Vardon, Evans reigned with only 7-8 clubs
Alex Miceli is right on target with his suggestion to reduce the limit of clubs a player can use from 14 to 10, although the concept of using fewer clubs is not new to the professional game (“Golf’s perfect 10: Fewer clubs, more vision,” Nov. 6).
At the turn of the last century, the great Harry Vardon used only seven or eight: driver, brassie (a 2-wood with a heavy brass plate on the sole), driving mashie (3-iron), mashie (5-iron), cleek (narrow bladed iron used to play from rough lies), lofter (shallow-faced lofted club used for approach shots), niblick (8/9-iron) and a goose-necked blade putter. Vardon used his brassie for second shots to long par 4s and par 5s very effectively, with a fade that landed softly, shots unnecessary to learn today when pros hit irons to the green. He also used a smooth-faced niblick for greenside bunker shots, almost unthinkable today with sandy wedges and bounce made to order. With his gifted imagination and his “small set,” Vardon won six British Open titles and a U.S. Open title.
Chick Evans won the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur titles in 1916, the “Double Crown,” using only seven clubs, which he maintained were enough for any golfer. His selection of clubs was similar to Vardon’s: a brassie, spoon (3-wood), midiron (4-iron), lofter, jigger (shallow-faced 6-iron with a short shaft), niblick and putter.
Evans got a lot from his clubs. In winning the 1916 Open at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Evans reached a 540-yard par 5 in two strokes, using his brassie twice, first off the tee and then from the fairway, the second shot requiring a carry over a creek in front of the green. His two-putt birdie positioned him for a victory, and his winning score of 286 stood as a record in the U.S. Open for 20 years.
However, Evans fudged a bit on his seven clubs. He was a notoriously weak putter and frequently carried one or two extra putters in his bag, in case the one he was using failed him.
Vardon and Evans started in golf as caddies, and neither had money to buy new clubs. They made do with the few second-hand clubs they could afford or borrow, and learned to play a variety of shots with each club. For years, Evans argued that the 14-club rule imposed by the USGA in 1938 was promoted by club manufacturers to push golfers into purchasing more clubs than were necessary. One can only imagine what Vardon and Evans would have thought of golfers who carried three or four wedges.
Reducing the club limit from 14 to 10 would force players to improvise rather than dial in known distances for each club. Why not reduce the number to seven and identify the most innovative shot-makers? Just imagine how much more interesting using fewer clubs would make the PGA Tour to watch in person or on TV. Sometimes old ideas are the best.
(Fischer, a retired attorney, is a golf historian who is a past president of the Golf Collectors Society and a longtime member of the USGA’s Museum and Library Committee.)
Less could be more again
A very thought-provoking article on maximum number of clubs (“Golf’s perfect 10: Fewer clubs, more vision,” Nov. 6). It made me rewind to when I first started playing golf. In those days, the early 1960s, it was very common for a set of golf clubs to be driver, 3-wood, five irons (3, 5, 7, 9, wedge) and putter. That adds to eight clubs. That was the norm for golf sets back in the day, at least for amateurs.
That’s what I had in my bag to learn the game. And, that’s what I used for many years, including when I played on the high school varsity golf team. I didn’t feel disadvantaged. Even when it became more common to carry up to 14 clubs, many chose to carry a maximum of 10-12.
Why did we evolve to rationalize additional clubs? Reasons abound. Intense marketing by club manufacturers, more media exposure to the professional game and a “buy a game” mentality likely top such a list. Simply put, we were convinced, or convinced ourselves, that additional clubs led to golf nirvana.
Rarely, however, did I see more clubs lead to lower scores. Maybe a return to the old days would make us all better and, dare I say it, quicker golfers.
Add a reduced-club event to ‘Silly Season’
I liked Alex Miceli’s commentary on the PGA Tour players using only 10 clubs (“Golf’s perfect 10: Fewer clubs, more vision,” Nov. 6).
I have been suggesting this for years, similar to your ideas of creating more interest and creativity, but 10 clubs for PGA Tour players is too many, because they are so talented.
In the past, I have played with 10, because we usually do prototypes of the 4-, 7- and pitching wedge, and I don’t shoot much different than a full bag with my 6-handicap.
I always thought it would be interesting to have a “Silly Season”-type event in which players use only 3-5 clubs. This would be a good way to see whether it made sense. I would not advocate changing the rule for amateur golfers, but really would like to see a trial event for touring pros, and maybe even long-term for the PGA Tour.
We also are seeing lots of Arccos data that suggests many golfers have multiple overlaps in their bag, especially at higher handicaps, which suggests they don’t need 14.
