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Questions for low and high single digit handicappers


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Earlier this year I realized that this game was the only hobby/obsession I actually cared about. I decided, from that realization, that I was tired of being mediocre/ average at the game.  I started really trying to focus on specific aspects of my game, practice with purpose, and play by the rules.  It's been a rough transition but I feel like I'm trending in the right direction.  I have no illusions of getting to scratch but I think cracking into the single digits in the next couple of years and getting to a 5 after that is something that is attainable for me eventually.  I've felt like I'm on the edge of some good golf for a couple months now and I have some questions for those of you that have made the transition from mid to single digits and for those of you that have gotten to the lower half of single digits.

  • When you went from mid to single digits was it like an 'aha' moment where everything just clicked and you had a breakthrough or was it a slow and steady improvement over time?
  • What's a realistic timeline to go from my current 14.5 to a 9.9 if I'm playing 1-2 times a week and practicing at least once a week as well.  (I'm also finally going to get some lessons in the next couple months)
  • I've been hammering away at getting a better short game and learning course management.  Is there anything else I should specifically focus on?
  • What were some of the things that specifically helped you improve your game?
  • Are there some metrics that I should be aiming for in regards to GIR, FIR, putts?
  • Is there anything else you think would be helpful to me?
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28 minutes ago, Syks7 said:

Earlier this year I realized that this game was the only hobby/obsession I actually cared about. I decided, from that realization, that I was tired of being mediocre/ average at the game.  I started really trying to focus on specific aspects of my game, practice with purpose, and play by the rules.  It's been a rough transition but I feel like I'm trending in the right direction.  I have no illusions of getting to scratch but I think cracking into the single digits in the next couple of years and getting to a 5 after that is something that is attainable for me eventually.  I've felt like I'm on the edge of some good golf for a couple months now and I have some questions for those of you that have made the transition from mid to single digits and for those of you that have gotten to the lower half of single digits.

  • When you went from mid to single digits was it like an 'aha' moment where everything just clicked and you had a breakthrough or was it a slow and steady improvement over time?
  • What's a realistic timeline to go from my current 14.5 to a 9.9 if I'm playing 1-2 times a week and practicing at least once a week as well.  (I'm also finally going to get some lessons in the next couple months)
  • I've been hammering away at getting a better short game and learning course management.  Is there anything else I should specifically focus on?
  • What were some of the things that specifically helped you improve your game?
  • Are there some metrics that I should be aiming for in regards to GIR, FIR, putts?
  • Is there anything else you think would be helpful to me?

No,  wasn’t an aha moment, it was an avoidance of scores worse than bogey.  The key to better golf is avoiding anything worse than a bogey and penalty shots.  
 

I don’t  think there is a definitive timeline as everyone is different.   The first question would be why aren’t you below 10 now; what is foisting you strokes?  
 

Course management and understanding expectations are probably the biggest areas to focus on.  How do you approach each hole? Do you flag hunt or aim for the fat side if the green?  
 

those metrics can be meaningless without additional information.   Just saw a mark crossfield video that quoted some FIR stats and 20+ handicaps down to 0 average 46-50% FIR.  The bigger thing to look at  would be to assess if you have a reasonable s*** to the green after your tee shot.  GIR isn’t a bad statistic to look at as the more greens you hit generally the lower you typically score.   Putts per round can be deceiving because if you miss greens your putt total is typically lower than if you hit all the greens.   
 

i personally like Decade and here are some metrics to look at:  https://golf.com/instruction/5-golden-scoring-rules-scott-fawcett/  When I look at those metrics it is easy to see why my handicap is going the wrong way.  

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9 hours ago, Syks7 said:

 

  • When you went from mid to single digits was it like an 'aha' moment where everything just clicked and you had a breakthrough or was it a slow and steady improvement over time?

