Fully Equipped mailbag: Why you might be better off with 12 or 13 clubs in the bag

Fourteen clubs is definitely not a necessity.

Getty images

Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive GOLF.com series in which our resident dimplehead (a.k.a., GOLF’s managing editor of equipment, Jonathan Wall) fields your hard-hitting gear questions. 

Is distance gapping important for mid to high handicaps? I’m a 13 and constantly question if I should have a 4 hybrid in my bag.

The short answer? Of course. Distance gapping is important regardless of handicap. I’d contend it’s even more important if you’re a mid or high handicap because you’re typically hitting full shots a majority of the time and need to have a “stock” carry number to execute each one. (Remember to focus on the “carry” number and not total distance (carry plus rollout) during testing.)

“[Distance gapping] comes into play when you make the set composition,” said Kris McCormack, True Spec’s vice president of tour and education. “If you start to work on gapping and dialing in what your carry distances are and you get to a point in the bag that you have some overlap, there’s nothing that says you have to carry 14 clubs in your setup to be successful and play good golf.”

There’s a chance you could benefit from adding a 4 hybrid to the bag, but it’s important to hit the club against the one it’s replacing to determine if there’s any carry yardage overlap. What you could find, and this is a pure hypothetical, is that the 4 hybrid wedges in between the 7-wood and 4-iron — you can hit them all very similar distances. If the distance gap is less than 10 yards in either direction, it might be time to ask youself if you really need all 14 clubs.

As crazy as it sounds, you might be better off playing with fewer clubs in some instances if the proper distance gaps are in place.

All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy a linked product, GOLF.COM may earn a fee. Pricing may vary.

Srixon ZX irons

ZX5: 3-PW; ZX7: 3-PW
When we see and try an iron that combines the soft feel of a forged iron with the added distance and forgiveness of a multi-material construction, we get all giddy inside. According to a club tester talking about the ZX, “I felt like I mishit a few, but you’d never know it by the ample amount of forgiveness. They aren’t far off from the set I normally play, but with a lot more give.”

“As long as the gapping is consistent, it doesn’t matter what the composition of the bag is if the gaps are there,” McCormack continued. “We’ve had players come in with a full 14 club set and we start running through and find two or three clubs produce the exact same yardage. If that’s the case, in my mind, we can afford to lose one or two clubs. It’s not necessarily ‘should I add a 4 hybrid,’ it’s ‘let’s make sure we add the correct clubs to produce the distance gaps we need.’ Don’t get hung up on a 14 club set.”

If you already know your numbers, it should make the testing session less arduous. But if you’re merely contemplating the idea of swapping out a long iron for a hybrid because you think it could improve your setup, you’d be better off going through the entire bag to ensure your carry yardages are properly spaced from driver to the highest lofted wedge.

And here’s a bonus suggestion: If you’re someone who plays the same course or rotation of courses on a regular basis, consider the idea of playing a composition that hits certain carry yardages you find during the round. In other words, if you play a course with a par-3 that requires a 210-yard club and you have something that goes 230 yards and 200 yards, it might be a good idea to strengthen the 200-yard club a bit to hit the number.

It’s all about having clubs in the bag with carry numbers that make sense.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2021? 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.

jonathan wall

Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Photographer

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour.