Let Your Game Choose
Your Golf Clubs
For over a hundred years golf has been played with basically the same set of clubs. The traditional set includes 3 woods (1, 3, 5), 11 irons (2-9, PW, SW) and a putter. Does this configuration work for everyone?
No way! It's time to take a brand new look at what a golf club set can and should be. Instead of selecting clubs based on "tradition", why not select clubs based on what YOUR golf game requires.
Playing the game of golf requires many kinds of shots. Sometimes a shot requires distance and sometimes accuracy. Some shots we hit from a tee, some from short grass and sometimes from ungodly places like rough, sand and dry dirt (hardpan). Each situation requires a different club. Based on our abilities, some shots will be relatively easy and some will be very difficult.
If the shot requires a 200 yard carry over water to a tight pin on a small green, the right club for a beginner, intermediate or advanced golfer will be different. The beginner will need all the help and forgiveness possible (they might even need 2 shots). The intermediate may need a little less forgiveness but still wants to be comfortable with their club. The advanced player may want more subtle characteristics of feel and clubhead response that a beginner can't even imagine. In the past all three were left with only a few choices. Thankfully today there are many more.
Which Clubs Are Most Important
As mentioned, golf requires several kinds of shots - drives, long approach shots, short approach shots, pitches, chips, sand shots, putts and a variety of so-called trouble shots. By far the most frequent shot is a putt. For an average golfer, the putter is used more than twice as much as any other club. If a golfer shoots a score of 100, 35%- 40% of those strokes will be putts. So based on shear numbers, the putter is the most important club.
For most golfers, the driver is used the next most often-a possible 14 times from the tee, or roughly 12-20% of the time depending on ability level and hole requirements. That first shot from the tee sets the tone for the hole. That makes it a very important club. A good drive makes the rest of the shots on that hole easier. A bad drive means ...well trouble.
For beginners who have a hard time hitting the green in a regulation number of strokes, the wedges may be the second most used category of clubs. On a good day a beginner may hit 1-4 greens. So they spend a lot of strokes chipping up to the green (15-20).
The remaining strokes in a round are spread among the rest of the set. It is likely that no one club will be used more than a few times. So in terms of frequency of use, the putter, driver and wedges are clearly used the most frequently with the rest of the clubs bringing up the rear.
On the other hand, the importance of a club has a lot to do with it's effect on our games. A club that has the potential to cause problems (strokes) must be given added weight. The more difficult a club is to hit the more likely that it may cause disaster. The driver, the long irons, and fairway woods are the most likely culprits to cause that errant shot that never is heard from again. Good bye ball.
It's no coincidence that these problem clubs are also the longest clubs in the set. We can all agree that the longer the club, the harder to hit. As our abilities improve we can begin to take advantage of what the longer clubs offer (distance) but to help our games now, finding forgiving versions of these clubs is a priority. Thankfully, we have many new possibilities with higher lofted drivers, fairway woods and the new hybrid clubs.
Let's take a look at how a set for a beginner, intermediate and an advanced golfer could be configured.
As a beginner you have a hard time making consistent contact with the ball. Contact on the heel and toe of the club is common as well as topped and fat shots (hitting the top of the ball or hitting the ground first). You just plain have a problem hitting the ball with the center of the clubface.
Your swing speed is slow due to inexperience with proper swing mechanics (although you younger, athletic beginners may be the exception). For you women and juniors, clubhead speed is slow due to lack of strength. This causes difficulty getting the ball up in the air as well as lack of distance.
As beginner you may also have trouble getting the clubhead back to the ball in a square position. Your clubhead generally approaches the ball from outside of the target line (out-to-in) and at a steep angle. That usually means your typical shot shape is a slice - a shot that curves right.
You often feel that it's difficult to get the ball up in the air. This can be due to your slow swing speed or just from poor contact. Beginners tend to want to help the ball up by scooping under the ball, so you frequently hit fat shots particularly with your irons. You haven't learned that hitting down on the ball makes it go up. This is also caused by that out-to-in, steep swing path.
In the sand you are clueless. You don't understand yet that to get out of the sand you don't hit the ball, you hit the sand and the ball rides out on the sand.
