Take The 3-Club Challenge

3 golf clubs

Are you brave enough to take the 3-club challenge? (photo by Yuki Shimazu / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sometimes you just need a change. Maybe your game’s in a funk – or at least it’s smelling funkier than usual. Perhaps you feel like your last few scores were more wretched than the typical hack-job rounds you normally piece together.

Well, don’t let it get you down. Remember, golf is meant to be fun, so why not start having some? What you need is to change your perspective. But doing that takes more than just forgetting about the high number on your scorecard – it takes reacquainting yourself with the game of golf. But how?

This is where it gets interesting and fun all at the same time: All you need to do is remove some clubs from your bag. And by “some” I mean all but three of them (and keep your putter too). That’s right – take them out before you get to the first tee – just leave them in your trunk.

I call it the “3-Club Challenge” and the object is to play the entire round of golf with only three clubs and a putter. Sound ridiculous? Don’t knock it until you try it. I’ve done this a few times – typically when my previous few rounds have been exceptionally poor – and I have to tell you, it’s reinvigorating!

Now the trick is to choose your clubs wisely. For me, that means my 20-degree hybrid; an 8-iron; and my pitching wedge. The hybrid will see double-duty – both off the tee (I hit about 215 with that club) and out of the fairway. The 8 is my club from 150 yards and the wedge is good from 125 and in (and all will be three-quarter-, half- and quarter-swung at some point during the round too). While those are my three clubs, you’re free to select any three you’d like or feel comfortable with – just as long as you don’t have more than three clubs and a putter in your bag.

Limiting your club selection in this way forces you to simplify the game. It makes you slow down and think hard about each shot. You limit risky shots because you have none to play – every stroke must be carefully thought out. Instead of griping and ripping it, you aim for the 150- or 200-yard marker in the fairway. Instead of going for the green, you pick a spot to lay-up and pitch on.

The first time I took the 3-Club Challenge, I was amazed – not just at how much I strategized for each hole, but also how my results weren’t really that bad! Every time I give the challenge a whirl, I end up shooting pretty close to my average – or at least much better than my previous few terrible rounds with all my clubs. By the next time out, I’m back on track – playing my regular game of poor (but not wretched) golf.

Ready to give it a shot? Get your golf buddies in on it too and maybe even make a little wager on the round.

A word to the wise: I wouldn’t recommend taking the 3-Club Challenge on an unfamiliar course – you don’t want to handicap yourself too much. But on a course you know, this can be all that’s needed to right the ship.

And if you do take the challenge (or already play some form of it), I would love to know your results by leaving a comment!


  1. That’s one of my tournaments of the year, you know? :)
    It is called “3 1 Tournament” and you can read it here: http://mywebshot.blogspot.pt/2013/03/torneio-31-o-torneio-do-nao-e-pior-que.html
    It is a very challenging game! And you have to choose the clubs very wisely!! And This year i didn’t…

    Have a nice week!


    • Wow Mariana – I guess you didn’t try to remedy your poor play by taking the 3-club challenge the next time out! By the way, LOVE the ball retriever in your bag!

  2. Great post Greg,

    Yes I’ve never tried the 3 club challenge but have heard it has many great benefits. Manly you get forced to play different types of shots out of your comfort zone. It’s really good for the mental side of your golf game, you have to think your way around the golf course a lot more.

  3. No question, a good golfer with three clubs can beat an inferior golfer with a full golf bag any day of the week. Clothes may make the man but clubs do not make the golfer. Touch does.

  4. This is a great Idea! I have thought about doing this many times, but have lacked the courage to try. Leaving some clubs behind before a round, is difficult to stomach for some of us extremely competitive golfers. Although, I can see how this would force me to improve on different types of shots with a club that I might not use otherwise. Another way to do this would be to leave your favorite (most used) clubs out of your bag. Mine would be my 7 iron, 3 wood and my 60 degree wedge. This would definitely force me to get creative on my home course.

    • Hey Dustin – is the 60-degree versatile enough? I can always open the face of my pitching wedge to flop one on the green, but can you close the face of a 60-degree to pitch (though I guess you can pitch with the 7)? Let me know how it works out!

      • Greg – I would definitely use a 7 iron for pitching, I live in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle area) and as you can imagine with all the rain we get, the greens are slow and wet. So pitching with my 7 iron would keep the ball down with less backspin (punch and run it). As for the 60-degree, I was talking about leaving it out of my bag. Since I tend to use it to much. Especially in the wet conditions I often play in. I was suggesting that we as golfers should leave our most use clubs (favorite) out of the bag. Forcing us to use clubs we might not otherwise.

  5. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says:

    I limit my wedges to PW, GW and LW…the sand at our course is too-hard and too-dirty for a true SW’s bounce. And I’m getting real tempted to pull the LW as too-much loft.

    At our course, I’d probably use 5W, 5i and PW (plus putter) for a 3+1 competition. Easier to roll here than to fly the ball.

  6. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says:

    Sadly the 5i is only good for about 150-yds…but the ball-flight is straight as an arrow’s. The same is true of my 5w to 170-yds, though that can’t be said about my driver.

    I think I have a shaft and/or shaft-grip problem. The custom stiff-shafted 10.5 driver I had made several years ago tends to low-draw or occasionally duck hook. I bought a used reg-shafted 10.5 driver and it now tends to fade or slice—which I never had a problem with before. Neither of them produces much altitude off the tee. I suspect one is too-stiff and the other too-flexible. Or the std.diameter grip on the newer reg-driver is too-small since all my other clubs are mid-sized or oversized gripped.

    I don’t think it’s swing-mechanics since the fairways fly nice and straight. I suspect both drivers are either incorrectly gripped, wrong swing-weights…or more likely way-off from the shaft-frequencies of the reg.-shafted fairways and irons. Without elaborate technical-testing though there’s no-way to compare the relative frequencies of my clubs in the absence of a local competent club-fitter. Otherwise I would have the custom driver rebuilt with matching shaft frequency, swing-wt. and grips.

    Offering gripping—and re-shafting from a catalog—does NOT make one a club-fitter. (Yes, I mean you Golf Galaxy and Golfsmith…)

  7. I love this game! We use to play it in high school to work on creativity and to prove that playing it “safe” can yield decent scores. I play this a few times a year when I start getting “bored” with a course or frustrated with my game. I even do it in league sometimes if my competitors aren’t that in to golf (usually occurs towards the end of the season). We carry very similar clubs! I carry my 3 hybrid (210), 8I (150), and my UW or SW (110 or 100 max).

    Have any other games?

    • Slade, I like that combo – You may have convinced me to try my 56 degree wedge instead of the pitching (48 degrees) next time I take the challenge. I hit my 56 degree about 100 yards and it may prove more versatile for me. Thanks!

  8. 19 hybrid, 7 iron & 52 wedge…I can even putt with the hybrid. I play much more consistent punch hybrids to 180 than I do hitting a full 5 iron. 7 gets me to 165 if I kill it, and 52 for the less than 100, chipping and sand. Throw 3 balls in my pocket, and I don’t even need a bag or a cart!! Welcome to a 3 hour round of golf (and some good cardio)!

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