Build Your Best Bag Part 1: The Golden Rule

Best Bag Part 1

14 Clubs

That’s all you get.  14 clubs to cover every distance and lie you might encounter and every shot shape and trajectory you might need.  Those spots in your bag are precious, so why is it that golfers put so little thought into what’s in their bag?

In this series, I will be helping you to build your best golf bag.  I’ll be laying out a simple process that will help you to find the best clubs for your game so you can hit your best shots and shoot your best scores.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You are considering buying new clubs

You haven’t carefully considered your set composition

You carry a club or clubs that you never hit

You find yourself in situations for which you don’t have a club

Golden Rule

The Golden Rule

In this first lesson, I’m going to lay out the Golden Rule of Set Composition and its two corollaries.

The Golden Rule of Set Composition: Every club in your bag needs a distinct job

For every club in your bag, you should be able to immediately explain to someone how you use it on the course.  For example, “This is my 6-iron.  It goes 175 yards, 170 carry.  I can hit it straight, fade it with some reliability, but it doesn’t really hit draws.  I can choke down and hit it about 160-165 yards on a lower trajectory.”  This indicates not only that the club has a clear job, but that you know how that club works for you.  If there are clubs you can’t do this with, get them out of your bag.

This may seem obvious, but, just like the real Golden Rule, it’s often overlooked.  I cannot tell you how many players I’ve fit or taught who have clubs in their bag that they don’t use.  Think of your set of clubs as employees: would you keep one who did nothing?

Some people have argued that they like to carry these useless clubs because, “Well, sometimes I like to try it.”  That’s ok with me, I’m not suggesting you throw it in the garbage, just don’t bring it on the course.  When you go on the course, you want your A Team, your first stringers.  You do not want clubs that don’t have a clear job.

Corollary #1: Two clubs cannot have the same job

This is a rule that virtually every amateur golfer breaks, often unwittingly.  Almost everyone I’ve ever worked with has two clubs that go the same distance with very similar ball flight.  This is not acceptable.  You have 14 clubs to cover unlimited situations – you cannot afford repeats!

If you’ve never done so, get some time on a good launch monitor and find out how far each club goes, carry and total.  If you have two clubs that go the same distance, take one of them out of the bag.

Corollary #2: Every club needs to do its job well

“Well” is relative term: it means one thing to Tiger Woods and it means something very different to a 25-handicapper.  Whatever it means for you, “well” should be a consistent standard that you apply across your bag.  For example, hitting a club well might mean that 80% of the time you execute your shot perfectly, 15% of the time you have an acceptable result, and 5% of the time you hit a stinker.  If that’s your standard, you should apply that standard consistently across your bag.  There’s no reason to carry a 3W that you duff 50% of the time when the rest of your game is solid 80% of the time.  I’m not suggesting that you snap the 3W in half, but it shouldn’t be coming to the course until it succeeds with regularity on the practice tee.

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Addition by Subtraction

If you follow the Golden Rule of Set Composition, you’ve probably eliminated anywhere from two to five clubs from you bag (most players with lower swing speed will definitely be eliminating three or more).  This in itself is going to make your golf bag a better bag.  You now have fewer choices to make on the course, and the choices that you have are all good ones.

In the coming lessons, we will be working systematically to construct a brand new bag.

As always, please post your questions below, and I will answer them.

Building Your Best Bag

Part 1: The Golden Rule

Part 2: The Golf Ball

Part 3: The Driver

Part 4: The Putter

Part 5: The Irons

Part 6: The Wedges

Part 7: The Long Game

Part 8: Specialty Clubs

Part 9: Maintenance

Matt Saternus


  1. Looking forward to the rest of this one Matt, I revamped my bag this year with a lot of thought it lead to my lowest handicap ever.

  2. Does shaft flex affect distance in the driver?

  3. Jessica Howells

    Very valuable information, it is not at all blogs that we find this; congratulations I was looking for something like that and found it here.

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