The Beginners Ideal Set
The ideal set for a beginner would be one that takes into account these swing issues. Maximum forgiveness is the goal.
To help with inconsistent contact an oversized clubhead will help. An oversized club has a larger hitting area so there will be fewer mishits. For irons, perimeter weighting will help make those mishits go a little straighter. Shots off the heel and toe will be more solid. A wide sole will slide through the turf easier and get the ball up higher. Slightly shorter clubs will make accurate club-ball contact a better possibility.
To help with that out-to-in swing path, an offset clubhead will get the clubface back to the ball a little later. That means the clubface will be more square to the target and not open. This will also keep the hands a little bit in front of the clubhead which will help with those fat shots.
For long shots from the fairway or rough a beginner wants to choose woods and hybrid clubs with the most loft possible and a low center of gravity. More loft means it will be easier to get the ball in the air and it should go a little farther. It will also create more backspin which will counteract the side spin of shots and keep them from curving as much. The result is shots should be a little bit straighter.
A beginner's driver should have a larger head (over 430cc) to increase the size of the hitting area. Additional loft (12-15 degrees) will get the ball in the air. Added loft once again will increase backspin and make those left to right curves less pronounced.
Putting is something that, with practice, could be better. It doesn't take great athletic ability to be a decent putter. It's still hard for a beginner to judge distances so 3 putts are still common. Alignment is an issue because you haven't learned that you want to keep your head directly over the ball. Contact can still be inconsistent.
Beginner Set Configuration
So what is a good club set configuration for a beginner?
To begin with, a beginner does not need as many clubs. You are allowed 14 clubs but a beginner needs no more than 10-12 clubs. Why make the game more confusing? A new golfer will find that they hit many of their longer clubs the same distance (especially women and seniors). Only when they get down to their 7-PW will they begin to hit clubs different distances.
Super Game Improvement irons are the choice for maximum forgiveness. SGI clubs will offer maximum perimeter weighting, larger offset, a wide sole, and low center of gravity. Club choices can be 6 iron through pitching wedge or 6-sand wedge. The sand wedge selection should offer extra "bounce." Bounce is the feature on the sole of the club that helps it easily glide through sand or rough.
The first clubs to leave out are the long irons (3, 4). Your iron set should start with the 5 or 6 iron and go up to the sand wedge (SW). For longer shots use lofted woods (5, 7, 9) and hybrid clubs (3, 4, 5). You may find you still hit them all about the same distance, so if you can experiment, test them all to see which ones feel the best. Leave the ones that you don't hit well in the bag or at home.
The right set also depends on swing speed. Swing speeds between, 65-80 mph (women, juniors and some seniors) will need more woods and hybrid clubs and generally more loft to help get the ball up in the air. Average male swing speeds of 80-90 mph can begin to add a few more irons (5-6) but you still want to use hybrids and lofted woods instead of long irons. Woods are always easier to hit for beginners. Their larger heads and flat soles compared to irons create more confidence. Slightly shortened versions of 3, 5, and 7 woods (-.5") are highly recommended for all beginners regardless of swing speed.
The driver should have a 440-460 cc titanium head. The new large headed drivers are easier to hit even though still the longest club in the bag. Make sure you have extra loft to increase accuracy and distance. If you find you still have problems hitting it accurately, try choking up an inch or so.
For a putter, you want one of the new large headed mallet putters. These new putters have greater MOI (they don't twist on mishits) and their alignment aids make short putts much easier.
Set configuration - Woods (1, 5, 7), Hybrids (4, 5), Irons (Super Game Improvement) (6-SW), Putter (Mallet)
Recommended GigaGolf Set
Driver-Acer XP 905 (460cc) 12 degrees
Woods-Acer XP 905 (5, 7)
Hybrids-Acer XP (4, 5)
As an intermediate, you are beginning to make consistent contact with the ball. Your irons are more accurate and going the expected distances so you are hitting more greens (3-6 per round). Your club head speed is going up, along with more consistent center of the face contact, so you're starting to get more distance with all your clubs.
You still need help around the greens but now you know how to hit down on the ball so you can begin to try some additional wedges. You'd also like more options from 100 yards and in. You realize that your short game is where you can take a lot of strokes off your score.