    I would say both. It is really a slow and sometimes not so steady improvement over time. But along the way there are aha moments for sure. I remember blade'ing another chip too anxious too look up and see my ball next to the pin and decided to keep my eyes down for several seconds after impact. Another aha moment was hearing Annika say she would not attempt a shot unless she is confident she can pull it off at least 80% of the time. Watching pro's hit back into the fairway when a small opening would allow a 50 yd cut under limbs but even they would not attempt it (Phil and Bubba the exceptions) was when I stopped trying those shots.  The amount of times I see a mid to high index attempt a very high risk shot that could result in a double or worse is just mind boggling. 
     
  • What's a realistic timeline to go from my current 14.5 to a 9.9 if I'm playing 1-2 times a week and practicing at least once a week as well.  (I'm also finally going to get some lessons in the next couple months)

    Honestly this is golfer dependent with some natural skills being a huge factor. 

     
  • I've been hammering away at getting a better short game and learning course management.  Is there anything else I should specifically focus on?

    Great start!
     
  • Are there some metrics that I should be aiming for in regards to GIR, FIR, putts?

    I am probably in the minority but not a fan of metrics, especially in the developmental years. I just think it is pretty obvious you need to hit more fairways/greens and make more putts. Most of the time it is not poor course management, just a lack of skill. If you have swing flaws but are improving and can't hit a fairway with a forgiving driver, hitting a fairway wood or hybrid probably won't improve that stat. Same with GIR. If you are aiming at flags every shot that is a different story but if you are mostly aiming at middle of greens but still missing them, a metric telling you that you need to hit more greens is just a DUH stat imo. 
    I would add I played the front 9 in even par last week missing every fairway and hitting 1 green, then a few days later hit every fairway and every green and was 1 under. Metrics would have a field day with those two rounds but it doesn't take Elon Musk to know I was hitting the ball poorly one round and very well the next. 

     
  • Is there anything else you think would be helpful to me?

    it sounds like you are on the right track. As Rory says in his commercials "Play more golf '  and then practice, learn from your mistakes and you will get there. I believe honest desire with a good work ethic is the most important factor in moving to the next level. 

 

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No aha moments. Learned better course management, minimized blow up holes and improved mental game by reading all of Dr Bob Rotella’s books

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I actually did that this year in the span of a few months, I went for a 13 to currently an 8.5.  No aha moments. Just started playing smart golf. Took what the holes gave me. Played my 3 wood or iron off the tee when it presents itself and did my best to raise my GIR. 2 putts should be hard when they are for par. Don’t punish yourself for mistakes, minimize the compounding Errors. I also started working on my weakness’ a lot more. Everyone loves to hit their irons and driver at the range but practicing short game/bunker play and putting was the biggest key. Making sure you can get a sand save if you miss the green or chipping on the green for a one putt to save par.  Best of luck!

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30 minutes ago, RickyBobby_PR said:

improved mental game by reading all of Dr Bob Rotella’s books

My favorite golf books right there and I second these. Not sure I am low enough for the level you have indicated, but as others have said patient practice throughout the bag and on the mental side has always helped me make progress. Good luck on your journey. Be sure to keep us up to date.

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2 minutes ago, DiscipleofPenick said:

-Play as much as you can and enjoy it!

See bolded words. If you aren't enjoying it, taking a little time off from golf from time to time can be beneficial. Historically, I've played some of my best golf after being off for a couple weeks. It seems to always give my brain time to organize my thoughts. 

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36 minutes ago, RollingGreens said:

minimize the compounding Errors

 

... Amen! This is huge for high index players as well as some mid index. One aha moment for me was DL Jr telling DLIII "Never follow a bad shot with a great shot. Follow a bad shot with a good shot". 

... I see high index players slice a drive in the water, take a drop in the light rough and try and hit a fairway wood or hybrid on the green only to hit another slice into the water. Or duff the shot swinging too hard trying to make up for the ball in the hazard. A nice mid iron to the far side of the fairway will leave a wedge that they should be able to get on the green or at least close. Even a double is better than the triple or higher the ill advised hero shot will produce. Hit a bad chip over the green and short side yourself?  Don't try and get the next chip close risking leaving it in the rough or on the fringe and the next shot will still leave a long putt. Just get the ball on the green and take your 2 putt and limit the damage. I could go on and on but after a bad shot always approach the next shot like it is the first shot on the hole and play smart golf from there. 

