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Long live the half set

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There has been a growing movement in golf over the last few years to simplify and make the game less complicated by using fewer clubs, and the groundswell has been building. Most golfers learning the game start with a half set to make the game easier and help clarify the decision process on the course. As golfers progress, the desire to “fill holes in a set” can lead to purchasing more clubs—but do you really need them? A lot of people don’t think so.

Using fewer than 14 clubs affects golfers differently depending on skill. For example, as mentioned off the top, it gives those starting out the basic amount of clubs to learn on and creates larger distance gaps between each one to help with club selection. For more advanced players, using a half set of 8 clubs or less brings in the opportunity to use more creative measures to hit shots and get the ball close to the intended target. Whether it be going full bore to squeak out a few extra yards or taking a longer club and finessing a shot, there is more than one way to execute and fewer clubs give you those chances more often.

The modern game of hit it far, use the shortest club possible into the approach, and make a putt is fun but has robbed the game of so much creativity and imagination. Using imagination is part of what golf architects have challenged golfers to do since the inception of the game, a perfect example of this took place at the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne—one of the top golf courses in the world. During the matches, we got to see a lot of variance in how players chose to approach holes which made things entertaining to watch. What we saw at Royal Melbourne was the polar opposite of the day-to-day “target golf” we see in the modern professional game. “Target golf” is an odd term when you break it down, because regardless of the style of course you are playing, you will always be trying to hit a target, it just might not be where you initially expect and that’s where creativity makes this game fun.

Building a Set

If you already have a full set, remember, it means you also have a half set too! No need to try and put one together. But if you are in the market, for building a half set from scratch, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind

  • The putter isn’t going anywhere so build your set from the short clubs up. Regardless of how many clubs you are planning to carry, a majority of your shots are still going to be hit inside 100 yards.
  • It’s easier to hit shots that go shorter than trying to make a club go further. Pick the most versatile clubs in your bag to make sure you have the chance to hit almost any yardage.
  • Pay attention to iron lofts. Many modern sets have 4-5 degrees between clubs, but as you get to the longer irons those gaps can get smaller quickly. You don’t necessarily need every other iron in your bag.
  • A driving club is still very important. Unless you plan to go completely minimalist keeping a driver in the bag is a good idea. It has the largest face and is the most forgiving club off the tee.

Modern interpretations

As the half set trend continues to grow, manufacturers are getting in on the action. The most recent notable being Linksoul in collaboration with Miura Golf and their Color Theory Irons. Consisting of four clubs with the lofts 25, 32, 40, and 49 degrees, each one is marked by a color instead of a number as a way to differentiate, and in true Linksoul style creates something both understated and unique. As a limited edition they are on the higher end at $1,300 for the set/$325 a club, but that falls directly in line with standard Miura pricing, and should not be a shock to those looking for a club in that category.

Another niche player in this is National Custom Works. Having spoken with founder Patrick Boyd on multiple occasions, one of the biggest requests they get for their entirely custom sets is for short sets between 4-6 clubs. Each set is 100 percent bespoke, and with that, pricing varies per project. Please remember though, purchasing a whole new set is not a necessity and just an option.

Like many that I have spoken with about this topic, I fit into both camps of the club setup game. I love having the option of all 14 clubs, and when it comes to a properly fit set its always going to offer peak performance, but it’s not a requirement to get maximum enjoyment. Depending on the course or even the time of day, 6-8 clubs are really all I need—especially for a quick nine at dusk in the middle of summer. It’s easier to carry, allows me to walk faster, and its a great way to get in some shotmaking practice when a trip to the range is out of the question.

The beautiful thing about golf is you can play it any way you want—it’s a freeform game. If you have a course, some clubs, and a ball you can play—and speaking to clubs, you certainly don’t need all 14.

*featured photo via Wingtip Golf 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Night putter

    Feb 13, 2020 at 9:32 pm

    2 callaway woods D, 4w GBB2, steelhead
    2 hogan apex plus irons 5, 8
    2 ping wedge P, SW becu
    1 putter

  2. Nomad Golfer

    Jan 15, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    After many years of carting around a full set, I found that just 9 clubs can do the biz for me:

    Driver
    #7 wood
    7 8 9 pw sw lw
    putter

    I have no use for long irons, the #7 wood covers those. Wouldn’t mind adding a #9 wood at some stage but managing ok in the meantime.