Your drives are still inconsistent. Your distance could be better but accuracy may still be more of a problem. That great round is often ruined by those 2 or 3 drives into big trouble.
You still don't hit those long irons very well (maybe you never will) but given a good lie you can crank that 5 iron out there every once in a while. You'd like more distance and consistency for those longer approach shots (180-220 yards). Those long par 4s are still hard to reach.
You still fight that slice but now it's often more of a fade. Sometimes when you really get through the ball it can even move right to left - a wee draw. You're starting to feel like you know where the ball is going.
The Ideal Set
The ideal set for the intermediate golfer would start with Game Improvement irons. You still need forgiveness but you'd also like a little more feel and control. If you tend to hit your irons well you might be ready to consider a regular 4 iron otherwise stay with your hybrid 4.
For your distance clubs add a little less loft on those fairway woods and hybrids to maximize distance. You might be ready to drop your 5 hybrid and replace it with a 3 hybrid.
Your driver is still oversized with about 10-12 degrees of loft to maximize distance and accuracy. Shaft selections may be the most important component. You want a shaft that matches your swing speed and ball flight requirements. Perhaps a draw bias to help get the drive moving a little more right to left.
Your wedges can be reconfigured. A gap wedge or a lob wedge are possibly good additions. If three wedges are your choice you may want to distribute the lofts from your PW to your LW (46, 52, 58 degrees). You may want wedges with less bounce so you can hit them off of tighter lies.
For a putter an intermediate may have already settled on what works for them, but if you are ready to try something new, one of the new MOI maxed mallets would be a good choice.
Set configuration - Woods (1, 4, 5) Hybrids (3, 4) Irons (Game Improvement) (5-PW, SW, LW), Putter
Recommended GigaGolf Set
Driver-Power Play System Q (455cc) 12 degrees
Woods-Power Play System Q (3, 5)
Irons-Power Max GX920 (5-PW, SW, GW)
Hybrids-Power Play System Q (3, 4)
Putter-Ecliptic 3 Ball
Your game is strong but ready for fine tuning. It's about the details for you. You hit most shots pretty solid. Now you want to be able to work the ball and control trajectory better. You hit 8-10 greens in regulation but to hit more you'll need clubs you can really feel.
Your drives are consistent but a little extra distance wouldn't hurt. Those par 5s are starting to be reachable in 2 especially if you only had just a bit more distance.
Your long irons are sometimes strong but still inconsistent. Those 200-230 yard shots to the green can still be a challenge.
From 100 yards in you are very strong. You just need to fine tune those wedges and get the most short game options possible.
The Ideal Set
The ideal set for an advanced player would start with some Players Irons. These clubs have less perimeter weighting and a thinner topline. They have minimal offset and a more traditional look. They are easy to move the ball right to left and left to right. You can really feel the ball and tell where it's going.
Driver would have a little less loft (9-10 degrees). Make sure the shaft is correct for your swing speed and ball flight. The trial and error process may be required to get the shaft that feels just right to you.
Fairway woods and long irons are the critical clubs to make those long par 4s and par 5 reachable. You may want to find that perfect 3 wood for the par 5s and that 2 hybrid for high soft-landings on those long par 4s. This may also take some trial and error and certainly a solid club fitting.
Your wedge options are where the details start to really count. Finding the right combination of loft, feel and bounce to fit your requirements is the name of the game. Much depends on what loft you have on your pitching wedge. You want 5-6 degrees between clubs up from there.
For an advanced player, custom fitting of shafts and club lofts to your game requirements becomes much more important. You want to make sure you can cover every 10-15 yards down from your longest club. You also want to be able to control trajectory for whatever shot requirements pop up - high and soft for small or hard greens and low and boring for wind and knock downs.
Set configuration - Woods (1, 3, 5) Hybrids (3) Irons (Players) (4-PW, SW, LW), Putter
Driver-Pursuit TC420, 9.5 degrees
Woods-Acer XP 905 (3, 5)
Irons-Pursuit m510 Blade (4-PW)
Wedges-Pursuit X-5 52 & 58 degrees
Hybrids-Acer XP (3)
Putter-Soft Roll Polymer