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Course management has a lot of meanings. One simple adjustment is where you aim your drives. I play with a lot of guys who aim up the middle of every fairway. The only time I do that is when the trouble is equal in both sides. If there is out of bounds right and normal rough to the left, I'm aiming at the left third of the fairway every time. A miss left will still be playable and most misses right will stay in bounds. When doing this, however, you actually have to commit to trying to hit it where you aim. Most high handicappers I play with will aim left, but then try to steer the ball back to the middle. You just completely nullified your prior adjustment. 

Also, if you think partial shots are all touch... wrong. You need to figure out how far each wedge goes with a full swing ,3/4 swing, and 1/2 swing. Then when you know you have 60 yards to the pin it won't be guesswork,  you'll know that's a 3/4 and wedge, or whatever it is for you. 

Edited by Riverboat
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2 hours ago, cnosil said:

I don’t  think there is a definitive timeline as everyone is different.   The first question would be why aren’t you below 10 now; what is foisting you strokes?

Right now the majority of my lost strokes come from mid and short range approach.  My chipping has historically been awful because I've neglected it.  Something I'm working very hard to remedy.  I found Stan Utley's book and his approach to chipping seems to be something that is going to work for me.  

Course management and understanding expectations are probably the biggest areas to focus on.  How do you approach each hole? Do you flag hunt or aim for the fat side if the green?  I'm working very hard on not flag hunting.  I've realized that I'm a reasonable, but not great putter.   If I can get to the green in 2, I mostly walk away with a par which isn't sexy but it suit's what my goal is.

i personally like Decade and here are some metrics to look at:  https://golf.com/instruction/5-golden-scoring-rules-scott-fawcett/  When I look at those metrics it is easy to see why my handicap is going the wrong way.    Love little tidbits like this.  For me, little thoughts about these things as I'm thinking about the shot I want to hit can be very helpful.  Sort of along the lines of "If I don't want to get a bogey with a 9 iron I should aim to that location because missing there will be bad."  I thought things out like that on my last round and I shot a personal best.  

 

1 hour ago, chisag said:
  •  Another aha moment was hearing Annika say she would not attempt a shot unless she is confident she can pull it off at least 80% of the time.  I really like this.  
  • Watching pro's hit back into the fairway when a small opening would allow a 50 yd cut under limbs but even they would not attempt it (Phil and Bubba the exceptions) was when I stopped trying those shots.  The amount of times I see a mid to high index attempt a very high risk shot that could result in a double or worse is just mind boggling.   I have been very guilty of this in the past.  Learned a good lesson a couple months ago when I got suckered into a match with a +1, 2, and a 4.  (got invited to a CC by the 2 and two of his buddy's wanted to play with us -- I couldn't say no)  I hit my drive to the edge of a creek just inside the red line.  I was open to the green but couldn't get solid footing without falling into the creek.  I turned 90 degrees, chipped to the center of the fairway, drilled the approach and 1 putted for net birdie.  I've tried to remind myself of that every time I hit into the sticks since....  Sometimes I listen to myself but not always yet.  This is a work in progress.
1 hour ago, RickyBobby_PR said:

No aha moments. Learned better course management, minimized blow up holes and improved mental game by reading all of Dr Bob Rotella’s books.  I'll look into the rest, I read Golf is not a game of perfect every time I feel like I'm putting too much pressure on myself and I credit it to pushing my off the tee performance in a better direction.

 

1 hour ago, RollingGreens said:

 minimize the compounding Errors.   This has been very hard for me.  I'm someone that reacts pretty well on the fly but as my wife says 'you aren't exactly the best planner'.   I'm really trying to make myself think through the shot I want and what positives and negatives can come from it rather than just saying it's x yards, grab a club, and take a swing.

