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Building the perfect half set

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Beyond physically putting clubs together, one of my favorite games to play is trying to build the ideal half set, and taking it out for some testing on the course. The goal is to see how few clubs I can play with before it becomes a detriment to my game and my scoring—while still having fun trying to hit all kinds of creative shots along the way

Many golfers have, at some point, played the “three-club challenge” (three including a putter), but that often becomes an exercise in caution and course management instead of what many would consider a usual round of golf. Although from the conversations I’ve had with golfers about trying out an extremely reduced set, the consensus generally ends up at, “I shot one of my best scores in a long time.”

I’m not sure how that sentiment potentially relates to handicap or not, but one way or the other, it’s a great way to lighten the load and have some fun thinking differently about your shots.

My ideal half set consists of 7-8 clubs including a putter, but in some cases, I will take it all the way down to 5-6. I love having the option to play with a full set and most times do, but I have gone weeks playing only with my half set and don’t see a noticeable variation in my scoring.

It actually makes me question why I carry a full set and in the grand scheme of golf. I think it would be one of the most entertaining experiments to have a PGA Tour event where players are limited to seven clubs. It would have the potential to make gearheads and the general fan engage in an interesting conversation.

Whatever way you choose to build your set, this is a quick start guide to play your best half set golf.

Thinking Your way Through Building a Half Set

  • The Putter: This is the one club that probably isn’t going anywhere (unless you are a virtuoso putting with a bellied wedge). You are going to be using this club on every hole, and depending on your comfort level hitting certain shots, you might end up using it further off the green than normal—cheers to the imagination! Build out from here, because shots inside 100 yards are still going to take up the majority of strokes on your card, and your putter is going to save you shots.
  • The “Wedge”: Remember that it wasn’t until the last generation of golfers that players started using a lob wedge. Tom Watson famously never put one in the bag and only carried up to a 56-degree. The ideal loft to start your set with is 52-54 degrees, because you can still hit shots out of the sand if needed, and it’s a great club to still hit full shots with—something that many golfers struggle to do with a lob wedge.
  • Your “Go-To” Shot: I think most golfers agree that trying to get more out of a club distance-wise often ends with less than great results. This is why as you go through your set and start to pick clubs, it’s important to think about your favorite go-to shots. You want to do everything you can to avoid standing over a ball trying to manipulate a club because you don’t have “that distance” in the bag. This is hugely important when you realize that close to 90 percent of hazards are placed in front of the green or target areas and being able to get over comfortably should be priority number one.
  • Know Your Iron Lofts:  Most modern sets have 4-5 degrees between each club, but as you get to the longer irons, even towards the middle of the set (7-iron to 5-iron) loft gaps can get smaller quickly, and for some this can equal a diminishing point of return on distance gapping. Don’t just grab every other iron, take a few minutes to think about the carry distance of each club, because that’s going to be important.
  • A Driver is Still Important: We all cant be Henrik Stenson with a 12-degree 3-wood we hit 300 yards. Unless you have plans to go truly minimalist, keeping a driver in the bag is a good idea. It is the largest and most forgiving club off the tee and will help put you into places that will make second shots a lot easier.
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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.

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. John Gleason

    Apr 7, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    I shot my career low 66 last month w only carrying 10 clubs

  2. Paul

    Apr 2, 2020 at 8:56 am

    During these stressful times, I have been walking with 7 clubs including a putter. Surprised that my scores have not gone uo. I carry a lob wedge, pitching wedge, 7 iron, 3 hybrid, heavenwood, and driver..

  3. Lou

    Mar 30, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    I switched to walking with a half set two years ago and I love it…it feels like real golf, go where you want, enjoy the day

  4. Dale

    Mar 30, 2020 at 11:15 am

    Recently I’ve been taking only irons and playing the forward tees about once a week. Definitely is helping my iron game.

