By Ken Mink, Editor
Thad Daber and Bubba Watson play in two different golf worlds, but they both share one outstanding golf achievement: They have both played a round of golf under par — using only one club.
The use of only one club to play an entire 18-hole round has become relatively popular in recent years, with Watson and Daber leading the way.
Several golf courses across America play local and regional one-club tournaments and until recent years there was even a National One-Club Play Association championship tournament.
Daber, was a 28-year-old professional golf club marketing manager from North Carolina, and had a one-handicap when he won the national one-club tournament at the Lochmere Golf Club in Cary, Ind., in 1987, setting a record two-under-par 70, still the Guinness world record for a one-club score on a regulation course. He won the national one-club championship four times.
Watson is perhaps the biggest proponent of using one club for an 18-hole practice round. His best score for such a round is one-under par 71 (he said he only used his driver for the full round). He said he has played many one-club rounds, using a variety of clubs.
Watson says he started playing one-club rounds as a teenager.
Hitting wedges off tees or drivers out of bunkers forces him to be creative, Watson said, adding that he tries to hit cuts and draws, both soft and hard, with each of his clubs.
But, he says he can’t get enough distance out of a wedge to score well in a one-club round, so he uses a 6-iron or 7-iron. He said he can reach the green on a 450-yard par-4 hole by hitting two 6-irons.
“I sometimes get bored with regular golf,” he told TV reporter Tim Mitchell.
Seve Ballesteros, who learned his swing hitting irons at night, and fellow legend Lee Trevino years ago teamed up to put on improvised one-club mini-tournaments before the British Open. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player have also lauded the idea of playing one-club practice rounds. Late PGA pro Jim Thorpe has shot in the 70s with a 7-iron.
“Playing with one club does a lot of great things,” Daber said after setting his record. “First, it makes you play defensively. You can’t get into trouble with your driver if you’re using a 6-iron. And it makes you manage your game. You have to play two, three shots ahead and ask, ‘What yardage do I want to leave myself to the green? It’s the most fun you can have on a golf course.”
Daber, now 59, lives in Hilton Head, S. C., and takes part in charitable golf demonstrations and tournaments all around the world. You can check out Daber’s tips on how to best play one-club rounds on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWsuUhiTv4E
“One Club” is a golf format that is occasionally used in tournaments but is more common as a game between golf buddies, or as a practice game for a single golfer.
One Club is a round of golf in which you play using only one USGA-approved non-adjustible golf club. That one club must also serve as your putter.
Using one club allows players to experiment with different ways of playing shots – opening up the blade, flighting balls up or down, hitting low stingers, etc.
Players can practice with different clubs and then choose their weapon (a club which gives you decent distance and loft for use out of bunkers and chipping/pitching). Five-irons and 6-irons are popular choices.
There are many benefits to playing with only one club. No caddie fees. Rounds last about three hours. No worry over club selection or carrying a heavy bag. And, it makes it simple for golfers who travel a lot: They only need to take one club with them.
CBS golf analyst Bobby Clampett, a veteran of one-club events, says it’s one of the best ways to find your feel, especially with the more modern hybrid clubs.
He told the media: “I’m old-school when it comes to shaping shots. You have to make the club do what you want. Practicing and playing with one club teaches you lots of shots. You can shut the clubface for a hook, open it for a high fade, hit it high, low. It makes you think strategy, where you want to place your next shot. It’s fun, and it pays dividends with your other clubs. Every golfer should try it.”
(Ken Mink is editor of The Travelling Adventurer Magazine and is also a writer for The Golf Travel Writers of America, where some of his work can be found at www.golftravelwriters.com