How to legally carry more than 70 clubs in your bag
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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The Wedge Guy: What really needs fixing in your game?
I always find it interesting to watch how golfers interact with the practice range, if they do so at all. I certainly can figure out how to understand that some golfers just do not really want to get better — at least not enough to spend time on the practice range trying to improve.
What is most puzzling to me is how many golfers completely ignore the rationale for going to the range to at least warm up before they head to the first tee. Why anyone would set aside 4-6 hours of their day for a round of golf, and then not even give themselves a chance to do their best is beyond me. But today, I’m writing for those of you who really do want to improve your golf scores and your enjoyment of the game.
I’ve seen tons of research for my entire 40 years in this industry that consistently shows the number one goal of all golfers, of any skill level, from 100-shooter to tour professional, is simply to hit better golf shots more often. And while our definition of “better” is certainly different based on our respective skill level, the game is just more fun when your best shots happen more often and your worst shots are always getting better.
Today’s article is triggered by what we saw happen at the Valspar tour event this past Sunday. While Taylor Moore certainly had some big moments in a great final round, both Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk threw away their chances to win with big misses down the stretch, both of them with driver. Spieth’s wayward drive into the water on the 16th and Schenk’s big miss left on the 18th spelled doom for both of them.
It amazes me how the best players on the planet routinely hit the most God-awful shots with such regularity, given the amazing talents they all have. But those guys are not what I’m talking about this week. In keeping with the path of the past few posts, I’m encouraging each and every one of you to think about your most recent rounds (if you are playing already this year), or recall the rounds you finished the season with last year. What you are looking for are you own “big misses” that kept you from scoring better.
Was it a few wayward drives that put you in trouble or even out of bounds? Or maybe loose approach shots that made birdie impossible and par super challenging? Might your issue have been some missed short putts or bad long putts that led to a three-putt? Most likely for any of you, you can recall a number of times where you just did not give yourself a good chance to save par or bogey from what was a not-too-difficult greenside recovery.
The point is, in order to get consistently better, you need to make an honest assessment of where you are losing strokes and then commit to improving that part of your game. If it isn’t your driving that causes problems, contain that part of practice or pre-round warm-ups to just a half dozen swings or so, for the fun of “the big stick”. If your challenges seem to be centered around greenside recoveries, spend a lot more time practicing both your technique and imagination – seeing the shot in your mind and then trying to execute the exact distance and trajectory of the shot required. Time on the putting green will almost always pay off on the course.
But, if you are genuinely interested in improving your overall ball-striking consistency, you would be well-served to examine your fundamentals, starting with the grip and posture/setup. It is near impossible to build a repeating golf swing if those two fundamentals are not just right. And if those two things are fundamentally sound, the creation of a repeating golf swing is much easier.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: It’s not all about distance
- The Wedge Guy: Are you really willing to get better at golf?
- The Wedge Guy: Anatomy of a wedge head
Clement: It’s hard to hit the driver badly when you’re doing this
Mu and I go through the swing of the driver in slow motion to show the difference between hitting at the ball and then trying to move it to target versus collecting the ball from the top of the tee and releasing it into the flight plan. Check out the video to learn what this means for your golf swing.
Also: Congrats on Savy getting another personal best of 337 yards at the WLD event in Mesquite!
How to hit a fade…according to YouTube, a robot, and GolfWRX members
How to hit a fade. At some point, if you aren’t a habitual slicer of the golf ball and are able to hit a draw with regularity, in your quest to become a better golfer, you’re going to want to know how to do this.
Without debating the relative merits of a draw versus a fade, it’s agreed that working the golf ball both ways is key to to scoring, positioning off the tee, and risk minimization. If you’re a golfer who is currently only slinging draws, we have some advice for you on how to hit a fade from three very different sources.
How to hit a fade…
…according to a robot (that is, A.I. language model ChatGPT):
A fade is a type of golf shot that curves gently from left to right (for a right-handed golfer). If you want to know how to hit a fade, follow these steps:
- Set up for the shot: Aim your clubface at the target, but align your feet, hips, and shoulders slightly to the left of the target. This open stance will help promote a left-to-right spin on the ball.
- Grip the club: Hold the club normally, but slightly weaken your grip by turning your hands slightly to the left (again, for a right-handed golfer). This will help you hit the ball with an open clubface.
- Swing the club: On your backswing, keep your clubface square to the target for as long as possible. Then, on your downswing, try to swing slightly from the inside to out, which will help produce the left-to-right spin on the ball. Finally, make sure to follow through towards the target with a high finish.
- Practice: Hitting a consistent fade can take some practice. Spend time on the driving range and experiment with different grip and swing adjustments until you find what works best for you.
Remember, hitting a fade is not about hitting the ball harder, it’s about controlling the spin and direction of the ball. With practice, you can learn to hit a reliable fade that can help you navigate tricky golf course layouts.
Hitting a fade takes practice, and it may take some trial and error to find the right adjustments for your swing. It’s also important to note that a fade is not necessarily the ideal shot shape for every situation, so it’s important to be comfortable with hitting a variety of shots on the golf course.
How to hit a fade…according to the most-watched video on YouTube on the subject
With more than one million views on YouTube, this video from Any and Piers of MeAndMyGolf not only covers hitting a fade but also discussing drawing the golf ball as well as hitting it high and low.
…according to GolfWRXers
And of course, our GolfWRX forum members have opinions on the subject.
The appropriately named PreppySlapCut said: “If the face is open to the path, the ball is going to fade. There’s several adjustments you can make to encourage that to happen, it’s just a question of what feels best for you and allows you to do it most consistently.”
Bladehunter says: “For me just the sensation of taking the club back outside your hands , and then swing left with a face square to target , while turning hard as you can makes for a pretty straight flight that won’t hook. Unless you stall and let your hands pass you.”
“That’s my take as an upright swinger If you’re really flat it’s going to be tough to time up and never have the two way miss Because you’re always coming from the inside and will rely on timing the face open or shut to see a fade or draw . For me it’s just set the face at address and feel like you hold it there until impact”
Dpd5031 says: “Had a pro teach me this. Aim a little left, stance slightly open, still hit it from the inside (just like your draw), but unwind chest hard letting handle follow your rotation so toe never passes heel. He called it a “drawy fade.” Ball takes off almost looking like it’s going to draw, but tumbles over to the right instead of left. Cool thing is ya dont give up any distance doing it this way as opposed to cutting across it.”
Scottbox says: “Jon Rahm is a good example. Watch the hand path of his backswing– his hands are not as “deep” as someone who draws the ball (i.e. Rory). And even though he has a slightly shut face, Rahm rotates his chest and hips very hard. Because there’s less depth to his backswing, the club gets more in front of him at P6. He’s most likely 1-2* outside in at last parallel. Brooks Koepka has a longer swing, but similar, in terms of his hand path– well above the shaft plane going up with less depth to his hands at the top, and slightly above the plane coming down.”
“Most good modern players rotate pretty hard with their hips and chest to stabilize the face, but the difference between those who draw it and those who hit a baby cut is often seen in the way they “engineer” their backswing patterns.”
Check out more of the “how to hit a fade” discussion in the forum thread.
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Dec 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm
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!!)
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.
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.
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??
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dec 10, 2014 at 9:21 am
So you’ve practiced less, learned new shots and cut your handicap in half? That’s impressive.
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.
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
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!)
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.
Dec 9, 2014 at 2:58 pm
Dude, you’re amazing.
Dec 9, 2014 at 3:40 pm
When I grow up I wanna be just like you!
Dec 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm
Cool story brah.
Dec 10, 2014 at 11:33 am
I don’t think you understand what a flop shot is.
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.