 

1 hour ago, Kansas King said:

Lessons were the answer as far as the swing goes. There are many illusionary "aha!" moments that really aren't aha moments. I always made the biggest leaps after playing rounds with + handicap/borderline professional golfers. Getting to experience their mental state is something that you have to experience for yourself. If you think you play focused golf, just play with someone playing nationally competitive golf (am tours, mini tours, etc). If you can't get a round with someone really good, try to go watch some professional golf, even lower level. Follow a group around the course and observe them. You will learn what absolute focus and mental fortitude really is. Golf is obviously a mental sport and it's hard to understand what good mental golf looks like until you actually see it (at least that was the case for me).   I hear you.  I occasionally play with a guy who plays at right around scratch.  You wouldn't think it when you watch him play, he plays fast, but the amount he takes into consideration in a short routine is kind of mind blowing.   I have a similar length routine and I wasn't even thinking about half of what he was considering -- especially given that I still have trouble not having 'swing thoughts' about my mechanics.  

  Overall, once you learn what a good mental game looks like and you find a way to eliminate the worst shots from your game (OB and wild shots). You will start shooting much lower consistently. You will still have wild shots but it won't be a regular occurrence. Playing twice a week is enough to get better and be a single digit handicap. I would say that it may take a little more time on your way to single digits but once you get there and understand what it takes, it's much easier to maintain that level of golf. Whatever you do, don't lose focus or take anything for granted. Periodic lessons are also great for improving and maintaining a better swing.  Solid advice.  Thank you.

 

 

56 minutes ago, DiscipleofPenick said:

I think you have a great goal. And to answer your questions

-I'm going to combine 1 & 2. First, I think this goal is obtainable within 1 season of play. Adding practice and lessons will help too. Keep in mind your score will drop in plateaus, rather than a steady 86 to 85 to 84 etc. The 86 will drop to 82 then the 82 to 80, then to 78 and so on. I would say that your practice needs to be meaningful, just pounding two buckets on the range once a week, is not practice. It needs to be mindful, practice the way you play. Hitting 10 balls with intent is better practice than those two mindless buckets trying to "groove it". Also, when looking for a pro, find one who will listen you, and maybe doesn't want to just rebuild your swing from the ground up. Minor changes such as shortening a backswing or a small move in your setup could lead to big changes. Rebuilding or going to a cookie-baker could lead to frustrations and delay your entire plan.  Been really working on the meaningful part for the last month or two.   Also, great advice about the pro.  It echoes what I'm hearing from someone that I trust.  I was told under no circumstances should I let anyone rebuild my swing.  They told me just to have them help me tweak it to get what I need out of it.

-MENTAL GAME. It's about managing your emotions and anxiety/anger on the course. I've had anger issues when I was a teen/early 20s, and anxiety now. It's not trying to combat it, but be aware of it and understand it. Two books that have helped me a ton in the mental area are "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect" by Bob Rotella & "Every Shot Must Have a Purpose" by Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson.   I love Golf is not a game of Perfect.  I wil l definitely check Every shot must have a purpose out.  

-Play as much as you can and enjoy it!  I remind myself of that every time I play.

 

16 minutes ago, Riverboat said:

Course management has a lot of meanings. One simple adjustment is where you aim your drives. I play with a lot of guys who aim up the middle of every fairway. The only time I do that is when the trouble is equal in both sides. If there is out of bounds left and normal rough to the left, I'm aiming at the left third of the fairway every time. A miss left will still be playable and most misses right will stay in bounds. When doing this, however, you actually have to commit to trying to hit it where you aim. Most high handicappers I play with will aim left, but then try to steer the ball back to the middle. You just completely nullified your prior adjustment. 

Also, if you think partial shots are all touch... wrong. You need to figure out how far each wedge goes with a full swing ,3/4 swing, and 1/2 swing. Then when you know you have 60 yards to the pin it won't be guesswork,  you'll know that's a 3/4 and wedge, or whatever it is for you.   I put this together last week and through two rounds it has been very helpful.  Particularly the 95% number.  PXL_20210915_055618716.jpg.4366266e782a7f97d70ef231e1e7ea25.jpg

 

Thank you for the advice everyone.  It's nice to know that a lot of the stuff I'm doing is headed in the right direction and that I can set other things I was worried about (metrics) to the side for now. 

