Most language historians attribute the saying ‘less is more’ to Scottish poet Robert Browning – a fitting fact given the topic of today’s column.
An interesting Twitter discussion broke out earlier this week, sparked by a golfer I follow, who revealed his club had hosted its annual 7-club event the previous weekend.
His particular area of interest was the scoring under the limited-club format and at day’s end he reported that a 24-marker won with an impressive 44 points.
While it’s impossible to verify if our erstwhile correspondent’s assertion said player’s score was one he ‘Probably never had in his life with 14 clubs’, it was his next observation that kick-started a healthy and fascinating exchange.
“Golf,” he said, “would so much simpler, cheaper, faster and more fun with 7 or 8 clubs.”
Our Twitter friend (@Gieusahaggis1) is not the first to post the theory that ‘less’ would be ‘more’ when it comes to golf clubs.
Nor is he the first to be met with strident opposition to the idea. But that doesn’t mean it is without merit.
A change to the rules governing the number of clubs a player is allowed to carry is unlikely any time soon but were it to happen, it would not be without precedent.
Prior to 1938, there was no limit and successful players carried anywhere from seven (Chick Evans, 1916 US Open) to 30 (five-time major winner Lawson Little, who is pictured above [right] congratulating his hard-working caddie).
In fact, it is believed Little’s penchant for weighing down his caddie contributed to the implementation of the 14-club rule in the first place.
The change wasn’t without its critics at the time but the controversy long ago evaporated and it would be a struggle to find a golfer in the modern era campaigning for the 14-club limit to be increased.
“It would be a struggle to find a golfer in the modern era campaigning for the 14-club limit to be increased.”
So what benefits might there be to changing again to restrict the number to less than 14?
Leaving aside the thorny issue of the exact new number, the positives would be multiple.
First and foremost, the game would be cheaper. Simple maths says buying less clubs costs less money.
This is particularly important for beginner golfers who face two problems on the equipment front.
First there is the ‘fear of missing out’ if they don’t buy a full set of 14 clubs and the associated paraphernalia (big bags, buggies etc.) that goes with them.
But a smaller number of clubs also demands more skill and makes the game more interesting. A player who learns with less clubs at his or her disposal will, by necessity, be a more creative and adaptable golfer.
Learning early how to manufacture shots is a skill any professional will tell you is a positive, no matter what level you play at.
But perhaps most importantly in this discussion is the potential for broader health benefits. A game that mandated less clubs might encourage more people to walk when they play.
The notion of slinging a small bag with seven or eight clubs over the shoulder for a late afternoon hit might seem a romantic one but it’s undeniably appealing.
There is, of course, no rule that says any golfer MUST carry 14 clubs and we are all free to pare down the bag should we so choose.
I rarely carry more than 10 clubs and sometimes as few as seven. If I’m completely honest, I don’t think there has been any noticeable impact – positive or negative – on scoring.
It’s an experiment I recommend to anyone looking to maintain or increase their interest in the game.
And like our 24 marker friend who shot eight under his handicap last week, you might just find that you, too, are among the group for whom ‘less’ really is ‘more’.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
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