  5. WhoaNellie

    Mar 30, 2020 at 10:59 am

    “Full” Set, or, Nine is Fine – 11* D, 18.5* 5W, 26* 5H, 31* 7I, 36* 8I, 41* 9I, 46* PW, 56* SW, P
    Half set – 11* D, 18.5* 5W, 26* 5H, 36* 8I, 46* PW, 56* SW, P
    Half Dozen Set – Drop the D
    Thrive with 5 – 18.5* 5W, 31* 7I, 46* PW, 56* SW, P
    3 and a P – 18.5* 5W, 36* 8I, 56* SW, P
    3 Club Cfhallenge – 18.5* 5W, 46* PW, P
    1 and Done – 31* 7I
    I think about this far too much, but as that great American thespian and golfer, Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s got to know his limitations …” I only use 9 clubs for my Thursday scramble outings. Half set is my “own score” set unless the D is not cooperating, then I go with Half Dozen. I am probably most comfortable with Half Dozen–hit the 5W once (longer par 3), twice (par 4), or 3 times (par5) and then scramble to clean it up.

  6. joro

    Mar 30, 2020 at 10:26 am

    No matter what your combo is you are probably finding out your scores are about the same as a full set. One thing is I have found out is that there are fewer decisions than with more clubs to choose from and it also improves your shotmaking to have to speed up or slow down your swing, in other words control the shot. I have tried it all and very little difference in scoring, even to a one time 1 over par with a six iron and a putter. But the main thing is make it fun and learn from it, you would be surprised how it ends up.

    • Acemandrake

      Mar 30, 2020 at 11:49 am

      All true. Learn while having fun & you’re never “between clubs”. 🙂

  7. Karsten's Ghost

    Mar 29, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    6 clubs, if you must.

    Driver, 19h, 6i, 9i, 54, putter.

    If it’s down to just one club, I’ll take the 8-iron. I can putt with it.

  8. Night putter

    Mar 28, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    7 clubs
    2 woods. Driver, 5w Calloways
    2 irons . 5 & 8 Hogan edge plus
    2 wedges. Pw & sw Ping becu zing2 & eye2
    Putters

  9. tocino

    Mar 28, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    Driver
    3 Hybrid
    4, 6, 8, P
    58*
    Putter

    I actually have this setup in the back of my car for whenever i have time to stop by the range after work. The irons are all miss matched between Titleist AP2, 714 AP2, 716 AP2, and a SCOR PW. I’ve been meaning to get a sunday bag to keep everything together. Haven’t tried this set yet playing an actual round but i could probably do “ok” if i had to

  10. Dane Dresch

    Mar 28, 2020 at 10:34 am

    Modern 10 Club
    Driver
    3-wood
    19 Hybrid
    4 utility Srixon U65 23*
    6 Game Improvement Srixon 565 31*
    8 Forged Cavity Back Srixon 765 38*
    PW Blade Srixon 965 46*
    Cleveland RTX 3 52*
    Cleveland RTX 3 *60
    Cleveland TA Milled 2

  11. Alex

    Mar 27, 2020 at 11:35 pm

    Driver, hybrid, 4 iron, 6 iron, 9 iron, 55 wedge, flat stick

  12. Joe Exotic

    Mar 27, 2020 at 10:45 pm

    What is the driver set at? It’s 8* and set even lower, dang!!

  13. Josh

    Mar 27, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    Driver
    7 wood
    6 iron
    8 iron
    PW
    56
    Putter

    • WhoaNellie

      Mar 30, 2020 at 10:16 am

      Nay laddie. I turn 67 on Friday, arthritic knees, achy right shoulder, decidedly non-hipster. I don’t need 11 clubs to divide up the paltry distance between D and SW.

      • WhoaNellie

        Mar 30, 2020 at 10:25 am

        Also, my vision is going. My comment should be on the post below.

  14. Jbone

    Mar 27, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Half sets are so hipster

  15. dave

    Mar 27, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    Happened to have just posted on this in the thread re Linksoul Color Theory irons the other day. Here’s my post cut and pasted:

    Highly recommend trying a short bag. With a short bag I’m currently scoring as well as or better than I ever have with a full bag.

    Have always enjoyed playing with one club (usually 4 iron) or three clubs (usually hybrid/5w/7w, 8 iron and putter).

