiving than ever before and can be crucial to your score on those golf courses that are getting longer and longer, seemingly every month! So, you would be crazy to not carry a fairway wood or two as well. This article is not intended to bash the fairway wood and hybrid craze but, rather, to keep the expectations realistic and point you in the direction of the most important clubs in the bag, wedges.

Where would Phil Mickelson be without his bag full of wedges?
Too often I come across a bag that has a pitching wedge and then an old 56 or 60 degree wedge that was given to them from a friend or handed down from a father or grandfather because that was his "go to" club around the green. I get a mixed bag of answers when I ask got an explanation re the lack of wedges in the bag, usually something like "I'm not very good from the sand, so I just chip out with my Pitching Wedge...or "Is a sand wedge really necessary?"

Let's think about it this way: How often do you hit your 3-wood SUCCESSFULLY from the turf (not teed up)? Now, ask yourself how often do you REALLY expect to hit the green from 175 to 225 yards. If you said greater than 50% of the time, you would be considered one of the best players on the PGA Tour. Congratulations!! And, finally, how often do you tee off with the 3-wood instead of the driver?

Therefore, you may have come up with some really profound answers. Most people, professionals included, do not hit the 3-wood perfectly off the fairway. It is the longest and toughest club to hit off the ground, so why have it? The only reason is if it is when it is your go to club from the tee. My argument for this is that the driver is a bigger and more forgiving head, so learn to hit it from the tee and it will work better!! A big reason a 3 is better off the tee is length, so shorten the driver by gripping down if you are struggling with it. Try condensing your 3- wood and 5-wood into a 4-wood and you will be more consistent from the turf, giving up only 10 yards max in distance.

Should you play with a hybrid or fairway wood? Check out the video here.

Next, let's address those hybrids. A scratch golfer hits the green 50% of the time from 190 yards, while a 10 handicap hits the green 25% of the time from 190 yards. Consequently, depending upon your level, your expectations should be in line with these percentages. What this means is it is not important to have every 10 yard increment from 180 to 220 covered with hybrids. Have 1 or 2 in the bag to help you get the ball in the vicinity of the green from this distance; if you hit the green, great!! Let's keep the 3 and 5 hybrid, ditch the 4. Now you have room for a couple of wedges in the bag.

You need the wedges! These are your scoring clubs and you should be working to be proficient with them from everywhere inside of 100 yards. Imagine your score if you hit the green 100% of the time from inside of 100 yards. Now, imagine also if you made a couple of the putts after you hit the green. Seems like a much easier way to shoot your lowest score ever, rather than relying on that new hybrid to get you on the green EVERY time from 190 yards, when even the best players don't hit the green every time from that distance.

Let's talk wedge requirements. Most likely you have a pitching wedge in the bag. What you may not know is that the pitching wedge loft has gotten less and less over the past few years. Ten years ago a pitching wedge had 48 or 49 degrees of loft; now they have 45 or 46. That means your pitching wedge is more like a 9-iron used to be. Your sand wedge is typically 56 degrees. That leaves a pretty huge gap between your PW and your SW. If you hit your PW 120 yards and your SW 90-100 yards, what do you hit at 110? Or if the PW is your 110 club and your SW goes 85, what do you hit 100 yards? Those are all crucial yardages from which you should EXPECT to hit the green.

After explaining all of this, here is what I suggest you have in your bag for wedges...keep the Pitching Wedge, add a Gap Wedge of 50 degrees of loft, next up is the sand wedge at either 54 or 56 degrees, and finally a 60 or 62 degree wedge for those high soft shots. At an absolute minimum you should be carrying a pitching, sand, and lob wedge. Don't skimp on the wedges, get rid of an extra fairway or hybrid and add a wedge to enhance your scoring opportunities!!

Doug Hammer * Director of Instruction * Troon North Golf Club p 480-585-5300 ext. 251 * f 480-585-5161 * 10320 E Dynamite Blvd. * Scottsdale, AZ 85262 Managed by Troon Golf? *

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