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19 minutes ago, DPattGolf said:

If I was going to make 1 suggestion it would be to focus your putting practice around putts ~8 feet and in & ~25 feet and longer. The idea is that your working on improving your pace control with the 25+ footers and improving your face control with the 8 feet and closer putts

My rather informal self assessment agrees. I'm leaving at least 3 fewer strokes/round on the greens.  Consistently rolling those long putts up inside the 2 foot circle is my focus area.

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I'm nowhere near these levels yet, but I also want to thank you all for the advice given.  Lots of wise words.  Makes me feel like it's all very attainable.

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9 hours ago, Syks7 said:
  • When you went from mid to single digits was it like an 'aha' moment where everything just clicked and you had a breakthrough or was it a slow and steady improvement over time? 
  • What's a realistic timeline to go from my current 14.5 to a 9.9 if I'm playing 1-2 times a week and practicing at least once a week as well.  (I'm also finally going to get some lessons in the next couple months)
  • I've been hammering away at getting a better short game and learning course management.  Is there anything else I should specifically focus on?
  • What were some of the things that specifically helped you improve your game?
  • Are there some metrics that I should be aiming for in regards to GIR, FIR, putts?
  • Is there anything else you think would be helpful to me?

No aha moments it was gradual over time. But we all went through that stage where one part of your game took a break. Drive, irons, chipping, putting. The aha is when they all show up to play on the same day.

Realistically you can achieve that goal in a season or two. Lessons are key to tweak the things that need to be tweaked.. Don't  rebuild....

The short game is critical. Spend the most time there. 20 yards and in. If you can chip, pitch and get out of the sand consistantly to within 5 feet or so you will be well on your way. Work on your 8 foot and in putts.

Don't compound errors.  Smart play is the safe play. Learn your distances with each club. Practice with a purpose. I play a few holes on the range when I go. Do a mental hole say 400 yards. Hit your driver to a target direction. Deduct the distance you hit from 400. Find a marker or flag on the range that distance and hit to it. If you miss short, long, left or right then chip that distance.  Just remember these are range balls. You are working on directional control. Banging balls serves no purpose.

On your short game, when you get to the point where you miss a green and are confident you can get up and down. You will be where you need to be to be a mid single digit player.

Good luck on your journey. 

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17 hours ago, Syks7 said:

 

  • When you went from mid to single digits was it like an 'aha' moment where everything just clicked and you had a breakthrough or was it a slow and steady improvement over time?
  • What's a realistic timeline to go from my current 14.5 to a 9.9 if I'm playing 1-2 times a week and practicing at least once a week as well.  (I'm also finally going to get some lessons in the next couple months)
  • I've been hammering away at getting a better short game and learning course management.  Is there anything else I should specifically focus on?
  • What were some of the things that specifically helped you improve your game?
  • Are there some metrics that I should be aiming for in regards to GIR, FIR, putts?
  • Is there anything else you think would be helpful to me?

Would second a lot of the sentiments of others on here. Definitely realistic to get to single figures with how much you intend to play. I quit contact sports two years ago and took up golf more seriously - went from 18 to single figures in less than 6 months.

 

Couple of things I would add:

A piece of advice that really helped me was to realise that every single-figure handicapper has at least one skill in golf that's a real strength, and focusing solely on your weaknesses can lead to real frustration and disappointment with your game. Playing to your strengths can be very valuable. My strength is off the tee for example - it allows me to attack basically every par 5 and shorter par 4s. If I let a few games where my approach play is underwhelming get to me, it can throw off my strength too. Not to say you shouldn't work on weaknesses, but avoiding intense focus on only negatives is counterproductive.

