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How to legally carry more than 70 clubs in your bag

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Pop Quiz! Fill in the blanks below:

  • I am on the range working on my full _____________.
  • It is a chip _____.
  • It is a bunker _______.
  • It is a flop ________.
  • It is a bump-and-run ________.
  • It is a knockdown ________.
  • It is a pitch _______.

Are you seeing a trend in your answers?

The first answer should have been the word “swing.” The rest of the blanks should have been answered with the word “shot.” Hopefully everyone got a 100 percent on the quiz!

Part of golf is about having a good consistent, repeatable full swing that produces quality results. But most rounds only contain about 20-to-25 truly “stock” full swings, which I define as full swings that don’t have any special considerations like three-quarter shots or shots that golfers try to hit higher or lower than normal.

Those 20-to-25 stock shots occur on most tee shots (except on some par 3’s where you might be in between clubs) and approach shots where you have a perfect yardage. The rest of the swings during your round now will require you to play different shots.

Think about it this way: What if I took you out on your course and only allowed you to take full swings at full effort? On a par 5, you could hit a perfect driver and three wood, leaving you 85 yards to the flag. As you set up to hit your 85-yard approach, I remind you that you are only allowed a full swing. So you “pure” your approach shot with a sand wedge, which goes about 100 yards with a full swing, and it flies 5 yards over the green, takes a big bounce and goes right into a palmetto bush. That would never happen except in our little game, but it illustrates my point about full swings.

Full swings aren’t necessary for every shot during a round of golf — not even 50 percent of shots. We unavoidably face situations that do not call for full swings in every round and it is how we execute them that determines the score at the end of the day. If you’ve watched most golfers practice, however, you know that they tend to dedicate most of their time to their full swing.

A couple of years ago I was working with one of my new students who was a very good college player. He wanted to play professionally, so he came to me for help with his game. He was hitting perfect 54-degree wedge shots at our first target green. It was getting boring to watch, so I went to his bag and my bag and grabbed our 9 irons — time for a little competition! We played closest to the hole with 10 shots, first one to six wins with the 9 irons only. Who do you think won this little exercise? Yeah, me — and by a lot. Something like 6-1. This player had no “shots” other than a full swing!

In most of my training sessions, my students and I spend time on the full swing. With a lot of my better players, however, we spend an equal amount of time learning how to hit variety of shots with different clubs. It’s true that most tour players have grooved a controlled full swing with perfect rhythm and impact, but they also have a large arsenal of other shots.

The reality is that most golfers rely on 13 shots — one for every club in their bag (I’m not counting the putter). Comparatively, most tour players have at least 70 shots, or 70 “clubs” in their bag. How is that? If you hit all your shots full, or at 100 effort, you will struggle to develop your game. Swinging full bore at every shot makes you a less versatile player and your scores will tend to be higher.

If you learn to dial in your swing with each club at 90 percent with good rhythm, which means that you control the club, your body movements and distance at two distinct speeds, congrats! Now you have 26 shots, twice as many as you used to have. That gives you an extra 10 percent to use when you need a few extra yards out of a specific shot. Yes, you might sacrifice a little accuracy when you swing full bore, but if you need to carry that bunker in front of the green you can do it because of the extra speed leftover in your tank. That’s why “playing at 90 percent” is a great tip for most amateurs.

What happens when you learn to choke down 1 inch and swing the club with a three-quarters length backswing? The ball goes a little shorter than your 90-percent swing, and now you have 39 clubs in your bag. Are you seeing the value of learning different shots?

What about changing trajectories with the three swings above? That would give you 78 options if you can groove each swing with a low trajectory, and 107 shots if you can learn to hit each shot with a higher trajectory.

So are tour players really that good? Yes, but they’re also smarter than most golfers with their practice. They learn to “legally” carry more clubs in the bag than you do.

I’m not saying that it’s not important to groove a swing that is repeatable and consistent, but most golfers would play better if they practiced a few different shots each time they went to the range. During your next practice session, spend some time on the range working on different shots to go with your full-swing shot. The ones I listed above are a great place to start.

Remember that golf is not about having the best full swing; it is about moving your game piece (the golf ball) around the ever-changing outdoor board game. And if you can legally “break the rules” by having more shots in the bag, then you should play better golf, have more fun and have better-looking scores, too!

