Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, 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.
Recently picked up the game and started playing with a set of used clubs from my uncle. I currently have 11 clubs in the bag but read the maximum is 14. What’s the best setup? I’m using driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 5-9, PW, LW and putter. — Chris Jenkins
Congrats on picking up this glorious (and maddening) game! There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all club setup, but I do think you should consider making a few adjustments.
I actually like the idea of sticking with 11 clubs and learning how to execute certain shots, like the three-quarter or knockdown, when you’re in between clubs. You’ll be well ahead of your peers if you can get around the course and score with fewer clubs in the bag.
If you have a budget to purchase clubs, I’d recommend replacing your 5-iron with another fairway wood or hybrid. It could be a 9-wood or 4 hybrid for a bit more versatility, forgiveness and launch. We’ve seen some 9-woods pop up on Tour over the last year — Matt Fitzpatrick has used one on occasion — so don’t laugh at the idea of testing one out.
The other obvious change would be replacing the lob wedge with a gap or sand wedge between 52 and 56 degrees. Having spoken to wedge legends Roger Cleveland and Bob Vokey, I can tell you both are huge proponents of using sand wedge over lob wedge when you’re around the green, especially if you’re a high handicapper or don’t have the speed/touch to get the club through the turf efficiently.
“It mostly goes to the person’s physical ability,” Cleveland said. “If they’re strong, I might want to look at a 60-degree wedge. If they’re a little older, or not so strong, then I might look at a 56- or 58-degree maximum. If the person is older, like me, I would say 56 should be your highest loft.”
Something else to consider with the lob wedge: How often do you really use it on full shots? For the most part, it’s a club you use around the green, which makes it far less valuable when you’re a 20-plus carrying 11 clubs. You’d ideally like a club you can use on full swings and greenside.
Even if you added a few more clubs down the road to fill out the set, I’d still recommend going no higher than 58 degrees if you had to carry a lob wedge. Pulling off a mega-flop with the lobber is a thrill, but I’m willing to bet you’re chunking or blading it clear across the green more often than you’re nestling it next to the hole.
Bottom line: you’re going to lose fewer shots on the course with a 56-degree wedge in your hands. Trust me.
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