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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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Equipment

Wunder: I’ve hit THESE new drivers this year…and this is what I think

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During this lockdown, I have done quite a few “Friday Q & A’s” on my IG, and one of the questions I get asked constantly is “have you hit this?” That, and “whaddya think?”

So, in the spirit of organizing my brain, it seemed like the right time to share what new drivers I have actually hit this year…and this is what I think.

Now, it needs to be said that there is a lot of new gear out there, but, to be honest, I’ve only actually hit a select few enough to actually build an opinion. “Enough” in this case is at least 20 balls. Some of these sticks I tested during our pre-launch preview with the OEMs, at the PGA show, a friend has one, or I actually have it in the bag.

Here we go.

TaylorMade SIM

Setup tested: SIM 9 @8.25 w/ Mitsubishi Chemical Kuro Kage XTS 70TX

LOOKS: The best way to describe how SIM looks behind the ball is “comfortable.” TaylorMade has always made drivers that just look correct. The lines are clean, the shape inspires playability, and I dig the paint job. They hit a home run with this one for sure.

FEEL: Best sound out there in my opinion. Heavy, dense, and if you get one dead-nuts center, it lets you know. The feel at contact is just as TaylorMade drivers have always done, center strikes feel like Thor’s hammer and mishits don’t kill your good vibes.

VS THE M5: I get asked this a lot. I loved the M5. Still do. To be honest the two drivers data wise were legit apples to apples. The only difference is my stock shot with M5 was a low spin straight ball and with SIM its a slight draw with a touch more spin and slightly lower launch. I prefer that.

OVERALL: In my opinion, the TaylorMade SIM is the cool kid in high school for 2020. Last year it was F9 followed closely by M5. TM knocked it outta the park on this one.

TaylorMade SIM Max

Setup tested: Sim Max 9 @8.25 w/ Mitsubishi Chemical Kuro Kage XTS 70TX

LOOKS: It has a bit more of a longer face at address, which makes the head appear shallow which inspires a bit more confidence to turn it over. That’s the main thing I noticed with MAX. Other than that its a tried and true TM shape.

FEEL: Like its sibling, it has a nice solid hit audibly at the impact. So, overall its apples to apples with SIM. However, due to the front weight missing on the MAX, the actual strike doesn’t feel AS meaty as SIM. Not a negative necessarily just something I noticed.

VS M6: Both of these sticks I launched a bit too high versus the weighted versions. That’s why they never got any serious consideration to actually put in play.

OVERALL: As a high launch, more forgiving option, it’s an ace.

Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero

Setup tested: Sub Zero 9 w/ Mitsubishi Chemical Tensei Blue AV 65TX

LOOKS: To my eyes, the newer versions of the Callaway drivers have looked a bit more compact than its competition. To me, this always looked “low spin” for whatever reason. The Mavrik has the same shape which is good.

FEEL: They really fixed the sound. The Epic Flash sounded like a pop can to me, and the Mavrik Sub Zero sounds like a sledgehammer. The good thing here is the sound now matches up with what the hit feels like. I think the Mavrik is the best feeling driver Callaway has made since Epic.

VS EPIC FLASH SZ: To me, a complete improvement on all fronts. Sound, feel, and performance for me were all substantially better. Now I must say that the Epic Flash Sub Zero was a great driver, I always got great numbers out of it, but the sound took me out of it. I’m sure there isn’t that much difference audibly between the two, but in this game, even something minor can represent so much. Sound to me is huge.

OVERALL: In all honestly, I haven’t given a Callaway driver a real hard look to actually put in the bag since Epic. The sound got louder wit Rogue and Epic Flash. The Mavrik SZ  however is a fantastic driver and will def get some more testing out of me.

Cobra SpeedZone

Setup tested: Cobra Speed Zone 9 @8.5 w/ Fujikura Ventus Black 7X

LOOKS: The F9 was a winner on all fronts. The only critique I had was optically it looked like the driver was a little too fade biased. The SZ with its milled in top line gives it softer look at address and for me, softer lines mean more workability, just what my eyes tell me.

FEEL: As with F9 and the earlier mentioned SIM, the Speed Zone sounds EXACTLY how a driver should sound. It has a very heavy hit audibly and that’s across the face. I love the sound of this driver.

VS F9: Apples to apples, it’s the same. Beyond the optics, it feels, sounds, and performs like the F9. Not a bad thing though, the F9 was the driver of 2019 in my opinion.

OVERALL: Nothing wrong with repeating an already awesome driver. SpeedZone will stand up to anything out there. If I’m being fair, I think F9 elevated things in 2019, and this year the competition caught up to it. Changes nothing about how good this driver is.

Cobra Speed Zone Xtreme

Setup tested: Cobra Speed Zone Xtreme 9 @8.5 w/ Fujikura Ventus Black 7X

LOOKS: Like the other drivers in this higher MOI category, it looks a little longer heel to toe.

FEEL: No different than the SpeedZone, sounds great, the impact is solid across the face, and even thin shots feel solid.

OVERALL: The Xtreme is the sleeper hit of 2020 and I’ve heard the fitters love this thing. It’s by far the easiest to hit and overall good time of any driver on this list. Is it longer? No. But is it Xtremely (no pun) playable and competitive? Hard yes. It’s a blast.

PXG Proto

Setup tested: PXG Proto 9 w/ Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 6 TX

LOOKS: Slick. Like all PXG gear, the look is there. The matte crown and elegant lines make it very pleasing optically. I also appreciate that although it’s designed to look high tech. The lines inspire playability, and who doesn’t love a driver that looks like a stealth bomber?

FEEL: I only hit about 20 balls with the PXG Proto in the short time I had with it, but, wow, did this thing surprise me. The sound oddly enough is a bit higher-pitched than the others on the list but for whatever reason, it’s not a distraction. It actually adds to the experience of the hit. I typically detest that, but this sound matched up with the solid hit I was getting. I’m not sure if this is the final version since its a limited tour proto but what is happening is definitely interesting.

VS GEN2: It’s just better. Feels better, sounds great, more playable across the face. The Gen2 did one thing better than everyone else, it destroyed spin. The problem I had was control. The PXG Proto is still low spin but with the new 4 weight system (no intel on the tech yet) seems to add quality launch to the low spin profile and puts the player in a situation where very few to any sacrifices are made.

OVERALL: I was a fan of Gen2. No doubt. But it never flat out beat M5, F9, or SIM. The Proto has elevated PXG’s driver game. I don’t think its a matter of whether or not the driver stands up with the irons, I believe PXG is on the right track to having a driver that eliminates any “yeah, but…” to the conversation. That’s a huge leap since Gen1. These guys are trending hard.

I hope this was helpful.

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What GolfWRXers are saying about the final version of Bryson DeChambeau’s LA Golf ‘Texas Rebar’ wedge shafts

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In our forums, our members have been discussing the final version of Bryson DeChambeau’s LA Golf ‘Texas Rebar’ wedge shafts. The look of the ultra-stiff shafts, which originated from Bryson wanting a “graphite shaft that was stiffer than the Dynamic Gold X7″, has impressed our members who have been praising the final version and sharing their thoughts on the concept.

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.

  • QuigleyDU: “Awesome.”
  • My2dogs: “Really coming out with some great new stuff.”
  • HateTheHighDraw: “MMT 125TX are absolute fire, but these must be much stiffer.”
  • Robkingasu: “Sweet!”

Entire Thread: “Bryson DeChambeau’s LA Golf ‘Texas Rebar’ wedge shafts”

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Should I move to heavier iron shafts? – GolfWRXers have their say

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In our forums, our members have been discussing the strategy of moving to heavier shafts in irons. WRXer ‘Z1ggy16’ has been making swing changes lately, and the transition has been most challenging for his iron play. ‘Ziggy16’ says:

“Been making some swing changes lately, most notably working to really shallow my club into the downswing. I’m finding that I’m doing this well with my heavy wedge shafts and driver, but I’m struggling a bit in my irons. My strike pattern with my wedges is pretty good, but the irons are a bit all over. Driver is 80g raw, wedges are 132g raw, irons 120g raw. I don’t think I want to go any stiffer, but is there a chance I’ve “outgrown” this weight and need to move to something a bit heavier to help keep these feels going through my set? No idea what swing speed is at this point, but my 7i is normally a smooth/comfortable 175-180 for me.

I really like the feel of my Accra Tour Z Xtreme 475 and my S400’s in the GW-LW. I’m kind of leaning maybe soft stepping modus 120TX or X100’s.. Heck maybe even S200 straight in? Normally I’d just get a fitting, but with Rona still going around, I’m not than keen on it. 2020 is the year of the self fit for me. FWIW, I used modus 120TX 2xSS in my GW & SW last year and that was pretty good feeling. Perhaps a touch too soft… they seemed to really whip/bend hard when hitting from the rough on full swings.”

Our members discuss whether they feel a switch to heavier shafts in the irons will have the desired impact.

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.

  • Pepperturbo: “You’re not alone. Regardless of age, some of us swing better with heavier shafts. I went from 70g driver and 85g 3wd graphite shafts to 58g Ventus shaft in driver and 70g Ventus shaft in 4wd. In irons went from 130g X to 120g 6.0 PX steel shafts which lasted about fifteen years. Then last year made another downward weight change to Steelfiber (steel & graphite) 110g Stiff shafts, lightest I have ever played. Keep in mind as you transition, changing shaft weight is not the only answer. Increasing swing weight can make up for shaft weight. Though I really like them in 6-3i, not thrilled in SW-7i, so just ordered heavier Steelfiber i125g shafts for my PW-7i blades.”
  • Jeff58: “As someone who has gone through and continues to work on what sounds like a similar situation, your ideal iron shafts will likely change. Where they change to isn’t possible to predict with any degree of accuracy. Don’t change your current irons without knowing. It’s frustrating, expensive, and you won’t have any clubs while they’re being changed out. Instead, get a single club from dealsandsteals or similar and experiment with that. Also, the only relevant experience is outdoors under your actual turf conditions. Indoor and mat use can be grossly different.”
  • Red4282: “Just depends on your tempo and load and preferences tbh. My numbers are about identical to yours; I play 77g in the driver and 125 in the irons. I don’t think I could go lighter than 125.”
  • gvogel: “I have a set of hickory clubs. Of course, hickory shafts are darn heavy, maybe 150 grams or so. I probably hit straighter shots with the irons, and particularly hit better shots with the niblick (wedge). Driver and fairway woods, not so much. That might be a stupid insertion into an intelligent thread, but heavier goes straighter, lighter goes longer. You can go heavier, and it helps in transition, but don’t go too stiff.”

Entire Thread: “Should I switch to heavier iron shafts?”

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