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. br61

    Dec 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Rob,

    Great to see you posting. I agree with your article, very well written. I love playing different shots with a single club, it’s almost like cheating with additional clubs in your bag. I know Kevin Hall does the same. I had fun with him on a range at Traverse City, MI last summer. He was explaining to fellow golfers how to play different shots with a single club. (with my clubs!!)

    Cheers,

    Bill

  2. Geoffrey Holland

    Dec 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Back when I could still physically play, I went most of a season with a bag that consisted of driver, another driver that was essentially a 2 wood, 3 wood, 6 iron, SW, LW, putter. I didn’t have a set of irons at the time, didn’t have the money to get one, and didn’t think I would be playing a lot that year so never bothered to even borrow one.

    I did end up playing quite a bit that year, and I rarely missed the rest of the irons. I practically wore that 6 iron out and had a lot of fun hitting different shots with it.

  3. sixty7

    Dec 9, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    I used to agree with this logic but my life has changed and my game had to adapt. I played D1 golf and dabbled on some minitours on and off for about 5 years. Since getting my amateur status back and starting a company I struggled with consistency and started to dread playing in tournaments because I inevitably didn’t have to time needed to keep my arsenal of shots honed. I played well at times over the few years after I wasn’t playing professionally but mostly not up to the level I was used to playing. I decided to simplify and get really good at hitting some of the shots I found really important. I’ve always hit the ball far so I needed a go to driver shot which is a high draw. I used to work the ball well with my driver but I didn’t have the time to keep that up. I stuck with my most natural shot shape which was a high draw. Forget about working fairway woods and long irons at this point. I dropped a fairway wood and added a wedge so I would be able to maximize the amount of stock swings I could make during a round. I focused on hitting my middle irons solid enough to make due and really don’t try to work them much anymore either.

    Here is where I partially agree with your article. I think it is very important to be versatile with scoring clubs and I find it time well spent working on flighting wedges up or down and knocking yards off short irons. I think it is crazy to tell an amateur to learn 70 shots. At the end of the day I am a solid plus 2 handicap who plays 45 holes per week and I wouldn’t dare try to polish 70 shots enough to take them on the course anymore. I think if you take this article and apply it to the clubs you hit most often you will be better off than trying to mix it up and start trying to hit that many different shots.

    • Jay

      Dec 9, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Are you really learning 70 shots? How much different is a 3/4 6 iron from a 3/4 5 iron. If you know your standard distances with each club – be it at 100% or 90%, you should have a good idea what 3/4 will get you with out tracking distances for every club at standard, 3/4, 3/4 low. 3/4 high, etc??

      • sixty7

        Dec 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm

        I’ve got a great 3/4 six iron that I like to call a seven iron.

        All kidding aside what I have done has worked really well for my work golf mix. If you’re trying to get on TV then you better know all 70 shots. If you want to get to a zero handicap get really good at the shots you need to hit and work on your short game. I know a lot of scratch golfers that can’t hit a low cut to a back right pin at will.

  4. Pat

    Dec 9, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Good article. However, I think it’s also equally as importantly to add a fade and draw to your arsenal. Once you can hit left to right and right to left shots on command, your handicap will drop significantly. I went from a 10 to a 5 handicap by learning how hit a fade and draw on command by changing my set up and swing path from a good friend of mine who is currently trying to get on the Web.com tour and plays to a +1 handicap. A golfer who is capable of hitting high, low, fade, and draws on command will have a much higher chance at lowering their scores compared to a golfer who only plays one type of shot all the time and hasn’t learned to hit a variety of shots.

    • sixty7

      Dec 9, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      I disagree. I don’t think it’s necessary for a 10 handicap to be able to hit a fade and a draw. I would be willing to bet that you dropped 5 shots because you started working on your game more. I’m sure you wanting to be able to hit a fade and a draw was the vehicle that got you on the range working on your game but I would bet that you would be a 5 if you were only to hit one or the other consistently.

      My home course is really hard and you could probably host a tour event there any day of the week and I really only hit a draw. Front right pins are always a pain for me but I don’t attack them, I choose my battles and live to fight another day.

      • Pat

        Dec 10, 2014 at 6:58 am

        Never said it’s necessary. It just makes you a much better golfer if you can hit draws and fades on command. Notice how the best players in the world can work the ball both ways. Bubba, Phil, Rory, Adam Scott, Sergio, etc. I’m not saying you can’t become a scratch or better if you only hit one stock shot, but being able to hit a variety of shots only helps elevate your game to the next level. My handicap didn’t drop because I practiced more. In fact, I’ve had less time in the last 2 years to dedicate to golf because of declining health and job.

