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Swanson: How to choose the 14 clubs in your bag

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Meet new GolfWRX Senior Expert on Everything, Swanson. We recently spotted him playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with Al Czervik, David Simms and the “Tiger Woods” from Dan Jenkins’ Golf Digest Interview. Swanson asked to write a few articles for GolfWRX’s Front Page. We told him if the readers like his stories, we’ll let him keep writing. If not, he’ll have to go back to trolling the forums. 

By far my least favorite part of playing tournament golf has always been deciding which 14 clubs to put in my bag, but I’ve learned a few tricks over the years.

During normal rounds of golf, I’ll have anywhere between 20-24 clubs in the bag; that includes drivers with different shafts, long irons (I don’t play fairway woods or hybrids), backup wedges and a few different Scotties.

Practice rounds are for testing equipment, not for playing by imaginary rules contrived by the USGA. But when it comes time to play in a USGA-sanctioned event, 14 clubs is the maximum they allow.

And this is a topic that really hits home for me.

You see, a few years back I qualified for the U.S. Senior Mid-Am Junior event in the second position after firing 71-68 (I hit 18 greens in regulation and had 44 putts in the first round), but a rules official saw I had 17 clubs in the bag after the event. I still have no idea how he saw the extra wedges hidden beneath my driver head cover, but I learned a lesson that day – the 14-club rule penalizes you two strokes for each hole played with more than 14 clubs, for a maximum of two holes. Safe to say, I didn’t qualify.

But now I’m an expert on selecting clubs for my tournament bag. And if chosen, they should be honored and thankful, and perform accordingly during the tournament. So do yourself a favor, print this out, put it in your bag and read it every time you’re deciding what clubs are going to make the cut for your next event.

Driver

Compile all of your driver heads and shafts, and head to your nearest Trackman facility. I have one in my basement, but you may need to go to a custom-fitting shop or a top teaching pro in your area. You don’t actually want a fitting or a lesson; you just want to rent the Trackman for an hour or two. Hit every driver head/shaft combination possible, and then print out a sheet of the averages.

Listen carefully, because this is the important part. You want to play the driver that has the lowest spin rate. No matter what. You can figure out how to launch it higher and make better contact (therefore increasing your ball speed) another time. I don’t hook or slice the ball, but if I did the low spin would help the ball curve less, and of course, it maximizes distance.

People say a 17-degree launch angle and 1700 rpm of spin is optimal, and I can do it every time with my forward-CG, low-MOI driver. You’re probably not good enough to play one, but maybe one day you will be. So buy the hottest low-spin driver every year on the off chance you start striping it one summer.

Editor’s Note: Swanson’s opinions on club fitting are his own, and don’t reflect the opinions of GolfWRX (at all).

Fairway Woods/Hybrids

Personally, I don’t use fairway woods or hybrids because:

  1. I don’t see the point.
  2. I don’t have yardage gaps big enough to need them.

I hit my driver 315 yards (on average), and carry my steel-shaft, hand-ground, muscleback 1-iron 275 yards. When would I hit a three wood or hybrid? From 290 yards into a par 5? And what par-5 in America would require me to hit a shot 290 yards on my approach?

None. The answer is none of the par 5s.

Irons/Driving irons

In making the decision on what long irons to carry, you’ll want to check the wind for the day, the par-3 distances and how many irons you’ll need off the tee on par-4s. I usually carry my 1, 2 and 3 irons during tournament play because it intimidates my competitors, and I can launch my 1-iron off the deck really high.

Most golfers will probably need to play irons that are more forgiving than the one-piece forgings I use, but you should test both. Blades are a huge advantage if you can play them, because they’re so much more workable and so much better in the rough.

Also, you may notice I use iron covers; you would too if your irons were hand ground from the same guy who forged Tiger’s Miura irons.

Wedges 

This is the trickiest part of the equation. In my current practice bag, I have eight wedges: 50 degrees (bent to 49.5), 54 (bent to 53.5), 54 (bent to 54.5), 56 (bent to 55.5), 56 (bent to 56.5), 60 (extra heel grind), 60 (v-grind) and a 63 (bent to 63.5).

I know how far every one of them flies to a dime, but predicting exactly what yardages I’ll need during a round used to be difficult for me. That’s why I started getting my hands on a yardage book of the tournament course, and picking my targets for each hole. Since I rarely miss my target, especially under tournament pressure, all I have to do is decide which wedges I’ll need most often. One time, through my preparation, I found out I wouldn’t need a club from 197-203 yards, so I didn’t need my 8-iron. I played with six wedges that event and won the National Ultra-Private Country Club Championship.

