Before we dig in, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
If you’re not familiar with the term, gapping refers to the process of calibrating the yardage differences between each club in your bag. How far do you hit a given club and how far is that from the next one—that sort of thing. The conventional wisdom is that you should have equal or near-equal gaps between all (or at least most) of your clubs.
It’s good advice and this guide should help you put it to good use.
How much distance should I have between clubs?
We’re painting with broad strokes here but the yardage distance between clubs, called the “gap”, should be between 10 and 15 yards. One degree of loft typically works out to about three yards of carry distance so, if you have four degrees of loft between clubs, a 12-yard gap is a solid target.
With that said, the gap doesn’t need to be exactly 12 yards throughout the bag. There are situations where it can make sense to widen some gaps, shrink others or even ignore them. More on that below.
What do I need to gap my clubs?
Gapping is a relatively simple and straightforward process. It’s 2022, so we’d strongly recommend using a launch monitor. The majority of launch monitor platforms, including Foresight/Bushnell, offer a gapping tool as part of their software package. These software tools streamline the process a bit but they’re not absolutely necessary.
I also don’t want you to think you can’t gap your clubs without a high-end launch monitor. Since gapping is almost entirely about carry distance, most small portable units like Rapsodo or Mevo can get the job done as well.
Our standard caveat applies. Since the objective of gapping is to understand your real distances, our advice is to use the ball you typically play or at least one like it. This isn’t the time for breaking out the range balls. Those are great for getting loose or working on swing changes but when the numbers matter, use the same ball you’d use on the course.
How do I gap my clubs?
If your launch monitor’s software package has a gapping tool, it will guide you through the process. If you don’t have gapping software at your disposal—good news: the process is still really simple.
Start with the longest club in your bag that isn’t a driver and hit three to five good shots. This isn’t an exercise where we’re seeking to understand forgiveness so you’ll want to throw out anything that isn’t well struck. We’re not looking for perfection here but we do want something close to a handful of good shots with each club.
Keep in mind that, for gapping purposes, we don’t want to be at the mercy of ground conditions or roll algorithms. The number we want is the carry distance not the total.
Once you’ve got your good shots, make note of the average and move to the next club.
Lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve made it through the bag.
I’ve got my yardages, now what?
Now that you know how far you hit each of your clubs, it’s time to analyze the data and see where adjustments are necessary.
As noted, 12 yards is a good number but unless you’re headed for the Tour, I wouldn’t obsess over it. A little more or a little less is OK. You’re human so don’t expect perfection.
Keep in mind that most golfers will be less consistent with longer clubs and that typically means more variation and ultimately shorter than ideal distances. There’s also a case to be made for longer gaps at the long end of the bag. If you’re 15 yards between fairways and hybrids and only 10 to 12 between irons, that’s fine.
What you really want to avoid is gaps that are too narrow anywhere in the bag.
Cool … What do “too narrow” gaps look like?
The Arccos data we’ve seen suggests most golfers have at least one gapping issue. While it’s not uncommon to see solid gaps through most of the bag, it’s equally common to find at least one gapping issue. Often the bad gap occurs in the transition from fairway irons to hybrids. That said, golfers—particularly slower swing-speed golfers—will often have a gapping issue between their 5- and 6-iron.
Let me give you a couple of examples from my own bag and from some of our testing.
A few years ago, I gapped my clubs and found the actual distance between my 5-wood and 4-hybrid was only about six yards. If you had asked me, I would have told you the gap was 15. In reality, it, was less than half of that.
Some of you may remember our ONE Length iron testing from a few years ago. One of our testers had just a four-yard gap—between his 5- and 7-irons!
That’s an extreme example but it speaks to the idea that while there can be benefits in fine-tuning your bag, the primary objective of the gapping process should be to find and eliminate big problems.
I’ve reviewed my yardage gaps, now what?
You’ve reviewed the data and found no issues. Congrats, we’re done here.
Chances are you’ve reviewed your data and we’re most definitely not done here. If you’ve found an issue, you probably want to know what you can do about it.
When it comes to resolving gapping issues, you’ve got three basic options: tune it, bend it or replace it.
