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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

Stickney: A dangerous trend is developing for top players

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As a teacher, I obviously have my own particular biases as it pertains to the different stroke patterns I teach to the random levels of golfers I see, however, one thing remains the same they ALL want a predictable ball flight in the end.

To me, it doesn’t matter if you swing it upright like Wolff or flatter like Kucher because they both work, as do all the swings in the middle IF they produce a consistent result under pressure. What we now understand with the advent of GEARS and Trackman is that everyone has their own individual motion and sure there are certain fundamentals that everyone great possesses but end the end we are all left to “find what works best” for us. And over time, the great players have gravitated towards the best and most desirable way that they swing the club without worrying what it looks like only what it produces.

However, I have been noticing a trend amongst the highest level of players that is disturbing…and this trend that we’ll be discussing in a second is beginning to filter down to the kids whom have ready access to launch monitors in high school and just entering into. This trend is the culprit of a two-way miss, albeit a very small one, but a two-way miss nonetheless all in efforts to try and hit the ball too straight.

First, let’s show you examples of some of the best players I have seen personally at the top amateur levels. Every one of these players shown below are proven winners and are ranked very highly nationally on the amateur and Division I college circuits.

I asked each player above what their normal ball flight was day-to-day and each replied, “mostly straight, but if I miss it then it tends to go X, but very, very slightly.” (For those Trackman users, these swings are “normalized,” which takes out the wind etc. for a touch more reality regardless of the conditions outside at the time.)

Now look in the left frame of each player’s swing, and you will see a blue line, and if you look closer, you will see that it is laying directly on top of a white line. The white line is the player’s target line—where they were trying to hit the ball. And the blue line is the PATH of the club for the particular swing shown.

What you will see is that the path of the club is basically “zeroed” out where the path and the target line are moving directly in the same direction. While this might seem like a great idea, in fact no one can play from this position because it’s impossible to zero out the path and clubface at the same time. No teacher in history has seen this consistently. We have seen very small face to path relationships but never 0 for the path, 0 for the face, 0 for the face to path, and 0 for the spin axis. We’re talking trying to manage a degree which is basically 1/6 to of a click of your second hand on your watch dial!

If you could play from a zero path and zero face, then this is what it would look like on Trackman. I have only seen 0 path and a 0 face just once in ALL the shots I have seen with Trackman, and the shot I am talking about curved way offline due to the fact that it was a longer club coupled with a faulty impact position (gear effect).

Now here is the key for people who desire a ball flight that curves as little as possible and zeroing out the path is not the answer! The key is to play with a face to path ratio that is very, very low which helps to lower the ball’s spin axis and thus the ball would curve slightly. If you have the path sitting a couple of degrees left or right of the path then you will be able to have some predictability of your curvature which will give you freedom when you don’t have our “A” swing working that day.

NOTE: Think about pro bowlers, how many do you see that roll the ball directly at the head pin?! Zero. They curve the ball to some degree for more predictability.

As we know, in order to hit the ball where we want, we need to have some consistent curvature and when the path is on top of the target-line a slight twist of the face right or left causes baby pulls or baby pushes.

The goal of ballstriking efficiency is to eliminate ONE side of the course.

Secondly, we know that the ball begins mostly in the direction of the face at impact and will curve away from the path with a centered hit. Therefore, regardless of the curvature left to right or right to left you must work in this order- PATH then the FACE then the Target (as shown below) if not then you will hit pushes and pulls, slices and hooks!

Let’s examine this player above, who moves the ball left to right. We see a path that is leftward at basically -3.0 degrees and the face is almost -2.0 degrees left of the target but only 1.0 degree RIGHT of the path thus the ball curved gently left to right. For players desiring a mostly “straight” ball without the danger of missing it both ways, then the path has to be just far enough left or right of the target line so that the face can fit between the path and the target so you can begin the ball in the correct direction before it begins to curve. This reduction in the face-to-path relationship is the forgotten fundamental of the straight ball hitters!

As you can see, this player has a path that is slightly leftward and the face is only 1 degree rightward of this causing a very low face-to-path, and from this point, he has a spin axis of 0.3 meaning the ball barely moved rightward. This is the key to hitting the ball straighter…not zeroing out the path but reducing the FACE-to-PATH relationship! This cannot be mastered with a zeroed-out path because the face won’t consistently have room to fit between your path and target line as discussed. Thus you will hit micro-pulls or micro-pushes giving you the dreaded two-way miss…all because you have the path working too much down the line!

