The rules of golf are very explicit when it comes to the number of clubs a golfer can carry in his or her bag. Fourteen is the magic number and it is illegal to exceed that many. Now which 14 you want at your disposal when playing your favorite golf course is entirely up to you.
One would think that choosing those 14 clubs would be a simple task. After all, how many choices do you have? As it turns out - assuming you have the financial resources to purchase whatever you like - your options are virtually unlimited.
It used to be simple back in the day. Nearly every golfer carried a driver, a couple of fairway woods, 3-9 irons, a pitching wedge, sand wedge, putter and another club of choice. That could be a 1 or 2 iron, another fairway wood or even a second putter. The second putter could be utilized if your regular one didn't seem to be working. It could also be used if something mysterious happened to the other putter. You know, like if it broke when you tossed it against your bag in frustration. Sometimes when you throw it up in a tree after your fourth-straight three-putt, it doesn't come back down. Right, Bud?
Nowadays golf club manufacturers constantly are coming up with new clubs. The ones that every golfer just has to have, if you believe the ads. There are so many different kinds of clubs that you may need the services of a consulting firm to help you make decisions.
Let's take wedges for example. The pitching wedge was used for short shots around the green. The sand wedge was used in bunkers. Two wedges, too simple. Now we have 58-degree wedges, 60-degree wedges, gap wedges, lob wedges and potato wedges. Sorry, for some reason food always creeps into my thought process, but you can understand the dilemma. Choosing what wedges you want to carry is more painful than, well, being on the receiving end of a wedgie.
The names given to the new clubs today defy any logic to me. You have utility clubs, rescue clubs and hybrids. How am I supposed to figure those names out? I hear utility and I'm thinking gas, electricity and water. Maybe someday the light bulb will go on, but then I likely will go get the checkbook to pay the electric bill.
I like the term rescue club, though I don't know exactly what it is going to rescue you from. Did Timmy fall down the well and send Lassie to find June Lockhart to come to the rescue? She was one of the best TV moms, right up there with the Beaver's mom and maybe Harriet Nelson. Sorry again, but at least it wasn't food that got me off track this time.
Now hybrid clubs make some sense to me. I am familiar with this term, at least in other, non-golfing instances. I know all about hybrid seeds in agriculture. OK, maybe not everything. Actually I have only seen the signs along the local fields, but hey it's a start. Hybrid cars run on both gas and electricity. Uh oh, we're back to utilities again!
You can crossbreed dogs and get a hybrid pet. A beagle and a pug will produce a puggle, which is a cute little fella. I've even seen those offspring referred to as a "bug," which is a cute term but can be misleading. Who wants to play with bugs?
Whatever the case, hybrid golf clubs are here. You can get an iron that feels like a wood, or a wood that feels like an iron. Why not? Woods haven't been woods for a long time. They are metal woods, which makes them oxymorons.
I guess my favorite explanation of a hybrid, or utility or whatever term you want to use, is when a TV announcer refers to one of them as the equivalent of a 4-iron. So why not just use a 4-iron? Why do we need these new novelties? Enough is enough, I say. Stop this onslaught of newness. Go back to the days of Harriet Nelson, for crying out loud. Take these tough choices away from us.
What we need is one more club, that is, as now, yet to be invented. We need the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. One club that can morph into anything you want it to be. A driver off the tee, push a button and it becomes a six-iron. Get to the green and it transforms into a putter. There you go folks. The clock is ticking. Be the first to come up with "the only golf club you will ever need" and you can make a fortune.
I can see it now. With only one golf club to carry, you won't even need a bag. That is if you have enough pocket space to tote all the balls you may need for round. I've seen me golf and having extra balls for the ones that find their way into the water hazards is a necessity. Hey, wait a minute. This new club has to be able to be changed into a giant ball retriever, right?
All right, here's the deal. I have fourteen clubs in my bag right now. Since I really don't have an unlimited golf budget, I'm not likely to get any utility, rescue or hybrid clubs any time soon.
For me this whole ordeal is like bowling. When you only have one bowling ball, you don't have to make any decisions on what to switch to when the lane conditions give you cause for concern. Fourteen clubs. Use one. Move on.
Life can be so simple.
Al Stephenson is the golf columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.
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