  3. Oscar

    Jan 9, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    OEM’s to begin selling 1/2 sets for 3/4 the full set price. Brilliant!!

    • jack

      Jan 12, 2020 at 9:40 am

      already reduced set from 3-pw to 4-pw and raised the price too!!

  4. Bar72

    Dec 31, 2019 at 2:36 am

    This year I was playing with six golf clubs.

    driver
    hybrid
    7 iron
    9th iron
    Wedge
    putter

    The best score is 78, which is much more fun and creative than in the past when we had a full set of 14. Also, even to adjust the distance, loose swings are strictly prohibited. I’ve been tired of playing golf for 25 years, but now I feel like golf is fun again.

  5. Andrew Provenzano

    Dec 28, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    The creative aspect of using less than 14 clubs is the main reason why I only carry 10. However, I do it for another reason. Confidence. I struggle to hit long irons and find myself never touching my 3 wood. I carry Driver, 4hy, 6-PW, 52, 58. I’m confident that I can hit any shot I need to with the clubs I carry. The courses I play are usually between 6500-6700 yards. The need to have more than 190 (the length I hit my 4hy) on par 4’s is just non existent. Yeah it sucks not being able to go for par 5’s from time to time, but to be honest, more times than not I think I’m better off hitting to a good wedge number and making putts. Just my 2 cents. Just have fun out there guys!

  6. Jake

    Dec 27, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    Does anyone still make irons with loft instead of number stamped on the iron?

    • Jacob Maggi

      Jan 12, 2020 at 11:01 am

      I believe Ben Hogan makes irons with the loft stamped on them instead of the iron number

  7. Stephen D'Andrea

    Dec 27, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    I carry 8 clubs and maintain an 11 handicap (not a low cap, but I’m proud of it). Driver, 7w, 5 hybrid, 8i, 9i, W, SW, putter. I almost never find myself in a situation where I feel I need another club. Creative shot making can be required, tho.

  8. Tim

    Dec 27, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Been playing with a reduced set of clubs from the start. My 6i is 27* (really a 5i) and the 5i is 24*, so I dropped the 5i in favor of a 22* hybrid. So I have Driver, 22* hybrid, 6-pw, 56*, putter. I can hit that hybrid 200+ and Im not making many approach shots beyond that, so leaving another wood out of the bag just keeps me out out of trouble. As for not having a handful of wedges – I can hit 99% of greens inside 120 yards with that jacked up PW and that 56* so I dont really fuss with with more wedges.

  9. TODD BARROW

    Dec 26, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    nice to have Don White Make your set 🙂

  10. Army Golfer

    Dec 26, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    I walk and carry when I play golf. That’s how I started and still prefer when I play. I’ve begun using a cart when I walk with a full bag due to back issues. The half set in a Sunday bag makes it much easier on my back playing with a 8 or less clubs. It’s fun to be creative on shot selections and you actually have to think your way around the course based on the clubs you have and not just bomb it. What I’ve found is half or full set, I’ve shot the same score.

  11. Sundance Kid

    Dec 26, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Funny how things come around. I wrote an English paper in college on this very concept in 1980. The premise of my argument was that a person new to the game did not need 14 clubs. In fact prior to 1936, a player could have as many clubs in his bag as needed. The average at that time was 18-20. So, as it became rules were put in place and of course the manufactures of the day figured out what worked best for profits. So, here we are 2020 and you have manufactures and marketers working together…all we are looking at here with these 2 high end brands are profits: convincing a buyer to spend $1500 for a 1/2 set instead of $2500-$3000?

    Understand since 1980 I still believe that 14 clubs are not needed. But $1500 sets are not as well.
    There is always a market, but the millennial demographic going forward will not spend this kind of money.

  12. y2zar

    Dec 25, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    Playing with half-set is a great way to train & practice. It forces one to focus; knowing the actual carry distance & controlling/shaping shots per club, in turn making strategic approaches the only viable option. Creative shots are cherished in this setup, which is a big plus.

