I love golf clubs, especially irons. There is nothing I enjoy more than finding an old set of blades somewhere and restoring them. And yet, I am a golfing minimalist on the course most of the time. I dream of rocking up to a championship course, seven iron in my hand, a couple of balls is my pocket, and doing a Tin Cup around the course. Of course, Kevin Costner could just stripe that seven iron as well as hitting flop shots with it out of the sand, so my reality might not quite match up. However, I am sorely tempted to give the ultimate golfing test another go. Is it time for another 18 holes with a seven iron?
Single Club Golf
Actually, I can’t remember if I have ever done a full 18 with just one club. I have played holes with one club a lot of times. Generally, it is for relaxation, often a few holes on a Summer’s evening for example. I am more interested in just having fun, leaving behind a bit of stress and hitting some shots than whatever the score may turn out to be. I am sure I must have done this for a full round before, probably more than once, but I can’t seem to remember an exact round. The joys of getting old, I suppose!
So what would be the point? I mean, I am not going to be able to score as well like this for starters. The very first hole on my home course is about 420m/460 yards of par four and there is no way I am getting home in two with a seven iron. That being said, I regularly don’t get there with a driver in my hand either, either because I am chipping back into the fairway from the trees or because my iron into the green after a great drive will draw perfectly into the greenside bunker! So greens or regulation and score might just be a moot point.
Is Score Really Important?
In general terms, I don’t play too much for a score nowadays anyway. In fact, the number of times I play a round over the course of a year when I play one ball, follow all the rules of golf and note/hand in a score would be probably less than five. This year, it has happened once so far.
I am far more likely to play a couple of balls, not write down my score, change the lie/position of the ball at some point or play of different tees, from the absolute back tees to the ladies. Before anyone gets upset about this, I should add, that I don’t do it to make easier. Sometimes, I might have a ball on the fairway and I will knock it into a bunker. I might play from a shorter tee because it effectively makes the hole into a new one I have never played. In short, it is fun.
As I have said many times before, for me at least, having fewer clubs frees up the mind. I don’t care about having the perfect club for the job, I just want to enjoy myself, let my mind wander and hit some balls. For example, I might hit a seven iron into a green, knowing I can’t get there. The challenge might be to leave myself in a place where I can hit another seven iron in a bump and run and see if I can get up and down. Or maybe just hit the ball in the general direction and see what happens.
So i have been thinking a little bit more about how I would go about playing a round with just one club. It seems counter-intuitive to make rules for this sort of round (although I believe there is still a one club world championship) but maybe some ideas for anyone else thinking about this might be useful.
I think there are essentially two ways to approach this. The first is to see it as a competition. This means that you are playing for a score and play everything as per the rules of golf. It might also mean choosing a different club rather than Tin Cup’s favourite. For example, you might choose to use a hybrid only as Bubba Watson does/did, because you really value that extra distance off the tee.
The aim here would be to plan your way around the course so that this lack of different clubs doesn’t become too problematic. There is no point going for a shot that potentially leaves you short-sided with a hybrid in your hands, for example. Far better to lay up short and hit a hybrid bump and run up the green.
Problems with One Club Golf
There is a bit of a problem with this approach for me though. Depending on the course and the tees, some holes might be impossible. For example, a short par three over water is going to be a very difficult shot with a hybrid, especially is there is an out-of-bounds behind the green. Likewise, something that imposes a forced carry that is longer than I can hit my 7 iron is also a problem.
This could potentially lead to a lot of frustration which seems to me to be exactly the opposite of what this sort of golf is all about. Of course, you could add in an extra club or two, but then it stops being one club golf, doesn’t it?
For me, there is a better solution that makes far more sense. Given that nobody doing this is going to be using this as the best method to score, I would say that the overall score becomes unimportant. It is all about enjoyment and perhaps creating challenges hole by hole.
For example, if there is a forced carry, just move up a couple tee boxes and play that hole from the forward tees. If there is a long par four, see if you can get on the green with three easy seven irons. Have fun in a bunker and try to flop the ball out with your seven. If it doesn’t work after a try or two, no problem. Just pick it up. You aren’t counting the score, so just move on.
I like the liberty that this sort of golf encourages. Modern golf can be very rigid. Driver off the tee, hit into the green, putt. Playing this way really can change the way you see a course because you can find yourself in new positions and hitting into greens with a different club than you normally might.
I also think it can be used as a practice tool to get more creative and play better if and when you decide to put the full set back in the bag (just ask Bubba)
Summer Project: 18 Holes with a Seven Iron
This is on my to-do list for this Summer. I will choose a course I enjoy and hopefully a time when the course isn’t too busy. I don’t think I will be shooting any course records, but I am fairly sure I will have a lot of fun and maybe learn a thing or two about my game.