I have said many times that I do not know a lot about the technical side of golf. Chance of improving your game from anything I say is pretty slim. What I am good at is talking to people, research and bringing that data together.
I mentioned before that in the summer of 2022 I must have talked to 200+ golfers in northern Michigan about golf. What their favorite ball, clubs, shoes, etc. Why they liked particular brands and so many other questions.
If you are a golfer you know that we are a friendly bunch and are always willing to chat. Well, as long as it isn’t when we are getting ready to swing. But catch a golfer in the club house, parking lot or turning the corner and the conversation will usually be very pleasant.
I just wanted to learn
My main goal when I first started striking up conversations with other golfers was to learn. I know there is a ton of information online, but I am never sure if it is “paid” content. Coming from a digital background I know many articles are paid for by brands to promote their merchandise.
A writer will usually talk about several brands and depending on how many brands paid to be in that article is how the “review” goes. That said there are articles written by golfers for no other reason than they wanted to offer their point of view on equipment, playing, etc. Like the articles I write, they are meant to be entertaining.
Back to my original point, I was skeptical that I was getting valuable information from golf writers so I figured I would ask people at the courses I golfed. I assume nobody is paying them to recommend a certain brand over others.
I was working on organizing and analyzing some of the data I collected and two related questions I asked had very different answers. I was not expecting such a difference.
I asked, “what club in your bag can you not live without”? The other question was “what club do you use the most?” Once I started to arrange the answers, I was shocked at what I found.
I fully expected to find that the same club would be the most common answer for both questions. It was not. Seems to me the most used club should be the one club you cannot live without.
Most important club in Northern Michigan
The club people could not live without answers were varied. Some I expected to hear, my driver, my wedge, my rescue club and my putter. None of those were the top answers.
The number 1 club that over 40% of the golfers I talked to said they could not live without was their 7 iron. I struggle horribly with irons so I would have never picked an iron. 30% said putter and with the remaining 30% split pretty evenly between wedges and driver.
What was interesting looking over my notes was the comments they made along with picking their 7 iron. I commonly heard that it can be an all around club, they drive with it from shorter holes, can be a rescue club, can hit it a little longer when needed or controlled shorter distances. Some said they could putt with it in a pinch. The consensus was that most felt they could control a 7 iron the easiest thus making it the most versatile club in their bag.
Most used club in Northern Michigan
At this point you may have guessed the majority answer to the second question. To me it is very logical. There was mostly two types of clubs that folks they felt they used the most. Various irons were suggested with some good explanations. 9 irons could serve as a pitching, sand or short iron and some felt it was a club they frequently went to. 7 irons for the same reasons mention as the one they could live without.
But the number one answer with over 85% of the golfers I talked to was their putter. Makes total sense. Figure if by some stroke of luck you are on the green in regulation, on most holes it will still be a 2 putter. But let’s me honest how many holes are you only 2 putting on an 18 hole round? For an average weekend golfer they are putting around 35-40 times per round minimum. If you average 85 strokes a round you are using your putter in about 41-47% of your shots. That leaves the other 45-50 strokes shared with drivers, woods, and irons.
How Northern Michigan compared nationally
Most Important club
Curious how my northern Michigan friends compared to national averages I went data mining. The most important club or one they could not live without was not the 7 iron. As a matter of fact the 7 iron was cited by only 2% in one survey. Guessing the courses in northern Michigan but be 7 iron friendly. The most important club chosen consistently in every survey I found was the Putter.
Ben Hogan said that “The 3 most vital clubs are the driver, putter, and wedge, in that order.” I would think that would make sense for the pros but the putter for us “average” golfers is what makes sense to me. I know if my putting is on fire, I will have a good round. My drive or fairways can be great but if I am 3 or 4 putting my score will be embarrassing.
Most of the surveys I found showed that after putter, there was driver and then wedges, so what Ben said, just a different order.
Most Used Club
Northern Michigan golfers agreed with the nation on the most used club. Surveys I found showed the putter being using in 49-58% of shots. Wedges came in second and then drivers. Sticking with Hogan’s “3 most vital clubs”.
Nationally the only place a 7-iron shined in the surveys I found was as the most used iron. Reasons give were exactly the same reasons I was given for it being the must have club. Par 3 holes, chip and runs, short distances, etc.
The national data is more in line with what I was expecting. I thought the 3 top clubs would be the same for both questions. Definitely not the case in my little study, but held true in the national numbers.
I was sadden to find that nobody gives any credit to their fairway woods. My woods are the clubs I have confidence with. I can hit them long, straight and true. A 7 wood is used instead of a 7 iron. Now that I have 9 wood I think I am all set. Hoping between the 3, 7 & 9 woods and 5 & 6 hybrids I won’t need to use my irons other than sand and pitching wedges.
I will make one recommendation to help your game. Jack Nicklaus wrote a book titled “Golf My Way” originally published in 1974. It was recently updated with new chapters that talk about the changes in Nicklaus’s techniques and comparisons of when he joined the PGA in 1962 and now. It was a great read with great advice. Has illustrations to help guide you. I really enjoyed it.