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one club golf

Minimalist Golf:Less is the New More?

Seeing the words ‘minimalist golf’ in any of my golf posts might have you spraying your morning coffee all over the keyboard. After all, I am notoriously unfaithful to my clubs. As I sit here typing, I have a lovely set of Mizuno irons in a bag next to me. In another corner, I can see my single length set. A shiny set of Wilson blades is hidden behind a component build with graphite shafts.

Two drivers are jostling for position in the gaming bag and two other driver heads are waiting for the right shaft. This really isn’t the set up of someone who is a minimalist!

And yet I am curiously fascinated by the idea of a minimalist bag set up. In fact, even with all these clubs, I rarely have the full 14 in the bag. I prefer to carry most of the time (although age is pushing me more and more towards hand carts!) and a couple of clubs fewer makes for a lighter bag.

How Many Clubs?

However, by minimalist, I don’t mean taking out a club or two. I am thinking about anything from a half set all the way down to playing just a single club. Of course, I have done this before. Throwing a half set in the bag is great for a quick nine holes. Taking a 7 iron and playing 3 holes after work is fun. I know plenty of other people who do this too. But a bit of digging has lead me on to whole groups who do this all the time!

Minimalist golf is even easier when you swing faster

Yes, that’s right. There are people who see even 10 clubs in a bag as fairly excessive. They never venture beyond 5 or 6. So who are these people and why do they do it?

Probably for the same reasons that are tempting me. We live in a complicated world and the temptation to find a simpler approach makes sense. Rather than worrying about whether this is a hard eight or a soft seven, I hit the eight. Why? well, there isn’t a seven in my bag! Likewise, it is fun to manufacture shots. Learning to hit little cuts with more club is a lot of fun. So what if the result doesn’t always work out exactly how you hoped? It hasn’t actually cost you anything except maybe a little dented pride.

Score Better with Fewer Clubs?

I think many golfers tend to get caught up in the score and, ironically enough, this can end up costing shots. This starts with the bag set up. I have often packed my bag and then started worrying that I don’t have a club for a particular gap. “What am I going to do if I have 110 yards in? Too far for a sand wedge, not a full pitching wedge. I NEED the gap wedge!” Really? How often do most of us actually hit the club bang on the number? How often do you need to actually know your distance within 5 yards outside of 80 yards or so? Honestly?

There are a few other reasons why I like this minimalist approach. For example, you really get to know your clubs. When every shot from 100 and in is with the same wedge, you get nice and comfortable with it. Hitting knock downs becomes routine.

Likewise at the other end of the bag. Having one hybrid covering your long irons really isn’t a problem. I pretty much always do this anyway. If I am pushing 200 yards from the green I really don’t have any business trying to get it close. Swinging a comfortable hybrid towards the fat of the green is a smart move.

Making a Good Swing

Cutting down on choices just lets you worry about putting a good swing on it and that tends to be a great way to score, or at least to avoid those blow up holes. As an example, at the top of my bag, I often go driver, 3 wood, 3 hybrid. There is certainly a theoretical gap there, especially as my 3 wood is a pretty strong 13°. In reality, it makes no difference and in fact I virtually never hit the three wood off the tee either:) I am either aiming for distance (driver) or putting it in play (hybrid). Just two shots to hit and as a result I hit them better.

There are those who take this minimalist stance to extremes. Speed golfer generally only have half a dozen clubs in the bag, but they are running and want to save on weight. What about the single club specialists? These guys are on the fringe, even in the limited club fraternity.

The obvious question is “Which club would you choose?” I mean, you need something that will actually get you down the fairway, so a hybrid or longer iron seems good, especially as you could probably put with it too. But what happens if you are short-sided? I shudder to think about the damage I could do trying to fan a five iron out of a green side trap! I mean, i am pretty good at knifing my sand wedge through the green and that is (supposedly) made for the job.

One Club World Championship

There is a community of these lunatics  dedicated individuals out there and there is even a world championship. You might be wondering where the fun is in seeing people hack a seven iron (or whatever) round in a hundred. Think again. The best players are doing this in or around par! How many of us have done that with a full set? Nope, me neither.

Just think how much fun this would be-like the ultimate Tin Cup moment:

YouTube video

when you get down to one club, you can actually have a lot of fun. Perhaps some of you read about Bubba Watson’s round with just a hybrid? In fat, he says that this is something he does quite a lot and it is one of the reasons why he is able to create all those spectacular shots.

A Cheaper Way to Play

There is also the financial aspect to this. Golf clubs are expensive (believe me, I know!) Getting that dream set of Miura baby blades might mean selling a kidney. Getting one perfect club is far more affordable. Many manufacturers let you order individual irons. You can choose your club, get the shaft of your dreams and that real kangaroo skin grip as well as getting everything made to measure and you will still be able to keep all your own organs (probably!)

I have actually taken this a step further. what if the perfect club for a single club contest, doesn’t actually exist? Enter the ‘Frankenclub‘ Sitting next to my computer, I have my candidate for the perfect club. It is a big cavity-backed seven iron. Enough distance to get in on a fairway, enough loft for the fringe. But hold on-I got thinking (always dangerous) and decided that it wasn’t quite right. I need to be able to hit wedge shots with it right?

