Most pros stick with a fairly standard collection of 14 clubs, sometimes switching a long iron for a hybrid or adding a third or fourth wedge to better handle specific course characteristics. Not Mickelson. His set is constantly in flux. And he’s not afraid to break with convention – in fact, he seems to get a kick out of it.
Take Mickelson’s bag at the 2013 Open Championship, which he won with a thrilling final-round 66 at Muirfield. “Lefty” did not carry a driver, opting for a 3-wood with 13° loft for tee shots. He added a 17° hybrid, seven irons (4 through pitching wedge) and a putter, leaving four available slots. All four went to wedges: 52°, 56°, 60° and 64°. Counting the PW, that’s five wedges in all.
Suffice it to say, no one else in the field carried such an eclectic mix. In fact, Mickelson has played five wedges many times over the past few years; he likes to have as many shot options as possible around the greens. Going driverless isn’t new, either. Once, he even carried two different putters. Pretty radical, huh?
But what about the amateur golfer? Could you benefit from carrying an arsenal of wedges, ditching the driver or switching up your set from round to round? Let’s examine the pros and cons of adopting Mickelson’s approach.
Pros: Flexibility, Versatility
If you visit a variety of courses rather than sticking with one for most rounds, you should certainly consider each course’s demands when preparing to play. For instance, one course might have wide-open fairways and elevated greens. You’ll certainly want a driver, preferably the one you hit longest, and perhaps an additional high-lofted wedge. Remove the 3-wood, a hybrid or other club you normally use on narrow holes.
Or, let’s say the course is extremely tight off the tees but fairly short overall. Drop the driver and add a 5-wood or hybrid for accuracy. Lose your longest iron if you won’t need it for approaches or par 3s, and replace it with another wedge to gain an edge around the greens.
You can also adjust your set to fit the current state of your game. Hitting it wild off the tee? Leave the driver at home. Having trouble chipping? Scale back your options by dropping a wedge, then focus on your technique with a single go-to club.
Cons: Cost, Inconsistency
Mickelson, of course, gets his clubs for free. (Not that he couldn’t afford them anyway.) You probably don’t. Swapping clubs in and out could mean owning 18, 20 or more – and golf equipment can get a little pricey.
Beyond that, it takes a highly skilled player to get maximum utility from an ever-changing club collection. Using a 64° wedge proficiently requires practice and repetition. If you’re only carrying it every other round, you’ll never get completely comfortable with it.
Finally, there’s the concept of having “too much of a good thing.” How do you decide which of your five wedges is best for a particular shot? Do you know how far you can hit each one with a full swing? Are there big differences in the heights you hit them? Can you hit them all consistently well?
To sum it up, a little flexibility is a nice luxury. Owning a couple of extra wedges, a strong-lofted 3-wood or an additional hybrid is a good idea. Just be careful not to go overboard.