Boost Your Shotmaking with Fewer Clubs

Fewer Clubs, More Creativity

Is your game stuck in a rut?  Are you playing the same course and hitting the same shots time and again?  If so, here’s a simple solution: try a round with a minimalist set.  Below I’ll lay out a few different approaches and some of the benefits you’ll get from carrying fewer clubs.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You want to improve your shotmaking

You want to see your home course in a new way

You want to carry a lighter golf bag

Minimalist Set Options

There are countless ways to approach a minimalist set, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Evens or Odds

Play only the even or odd numbered irons in your set.

One of Each

Pick one wood, one iron, one wedge, and your putter.

Seven Clubs

Pick any seven clubs.  Thinking about your seven most important clubs is a good way to evaluate your game and your set make-up.  Are you carrying clubs you never hit?

The Roy McAvoy

Head to the course with only your 7I.  “Anybody want to bet me I can’t par in with a 7 iron?”

Benefits of a Minimalist Set

Improved Shotmaking and Creativity

The biggest benefit to your game will be an increased ability to create shots.  Most of us play fairly robotic golf – “It’s 150 yards.  I’ll hit my 8I.”  If your 8I is gone, you’ll be forced to hit a hard 9I or a soft 7I.  You’ll learn the value of choking up on the club to take some distance off, swinging a little harder or softer, and trying to add or remove a bit of loft.  You can also find out how much distance you gain or lose by hitting cuts and draws.

Seeing an Old Course in a New Light

If you have a regular track, you can probably recite from memory how each hole goes.  That 400 yard, straightaway par 4 is almost always driver-8I, but when you step to the tee with a 3W and a 6I, you’ll see things in the hole you never noticed before, and it will be an entirely new experience.

A Lighter Golf Bag

This may not be as important as being a better shotmaker, but there is a certain pleasure to strolling the course with a few clubs in a Sunday bag.

Deemphasize Score

It’s unlikely that you’re going to shoot your personal best with a minimalist set, and that’s ok.  In fact, if your enjoyment of the game is waning because of the numbers on your card, that could be a very good thing.  Playing with just a few clubs can put you back into the “play” mentality which, I find, is closely connected to having a better time on the course.

Matt Saternus


  1. This is exactly what I have been doing lately, added to trying to play at a faster pace I can say that I see my scores have gone down. To use an old cliché I am now more playing golf rather than golf shot and that has me a lot more engaged in a task vs technique.

    I typically go with 7 or 8 clubs in a Jones bag which makes walking a breeze. My set is usually Driver, 4/6/8/9/PW/SW/P. Depending on the course the driver might swap into a 3w.

  2. Nice article Matt. At least once per season I like to do this on the course. I notice the benefits in my game, especially if I use clubs that I am not as comfortable hitting or I am struggling with. Plus doing this on the course vs the range brings real strategy per hole into account vs trying to simulate it on the range.

  3. jake krayson

    Couldn’t agree more…love to play practice rounds walking with6-7 clubs & a Sunday bag. #No hassles

  4. Fully agree Matt … I transitioned to a full-time minimalist player a few years ago for all my rounds regardless of course. There are so many benefits. I’ve never enjoyed the game more.

    • I’ll be play this Saturday for the first time with this concept. I’ll have a driver, 5 wood, hybrid, 5-7-9-PW, SW & putter.

  5. Gia Murray

    This is in fact how I began playing. At first I only had a driver, 7i (borrowed), Sandy Andy, and putter. I used to hit driver off the deck as I didn’t know any better. Thanks for the article.

  6. The timing of this article is funny. My last 3 rounds I’ve stopped hitting full shots inside 160 yards and instead been clubbing up and swinging 80% with a lower trajectory to the middle of greens. I’m hitting a lot more GIRs and making a lot more pars :)
    It hit me on a windy day surrounded by tall trees…. I got frustrated a few holes into my round after going 5 over on the first 4 holes (thanks in big part to the wind) and decided to club up, swing a bit slower and finish lower to keep the ball down…. ended up going 5 over on the next 14 holes to put up a respectable 82 considering the crazy conditions!
    I’m going to stick to this plan for a while and see what happens

