The other day, a student asked me if they should use the same club around the green or change clubs depending on the shot. My standard reply is that average golfers should always use multiple clubs. I feel that it’s easier for them to consistently repeat one swing, and merely change clubs, thereby changing loft to control distance.
If better players ask me this question, however, I advise them to try both ways and see what works best.
As a golfer’s mechanics and feel improve, there is a valid argument for gravitating toward one club. In fact, better players tend to tell me that they have much better feel using one club. Of course, that’s not true for everyone, but there is one thing golfers who use one club around the greens have in common — they practice their short games A LOT. They have to, because the manipulations they make with their swing and setup to be able to use one wedge around the green effectively and consistently takes a lot of practice.
As a scratch player, I tend to use my lob wedge most often around the green. It’s what I practiced as a kid, and no one ever taught me any different. So as I pondered the one club vs. multiple clubs question for this article, I wondered if myself and all the other one-clubbers out there were making things harder on ourselves.
Does chipping with multiple clubs create more consistent impact and flight patterns, as I’ve always assumed it does for average golfers? Or would a better player like me be able to consistently create the impact and launch conditions with one club that would make it work just as well?
I decided to put it to the test, taking my Trackman out to the chipping green and hitting a standard shot from just off the green in light rough. It’s a shot that golfers could effectively use anything from a lob wedge or a simple 9-iron.
I only hit five shots with each club to see what the differences would be between my 9 iron and my lob wedge (56 degrees). I did not want to hit a bunch of shots with each club, as I would “get the feel” and the results would be skewed.
The lob wedge carried between 7.9 to 9.3 yards in the air while the 9-iron carried 3.8 to 4.6 yards.
With the lob wedge, there was a 4.2-foot difference in carry between the shortest and longest carry, while the 9-iron had only a difference of 2.4 feet.
The lob wedge had launch angles ranging from 26.4 degrees to 31.8 degrees and the 9-iron ranged from 15 degrees to 16 degrees.
Remember that when launch changes, dynamic loft tends to change as well. That creates inconsistent heights and carry. This is shown by the top right graph of the photo above. The 9-iron and lob wedge produced two very different heights and landing angles, with the 9-iron being much more consistent.
The 9-iron showed much more consistent launch conditions, making roll out predictions much easier to judge — particularly on a flat surface due to more consistent landing angles.
As launch angle changes, so does landing angle. And if you look at the data above, you can see that the lob wedge had a landing angle difference of 5.9 degrees and the 9-iron landing angle difference was only 1.5 degrees, making roll out more consistent.
Since the shot was only a few yards, the side-to-side dispersion was tight with both clubs; however, this would not be the case as the carry distance became longer.
The 9-iron will usually carry and land closer to the target line than the the wedge, because it does not have to carry as far in the air to reach the target.
The lob wedge will not tend to roll offline as much as the 9-iron will, however especially when the green surface is sloped. For that reason, it is vital that golfers who prefer to use multiple clubs factor in green contours on shots with lower-lofted clubs.
The first thing I notice in the photo (on the top right, showing trajectory) is that my lob wedge varies in height from 3.4 feet to 4.3 feet, giving me radically different landing angles.
The 9-iron heights only differed by 0.2 feet!
It is more than obvious from the data that using a 9 iron in this circumstance makes it MUCH easier for golfers to predict the launch angle, carry distance and roll out of a shot. That’s why I will continue to recommend that average golfers use multiple clubs when chipping to minimize variables as they learn different shots.
There is no substitute for confidence and feel under pressure, however, so if you believe that you are better using one club rather than multiple clubs around the green then you will probably perform better on the course. So I also stand by my statement that better players can use one club if they feel it’s best.
Just don’t let your ego get in the way, better players. If you’ve been chipping with one club for a long time, it might be worth your while to learn a new shot with say… a 9 iron. Let the results tell you if it is or isn’t for you.