        • sixty7

          Dec 10, 2014 at 9:21 am

          So you’ve practiced less, learned new shots and cut your handicap in half? That’s impressive.

  5. Mnmlist Golfr

    Dec 9, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    This is why it is not really necessary to carry 14 clubs. 6-8 clubs plus putter is enough if you can hit diffferent types of shots with each club.

    • Jay

      Dec 9, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      And you know it kills em when they are hitting wedge from 145 and cant get it inside the choled up 8

    • dapadre

      Dec 10, 2014 at 5:52 am

      This is SO true. Some weeks back shot my alltime best (78; +6) on a pretty tough course. I usually shoot in the low 80’s as I dont have much time to practice. Practice for me is 1 hour on Fridays and 30/45 min on the DR on Sat and or Sun before a round.

      Anyway on this particular day took a half set forged set I had laying around that I never played much. I had (7 clubs) W1, H4, 6,8,PW, SW and putter. Crazy as it sounds, it felt pretty simple. I would have scored better but had horrible putting (3 putted twice and even had 2 water balls!)

  6. Russ

    Dec 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Always cracks me up when i play with college age kids or even hard hitting high handicappers and stuff it to 6 feet from 135 yds. “You hit wedge”, me “nah, choked up 8″ and they look at me with incredulous eyes as i make the putt and take there money…. last round hit one right into the trees, had 85yds but only had a 9 and 7, no problem, opened the face on the 9 choked down 2” and hit a flop shot to 4 feet to make par… Be a student of this game and your handicap will go down.
    Raidernut1234

  7. AJ Jensen

    Dec 9, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Wow that was a great article, very well-written and fun to read, and most of all it’s a great insight on why the pros seem to have such an easy time negotiating the course, while us weekend warriors struggle so much.

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Instruction

Faults & Fixes: Losing height in your swing

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In this week’s Fault and Fixes Series, we are going to examine the issues that come with losing your height during the swing and its effect on your low point as well as your extension through and beyond impact.

When a professional player swings, there is usually very little downward motion through the ball. Some is OK, but if you look at this amateur player you will see too much. When the head drops downward too much something, has to give and it’s usually the shortening of the swing arc. This will cause issues with the release of the club.

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Dangers of overspeed training revealed: What to do and what not to do

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Speed: a key factor to more money on tour. The key component sought after by many amateur golfers to lower their scores. The focus of many infographics on social media this past PGA Tour season. A lot of people say speed matters more than putting when it comes to keeping your tour card and making millions.  

Overspeed Training: the focus on tons of training aids as a result of the buzz the pursuit of speed has created. The “holy grail” for the aging senior golfer to extend their years on the course. The “must do” training thousands of junior golfers think will bring them closer to playing college golf and beyond.  

Unfortunately, overspeed training is the most misunderstood and improperly implemented training tool I see used for speed in the industry. Based on the over 50 phone calls I’ve fielded from golfers around the world who have injured themselves trying it, it is leading to more overuse injuries in a sport where we certainly don’t need any help creating more than we already have. Luckily, these injuries are 100 percent preventable if you follow the few steps outlined below.

Don’t let your rush to swing faster get you hurt. Take five minutes to read on and see what the industry has not been forthcoming with until now.  

Understanding how to increase your speed safely and with as little work possible is the path to longevity without injury. If you could train 75 percent less (to the tune of about 8,000 fewer reps a year) and still see statistically comparable results, would you rather that? 

I would.

Would it make sense to you that swinging 8,000 times fewer (low volume protocols versus high volume protocols) would probably decrease your risk of overuse injuries (the most common injury for golfers)?  

I think so.

But I’ll let you draw your own conclusions after you finish reading.   

Your Challenge

Your biggest challenge is that the answer to more speed for you is not the same as it is for your friends. It differs depending on many factors, but there are four main ones that you can start with. Those four are 

  1. Your equipment
  2. Your technical prowess
  3. Your joint mobility at your rotary centers (neck, shoulders, spine, and hips) 
  4. Your ability to physically produce power  

If you are not totally clear on these, I’d recommend checking out the earlier article I wrote for GolfWRX titled Swing speed: How do you compare? Go through the testing as outlined and you’ll know the answer to these four areas in five minutes.

