In my early golf years, I carried a full set of clubs, but never came close to hitting more that 5 or 6 during any round. The reason for my limited club selection was the lack confidence in my ability to effectively hit those clubs that gather dust in my bag. There were two clubs I over relied upon to help me score low, however, in hindsight I realized that my approach was hurting my golf game.
Not surprisingly, the two clubs I relied on the most were my 5-wood and a 7-iron. I would use these clubs almost everywhere. Before my clubs hit the ground at distance outside of 170 yards, I was pulling my 5-wood from my bag. Anything inside of that yardage, out came the 7-iron. Sometimes I use other clubs only because of the distance or situation, but if I could work those 2 clubs into the shot, I definitely did!
As a result of my narrowed approach to lower golf scores, I limited my growth in my game. The greatest impediment was my inconsistency in my golf swing. Because I was using the wrong club in the wrong situation, I had to adjust my swing for the yardage and ball flight. Thinking I was making a great shot, I would choke down, half-swing, hood, open, punch, lift or slap these clubs down the fairway. More often than not, the end state of my swing was acceptable and every now again, I made a brilliant shot that reinforced my 2 club approach to golf. So, what change?
Five years after starting golf, I was shooting in the mid to high 80s. I was thinking that this was great golf, but my game had plateaued. I was not getting any better and this was a bit troublesome. I was routinely beating my playing partners, but in retrospect, this was no big feat. The single incident change my approach to golf happened at the military base golf course at Cold Lake, Alberta.
At that time, a large air force exercise was underway and many USAF personnel were at Cold Lake and as such, the golf course was busier than normal. Waiting for my tee time, I was using my 7-iron at the practice green when I notice an older gentlemen practicing with his 7-iron. He was playing a variety of shots and I was intrigued on how he lofted the ball so high with such a soft landing. So, I went over and asked him this secret. The gentlemen, (I do not remember his name) smiled at me sagely and asked why I wanted to learn how to hit a 7-iron with such loft. I replied that the 7-iron was the best club in my bag and I used it for everything.
His smile brightened as he nodded his head in agreement. After I explained my approach, he took a deep breath and provided some of the best advice I ever received on the golf course. Thinking he was going to support my approach, I started to smile until his smile lessened and he became very serious.
He said that his game had not changed in 30 years. He plays golf exactly the way I did and he told me it was a foolish approach to success. He said that we carry 14 clubs for a reason and if I did not learn how to use all of them, I would be in his exact position in 30 years. Originally, I was startled by his response and after a moment of thought, I asked him why he did not change. He said he was going to, but it was not right time. He also retorted that the longer I waited to adjust my game, the hard the change would be; lastly, he stated that “the time to change was right now”.
At first I did not realize the importance of his last statement. But, 35+ years later, I sure value his advice. After my chance encounter with my USAF friend, I started my slow journey to be a scratch golfer. I did not realize it at the time, but every frustrating change I made could be traced back to that conversation. Eventually, I stopped relying on 2 clubs and expanded my club selection. As a result, today I am confident to hit every club in my bag.
This brings me to the end of my diatribe. The best time to make any change to your golf game is right now! Intended changes are frustrating, challenging and rewarding at the same time, but you will not regret trying to be a better golfer. If you are over reliant on one or two clubs, it might be time to take an objective look at your approach and expand your horizons; what is the worst that can happen?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!