Path, face, and target…in that order will help you reduce your face to path difference and this will help you to lower your ball’s spin axis and straighter but MORE PREDICTABLE ball flights will ensue. Anything else spells disaster for the people who desire a “straight” ball flight!

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Instruction

Clement: Stop hanging back

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Whether you are a beginner hanging back or an advanced player hanging back, there are very specific reasons for this as well as a very specific task to focus on to OBLITERATE this issue. You will CLEARLY see how this simple task will engage your machine’s hard drive And get you the action you need to hit quality golf shots; TODAY!

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Instruction

Clark: On learning golf

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“A true teacher will teach how to think, not what to think”

There are several versions of the above adage, but when you teach every day, you get to see this up close and personal. In my opinion, all a teacher can do is to guide you as to what happens when you hit a golf ball. The student has to discover what works for them to achieve better results. It is that simple. The internet is loaded with “how-to” info, and some of it might actually apply to your individual issue, but do yourself a big favor: Go beat some balls and see how it goes; try this, try that, repeat steps one and two!

Let’s take turning as a classic example. If someone were to ask a teacher HOW to turn, there could be a dozen answers. What the teacher, the data, video show is simply this: You are NOT turning. Let’s try this, let’s try that, no, how about this? There are an unlimited number of ways, but the student needs to: FIRST, realize the lack or incorrectness of turn, and SECOND, find a way to do it. Any way, YOUR way. This is called participating in your learning and discovering process. When Ben Hogan said: “the secret is in the dirt,” this is precisely what he was referring to. 

I have a short section each day in my golf school dedicated to the ballistics of impact. A student needs to know exactly what happens at impact. And when you know what produces good flight, then find what you personally are doing to violate those laws. How to correct an open and/or closed clubface means nothing to a student who doesn’t know what open or closed actually is, or does. Swing path and its relationship to clubface resulting in ball flight curvature is knowledge every teacher has, but is like rocket science to the student who knows none of this. I once had a student who thought his shanks were coming off the toe! When I told him that just the opposite was happening, he immediately moved away from the ball a little and stopped shanking (there were other reasons he shanked but just that much knowledge got him off the hosel!)

In order to correct anything, anything at all, it is first necessary to discover the problem and find a way, any way to correct it. No teacher, book, TV tip, or article can do what you can do for yourself. All the teacher might do is make you aware of the problem. But in the end, just go play and try this, that and the other thing. The answer is there, believe me, the answer is in you. You have to find it!

The problem, very often, is that golfers are looking for someone to offer them a light bulb moment, a flash of “aha,” the “I’ve-got-it-now” solution. The aha moment is the only way to get sustained improvement, but it must come from you, the individual. There is no universal “light-bulb moment,” it is uniquely-yours alone to discover.  As I’ve said before, “it’s not what I cover, it’s what you discover.” Discover what? That “thing” you can grasp and go hit ball after ball until you have, at least to a functional degree, internalized it!

Good luck on your personal journey!

On a personal note, this will be my final article for GolfWRX. I have written 100-plus articles over the last 10 years or so and I have thoroughly enjoyed helping all of you who read my articles.

If you read through them on some rainy day, you’ll notice a theme: “If this, then that.” Meaning: If your golf ball is consistently doing that, try this. The articles are all archived on this site, and I am writing a book about my life on the lesson tee. It has been a labor of love as my whole career has been. There is no greater joy in my professional life than seeing the look on a golfers face and feel the joy within them when they improve. The minute that slice straightens, or that ground ball goes up in the air, is a special bond and a shared joy in the student-teacher relationship.

But I’ve said most of what I think is pertinent and anything after this would be redundant. There is now a plethora of how-to info out there, and I personally feel the reader may begin to think he/she should do this or that as opposed to thinking “I should try to discover this or that through my own personal exploration.”

If any of you wish to contact me directly regarding help with your game, you know how to do so. But do remember this: You cannot learn golf from words or pictures. My advice is to get a good teacher to look at you a few times, then go out and find the answer in the dirt. Golf is a game to played. And in that playing, in that trial-and-error process, you will find things that will help you achieve better outcomes. No one owns this game: We only to get to borrow it from time to time!  

 

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