Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped Mailbag, sponsored by Cleveland / Srixon Golf, an interactive GOLF.com series in which we field your hard-hitting gear questions.
After not playing golf for many years, I’m ready to play again and will be buying a new full set of clubs soon. What’s the optimal makeup set for most golfers these days? – Rich N., Ohio
One of the greatest things about playing golf is the option we have to spec out our gear pretty much anyway we want within the 14-club limit. There are no rules regarding how many drivers, woods, irons or wedges you can carry, and you can change your makeup set as often as you want (as long as it’s not in the middle of a round.)
Answering your question is a bit more complicated, though. Truth is, there is no one optimal setup for everyone. But, if we had to lend an example of what a modern set looks like these days, it’d probably look something like this:
Depending on how long it’s been since you last played (welcome back, by the way!), The line between better player sets and beginner sets has blurred. For example, there was a time when better players wouldn’t dare carry a hybrid and average players steered clear from hard-to-hit lob wedges. Newfound 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, make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses at the long and short ends of the bag. Odds are the middle of the set (the irons) will stay pretty much the same. But the rest of your set is more fluid, and depending on your needs, those are the clubs you ought to focus on come time to make modifications.
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For most of us, finding the optimal mix of long clubs isn’t all that complicated. The most important thing to do is to make sure you don’t have any overlaps in how they perform — and going by 4-degree loft increments alone isn’t enough. Case in point – it’s possible to have a 19-degree 5-wood that produces roughly the same distance as your 17-degree 2-hybrid. Lofts alone can be misleading in the wood vs hybrid arena, making a launch monitor analysis your best bet to space out your distances from club to club. And by the way, if you don’t have clubs of your own to compare, most club-fitting facilities have dozens of clubs you can try in every category.
If you feel good with your longer clubs, try focusing on the right number of wedges for your game. And unlike longer clubs that can sometimes overlap, spacing out your wedges by loft is a good idea. A great place to start is to look at the loft of your pitching wedge (most are in the 43-degree to 48-degree range) then work your way to more loft with each successive wedge by about 4-degrees. Some players like to buy duplicate wedges with differing bounce angles to accommodate either different courses or course conditions, swapping one for the other as needed. Also, many wedges are bendable. Meaning, if you have you wedges spaced out evenly but still want more or less distance and / or trajectory with one or the other, a club-fitter may be able to adjust your wedges and adjust the loft by a few degrees.
You do you
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’s 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 switch putters mid-round can make judging your putts that much harder. This is especially true if you carry a blade and mallet – it’s very difficult to keep pace when you are constantly switching flatsticks.
Whatever your makeup set, don’t be influenced by anyone else. Choose your set based on your needs, wants and desires, and make sure every club serves a unique purpose. And, be open to change if needed. You may play a golf course on your next vacation where you might need an extra wedge and you can get by with one less hybrid, or vice versa. This means it’s a good idea to find 16-18 clubs that you can swap in and out of your 14-club set depending on when and / or where you play.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2022? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.