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Do You Really Need All Those Clubs In Your Golf Bag?

July 4, 2015

Deadwood -- it's a term used for lots of things. In golf, it's the term for the clubs in your bag that are used less often than Judge Smails' "Billy Baroo" putter. If you need a minute to look that one up, go ahead and search online or watch the entire "Caddyshack" movie.

Seriously, if you have clubs in your bag that are not frequently used for courses and situations you play and face, why schlep them around? The rules of golf allow players to carry 14 clubs in their set. I know some players consider this a suggestion and carry more clubs than the entire inventory at the local pro shop, but they need to fall in line and play by the rules. You can carry any 14 clubs you like -- all woods, all irons, all hybrids -- whatever works for you best. I know a local sports legend who plays with all woods, even up to an 11-wood. Why? It works for his game. It might not be pretty or effective, but it works. But if you have been carrying around the same clubs for decades, it may be time for a checkup.  

Here's how you do a checkup on your set:

1. Determine your driving distance and assess your driver with radar

Find a PGA Pro with a Trackman or FlightScope to give you an honest idea of your driver effectiveness. If your driver is old (more than 5 years), it may need updating. If it is made of wood and you have a Betamax video tape player, you need to get out more. Use the average driver distance from your radar session against the listed scorecard distances of your home course. This will give you insight to your approach distances.

2. Approach distances are determined by your carry distances

Long-approach shots are made easy by hybrid clubs. Hybrids are lofted for specific yardages and have weight for getting the ball out of trouble when needed. They are versatile and much easier to hit than low irons. Most players I fit for approach clubs need more loft and spin. Hybrids are great for this purpose.

3. Determine your most-needed yardage

What distance do you have the most to a green? This is your most important yardage to have the right club. If you can determine the yardage needed most and get a reliable club for this purpose, lower scores are sure to follow.

4. Wedges and short game

What type of misses do you see the most around the green? What types of grasses are most prevalent where you play? My friends who play Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh need lots of loft around the greens to stop the ball. Oakmont is the site of the 2016 U.S. Open, and every player in the field will need at least a 60-degree lob wedge or higher to be effective when they miss the greens.

5. Your putter

I mentioned Judge Smails' putter earlier, and you need one that can hold up under the pressure of play as well. Most golfers I see do not use fitted putters, and it is one of the easiest clubs to customize. Length, lie and head style are important to match to your game, and a PGA pro is your best resource to getting the right fit.

Shaft length should allow you to see directly over the ball in golf posture without manipulating your arm hang. Lie angle sets the sweet spot of the putter level, and the head style matches your release type. Mallet putters are best for low-face rotation through impact, and blade putters fit golfers with higher face rotation through impact. Be sure to see an experienced fitter for this important club. Almost half of your strokes come from the putter, and you need a good one to be a decent golfer.

6. Least changed most changed clubs

PGA Tour players rarely change their putters and fairway woods. Many years ago, I played with Tom Lehman. With a long-approach shot on a reachable par five, he took the head cover off of his three-wood and revealed one of the first TaylorMade metals. After he struck his shot on the green, I asked if he would ever try a newer model, and he replied, "No way. This one is just right."

Find the right clubs, and don't change them. The most changed clubs on tour are drivers and wedges. Every year, one more yard means a slightly closer shot to the green. Wedges are best when they are new. They spin more when they are fresh. Old wedges do not spin nearly as much. So at least take a tip from the top: get a new driver and wedge this year, and stop using tube socks for head covers, OK?

Joe Plecker is the director of golf instruction at the Elkridge Club in Baltimore. For more of Joe's golf advice, check out