Yeah, I know. Bending probably qualifies as tuning but the idea is to differentiate between problems you can address with a wrench and those that need a bending machine.
Fairway woods and hybrids, especially in the transition to long irons, are notorious for creating gapping issues. Fortunately, most of the time those problems can be mitigated with a wrench.
While there can be exceptions, most of the time adding loft will shave a little distance while decreasing loft will result in a distance bump.
Let’s save the trajectory discussion for another day. If you have weights to play with, very often moving weights forward will increase distance while moving them back can trim a couple of yards.
Having said that, I’d be remiss not to point out that your gaps aren’t reflected on the scorecard so hitting a perfect number on paper is seldom worth a playability trade-off.
In the case of my gapping issue, I resolved it by tuning at both ends. I took about a degree off the fairway wood and added a degree to the hybrid.
While making your adjustments, be aware of our golden rule of testing: everything affects everything else. As you’ve probably figured out, widening the gap with one club may cause it to narrow with another.
The majority of gapping issues with irons and wedges can be solved with a bending machine. Unless you’re playing with RocketBallz, your lofts will likely move with everyday use. The gapping process helps to identify when it’s time to bend them back or bend them to where they need to be. If you need a two- to three-yard adjustment, a one-degree change in loft should get you there.
One of the side benefits of the gapping process is that it can point to areas where you’ve got the wrong club for the job. If you’ve got a gapping issue between your 4- and 5-iron, you might be better off with a hybrid or perhaps a more forgiving 4-iron.
Again: You have options and the gapping process can provide a solid reminder of that.
Where don’t gaps matter?
I’m sure I won’t find universal agreement here but there are a couple of spots in the bag where I believe gaps don’t matter.
If you tend to use your 3-wood as your hit it as far as I possibly can club then I wouldn’t sweat the gap between it and your 5-wood. My thinking is that you only need to worry about the clubs that fall between where the serious scoring starts and the “full swings” end.
With that in mind, for those of you who carry both a sand and a lob wedge, I wouldn’t overthink the gap between those two, either. Again, a perfect gap looks good on paper but how often are you hitting full shots with your lob wedge?
If the answer is often, then the gap matters. If, like me, your answer is hardly ever (or never), then don’t worry about it.
It’s not that I don’t use my lob wedge a lot. I probably use it more than I should, but 99.99 percent of the time, it’s on some partial shot or out of a bunker. Instead of getting wrapped up in a 12-yard gap, I prefer a little extra loft so I jump from a 54-degree sand wedge to a 60-degree lob wedge.
Feel free to make a similar jump.
It’s nothing I’d advocate for but if you wanted to jump from a 54-degree sand wedge to a 64-degree lob wedge, that’s fine from gapping perspective.
How often should I gap my clubs?
I recommend gapping your clubs at least once per season. Certainly, any time you have lofts adjusted, it’s worth going through the gapping process help validate your tune-up.
I’d also recommend checking gaps anytime something new goes into the bag. That new hybrid may have given you five more yards but it also means you’ve just narrowed a gap. Again, everything affects everything else.
I just bought new clubs, when should I check my gaps?
In a perfect world, everything would be on spec and gaps would be perfect. That’s not always the case. A degree on either side (or both) and your gaps may be off—and that’s before we start talking about shaft tolerances or the fact that while manufacturers build to a consistent spec, our delivery sometimes changes between clubs.
While I’m gapping my clubs, is there anything else I should think about?
With gapping, the focus is on distance or, more accurately, the distance between clubs but it’s worth taking a moment to glance at a few other numbers.
As always, you’ll want to make sure, to the extent possible, that your launch and spin numbers are within a reasonable window for your ball speed. Titleist’s fitting manuals are an excellent resource for that.
You’ll also want to check your descent angles, an often overlooked element of clubfitting and performance.
With hybrids and long irons, optimal descent angles are typically between 40 and 50 degrees. With mid irons, you’re looking for 45 to 55 degrees. If your decent angles are too shallow, it can be an indication that you need to ditch your long irons for hybrids or transition to weaker-lofted irons or softer shafts.
Get out and get gapping
Hopefully, we’ve given you everything you need to gap your bag, identify problems and find solutions.
Happy gapping. Be sure to let us know what you found with your bag.
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