    I’ve been playing with only 7 or 8 clubs since early January. D, 3w, 22 deg hybrid, 6i, 8i, (PW), SW, P. Irons are Mizuno MP-69.

    Played for a long time with 7 clubs, added PW a few weeks ago. But haven’t scored better since adding it.

    I have played to or below my current hcp. in every round since I switched to the short set (about 10 rounds), though admittedly my hcp was a bit high going into the no-score-posting season — it was a 12, usually a 9 or 10.

    I also shot my lowest lifetime score on my home course on a crappy cold and wet day in January — WITH 7 CLUBS.

    I carry a single strap Jones bag with no stand and it’s an absolute joy to walk our very hilly course with the short bag.

  16. 15th Club

    Mar 27, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    1. 13* 3 wood
    2. 5i
    3. 7i
    4. 9i
    5. 52 gw
    6. 58 sw
    7. Putter

    To whatever extent distance is an issue, I very happily move up a set of tees.
    Driver is by far the easiest thing to leave out.

  17. Knuckles

    Mar 27, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Start with the scoring clubs first (the ones I play on 80% of my shots and work it from there).
    Putter
    56deg
    PW
    9 iron
    7 iron
    4 iron
    3w tuned to 13.5

  18. Jifmoli

    Mar 27, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    Agree, forget the driver if you want to go below 7 clubs, one-trick pony for me really. But I own 2 and they are expensive so they do go in the bag at times. I vary what I stick in the bag, just for fun and a bit of change:

    3w, 5h, 7i, 9i, pw, 56o, p = 7
    D, 4h, 6i, 8i, pw, aw, 60o, p = 8

    Or extra minimal: 4h, 7i, aw, p

    I never play with full sets

  19. jackwoods@gmail.com

    Mar 27, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    comment sections is cry baby central get a life

  20. BringBackOldSchool

    Mar 27, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    This is truly a lost art. While starting to see a bigger comeback in this new millennium, this is exactly how golfers started out years ago. The half set was, and I believe still is, the best way to start golfers out in this game. It wasn’t until a golfer honed their games with a half set, that they’d graduate to a full set and fill in the needed gaps. I also believe most average golfers hinder their development and play because of all the options of 14 clubs. Imagine if most average golfers played a half set and limited their confusion on the course how faster golf would be? And more enjoyable? I might even solve some of the aliments the game struggles with today?

  21. Ojhs

    Mar 27, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    How is a driver the most forgiving club off the tee? And it’s also the only place where you can use it. I’d go driving iron or fw wood without a doubt.

    • gdb99

      Mar 30, 2020 at 11:23 am

      Because it’s the biggest?

      • Ojhs

        Apr 8, 2020 at 2:13 pm

        Fair enough, guess I confused ‘safe’ and ‘forgiving’. Just thought of most people going literally any other club to play safe.

  22. Joey

    Mar 27, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    Played half-sets for quick rounds after work. Forgot to put the rest back for an outing and raked. Haven’t looked back since.

    3W-4H-6-8-PW-56-P

  23. Max

    Mar 27, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Dude, this is Golfwrx. Nobody here is trying to have LESS golf clubs. LoL

    But since you planted the seed, maybe I will go and price out a half set of PXG’s.

  24. Acemandrake

    Mar 27, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    After much trial & error…

    12° Driver…24° Hybrid…6…8…PW…SW…Putter (7 total)

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Whats in the Bag

Joaquin Niemann WITB 2020

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Joaquin Niemann - WITB January 2020

Driver: Ping G410 LST (10 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7 X (45.25″, tipped 1″)

joaquin-niemann-witb-2020

3-wood: Ping G410 (14.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X (tipped 1″, 43″)

Hybrid: Ping G400 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI Hybrid 95 X (40.25″, D2)

Irons: Ping iBlade (4-9)
Shafts: Project X Rifle 6.0 (-1/4″, D1)

Wedges: Ping Glide 3.0 (46-12 degrees), Ping Glide Forged (52, 56, 60 degrees)
Shafts: Project X Rifle 6.5

