GREAT DEBATE: Do we really need 14 clubs?

The Scoop

Two NCG writers argue their points

YES, says Joe Whitley, what if I’m left with 178 yards?

Everyone has been there. After swiping it in and out of the cabbage you’re left with 90 yards into the green and an outside chance of getting up and down, saving a double bogey and salvaging a point.

However, your lob wedge only goes 82 and your gap wedge flies well over 100. So what do you do? If you’re like me, you try to ‘step on’ your 58˚ and end up thinning it through the back of the green into oblivion or someone’s cappuccino on the clubhouse patio (true story).

This is one of many facets of the golf game I am not too proud to admit is beyond my skill level, but that’s because it only occurs around that awkward yardage, when a finesse-packed half swing is required and I have no answer.

Thankfully, my extensive collection of strong and weak hybrids, long irons and fairway woods in very similar lofts ensures I have very tight gaps in the rest of my set and rarely do I have to ‘take a little bit off this’ or ‘just swing back to 10 o’clock’.  

That does mean sacrifices have to be made – there have been rounds in 2012 where I’ve been spotted without a driver – but it’s worth it to avoid this, the most harrowing and, in my experience, humiliating of golf shots.

If the idea of going down to, say, 10 clubs, ever came to fruition, I am not sure I could cope. I can picture myself now, waking up in the middle of the night, screaming in a cold sweat as, in my dream, my laser revealed I had 178 yards but no 6-iron.

What would doubtless follow is a light-speed 7-iron shank or an armsy dunch with a 5-iron that travels no more than 38 yards into a ditch. I’m shivering just thinking about it.

If anything, I reckon the average player would benefit from being allowed to carry more clubs.

Indeed, I would be happy to see the number extended to 24.

If that were the case I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at bringing in an extra driver (with a shorter shaft if I need to find a fairway), another putter (with a large, high-MOI head that’s perfect from short range), four more wedges (giving me a total of seven and every loft and bounce combination possible), three extra high-loft hybrids for if I’m a bit off my game, and perhaps a 2 iron that I would say was ideal for ‘when the wind gets up’ but realistically was there as something I can pose with and fool onlookers into thinking I actually know how to hit a ball.

Just thinking about the endless options a higher club allowance would give me is getting me all excited.

I do appreciate players who can still score with half sets but, until I am good enough, I will continue to use as many clubs as I am allowed.

Then again, I’m lucky enough to be able to use a lot of equipment for free so perhaps wouldn’t feel the same way if I paid full whack.
If anything, I reckon the average player would benefit from being allowed to carry more clubs. Indeed, I would be happy to see the number extended to 24.

NO, says Mark Townsend, less clubs = more enjoyment

In an ideal world I would begin every round of golf with at least 20 clubs. I would content myself with the fact that I have got every yardage covered and I would then, more than likely, confuse myself over every shot.

And then spend large chunks of my lengthy post-round analysis wondering if there was room for a 21st.

Like plenty of other clowns (see opposite), I constantly think the grass is greener – that the strong hybrid left behind in the boot of the car would have been the perfect answer to my driving woes if only I had brought it out.

The simple truth, of course, is that my swing isn’t good enough and more clubs isn’t the answer.

In recent weeks I have had five clubs in the bag that all require a headcover and that doesn’t include the putter.

Granted the driver and a fairway wood are necessary (is there room for two fairways?) but is there any real need for three hybrids?

The main problem is that I don’t really know what any of them do as I flit from one to another. I know exactly how they perform on a launch monitor but I’ve not really got any clue or, more importantly, any confidence in each club when the wind is howling or if there is a 200-yard carry ahead.

The best golfer I know – he plays off scratch – never uses more than seven clubs.

Part of this is down to a failing body, part of it is wanting to be a bit quirky and part of it is because he enjoys setting himself different challenges.

He likes nothing more than punching in a ‘quiet’ 7 iron from 120 yards as it a) grabs his interest and b) helps him to understand what a club can and can’t do.
In truth it’s as sickening as it is impressive to watch.

Then there are the clubs that do battle their way through the selection process yet never get a look in on the course.

The one where, no matter what the situation is, you do your utmost to avoid actually pulling out of the bag.

This is called your longest iron, in my case the 5 iron – and hence the collection of hybrids.

You know it’s a 5 iron, not a 6 and not the 27˚ hybrid, but you just don’t fancy it.

You’d rather swing the 6 iron off your feet and come up 20 yards short than run the risk of an unmentionable.

There is something remarkably comforting about having a summer bag, no more than 10 clubs and a handful of balls rather than the usual fretting over everything.

It frees you up, because to me golf is more mental than anything. I have played for over 30 years so am unlikely to suddenly find a grooved swing.

Fewer clubs equals fewer decisions, more familiarity and, crucially, an element of fun.

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