Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped Mail Bag, sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive series on GOLF.com in which we answer your most powerful equipment questions.
After not playing golf for many years, I am ready to play again and will be purchasing a complete new set of clubs soon. What is the optimal makeup for most golfers these days? – Rich N, Ohio
One of the best things about playing golf is the option we have to spec our equipment pretty much however we want within the 14 club limit. There are no rules to how many drivers, woods, irons, or wedges you can carry, and you can change your set configuration as many times as you like (as long as it’s not in the middle of a round).
However, answering your question is a bit more complicated. The truth is that there is no optimal configuration for everyone. But, if we were to give an example of what a modern outfit looks like these days, it would probably look something like this:
Depending on how long it’s been since you last played (welcome back, by the way!), the line between top player sets and beginner sets has blurred. For example, there was a time when top players were hesitant to run a hybrid and average players steered clear of hard-to-hit lobs. Newly discovered technologies have neutralized both ends of the bag, as hybrids are more playable than ever and lob wedges have become much easier to hit.
To find out what you need in your setup, take an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses on the long and short ends of the bag. Chances are half of the set (the irons) will stay pretty much the same. But the rest of his set is more fluid, and depending on your needs, those are the clubs to focus on when it’s time to make mods.
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For most of us, finding the optimal combination of long sticks is not that difficult. The most important thing to do is make sure there are no overlaps in the way they work, and just 4 degree loft increments is not enough. For example, it is possible to have a 19 degree 5 blade that produces about the same distance as its 17 degree 2 blade hybrid. Lofts alone can be tricky downfield for woods versus hybrids, making a launch monitor analysis your best bet for spacing out club-to-club distances. And by the way, if you don’t have your own clubs to compare, most club mounting facilities have dozens of clubs you can try in each category.
If you feel comfortable with your longer clubs, try to focus on the correct number of wedges for your game. And unlike longer clubs that can sometimes overlap, it’s a good idea to space wedges by loft. A good place to start is to look at the loft of your pitching wedge (most are in the 43-48 degree range) and then work your way up to more loft with each successive wedge by about 4 degrees. Some players like to buy duplicate wedges with different rebound angles to suit different courses or course conditions, swapping one for another as needed. Also, many wedges are flexible. That is, if you have evenly spaced wedges but still want more or less distance and/or trajectory with one or the other, a club fitter can adjust your wedges and adjust the loft by a few degrees.
We’ve seen some of the best players in the world play in major tournaments with more than one driver in the bag: one to hit low stingers and the other to hit high bombs. There is no rule against carrying whatever clubs you want, and that includes a putter. However, carrying two putters is not something we recommend because the temptation to change putters midway through can make judging your putts that much more difficult. This is especially true if you’re carrying a blade and a mallet – it’s really hard to keep up when you’re constantly switching between flat sticks.
Whatever makeup is on your set, don’t be swayed by anyone else. Choose your set based on your needs, wants, and desires, and make sure each club serves a unique purpose. And be open to change if necessary. You may be hitting a golf course on your next vacation, where you might need an extra wedge and can get by with one less hybrid, or vice versa. This means that it is a good idea to find 16-18 suits that you can switch in and out of your 14 suit game depending on when and/or where you play.
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