Contributed by Joel Zuckerman
You can go to any Target or Wal-Mart and pick up a six-or-eight club “starter set” for a couple of hundred bucks. Hilton Head’s Denny Harmon plays with a de facto starter set himself, belying the fact he’s been an avid golfer for fifty-odd years!
Harmon, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of playing about a half-dozen times, is what I call a minimalist golfer. Like this correspondent, he’s a traditionalist, in that he always walks and carries his bag. But there’s one major difference in our respective styles.
While I lug around 14 clubs (and am often left pining for a 15th when I get in certain dicey situations) Harmon carries about nine. Over the last several years he has lightened his load by shedding club after club from his carry bag, and has learned to manipulate the remaining implements with enough effectiveness to maintain a single digit handicap. Add in the fact that at age 74 he can still hammer tee shots in excess of 250 yards, it’s easy to see that in comparison to most any other golf-loving, Lowcountry-living retiree, a guy like Harmon appears about as often as a Hilton Head hailstorm.
Denny has been running a Friday golf group at Sea Pines Country Club for about ten years, the group generally ranging from 16 to 30 players. He has long preferred to walk when he plays, claiming, “It saves me time on the treadmill afterwards.” Vinny Ahooja joined the group about five years ago, and was an immediate standout. Not only because his 3 or 4 handicap made him one of the best ‘sticks’ in the group, but also because he carried far fewer sticks that the others.
“Vinny really embraced the “walk in the park” concept of golf,” explains Denny, a former publishing executive who moved to Hilton Head in 1993. “Not only did he carry fewer clubs, but he also only had a handful of balls and a single glove. He just wanted to keep his bag as light as he could, and his bag weighed next to nothing.”
It was a challenge in the form of a question. “Why are you lugging all those clubs around?” 50-something Vinny did the asking, and the more Denny Harmon saw his new buddy’s ability to manipulate clubs, the more he asked himself the same question. “Vinny proved to me that a 7-iron can be ‘hooded,’ or de-lofted, so it acts like a 6-iron. Or you can choke down a bit, open the face, and replicate an 8-iron. It didn’t happen right away, or all at once, but eventually I began to take clubs out of my bag also.”
It took a dozen-or-so rounds in Vinny’s company before he was ready to part ways with previously “indispensable” clubs, but Denny went on a “golf bag diet” of his own. “I started by taking out three clubs, and playing with 11. Now I’m down to eight or nine.” His mentor and role model is even more ascetic. “Vinny usually plays with just seven clubs,” explains Denny. “A driver and a hybrid for woods, though sometimes he exchanges the driver for 3-wood. Then a 4, 6, and 8 iron, a sand wedge and putter. Some days he substitutes his 5, 7 and 9 irons for the even-numbered irons.”
Denny isn’t quite as Spartan. He likes to have a full complement of short irons, and consequently plays with a driver, hybrid, 5, 7 and 9 irons, then pitching and sand wedges, and a putter.
“You can definitely play good golf with fewer clubs,” concludes Denny Harmon. Vinny proved it to me, and now there are a handful of additional guys in our group who are taking clubs out. Not as many as the two of us have eliminated, but there are four or five other guys we play with who now only have 11 or 12 clubs left in the bag.”
Article courtesy of Joel Zuckerman
To read more articles by Joel or to check out his books, visit www.thevagabondgolfer.com