You make decisions before reaching that first tee that impacts your score. The best example is the golf clubs you decide to carry.
The Rules of Golf state that you can carry up to 14 clubs during a round. Gapping golf clubs is the process of picking the perfect 14 for your game.
When was the last time you thought about gapping golf clubs? Far too many golfers lose strokes because they have the wrong equipment in their bag.
Would you play golf in the rain without an umbrella or play in the winter without a jacket?
Let’s get started!
What Does Gapping Golf Mean?
The concept of gapping golf clubs is based on the idea that you want to have a club for as many different yardages as possible.
Full shots are easier than trying to take something off a club, so you want the stock distances of your clubs to be properly spaced out.
To put it another way, you want to avoid having a shot on the golf course and feeling like you don’t have the right club to play that shot.
Properly gapping golf clubs will give you the most coverage. Ideally, you want each club to be 10-15 yards different from the previous and next club in your bag.
Let’s walk through the options. You are allowed to carry 14 clubs during your round, but there are more than that available to you on the golf market.
Driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood, 3-hybrid, 4-hybrid, driving iron, 2-iron, 3-iron, 4-iron, 5-iron, 6-iron, 7-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron, pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge, putter.
We count 20 clubs on that list. Gapping golf clubs is all about picking the perfect 14 for your game. It is a puzzle you must solve to play your best golf.
Gapping Golf Clubs: Build Your Perfect Set
Each golfer is different and the perfect set of 14 clubs for you might be different from other players.
We want to help you find the perfect set for you. Let’s break down gapping golf clubs by type to help you decide.
Driver & Fairway Woods
We will start with the clubs that travel the farthest. The vast majority of golfers will use a driver and a 3-wood.
The first gapping golf decision will be related to a 5-wood or 7-wood. These clubs will travel approximately as far as 3-hybrid and a 4-hybrid.
In other words, there is no reason to carry both a 5-wood and a 3-hybrid. If you want a set of clubs with the best possible gaps you will need to pick one.
This is a personal preference. A 5-wood has a bigger sweet spot, but a 3-hybrid is easier to hit out of bad lies (tall grass, etc.).
It could be as simple as which club you feel more comfortable hitting. Never carry a club that you don’t trust or are scared to hit on the course.
Hybrids are an interesting topic when gapping golf clubs. As you can probably tell from the name, they are a combination of fairway woods and irons.
With that in mind, they will need to replace a club in your bag. The typical scenario is you replace a long iron with a hybrid. Swap out your 3-iron for a 3-hybrid.
Hybrids are easier to hit for most golfers than a long iron. They cut through high grass and don’t have a hosel (you can’t shank a club that doesn’t have a hosel).
Your set of irons is the easiest part of gapping golf clubs. They are designed to have the appropriate gaps between each club.
Your decision is when your set of irons start. Some golfers use a 5-iron through a pitching wedge, while others start with a 2-iron.
How many fairway woods, hybrids, and wedges do you want to include in your “perfect 14”? This will tell you how many and which irons you should carry.
We have now reached the most complicated part of gapping golf clubs. How many wedges should you carry?
Gapping golf clubs is all about making trade-offs. Let’s assume your iron set ends with a pitching wedge and the standard PW has 48 degrees of loft.
Ideally, the gap between your irons is ~4 degrees of loft. This is fairly standard. The simplest answer is you carry a gap wedge (52 degrees), sand wedge (56 degrees), and lob wedge (60 degrees).
This works, but now you have 4 wedges in your bag. Does that make you take out another club that you like?
You could reduce a wedge and go with a 54-degree sand wedge and the 60-degree lob wedge (no gap wedge). This is a good solution but will force you to hit more 1/2 or 3/4 shots.
It’s all about trade-offs. It’s ok to try different set configurations. If you carry a club that you rarely hit, you should probably consider replacing it.
Gapping Golf Clubs: When Should You Change Your Set?
Once you determine the best gaps, is there any reason to change your set of “14”? The answer is “yes”.
The truth is that the best set of 14 might change depending on the course you are playing or the weather conditions.
Let’s walk through a few examples.
You check the weather forecast and they are calling for high winds. The best way to play will be to keep the ball low and running on the ground.
You might take out a fairway wood and add a long iron or a driving iron.
You review the course scorecard and notice it is a short course, which means you have a bunch of approach shots in the 75 – 115 yard range.
This might be the perfect time to remove your 5-wood and add a 4th wedge instead.
Did you know that PGA Tour professionals will often change the 14 clubs in their bag from week to week?
It is true. They make adjustments based on the weather, the type of course, and course conditions (dry or wet).
If you are playing in the rain and the course is saturated, you want more clubs that don’t rely on the roll for their distance.
This is a great time to bring an extra fairway wood (5-wood or 7-wood) and put the hybrid in the garage.
The moral of the story is when gapping golf clubs you should be flexible. Consider all factors and be open to trying new combinations.