It’s not a new idea, of course, but then nothing really is. It does remain, however, one of the more intriguing routes the game could pursue and will remain so for as long as there is a 14-club rule.
The notion of limiting the game’s elite to less than 14 clubs was raised again this past week, this time being championed by golf’s ‘most interesting man’, Miguel Angel Jimenez.
According to a headline on Twitter (with no accompanying article or link, it must be said) the Spaniard has apparently suggested reducing the number of clubs in a professional’s bag to 10.
Like many of his vintage, Jimenez believes shotmaking is a skill lost to the game – especially at the elite level – and limiting the arsenal available to the player would help restore some balance.
Whether or not he is right about that (or even if he was accurately quoted) is really a moot point.
More important is the concept itself and whether or not it might catch on at the recreational level.
Many moons ago – around the time when Jimenez was likely taking up the game – the rule of thumb for a beginner golfer was a ‘half-set’.
“Like many of his vintage, Jimenez believes shotmaking is a skill lost to the game – especially at the elite level – and limiting the arsenal available to the player would help restore some balance.”
Such a bag was usually made up of a persimmon 1 ½ or 2-wood (no beginner was competent enough to consider a driver) along with 3, 5, 7 and 9-irons and a rudimentary putter (think putt-putt golf).
The idea was quite simple and that was to learn to hit each club moderately competently before considering adding to the set.
Such sets usually came in a small bag with perhaps two or three pockets and were generally slung over the shoulder rather than bother with a buggy.
Fast forward to the modern era and it is almost unthinkable that any new golfer’s first set would have less than 14 clubs. But it is not only nostalgia that says there are pitfalls with that outlook.
Cost is often touted as a barrier to entry to golf and if new golf clubs are the measure – and the new golfer is to shell out for a full set – there is undoubtedly truth in that.
But the spin off effects go beyond just the price tag per iron. A full set needs a bigger bag, hence a buggy or possibly even cart hire.
The notion of slinging your clubs over your shoulder and grabbing a quick nine is all but lost with a full-sized staff bag and associated accessories. And golf is lesser for it.
It’s not ‘wrong’ to play golf with a full set of clubs and all the modern trappings but it is a shame that it has become essentially the only way to play.
Because – especially for the new player – there is an awful lot of downside to having the ‘full experience’ in golf.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, Good Good, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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