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How To Play Your Best Pandemic Golf

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Photo by Dave Donelson

As golfers venture back out to play under health crisis restrictions, they are discovering that many golf courses are walking-only these days. That’s great, actually, because walking speeds up the pace of play (carts actually slow the game down!) and increases the exercise value of the sport as well.

But if you’re concerned about carrying your bag or dragging a pull-cart around, just throw a Sunday bag over your shoulder instead. It will not only lighten your load, but make you a better golfer at the same time!

What’s a Sunday bag? The name originated back when most people weren’t allowed to work on Sundays, a law that included caddies. Since golfers had to carry their own bags, they opted for one that was smaller and lighter. Today, you can get Sunday bags complete with stand-legs for as little as $35! Your wallet will thank you for it — and so will your back.

Your game will too, because you’ll probably cut strokes from your score! What really makes the Sunday bag lighter is that it doesn’t have room for a full set of 14 clubs. While some Sunday bags claim you can squeeze in as many as ten clubs, six is probably a more realistic number and five or even four will make the bag even lighter and your game even better.

How? By forcing you to make the most of what you have! With fewer clubs, you have to think more strategically, figuring out more closely where you want to hit your next shot from, for example, rather than picking the longest club in your bag and whaling away with it. You’ll also learn to rely more heavily than ever on your short game — especially your putter — since you won’t have four wedges to work with.

And you’ll need to learn how to create various shot shapes, carry distances, and ball flights by adjusting your grip and swing rather than using a different club for every shot. Need a little less distance from an iron, try choking down an inch or two and taking a full swing. Or tee the ball a little higher for a par-three tee shot since the ball will connect higher on the clubface, softening the impact. Want a higher ball flight? Try opening the clubface and adjusting your aim accordingly. There are lots and lots of ways to skin the golf swing.

Improvement in all of these skills will come in very handy when the world returns to normal and you go back to a full bag — if you do!

Which clubs should you carry?  In a five-club set, one of them will be a putter and another probably a driver (or three-wood). You’ll also more than likely want a mid-iron, a lofted short iron, and a versatile wedge. To figure out the best combination, you need to know how far you hit each club — a reliable, realistic, average distance, not your best ever!  Then you look at the course you’re playing hole by hole to calculate what you need.

It’s also a good idea to temper your expectations. There will be a hole or two that you probably can’t reach in regulation with the clubs in your bag. That’s okay — play for a solid bogey or put yourself into position where a precise wedge shot can leave you a legitimate chance at a one-putt par.

On a personal note, I played Angelbrook GC a couple of times recently with five clubs: a driver, putter, five iron, eight iron, and sand wedge. The result? I shot my handicap both times, which is always a good outcome. In fact, the score was the same as I shot when I played the course with a full bag last fall under tournament conditions!

And I had an absolute blast doing it. The mental challenge, the discipline, the creativity of the round magnified the fun. So get some fresh air and take a walk with your Sunday bag.

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