Putter: Ping Prototype PLD Anser (Black finish)
Grip: Ping PP58 Midsize Full Cord

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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Shaft fitting: Is it worth it? – GolfWRXers have their say

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In our forums, our members have been discussing shaft fitting and whether it makes a substantial difference or not. WRXer ‘2ndCut16’ recently snagged a set of heavily discounted T100 irons on eBay and asks members:

“My question is, is it worth going to get a shaft fitting? They currently have DG S300, which was what was in my 714AP2 ( I was not fit for these either), but I’m curious how much the shaft may make a difference? I’m sorry if this has been covered before, I’m just recently was bit by the equipment bug and am trying to learn all that I can.

Given that I saved a good junk of the cost of the clubs, I’d be willing to spend a little to get the right shaft, if it is actually going to make a difference, I just wanted to check here before I spent the $100 for the shaft fitting.”

And our members have been having their say in our forums.

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.

  • nhaun2: “I definitely think it’s worth it with the way the technology has progressed the last 5-10 years. $100 seems kinda steep, but I feel like most places will credit that back or at least a portion of it if you make a purchase through them.”
  • Ri_Redneck: “Never worry about paying for something that is worth the price to YOU! If your goal is to be the best golfer you can be, then your priorities are far different from the average weekend golfer. Fitting is typically expensive, but the information you get can be well worth the cost. As ChipNRun mentioned. Most of us have a swing that probably won’t change much over the next few years. Knowing what shaft characteristics fit you allows you to oftentimes choose a set of ideal clubs right off the rack! Knowledge of your equipment will help you make the most of your equipment buying dollars and avoid falling prey to the marketing that is so prevalent today.”
  • thesamewise: “1 million percent worth it. The right shaft will complement your game and can accentuate your strengths and mask some of your flaws a little. I got the right shafts in my irons, and I just can’t believe how much they help.”
  • Ruleschamp: “Not gonna make that much of a material difference in terms of performance but if you want them to feel the way you like the club to feel then go for the fitting and just enjoy the fun.”
  • GLF4EVR: “Piece of mind may be worth it just so you do not have that little thought in the back of your mind about it. I have done my own tinkering for many years now. I have never had any lessons, and all the club building I have done was thru this site. Had the chance to see a professional fitter last year. Spent over 2 hours going over every club in the bag & was charged only $65. Only recommendations were what kind of graphite shafts to put in my irons if I want to switch & to play with the bounce on my 58 wedge. To me, that was the most worthwhile $65 I have spent on golf in a long time. To find out I was correct in all my work & the way I had gone about; it was just about priceless for me. It is kind of strange to not have that little voice in the back of my head anymore with any questions about my equipment & the fine-tuning I have done. My only thing I would say is to make sure the fitter knows what they are doing.”

Entire Thread: “Shaft fitting: Is it worth it?”

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Equipment

Chicago Cubs player Ian Happ auctioning off his 1/1 Bettinardi putter with proceeds going to Covid-19 relief

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Chicago Cubs Centerfielder Ian Happ is auctioning off his PROTO IH8 Bettinardi with all proceeds from the sale going to Covid-19 relief efforts for Cradles to Crayons.

The putter, which is open for bids until June 8, is a custom Bettinardi Queen B 8 Slant Neck milled to 365 grams from Double Aged Stainless Steel.

 

A 1/1 used by Happ on the course, the flat-stick features the MLB star’s chosen logos, including the Bettinardi ‘Hive’ logo in the pocket, IH8 Proto on the sole, and also his father’s initials KH. 

 

The putter comes with a unique team-only issued 2016 World Series Cubs Championship headcover, signed by Ian Happ on the W side and a Lamkin Deep Etched Grip.

 

Specs: 

  • Model: Bettinardi Queen B 8 Slant Neck
  • Dexterity: Right-Handed
  • Weight: 365g
  • Length: 35 inches
  • Face Milling: F.I.T. Face (Feel Impact Technology)
  • Finish: Black Chrome

You can bid on the putter here, with the current leading bid as of June 3 currently at $450.

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