So I pulled the shaft and put a wedge shaft in:) Now it was too light so the cavity has about a ton of lead tape in too. And given that it feels like a putter, why not give it a thick grip? It now has a jumbo grip with about 6 layers of tape.

It looks like I am all set to join golf’s lunatic fringe:) Will this work or will it simply be a disaster? Honestly, I don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. Golf should be about fun and making this club has been fun. Hacking round the course with it will be pretty entertaining too, even if it makes for horrible golf.

Maybe next year, I will go fully Tin cup and you will see me in the one club world championship?



If you are interested in finding out a little more about this sort of golf, here are a few resources to check out.

The Walking Golfer-a a great site about taking a more traditional approach to the game. This thread in particular has some good stories about the reduced form of the game.

This discussion on reddit has some interesting ideas

The Golfwrx forum is a great place to hang out and chat about golf and there are a few good posts on playing with fewer clubs. Here is one of them.

Oobgolf often has some thought-provoking articles and this one on the one club challenge is no exception.

12 Comment on this post

  1. For the cheapest & minimalist way to play…try the new “Hybrid” MD golf ball developed for quick, affordable full-play on shorter golf courses!

    1. Hi Pete,
      I have just had a look at your site. I have tried limited flight balls before. The idea is a good one I think, but I haven’t found one that really works as I would like so far. I would be happy to try them and out and review if you send some over though.
      Best, Nick

    1. That is a great set up, similar to what I use often and talk about here. A long club to get down there off the tee, an iron, a wedge and a putter. Using a 50 degree is great but you learn how to hit everything from flop shots to virtually an eight iron with it.
      I am currently getting on quite well with my driver, so I think I might try something like this soon:
      driver, five iron, eight iron, 52, putter.

  2. Started playing minimalist set about 2 mos after I completed double knee replacement 6 years ago, lighter set because I walk when I play. You really only need to pay attention to what tees you play. I carry 17* three wood, 22* four hybrid, 6, 8, PW, and SW. I use a Bullseye La Femme putter and all my irons are old standard lofts. I’ve learned to hit a lot of shots with each club and play more strategically and score BETTER, no stress on what club to hit, play has speeded up and club selection oftentimes is made before I get to my ball. Highly recommend this way to play!
    Steve Dement
    New Braunfels, Texas

    1. Hi Steve,
      Yes, agree with everything you said there-less stress, more creativity, faster golf and the bit that takes people by surprise is often better scores too.

  3. This, admittedly older, post is starting to get to the question that I think needs to be answered first, “Why would anyone want to take up minimalist golf?” Is it because of the history and tradition of the game being played with (much) smaller club sets? Maybe the challenge of adding a playing ‘handicap’? Maybe, as you said, the need for simplicity in very complex world. Or some combination of the above or some other reason. What do we expect from minimalist golf?
    [if this post would be better in another place, please feel free to move it to a more appropriate place.]

    1. Hi Morgan,
      I think all of those are valid reasons and there are many more besides (cost, weight, mastering every club, fewer decisions…)

      As I have written a few times, I don’t think it matters necessarily, but it is certainly an option that more people could look at.

      Best, Nick

      1. What pushed me into this adventure is a story my Golftec teacher told me. He played college golf, and his coach would give them this exercise; take one club and your putter and play the course. The coach stated that this would allow them to know and understand the club thoroughly. I coupled that with something from my (distant) past, that you could choke down on a club to take off yardage, and thought,”Why am I carrying, and buying, all these clubs?” I would rather get the most out of the clubs I have and choose to carry; I don’t need to worry about TaylorMade’s bottom line; they are doing just fine! And finally, I wanted to be creative with my shotmaking. In my opinion, you have to know a club really well to be able to do that and is much easier with fewer clubs to worry about.
        It left me with a much reduced set. I carry two special purpose clubs; a ‘playing club’ [a nod to Shivas Irons] which currently fluctuates between a 2W/mini-driver and a 13 degree driving hybrid, and a putter. Two wedges, a Vokey 46 degree PW and a 54 degree TM SW. And a 4W, 7W, 5h, 7i & 9i. So I only have to really ‘know’ 6 clubs! (I only chip with the SW if I have to stop the ball quickly, otherwise it’s used in bunkers only.) At my age, mid-seventies, that is a much easier task, than a full set.

        1. Love that story-the idea of “knowing” clubs really resonates with me. I would far prefer to have a few clubs that I really feel comfortable with and use them in different ways.

  4. I have played a minimal set on and off over the years. My current minimal set up:
    D, 3h, 5h, 7,9,PW, SW, P- eight clubs and I love to play my ‘gaps’
    More fun
    Better, faster decision making
    Critical thinking is key
    Try playing a match. I played a cigar smoking, multi-gadget owning asshole who was so distracted by my 8 club set and Ping Mantis single strapped bag that he started complaining to the pro that my ‘trick’ game was unfair to him!!! Don’t you just live this world?;-)

    1. Nice set up. I think people are so accustomed to having a full bag of clubs for every distance (even if they can’t use them) that anything else seems strange.

      8 is about right for many people although I am working on a 9 club Wilson staff bag for sentimental reasons currently.

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