 

Be careful of what metrics you use as they might not give you an accurate representation. Examples: fairways hit where missing the fairway by 1 foot counts the same as hitting it deep into the forest, and number of putts where you could be chipping it close or not counting using the putter from just off the green. I quite like this approach to assessing driving accuracy, but strokes gained analytics are highly useful analysis tools for all parts of your game (depending on what you have access to or the lengths your willing to go to get that analysis. https://bit.ly/3zwSSQn

 

With the lessons, you aren't going to get a perfect swing straight away. Always leave the lesson with 1-2 things you are going to work on for the next few weeks, and how to check you're doing those properly. Sometimes with swing changes your results regress initially, but sticking with them leads to long-term gains.

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:cobra-small:            Cobra F9 9.5° (Hzrdus Yellow X)

:srixon-small:                     H85 16° and 19° (Hzrdus Black 85 6.0)

:mizuno-small:                    MP20 MMC 4-PW (KBS $ Taper 120S)

:mizuno-small:                    T20 51°, 8° (KBS $ Taper 120S)

:mizuno-small:                    T20 55°, 9° (KBS $ Taper 120S)

:mizuno-small:                    T20 59°, 9° (KBS $ Taper 120S)

:scotty-small:                          Phantom X 5.5 34"

:srixon-small:                     ZStar XV

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13 hours ago, DPattGolf said:

If I was going to make 1 suggestion it would be to focus your putting practice around putts ~8 feet and in & ~25 feet and longer. The idea is that your working on improving your pace control with the 25+ footers and improving your face control with the 8 feet and closer putts

This is what got me down those last few strokes (2-5 a round it feels like). Making 6 to 10 foot par putts can be round savers. I would add work a lot on start line. I use a gate drill with a few tees a little more than a ball width apart  and a foot in front of the ball and putt through them to a tee about a foot beyond that. I try to hit the target tee while missing the gate tees 10 times in a row before I start putting. Then, I know my start line is good. 

In putting, if my start line is always good,  and my speed control is good, it just comes down to read. I have eliminated 2 of 3 variables. 

Avoiding big numbers is huge. I am still struggling with that. If you look at my handicap card, I am shooting between 73 and 81 for my last 20 scores. When I shoot 78 to 81, always penalty strokes and doubles in there. Usually, it is a tee shot or two that is poorly planned or executed. 

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Titleist TSI3 8°, Xcaliber Avalon 6 tour stiff, tipped 1", D3 surefit and H2, D5 SW, 45 3/8", PING G425 LST 3 wood, set at 13° Xcaliber Avalon 6 tour stiff, tipped 1 1/2" 43 1/2", D4, Maltby KE4 FDI 19° (bent to 17°)Modus 120S 3 iron shaft, D4,Snake Eyes quick strike tour 18° hybrid, Xcaliber T6* TS untipped (soft stepped)

Maltby KE4 tour hybrid, 22°, kuro kage black shaft X 

Maltby TS-1 irons, Modus 120X soft stepped once, D4, 2° flat, 4-PW

Maltby TSW wedges,  DG X100 Sensicore,  50°, 54°, 58°, 2° flat

Ping TR series Anser 5, 33", 2° flat, 1.5° strong

Tp5x pix

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Did sort of have an ah ha moment when I had taken multiple lessons and then practiced for about 6 months when swing got much better and gained distance.  This was many years ago and got me hooked on the game.  In order to get better, believe you need to focus on where you are truly gaining strokes in a round.  Putting is absolute key as can go from 3 putts to more consistent 1 putt from say 4-7 feet, had round this morning where 3 putted tice. Next place to look is driving,  how many times a round do you hit out of bounds or into hazards?  These strokes really add up.  A consistent, long, and in fairway or short rough drive might be the hardest shot in golf.  Then there are others...

To get better swing take lessons that give you videos to see where you need to change, to putt better practice with drills on carpet in house and at course.    

                                 

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All Fitted-- Driver - 2017 Callaway Epic Subzero 10.5d (same as Kevin Na), 3 Wood -2017 Epic Subzero 15d, 3 Hybrid Mavrik, X-forged 4-PW, Wedges Callaway 4 52-56-60, Odyssey Toulon Chicago     

 

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