For beginners, I suggest letting your long iron/fairway wood/hybrid setups dictate the wedges you choose, and simply fill in the yardage gaps appropriately.

Putter 

I sleep with both of my Tour-Only Scotties the night before any event; one on my left side and one on my right. Whichever putter I wake up facing is the one that goes in the bag.

Choosing a golf ball 

Just kidding. They make other balls than a Pro V1x?

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Swanson doesn't exist, except in his writing. He doesn't play for score any more, as he's too busy working on his spin rates. For tournament purposes, he has a 2 handicap on file from high school golf, registered at his home club, which is only reachable by private watercraft.

53 Comments

53 Comments

  1. Tyler

    Apr 20, 2016 at 1:25 am

    Hilarious! Best part was the trackman in the basement. I guarantee someone on here convinced the wife to spend $20k on a trackman for the basement.

  2. Timbleking

    Apr 16, 2016 at 3:44 am

    Jiiiiiiiiiizzzzz ! Swanson, the 8 iron comment made my day! ROTFL!!!

  3. Jason

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Coming out of the gates strong…I love it.

  4. Boomshaboom

    Apr 15, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Wow, God wrote an article about how to select your 14. Suprised he needs a putter.

  5. Cyd2293

    Mar 30, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    Great Article.

    Loved it.

    A little humor goes a long way.

  6. Martin

    Mar 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Swanson!
    I always support anyone who wants to be funny, and I think you did ok for the first time. BUT you have to train harder and score better if you wanna make the cut!!! 😉
    Good Luck!

  7. Mike Honcho

    Mar 21, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    So bad Spaulding Smails gave it a shank and two nose picks.

  8. Junior

    Mar 21, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    where can I get a set of those iron covers?

  9. northgolf

    Mar 21, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Effective satire requires actually being humorous. This is just old, tired, and worn out. Iron covers in the top photo was the highlight and it went downhill from there.

  10. insider

    Mar 21, 2016 at 9:45 am

    is this a stab at early ian poulter when he was a club pro?????????????

    • Mike Honcho

      Mar 21, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Go easy or IJP will tweet (whine) about it to your employer and get you fired.

  11. nath

    Mar 21, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Back to the forums buddy, cmon, you have had your fun!
    The front page is no place for you.
    I’m glad I just wasted 15mins

  12. Jim

    Mar 21, 2016 at 5:19 am

    I learned nothing, finally.

  13. Steve

    Mar 19, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    What a dumb article, what was the point? To fill space? Sometimes less is more. Definately less of this guy

  14. Double Mocha Man

    Mar 19, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Relax! The guy actually has a 17 handicap and is trying to be funny. Though I did appreciate the part about all his wedges… I carry 5 of ’em in a 14 club bag. Inevitably, the one I want to use is hidden from sight under the other wedges. This a Murphey’s Law, even if the wedge is the longest of the bunch.

    The red booties for his irons in the photograph should have been a dead giveaway.

  15. Mill Fickelson

    Mar 19, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Wow “Dufner” do you even know how to read? You must be from the south if you don’t understand satire!

    Ps- nothing funnier than internet outrage, relax everyone it’s just an article and it accurately depicts 99.9% of you

  16. ryan

    Mar 19, 2016 at 3:14 am

    those who are butt-hurt from this article probably just realized that it’s about people like them and how ridiculous they can be. A+

  17. Jim

    Mar 19, 2016 at 1:29 am

    This could have been a funny article if it had been done correctly. The manner in which it was written and came out, was lacking and wasn’t funny at all. The only slightly amusing part was the wedges bent by like .3 degrees. Other than that, a waste of what could have been a really funny article.

    • Cptdot

      Mar 19, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      10000% agree.. Beat it Swanson

      • paul

        Mar 19, 2016 at 11:20 pm

        i have to admit i laughed out loud when i read this article. all parts of it are funny even the disclaimer from Golfwrx . made my day

  18. DB

    Mar 19, 2016 at 12:03 am

    I haven’t read such a good laugh in a while. I would swear I know this guy in real life. hahahaha, Keep the articles coming!!!

  19. Marc

    Mar 18, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Loved the wedge lofts .

