The 5 critical clubs.
After 25 plus years of coaching and playing golf at a high level, I have concluded that if you want to play high level golf you must master and spend 80% of your time practicing with 5 clubs. What are these clubs you ask?
1) Driver. This is in my opinion the single most important club in your bag. Yes, I may get grief about this choice but if you can hit your driver long and straight the rest of the game becomes much easier, period. Hitting the Driver long and straight gives you an air of confidence no other club in your bag can match. Emotionally you are on a different plane when you’re crushing your driver and your playing partners are in awe. Fortunately, I have done this, and believe me, I know of no better feeling playing golf. (Unless you shoot a mid 60s round.) You kind of glide to your next shot.
2) Putter. I once watched a interview with Gary Player just prior to the Open Championship. The interviewer ask a somewhat misguided question. “Why at 62 years of age would you still take a spot in the Open Championship?” A spot by the way, he earned. His answer was straight forward and to the point. He said, “you must have never played the game of golf at a tour level or you would not have asked me that question.” He went on to say if you had, then you would know you can never discount the Putter. He then asked the interviewer if I averaged 24 putts per round in this Open Championship how many greens in regulation per round would I need to win? That made me think. 24 putts per round over 4 rounds is very very unlikely, but not impossible.
3) Sand Wedge I carry a 54 degree sand wedge and when I am right, I can hit that club inside 10 feet from 100 yards 80-90% of the time. This is where I can really score. I have in the past few years worn out about 4 sand wedges per year. Vijay Singh used to get a new sand wedge every few weeks. I was practicing with him in 2004 and watched him hit a bag about 80-85 balls of sand wedge shots from 60-90 yards while his caddy cleared the balls from around the hole. As I observed, he holed at least 6 of them and all the balls were inside 12 feet- most inside 6 feet. He was the number one player in the world at the time and his wedge game was just incredible.
4) Lob Wedge – Why this club next? You must be able to get up and down from almost anywhere around the green when you miss – and you will miss. No one hits every green every round and your lob wedge, if you know how to use it, will get you up and down or even up and in. The lob Wedge is an art; a game within a game. This is a club that at the highest level is played by primarily using the back of the club or the bounce on the back of the club head.
This is one club that does not in most circumstances require lag. If you use lag and or forward shaft lean then your leading edge will tend to dig and you better be exactly on the ball to achieve a good strike. When you use the bounce you can get away with not being perfect. I have thought this technique to many of my people I coach and they have went from scared around the greens to confident. However, beware, because this is a very different technique. Unless performed right, it will ruin your ability around the greens. You have to be fully committed to learning this method. If you’re in-between, you’re in trouble. I have had to work on this with better players for multiple lessons until they finally get it. However, once you get it, it will change your game around the greens forever.
5) Pitching Wedge – For me my pitching wedge is my 118-130 yard club, depending on how I flight it and curve it. For many of the people I coach it’s there 90-100 yard club. If you have 130 yards and in ideally you should always look to knock it in there 20 feet and in.
How much you practice will determine the 5 club percentages. This is up to you. I assure you there is a direct correlation between quality work and a lower handicap. So there you have it – spend 80% of your time working with these 5 clubs and you’re on your way to lower scores.