11 Golf Clubs? Yes Please!
Moe Norman would have won quite a few tournaments if the Rules of Golf dictated just three clubs never mind 14. Or even 11. All Moe would have needed was a driver, 4-iron and putter.
Juvic Pagunsan from the Philippines needed just 11 clubs to win the Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open on the Japan Tour over the weekend. Covid-19 restrictions meant caddies couldn’t work the tournament, so players had to either use carts or carry their own bags – what a novelty, huh? Pagunsan decided on the latter. To make his bag lighter, he removed his 3, 4, 6 and 8 irons, and added a 19 degree hybrid to reduce his total to 11.
Not only did he win to qualify for Royal St George’s, he did so by three shots with a 17-under 199 thanks to scores of 66, 65 and 68. So much for 14 clubs.
“What do I do when I need 6-iron? Well, I will just adjust it by using different club,” Pagunsan told the Japan Tour website.
“On 11th, wind was blowing at me and I had 160 yards to play, and I used my 5 Iron, what choice do I have?"
"Since I didn't have much choice of clubs, I didn't have to think too much to choose," he added.
He might not have thought too much about which club, but he surely had to think about how he was going to play a 6-iron shot with a 5-iron, or an 8-iron approach with his 7-iron. That sounds far more creative than the rote route many top players take today. These players are so dialled in on how far they hit each iron because of technology. One top player once admitted to me he didn’t really have to play practice rounds even for major championships. His take was that as long as he had good yardages then no problem.
Former European Tour winner and Ryder Cup player Ken Brown is on record as saying he’d like to so see the number of clubs reduced to 11 to make players become more creative. Mind you, given the distance in today’s game, many might get away with just four bats – driver, 4-iron, wedge, and putter. It’s getting a bit boring watching PGA Tour events with players hitting long bombs to par-4s and then wedge approaches. I’ve only included the 4-iron so they can hit par-5s in two.
Norman wouldn’t have struggled from having to play with a reduced set. I saw that firsthand. One of the best experiences of my career came in 2000 while watching the Canadian conduct a clinic at Falcons Fire Golf Club in Orlando.
Near the end of the clinic, he lined up eight balls perpendicular to the ball to target line. He took out a 4-iron. He then proceeded to hit each ball with the 4-iron, changing the trajectory of each ball as he did so, altering the club face loft so it became 5-iron loft, then 6-iron loft and so on until the last ball flew through the air like it had come off a sand wedge. He hit all eight balls in rapid fire, never changing his alignment, grip or ball position. He would swing, step closer to the next ball and swing, dispatching the eight balls down the fairway in about 12 seconds. All he was doing was changing the club face loft at impact. His club face control was almost beyond belief. Every ball flew straight, just as every shot Moe hit in his life did.
No wonder he was nicknamed "Pipeline" Moe.
Pagunsan entered the tournament as the world’s number 398th-ranked player. He moves to 211 thanks to the win. Not bad for a player who was 630th at the end of 2020. If a player of that calibre can play and win with just 11 sticks, imagine what the world’s best could do.
Wouldn’t you just love to see the top players have to get creative with a reduced set rather than the steady fare of drive, pitch and putt that makes so many tournaments snooze fests? I know I would.
#JustSaying: He’s the best ball striker I ever saw come down the pipe. I didn’t see them all, but I don’t know anyone who could hit a ball better than Moe Norman.” Lee Trevino