  20. RHJazz

    Mar 18, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Serious or satire? It’s a fine, line to get right. Problem I had with this is, for some it’s kind of true – over thinking one’s needs and ability and the elitist attitude of some narcissistic players we may actually encounter. For others, it’s just rubbish and so fantastical it almost makes no sense. Good try with high level of difficulty, but failed to stick the landing. I’d judge it “m’eh.”

  21. Kevin Hawkins

    Mar 18, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Waste of time reading this. It wasn’t even funny.

  22. Kyle

    Mar 18, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    This is probably the best article I have ever read on this site.

    The funny part is that I opened it actually looking for some good advice.

  23. JustTrying2BAwesome

    Mar 18, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Hahaha this was great. Thank you.

  24. EO

    Mar 18, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    The article made me chuckle, the replies gave me a nice belly laugh. Funny article. Of course it’s pointless.

  25. JustPlainCarpe

    Mar 18, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Hilarious!

  26. Nolanski

    Mar 18, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Lol! I about lost it after the muscleback 1 iron part. You shoulda said something like “I have my putter shafts pured weekly”. Keep em coming.

  27. Tom

    Mar 18, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    “I sleep with both of my Tour-Only Scotties the night before any event; one on my left side and one on my right. Whichever putter I wake up facing is the one that goes in the bag.” Some golfwrxer’s should try this with their Scotties.

  28. Tom

    Mar 18, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    6 wedges..ROFLMAO….ya got me.

  29. Scooter McGavin

    Mar 18, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Wow, this was dumb. I’m sad I wasted my time reading it. If you’re going to post something meant to be funny and satirical, at least make sure it’s actually funny.

  30. Bishop

    Mar 18, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    If you didn’t realize this was a satire by the second paragraph “During normal rounds of golf, I’ll have anywhere between 20-24 clubs in the bag; that includes drivers with different shafts…” you may want to lighten up a bit. If you have 20-24 clubs in your bag at one time, you deserve to have to carry your bag 18 holes once per year…. This was funny, albeit a waste of 10 minutes…

  31. Birdie?

    Mar 18, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    April 1st isn’t for another 2 weeks or so. WTactualF

  32. RG

    Mar 18, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    What a loser! 8 wedges? I don’t carry a wedge because I never miss a green and I can reach any par 5 with a 2 iron or less. I haven’t been in a bunker since Clinton was in office. Heck 50% of the time I don’t need a putter, I just tap in with whatever club is in my hand. I know your thinking “Why isn’t this guy on tour?” My answer is to much travel, not enough prize money.

  33. Random Reader

    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Ha! Good for a smile.

  34. Marc G

    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Worst article I’ve read here

  35. Philip

    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Too funny! However, can you now write a proper version of the article that gives up a nugget or two? Or are you hoarding those for yourself?

  36. ca1879

    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Oh my… some of the comments. I am now certain that it’s impossible to write a satire that’s too obvious.

  37. Wow123

    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Funny! But that is because I speak sarcasm.

  38. Clowone

    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    1st of April is soon this year..

  39. Weekend Duffer

    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    GolfWRX – The article

  40. michael johnson

    Mar 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    this is the most pointless article ever. it is not a good troll, it is not funny and it is uniformative. booh!

  41. mvandy

    Mar 18, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    This is a joke right? wtf is this

  42. duffer

    Mar 18, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Wow. Send this guy back to trolling. This article was just a forum for him to brag about how he can hit a 1-iron unlike us mere mortals. Completely useless article if you are a normal human being who hits their driver 230 like 95% of us. Get off your high horse buddy! Write an article this isn’t all about how great you are.

    • Mike

      Mar 18, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      You do realize it was a tongue-in-cheek article, right?

      • mhendon

        Mar 18, 2016 at 8:24 pm

        Lol and someone thought this was serious

  43. Greg V

    Mar 18, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    I can’t believe I read the whole thing.

  44. Satire

    Mar 18, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Enjoyable

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Wedge Wednesday! New Edel SMS and Cobra Snakebite

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Wedge Wednesday is here! We have some new wedges from Edel and Cobra that were just released. Edel’s SMS wedge with Swing Match Weighting System is made to be adjusted for each player’s swing. Cobra’s Snakebite wedge has wider and shallower full-face grooves for more spin out of any lie.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Up and down – The Spieth rollercoaster notches a rare short game win

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Jordan Spieth is back! After a long hiatus from the winner’s circle, Spieth was able to break through at the Oaks Course at TPC of San Antonio to capture his 12th career PGA TOUR victory at the Valero Texas Open. It wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing ever is with Spieth. The Golden Child always seems to find a way to add dramatics whether its shots from the driving range to steal the British Open from Matt Kuchar or holing a bunker shot to force (John Deere) or win (Travelers) a playoff. That sense of drama and fun that has surrounded the always-vocal Spieth has been missing in recent years as his weekend struggles had him plummeting down the World Rankings.