Basically, you have the potential to pick up speed by optimizing your equipment (ie. find the right shaft, etc), optimizing the technical element of your swing for optimal performance (ie. launch angles, etc) or by optimizing your body for the golf swing. Understanding how to best gain speed without putting your body at risk both in the short and long term is what 95 percent of golfers have no idea about. It is the single biggest opportunity golfers have to make lasting improvements to not only their golf game but their overall health.

Are You a Ticking Time Bomb?

In my earlier article (link above), I described three main categories when it came to physical factors. Step one is to determine what category you are in.

The first option is that you might be swinging faster than your body is able to control. In this case, you are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode in injury. We all know that friend who just has a year-round membership to the local physio or chiro because they are always hurt. If this is you, DO NOT try overspeed training, it will only make your visits to the physio or chiro more frequent. There are much better areas to spend your time on.

The second situation might be the rare, sought-after balanced golfer. You might have great mobility in the four main rotary centers (hips, spine, shoulders, and neck) and your swing speed matches your physical power output abilities. It should be noted that based on our mobility research of almost 1,000 golfers, 75 percent of golfers over the age of 40 don’t have full rotary mobility in at least one of the four centers. When you age past 50, that 75 percent now applies to at least two rotary centers. Hence why “the balanced golfer” category is elusive to most golfers.

The final option is the sexy, exciting one; the “more RPMs under the hood” golfer. This is the one where overspeed training is your fountain of youth and you can pick up 10, 15, even 20 yards in a matter of weeks. You might have more RPM’s under your hood right now. Being in this category means you physically are able to produce way more power athletically than you are doing in your golf swing currently.  

The Good News

The “more RPMs under the hood” golfer describes over 50 percent of amateur golfers. Most of you sit at work and don’t train your body to move at maximal speeds outside of when you swing the golf club. The number of adults and senior golfers who train maximal speed at the gym, run sprints and train with plyometrics (correctly) is under five percent.

Why is this good news?

Because if you don’t move fast at any point in your life other than on the golf course right now, doing pretty much anything fast repetitively will make you faster. For instance, you can jump up and down three times before you hit a drive and your speed will increase by 2-3 mph (6-9 yards) just from that according to a research study.

This means that for the average amateur, adult golfer in this category, picking up 5-8 mph (12- 20-plus yards) almost immediately (it won’t stick unless you keep training in though) is incredibly simple.

The Bad News & The Fine Print

Remember earlier when I mentioned you needed to “also have full mobility in the four main rotary centers” and that “75 percent of adults over the age of 50 lack mobility in at least two rotary centers?” 

That’s the bad news.

Most golfers will get faster by simply swinging as hard as they can. Unfortunately, most golfers also will get hurt swinging maximally repeatedly because they have to compensate for the lack of rotational mobility in those rotary centers. 

This should be a big bold disclaimer, but is often not. This is the fine print no one tells you about. This is where the rubber meets the road and the sexiness of overspeed training crashes and burns into the traffic jam of joints that don’t move well for most amateur golfers.  

Your Solution

The first step to your solution is to make sure you have full rotational mobility and figure out what category of golfer your body puts you in. As a thanks for being a WRX reader, here is a special link to the entire assessment tool for free. 

After you determine if you have the mobility to do overspeed training safely and you know if you are even in the category that would make it worthwhile, the second and final step is to figure out how many swings you need to do.

How Many Swings are too Many?

Concisely, you don’t need more than 30 swings two times per week. Anything more than that is unnecessary based on the available research.  

As you digest all of the research on overspeed training, it is clear that the fastest swing speeds tend to occur with the stronger and more powerful players. This means that first, you need to become strong and be able to generate power through intelligent workout plans to maximize performance, longevity and reduce injury likelihood. From here, overspeed training can become an amazing tool to layer on top of a strong foundation and implement at different times during the year.

To be clear, based on the two randomized overspeed studies that Par4Success completed and my experience of training thousands of golfers, it is my opinion that overspeed training works in both high volume (100s of swings per session) and low volume protocol (30 swings per session) formats exactly the same. With this being the case, why would you want to swing 8,000 more times if you don’t have to? 

The research shows statistically no difference in speed gained by golfers between high-volume overspeed protocols compared to low volume ones. Because of this, in my opinion, high volume protocols are unnecessary and place golfers at unnecessary risk for overuse injury. This is especially true when they are carried out in the absence of a customized strength and conditioning program for golf.     

Rest Matters

In order to combat low-quality reps and maximize results with fewer swings, it is necessary to take rest breaks of 2-3 minutes after every 10 swings. Anything less is not enough to allow the energy systems to recover and diminishes your returns on your effort. If these rests are not adhered to, you will fatigue quickly, negatively impacting quality and increasing your risk of injury.  