  13. John B

    Dec 24, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I’m sorry, but no. This is horrible advice for newcomers, or even the average player. Unless you are capable of hitting a knockdown, shaping the ball, or comfortably hitting a club to increase or decrease distance, you’re better off with a regulation set. Trying to swing too hard, too soft etc. will only lead to poor habits. I’m surprised I’m seeing this on golfWRX.

    • Edin

      Dec 25, 2019 at 5:21 pm

      With respect, it’s great advice for newcomers. 1. It simplifies the game and decision making, removing the likelihood of 5 hour rounds 2. Newcomers don’t have the swing speed nor the consistency of strike to differentiate between their irons anyway (why not just have a 5 iron when their 4, 5 and 6 all go the exact same average distance?). 3. Those shots you described, how do you think people learn them? By needing to hit them.
      I am biased though! I’m a 1 hcp who only plays with a half set and a sunday bag.

      • Jacob

        Dec 26, 2019 at 8:05 pm

        I second this. Couple with the fact that most munis that beginners are going to play will have greens that may be 20 yards deep or more, you cut out that in between club. Play to the back, hope to land it on, and go.

        • Zach Bartness

          Dec 27, 2019 at 9:35 pm

          This can easily be done with 7-9 clubs. Driver, hybrid/high lofted FW wood, 6-PW, SW, Putter. If you want to cut it to 7, alternate iron pulls.

    • Larry Proffer

      Dec 27, 2019 at 8:28 am

      Agree

    • Harout

      Dec 27, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Couldn’t disagree more, newbs could hardly hit one club well yet alone 14. I’m a huge proponent for a first timer to only play with 4 clubs till they can regularly hit straight and only add clubs as they see fit till they work themselves towards a full set. Give me a 6i, 9i, 54 and a putter and I’ll break 90 just fine which is a great score for a newb.

    • Caroline

      Dec 27, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      Big difference between a casual golfer with an 18 handicap and a “Wanna” be with a 10 handicap…who needs more clubs…….

  14. Jack

    Dec 24, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    I usually buy my clubs at thrift shops. Find some old forgings from a broken set – Reshaft with x100 bend out the offset grind the soles. I usually throw together a set for under $50.

    Miura…lol…people have more money than sense. To each his own but I doubt they are any better than what I can make.

  15. Dario Priolo

    Dec 24, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    I was surprised to see this article, but this is exactly what I did 3 yrs ago and it has rekindled my enthusiasm for the game. I carry 3w, 4h, 6i, 8i, PW, 58 deg and putter. As I’ve gotten older I’ve reset my expectations and reasons for playing. I play to enjoy the day out, get some exercise, and try to break 80. Fewer clubs means I can can carry easily these in a Sunday bag and enjoy the walk. I also think and stress a lot less on the course and score about the same as I did when I carried a full set.

  16. Acemandrake

    Dec 24, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    I’ve settled on 6 clubs after much experimenting:

    Driver (12°)…Hybrid (23°, set for 25°)…6 (28°)…9 (41°)…SW (56°)…Putter

    Maximum versatility & motivation to walk.

  17. Jeff

    Dec 24, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    I have about 20 (Of 78) rounds this year with 8 clubs and I LOVE it!
    Driver
    5w
    5h
    6i
    8i
    Pw
    Sw
    Putter

    What I love most about a half set is that it has made it super easy to carry while golfing which I totally forgot how much nicer it is than pushing or riding.

  18. Ray Neese

    Dec 24, 2019 at 9:41 am

    FIRST SET OF IRONS, 1975 WHEN I STARTED, 3,5,7,9. LEARNED TO HIT THOSE BEFORE FULL SET

  19. Frank

    Dec 24, 2019 at 9:19 am

    I once played a tournament in Malta (I was in the Navy) against an older gent who carried 6 clubs in a canvas bag with a broken strap. He putted and chipped with what looked like a cut down 2 iron. I was sporting a full set of Haig Ultras and MacGregor woods. He closed me out on the 12th or 13th hole. I am now 80 and carry a Driver,9wood, 6,8,P, gap and SW and an Otey Crisman putter. I love to play. My handicap is the same as it was years ago and my only concession is to move up to the senior tees. Golf is great

  20. Blake Stoops

    Dec 24, 2019 at 12:29 am

    Funny how Hogan did just this, and yet it didn’t go over. Instead of numbers, they put lofts on the clubs. Allowed you to pick which lofts and clubs you thought fit your game. Was just in the last three years maybe? Everyone laughed, now it’s trendy lol. We’ve played three club tournaments since I was just double digits. I’m 41 now. Not a new idea. Teaches creativity and simplifies the game. KISS ” KEEP IT SIMPLE,STUPID!”