  7. I sometimes play with 9 clubs in an easy bag. Putter, two wedges, 4 irons and 2 woods. Not much difference in scoring or shot selections, if any, vs my standard full 14 bag…. less clubs start to be limiting, so more really just for fun or creative shotmaking, as suggested… fully recommend…

  8. Great advice and one I have taken many times. Played 4 under my handicap last Wednesday with 6 clubs in the bag (D, 2h, 6i, 7i, pw, putter). Only since this year (been playing since 2011) I am playing with a full iron set (5-pw + 56o) though still not 14 clubs. Yesterday that got me to a 90 net…(114 off the stick..) – so much for a full set of irons then!
    I used to read that beginner golfers don’t need a full set and would do just as well with a half set. At 24HC and never lower, I am kind of a “beginner” forever!
    Few years ago I played for about a year and a half with 4 clubs: 3w, 6i, Gap wedge and putter. Didn’t seem to affect my HC much either. It frees one’s game up.

  9. Todd williams

    Haven’t done this in a while and will give it a go this weekend. I’m thinking just the 7i or maybe one of each type of club. Great way to get those gaming skills a boost. #SecretGiveaway

  10. D Walter

    I lost my 9 iron a month ago. Already don’t have an 8, 4 and sand wedge in my bag. Hit my best round ever last Sunday, a 78. Lots of people tell me how much I need all those clubs. Even argue with me. When I say look at the results, they always say, well, just think how much better you could score! Really? Maybe not. Oh, they also complain because my clubs are so old! I must have the latest and greatest.

  11. Lou Nicolella

    I play nine clubs for last few years. Driver, 3 and 5 hybrid, 7 and nine iron, sand wedge, Chipper 42 degrees, Moon Wood 25 degrees and putter. Play more in control and am shooting same score as with 14 clubs. Interesting approach.

    • I walk and carry seven clubs: Driver, 5 wood, 5, 7 and 9 irons, 48• wedge and putter in a Jones walker. No range finder. I’ve done 27 and, once, 36 holes like this in one day. Oh, I forgot: a flask with 12-year-old Talisker.

  12. Brad Groom

    Playing D, 3W, 4, 6, 8, PW, gap, lob and P. Scored one of my better rounds yesterday with fewer clubs. Makes toting my Jones Bag around my mountain course a little easier. Walking is a great way to play.

  13. Great article. My
    Current minimal set is: D, 3h, 6i, 9i, Pw, P in a 2.5 lb Ping Mantis bag. So sweet‼️ As for other golfers who question this approach… my standard line is “when I learn to hit these clubs I’ll add a few more” or “I’m a simple man PLAYING a simple game, who are you?” (That one really gets them🤓)

  14. You’ve got everything correct except you forgot the most important addition…..the Hybrid golf ball designed for “true minimalist play” on smaller golf facilities. Developed to make the shorter course play like a full-sized course…in half the time!

  15. I modified my six club set up from my 1/10/21 post:
    D, 25*h, 32*i, 39*i, 47*w, putter
    Carry using a Ping Mantis bag (2.5 lbs)
    Very sweet, I feel I can maximize creative shot
    making for MY game with this minimal set up

  16. Karen Dickey

    Been playing with D,3w,5i,7i,9i,pw and putter since mid-last year. Walking course now. Shot a 41 last week. Usually shoot a 45-48. Lot more fun as I am in it for the fun. Playing different courses too this year. Great to carry less, play more and have fun at it.

  17. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this weblog and I’m inspired!

    Very helpful info specially the final part :) I take care of such information much.
    I used to be seeking this certain information for a long time.
    Thanks and good luck.

  18. Finally took the plunge and tried this today for the first time. Took out a 12.5 Driver, 21 Hybrid, 6i, 8i, PW, 56 SW and Putter. Put it all in my new Sunday Golf Loma XL bag. Played 9 on my local executive course (Par 34, 2144 metres). Ended up shooting +3 (my second best score ever). I have to say I enjoyed it immensely, and there were a couple of par 3’s where I’d normally hit a 7 or 9 iron in, but choked down on the club and played a 3/4 shot instead. It was a beautiful walk and a really enjoyable round. Will be doing this more often for sure

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