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Golf IQ

How can you get the most out of your clubs? Here's an expert's 5 tips

February 07, 2024

Grant Halverson

A number of years ago I was in a meeting with the R&D team at a major company when the topic of set makeup came up. The point that stayed with me was when one of them said, “You have to think of your set as 14 friends you get to take along on this four-plus-hour journey. Which ones are the best to have with you?”

That’s solid advice. And an area we explore in a recent Golf IQ podcast where Golf Digest’s Luke Kerr-Dineen, Mike Stachura and myself went deep on the topic. “Don’t think of them as specialty clubs,” said Stachura. “What’s the best use of each slot in the bag? Every club should have a real function multiple times a round. You’re like an NFL GM filling out a team.” Some other thoughts we arrived at:

1. Do you need a utility iron?

Most players reach for the driver all day long but sometimes it leaves an awkward distance in. If you have some game, consider utility irons, which have garnered a lot of interest on tour and at the elite amateur level.

Not the 1-iron of years gone by, today’s utility irons have smaller heads along with a center of gravity closer to the face, producing a more penetrating, controllable flight. Additionally, in recent years, companies have added considerable zip to the face by using hollow constructions or stronger steel face inserts (which allow for thinner, springier faces) to provide the distance of a hybrid without the added height. For those who hit the ball in the center of the clubface far more often than most everyday players, this is an attractive option for a controlled shot.

2. Are your fairway woods working for you?

Most fitters will tell you a 3-wood is a tough hit for most everyday players. It tends to lead to steep angles of attack and not very clean contact. Instead, consider lofting up. A 5-, 7- or even 9-wood (or a combination, thereof) can come in pretty handy. And if you think these clubs are just for choppers, consider 25 percent of the PGA Tour uses a 7-wood and Dustin Johnson uses a 7- and a 9-wood.

3. Really, a chipper?

We know, we know—it’s the ultimate admission that your short game is in shambles. But if you’re truly terrible around the greens, you’re probably terrible elsewhere, like on approach shots. As such you are chipping nearly every hole. Fact is a chipper, with its wider sole and putter-like length, is a better option for folks without a sound chipping move. Plus, you’ll use it probably 10-plus times a round.

4. Do you need more forgiving wedges?

If you play game-improvement of super-game-improvement irons, why are you playing wedges that are effectively muscle-back blades? Instead consider a more game-improvement wedge. We’re not talking about a one-trick pony club like the old Alien, but rather wedges that have a lot of the same grooves and soles as some of the tour-like wedges, but with a bi. More forgiveness. This is particularly true for your gap wedge, which is almost always a full swing club.

5. What club should you take out?

Alright, we’ve provided some thought on what to put in, but since you only get 14, what about what to take out. First, really think about what clubs you use during a typical round. You might instantly realize that 4-iron hasn’t needed to be cleaned since the first Obama Administration. Also think of your distance gaps. If your 5- and 6-iron are going pretty much the same distance, do you really need the 5-iron? Maybe you have two fairway woods when one will suffice. And oh, if you’re even thinking of keeping a club in the bag for the sole purpose of punching out from the trees I hope you find the hardwood. Often.