  21. Pat Welch

    Dec 23, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    I have maintained for years that a “set” should be 10 clubs and about 6 degrees between clubs. Manufacturers would hate it.

  22. Keefus

    Dec 23, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    I grew up playing 1 or 2 clubs under 14 – and can easily now play with 10 +/-

    But I became more of a shot-maker, not a “banger”.

    Let’s get the tour to host a 7- club tournament, and see how the big boys do…

    And make them play 18 holes under 3:30 as well

  23. Christopher Christoforou

    Dec 23, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    If you want to improve your game see your pro, and watch lots of you tube lessons. Some of my best scores have been in 3 club + putter competitions. 9 wood, 9 iron, 52deg wedge always gets me 36 points, but, more fun with a whole bag to choose from. Get fitted by a pro.

  24. Deacon Blues

    Dec 23, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    For the last year or so, I’ve only carried 11 clubs: driver, 18 and 24 degree hybrids, 6i-PW, 52 and 58 degree wedges, and putter. All my clubs are reliable and forgiving, distance gaps are manageable, and decision-making is much easier.

    If need be, I can get down to 8 clubs by leaving out my 7 and 9 irons, and using a 21 degree hybrid instead of the 18 and 24.

  25. AWW

    Dec 23, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    13 – 270yd
    20 – 235yd
    27 – 205yd
    36 – 175yd
    44 – 145yd
    51 – 120yd
    57 – 100yd

  26. Victor Funk

    Dec 23, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    I’ve been carrying a very abbreviated set for years. A seven fairway wood with a longer shaft, a six iron, a nine iron, and a putter. Very convenient in a little carry bag and it’s surprising how many pars you score and how good you get a creating shots especially around hazards. Pure fun.
    So light to carry.

  27. SV

    Dec 23, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    I think this is a very good idea. For my part I carry 11 or 12 clubs so reducing that to 7 or 8 wouldn’t be that big of a problem. I would think if I or anyone looked at the clubs they actually use in a round it wouldn’t be more than 10 at the most. When I think about it, the “ideal” set might be: Driver or 2 wood for tee shots, plus 4 hybrid or iron, 6 iron, 8 iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge and putter. The nice thing about a 2 wood or strong wood is that it can also be used off of the fairway. Even if a fairway wood is added you still only have 8 clubs.

    • Bob Jones

      Dec 23, 2019 at 10:00 pm

      That is exactly the short set I use quite often. I used it once to shoot an 81 on a course I had never seen before. It was fun to have to be creative on almost every hole–the art of golf.

      Our men’s club has a 3 clubs and a putter day every year. Almost everyone shoots the score they normally shoot, or very near it, and asks, when it’s over, “Why do we always take those extra clubs?” which they do the next week when it’s back to normal. My choices? 19* hybrid, 7-iron, sand wedge, putter.

      • Cj

        Dec 25, 2019 at 12:23 pm

        I was at the driving range and a pro told me the difference between them and amateur is that they can hit a 4iron 230 or 55 on command without any problems or any other club in the bag for that matter.

      • Jifmoli

        Jan 8, 2020 at 11:14 pm

        I do that often on Sunday: 4h, 7i and pw. Sometimes don’t even bring a putter as am ok putting with a wedge. Fun round carrying few clubs!

        Can put 11 club bag together but usually leave half my irons so play with 8.

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Equipment

Top 5 modern glued-hosel drivers

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Modern adjustable drivers are a marvel of engineering and something we now take for granted—considering every OEM utilizes some type of adjustable system to assist with fitting and dialing in launch conditions.