Earlier this year, he started showing signs of life with a handful of 54 hole leads, only to be undone with mediocre Sunday performances. Through eight holes on Saturday, sitting at +1 for the day, it looked like this would also be just another missed opportunity. But then Spieth did what Spieth does. He made birdies in bunches and showed off that terrific short game.

Spieth has never been traditional in the way he wins. Though he is probably best known for his putting stroke, in his best years, he was also quite dominant with his irons. This week was no exception. We can use V1 Game’s Strokes Gained Stacked view to see how Spieth performed in Driving, Approach, Short Game, and Putting over the four rounds.

The first thing that jumps out, looking at Spieth’s performance, is his short game. Speith gained well over 4 strokes over the average PGA Tour player for the week. This is not common for PGA TOUR winners. The main reason is that gaining strokes in the Short Game requires opportunities from inside 75 yards. In order to have opportunities, that typically means that you have to miss greens. Most PGA TOUR winners do not many miss greens on their way to a trophy, however Jordan Spieth missed many at the Valero Texas Open. In fact, he finished the week tied for 66th in greens in regulation (GIR) hitting only 58 percent. This is certainly more of an outlier in terms of GIR for tour winners, but when you have a short game as good as Spieth’s, you can get away with it.

The second observation is that Spieth was almost perfectly average with Driving. He came out positive in strokes gained for the week, but finished 38th in the field for Strokes Gained Driving. Strokes Gained Driving accounts for both distance and accuracy and while Jordan is certainly not one of the longest hitters on tour, lately his struggle has been with accuracy. He is hitting around 50 percent of his fairways and while the rough was not overly penal this week, several times Spieth was putting himself into recovery or difficult situations.

Known for his putting, Spieth demonstrated exactly why this weekend. For starters, he had no three putts. While a lot of the field struggled to get the ball in the hole, Jordan minimized mistakes. In fact, Jordan gained strokes on the field putting from every distance bucket <25 ft. He gained almost more than one stroke per round on the field from four -15 ft each day. Those strokes add up at the end of the week and Spieth’s putter certainly gives him an advantage.

Spieth is peaking just in time for The Masters at a golf course where he has traditionally played very well. But what should he be working on heading to Augusta? We can use V1 Game’s Virtual Coach to breakdown his game and give us some insights on how he should be practicing this week.

V1 Game’s Virtual Coach tells Jordan that first he should work on Driving as it is currently the weakest part of his game (relative to other Tour professionals). The quick insight shows that he is missing to the right more than 30 percent of the time and is losing, on average, around a third of a stroke per round from putting his tee shots into recovery situations.

Next, V1 Game’s Virtual Coach highlights Approach as his next-biggest area of focus. With the Virtual Coach, we can go as deep as we want to go to get specific targets for practice. Clicking on “WORK ON NEXT” takes us to the Approach Histogram which shows us that Jordan is gaining strokes for most yardage buckets, but struggling from 151-175 yards. This is where he should spend some time practicing, but we can go even deeper than that. Clicking on the insight takes us to a breakdown of his performance from that distance, shows that he only hit the green 25 percent of the time and tended to miss long. These key insights could help Spieth fine-tune a problem area heading into one of the most important weeks of the year.

As a Spieth fan, I was delighted to see him breakthrough and win again on the PGA TOUR. Golf is better when Jordan Spieth is adding his theatrics to the mix. His combination of approach and putting mixed with unbelievable short game is a thrill to watch. It is rare to see a PGA TOUR winner do so much damage with the short game. This proves there is more than one way to win on tour and more than one way to get it done on the golf course.

If you want to play like Jordan Spieth and start practicing the areas that will impact your game the most, V1 Game can help simplify the results of your performance and get you focusing on the right areas to improve the fastest. Download the app for free and get started on your path to better golf.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Responsible speed training for sustainable personal bests

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It is truly awesome what is happening with Bryson DeChambeau and Kyle Berkshire and more of their young friends who are in shape are joining the bandwagon. But at an all-out slash fest trying to get 160mph ball speed with a 7-iron for a two-hour session would send 90% of us to the hospital. It’s safe to say it is not for everyone. To increase your clubhead speed responsibly long term really starts with us.

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