(Olsavsky is the vice president of research and development at Cobra Puma Golf.)
Fewer clubs would create more shot-making options
I agree completely with your view on limiting the number of clubs the professional would be allowed to carry (“Golf’s perfect 10: Fewer clubs, more vision,” Nov. 6).
This change would allow the shot-makers and creative players among them to manage their way around the course and deal with awkward lies and situations in a whole new way.
They could show us how to play with one or two wedges instead of four, and move the ball right to left or left to right as the course demanded.
I think it would draw more fans, certainly, and encourage weekend golfers to have a little limited-club fun.
Limit pros to 7 clubs, and 10 for rest of us
I would go with a seven-club limit for the pros (“Golf’s perfect 10: Fewer clubs, more vision,” Nov. 6).
Possible set of clubs might be: Driver (or 3-wood); fairway wood (4-wood or 5-wood) or hybrid or driving iron; three irons (4-, 6- and 8-irons); wedge; and putter.
Limit 10 clubs for the rest of us: Driver; 4-wood; hybrid; 3 (or another hybrid); 5- 7- and 9-irons; pitching wedge; sand wedge; and putter.
This is my current set, without the 4-wood: nine clubs in my bag. I do not do any better than with 14.
It’s easy carry for walking rather than riding, and a small bag works; cheaper set (about 25 percent less); and quicker playing time (less often between clubs, and usually know pretty quickly which club to hit).
Hawkins is full of you-know-what
Is John Hawkins kidding when he says the PGA is going to speed up golf? (“It’s time to call foul on Tour’s stall tactics,” Nov. 6).
The PGA Tour and USGA are just pulling the public’s chain when they state that they want to speed up play. Penalties, please, for Hawkins to suggest that is insulting. The reality of it all is that the average golfer suffers when nothing is done. When the third player on a green is taking between 45 seconds and 90 seconds to putt, you have a problem.
Listening to Jordan Spieth talk with his caddie over an approach shot as if he were doing brain surgery is not only painful, but it hurts the average golfer.
The PGA Tour is the problem, and Hawkins is full of you-know-what if he thinks the Tour is going to assess slow-play penalties.
Great Neck, N.Y.
Shine spotlight on Tour’s turtles
Nothing bothers a professional golfer, or any golfer, more than being called out for slow play (“It’s time to call foul on Tour’s stall tactics,” Nov. 6).
With all the electronic scoreboards at PGA Tour events, officials should post the names and photos of the players placed “on the clock.” It might cause players to be ticked off, but it's guaranteed to pick up the pace of play.
3 … 2 … 1, now hit it!
Perhaps every group of PGA Tour players should have someone with a very visible iPad walking with them and begin the 40-plus-second countdown as soon as the player starts his shot routine (“It’s time to call foul on Tour’s stall tactics,” Nov. 6). Show it on TV, like they do in other timed sports. A penalty should be given immediately.
Also, the idea of a shot clock near the green would, I’m sure, lead to a certain buzz by the fans as they might start counting aloud the countdown of the clock. That would be exciting.
Production staff should show more action
Slow play by PGA Tour players need not translate into slow viewing (“It’s time to call foul on Tour’s stall tactics,” Nov. 6). Perhaps part of the problem with watching golf on TV lies with the guys in the production trailer.
Just because a player is slow in person does not mean we have to watch him/her being slow.
There are a lot of things going on at any given time on the golf course. Rather than watching someone for several minutes try to decide what club to hit by taking the curvature of the earth into consideration, why not cut to Player A rifling a driver down a narrow fairway, Player B spinning back a well-struck wedge to within birdie range and Player C draining a 30-foot putt for his/her fourth birdie in a row?
Check out a tournament replay from years ago to see the way we used to watch golf on TV.
Where once we saw bold strokes and vivid colors painted by talented artists on the golf course, we have been reduced to merely watching that same, beautiful paint … drying. An afternoon of action has been replaced by afternoon Ambien.
In an effort to speed up play on the golf course, we have been instructed by the media to hit when ready. Perhaps the guys in the TV command center should try displaying a bit of “ready golf” as well.
An idea whose time has come
Reader Chris Maletis made a great point that I haven't seen as a suggestion (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Nov. 7).
He points out that in other sports with intensive pressure, professional and amateur competitors are required to adapt their games to a time clock. Initially, he suggested they do it on the greens for professional golfers. This seems very reasonable, because there are no lost balls or rarely times when a rules official is needed on the green.
If implemented, maybe there should be two times to consider: a total time for the group when the first player arrives near the green, and a time for each competitor when it is his turn to putt.
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