However, as every WRXer knows, before we had these tools to our disposal, we had to rely on the good old-fashion glued-in shaft drivers.

These five models are among the best from the recent past.

TaylorMade Burner SuperFast TP

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Adams Insight Tech a4 Prototype 9015D

Adams. Really?

It was a question a lot of people asked when these started showing up in golfer’s bags.

The 9015D was the brother to the original Adams 9016D, which was specifically built for the long drive circuit when Adams Golf was the official sponsor. It had a high toe profile and sat open at address—something that was often hard to come by in the glued hosel era of driver design.

One fun thing to consider when looking back at this driver is the protruding mass towards the back of the head to lower the center of gravity—vaguely similar to the TaylorMade SIM’s Inertia Generator and Cobra’s SpeedBack—minus the multi-material construction. Those Adams engineers were onto something!

Titleist 905R

Titleist’s very first 460cc driver was introduced not long after the 400cc 905S and the 905T (made famous by the notorious old-club using Steve Stricker) hit the scene.

The 905R stayed in some player’s bag for an extended period of time, including the bag of Adam Scott, who didn’t switch until the 910 came along. Many golfers referred to the 905R as a big version of the famous 975J, and from address it’s hard to argue.

Callaway FT Tour

One of Callaway’s first “tour” style drivers. The original version of the FT Tour was called the FT-9 Tour Authentic and was Callaway’s attempt to compete with the popular Tour Preferred line from TaylorMade. The price tag was high but so was the performance.

The FT Tour was a workable low spin driver and the grandchild of the FT-5 TH—a tour only driver that offered Callaway’s very first traditional-style hosel and got them away from the S2H2 designs that built the brand in the 90s. At 460cc’s, it still looks small by today’s standards, but if you can find one give it a hit.

Bridgestone J33R 460

The J33R 460 will go down as one of the all-time best drivers of its era. Its popularity even made trying to find one more difficult than it should have been at the time because Bridgestone struggled to find brick and mortar stores to carry their hard goods (beyond golf balls) at a time when big-box was the king of golf retail. The J33R was the third generation of the J33 driver line that included the J33P (375cc) and the original J33R (420cc).

Stuart Appleby famously hit a 426-yard tee shot at the 2006 Mercedes Championships (Tournament of Champions in Hawaii) that nearly went over the green of the par-4 12th hole with the J33P—now imagine the punch of the 460 version!

What do you think of these selections, WRXers? Any drivers you’d add?

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Today from the Forums: “New Bettinardi putters at the Honda Classic”

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Today from the Forums we take a look at a selection of new Bettinardi putters from the 2020 Honda Classic. Our members have been discussing the flat-sticks in our forum, with the horizontal alignment aid on one particular model proving to be very popular.

For lots more photos, check out the entire thread here.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • wam78: “Love that black inovai! Really wish I could get one with fly mill face. The shape is so nice I’m seriously contemplating giving the retail one a shot. Never used the fit face, so I’m a little worried with how soft it feels with distance control.”
  • nova6868: “Well, as usual, the Bettinardi Tour bag has incredible stuff. I also like the horizontal/perpendicular ball-width alignment aid and wish we could see that at retail eventually.”
  • AdamStoutjesdyk: “Yessss more horizontal alignment aids!!!”

Entire Thread: “New Bettinardi putters at the Honda Classic”

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Today from the Forums: “New Odyssey/Toulon putters at the 2020 Honda Classic”

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Today from the Forums we shine the light on an array of new Odyssey/Toulon putters featured at this week’s Honda Classic. The flat-sticks have gotten quite a reaction from WRXers, who have been particularly impressed with the company’s Las Vegas long slant neck creation.

For lots more photos, check out the entire thread here.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Golfingfanatic: “LV with the long slant is so sick!”
  • My2Dogs: “That 10 with the 3 site lines is very interesting. Especially if the Triple Track is too busy for some. Also that double line on that Toulon Las Vegas. Great choices this year.”
  • timothyjames333: “Stroke Lab Jailbird Mini ftw.”

Entire Thread: “New Odyssey/Toulon putters at the 2020 Honda Classic”

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