Rest time is another reason why low volume protocols are preferable to high volume ones. To take the necessary rests, a high volume protocol would take more than an hour to complete. With the lower volume protocols you can still keep the work time to 10 minutes.   

The Low Volume Overspeed Protocol

You can see the full protocol in the full study reports here. It is critical you pass the first step first, however before implementing either protocol, and it is strongly recommended not to do the overspeed protocol without a solid golf performance plan in place as well in order to maximize results and reduce risk of injury.

This is just the first version of this protocol as we are currently looking at the possibility of eliminating kneeling as well as some other variables that are showing promising in our ongoing research. Be sure to check back often for updates!

Commonly asked questions about overspeed training…

Once initial adaptations have occurred, is there any merit to overspeed training long term?  

None of the studies that I was able to find discussed longitudinal improvements or causation of those improvements. This is the hardest type of research to do which speaks to the lack of evidence. No one actually knows the answer to these questions. Anyone saying they do is guessing.

Do the initial gains of overspeed training outperform those of traditional strength and conditioning?  

There appears to be a bigger jump with the addition of overspeed training than solely strength and conditioning, by almost threefold.  In 6 and 8 weeks respectively, the average gain was just around 3 mph, which is three times the average gain for adult golfers over a 12 weeks period with just traditional strength and conditioning. 

Can we use overspeed training as a substitute for traditional strength and conditioning?

No. Emphatically no. It would be irresponsible to use overspeed in isolation to train golfers for increased speed. First off, increasing how fast someone can swing without making sure they have the strength to control that speed is a means to set someone up for injury and failure. Secondly, if they are appropriate and you increase someone’s speed, you also need to increase their strength as well so that it keeps up with the demands the new speed is putting on their body.   

Are long term results (1 year+) optimized if overspeed training is combined with traditional strength and conditioning vs in isolation or not at all?  

It would appear, based off our longitudinal programs that using overspeed training periodized in conjunction with an athlete-specific strength and conditioning program and sport-specific training (ie. technical lessons, equipment, etc—not medicine ball throws or cable chops) in a periodized yearly plan maximizes results year to year.  

In order to keep decreases in club speed to no more than three-to-five percent during the competitive season (as is the normal amount in our data), it is imperative to keep golfers engaged in an in-season strength and conditioning program focused on maximal force and power outputs. By minimizing this in-season loss, it assures that we see gains year over year.  

It is unclear if overspeed training in conjunction with strength and conditioning during the season further decreases this standard loss due to nervous system fatigue, but this would be a great area for future research.  

What sort of frequency, protocols or volume should one utilize for maximal benefit and minimal risk of injury?  

Most of the studies that I was able to find specifically on swinging looked at about 100 swings three times per (baseball). The Superspeed protocols which are the most popular in the golf world, follow a similar volume recommendation after an initial ramp up period. It is a concern, especially with untrained individuals, that adding more than 11,000 maximal effort swings over the course of year might increase risk for injury due to the incredible increase in load. Especially for the amatuer golfer who only plays on the weekends and does not engage in a strength and conditioning program, this is a significant volume increase from their baseline.

The Par4Success studies in 2018-19 found no significant difference in swing speed gains between high volume protocols and a lower volume protocol which required only 30 swings, 2x/week but required a 2 minute rest between every 10 swings.

More studies beyond these two need to be done looking at this, but it would be my recommendation, specifically in golf, not to engage in the high volume protocols as it does not appear to increase speed gains while also increasing load on the athlete significantly.  

Do any potential gains of overspeed training outperform the traditional methods that are proven to transfer to sport?

It does not appear that overspeed training is superior to any one training method, but rather a tool to use in conjunction with other proven methods. The key here is to assess yourself and look to implement this type of training when mobility is not an issue and the physical ability to produce power is higher than the ability to generate club speed. In the right scenario, overspeed training can be a game-changing tool. In the wrong scenario, it can be a nail in a golfer’s coffin.

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Faults and Fixes: Arms too far behind body at the top

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In this week’s Faults and Fixes, we’ll look at the issue of the older player getting the arms too far behind the body at the top. When this happens, the clubhead speed is compromised, and the ability to create height, spin, and distance is diminished. For older players, Brandel Chamblee has the right idea by wanting the left heel to raise and the arms to work themselves into a more upright position.

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