How to Gap Your Golf Bag
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How to Gap Your Golf Bag

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How to Gap Your Golf Bag

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.

It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting downrange, into a screen or into a net although this is a case where I’d recommend normalizing the data if you’re hitting on a Trackman or Flightscope.

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.

Tune it

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.

Bend it

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.

Replace it

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?

Immediately.

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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Tony Covey

Tony Covey

Tony Covey

Tony is the Editor of MyGolfSpy where his job is to bring fresh and innovative content to the site. In addition to his editorial responsibilities, he was instrumental in developing MyGolfSpy's data-driven testing methodologies and continues to sift through our data to find the insights that can help improve your game. Tony believes that golfers deserve to know what's real and what's not, and that means MyGolfSpy's equipment coverage must extend beyond the so-called facts as dictated by the same companies that created them. Most of all Tony believes in performance over hype and #PowerToThePlayer.

Tony Covey

Tony Covey

Tony Covey

Tony Covey

Tony Covey





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      Hank Vereschzagin

      2 days ago

      Doesn’t length of shaft effect gapping issues. Article mentioned one degree as being three yards. If I had an 8 and 9 iron same length and just four degrees between the heads, would it still be 10-12 bump? A standard 8 should go about two miles an hour faster than the length based on length which would account for about 5 yards of carry. I always thought a degree was about a yard.

      Reply

      Armando

      2 years ago

      What is the issue with the RocketBallz lofts?, I am still using this as my iron today.

      Reply

      Tony Covey

      2 years ago

      Kind of a joke. RockeBallz were notorious for being difficult (basically impossible) to bend. And if you were able to bend them, by the next day, they had probably moved back to where they were before.

      Reply

      Gticlay

      2 years ago

      I was wondering the same thing. Cracked the 3 iron and 5 irons in my set. There was something extra hard (and brittle?) about those dang things.

      Julian

      2 years ago

      Good article. It shows the fallacy about which brand goes farther. If your 7 is 10yds less than another brand of club, use a 6,thats why we carry multiple clubs. There is no industry standard for the loft of a club. Learn what your clubs carry and enjoy. I would like for you to list the loft of the various clubs you test. I’m sure you will find the longer clubs have stronger lofts. If the clubs are spaced properly, it doesn’t matter the distance of a club, you pick the one to fit the distance you need.

      Reply

      Tim Irvine

      2 years ago

      My full bag usually holds Driver, 13 degree 3 wood, 21 degree utility, 4-Pitch (48), gap wedge (52),, and a sand wedge (56). The gaps work for me, but I would love a follow-up article on gaps when putting together 6-8 clubs for walking.

      Reply

      ray

      6 months ago

      use either the even numbered clubs or odd, works for me

      Reply

      Joey5Picks

      2 years ago

      Off mats, the spin rate off an iron tends to be low, so won’t that show a longer-than-typical carry distance? I often see my irons carry 1 club longer indoor off mats using Trackman 4 with the foil dots on the ball to get real, not estimated, spin numbers. I get outside and off grass, even off a tee, carry distances are less.

      Reply

      Justin

      2 years ago

      Yea- but the distance is relative. You can still gap your clubs indoor because all of them would have the same increase in distance. If you want to see how far you really carry your clubs on course, hitting off grass is important. If you wanna see the difference in distance between clubs, the only important thing is to make sure the surface is the same for all shots

      Reply

      Omar A

      2 years ago

      I agree. My carry distance are further on trackman hitting off the mats but on the golf course everything is 1 club short.

      Reply

      WYBob

      2 years ago

      Excellent article and great advice on gapping. The one question I have after reading it is why utilize a launch monitor (i.e. GC Quad) instead of a product like Arccos? Arccos provides automatic shot tracking and records the “on-course” performance of each club. And it does so with the ball you play with. Additionally, Arccos cost several hundred dollars versus multiple thousand dollars for a truly accurate launch monitor. The reason for the question is that I am contemplating buying one or the other for exactly the reasons you provide in the article. .

      Reply

      Dylan

      2 years ago

      Arccos isn’t a launch monitor. The tech provides great ‘total’ distances but absolutely zero carry numbers.

      Reply

      Kevin Garvey

      2 years ago

      Gapping is overrated. Sure you want your irons to be spaced out, but beyond that golf is about hitting shots. Tony tried to unveil the issues with gapping a max distance club or wedges, but ultimately bit into the narrative.

      Truth is, its perfectly fine to have a driving iron, hybrid, and/or 5 wood with overlapping yardages., if they help you score your best. One may be better off the tee, one better from a bad lie and maybe you need those shots in your bag. Do I really need to resolve my 35 yard gap from driver to 4 wood? Especially if they player has strike issues with a strong 3 wood. Stop gapping your 3 best hits out of 10, and look at your real swing. You hit the 4 wood well from the deck, you cant hit the 13* 3 wood, so put the 4 wood in the bag and don’t mind the gap.

      Who cares what your full swing wedge gaps are? I’d recommend charting 3/4 and 1./2 swing distances and purposefully creating overlap so that you can play a 75 yard shot to a front pin right over a bunker and 75 yard shot to a back pin on a massive tier with different flights and different spin characteristics. What does a perfect 12 yard gap do for you when you are in a bunker, or are 3 yards off the green and short sided? You need the proper loft, bounce, grind to execute those shots.

      Reply

      Brandon

      2 years ago

      I would tend to agree with this. I can’t hit a 52 degree wedge to save my life, so I just use a 3/4 pitching wedge for 120 yard shots. Took me forever to get that through my head. Since I only carry 2 wedges above pw, I carry a 3 hybrid and a driving iron, both 19 degrees and both go about 230-240. Hybrid is way better off the deck, driving iron is way better off the tee. I need both those shots more than a chunked or thinned gap wedge.

      Reply

      Richard S

      2 years ago

      With Distance Irons and +2 to -2 adjustablity at the top of the bag I can’t see how this is a problem any longer. Get a lesson or two on that club that’s the problem and I’m sure it’s solved… Good Golf Everyone!!! Great article Tony

      Reply

      LOWEBOY

      2 years ago

      My gaps are 4* from 3i to PW, then 5* from there.

      Reply

      Just Saying

      2 years ago

      Those aren’t gaps. Those are lofts. Gaps are the distance between how far you generally hit each club. Not the difference in lofts. Many times somebody carries a 5, 6 and 7 iron with 4 or even 5 degree differences in lofts between them, but hits them all the same distance. That’s the point of the article.

      Reply

      Stosh

      2 years ago

      Nice article. And can I saw that the Titleist fitting manual is a great resource for anyone.

      Reply

      Chris Miller

      2 years ago

      Question I have rocket ball. You mention it as an exception . ?? What up with ROcket Balz.

      Reply

      Joe Vincent

      2 years ago

      Where can I get those blue and grey golf pride grips in that picture? They are not on the golf pride website at all.

      Reply

      RC

      2 years ago

      The advice in this article that really resonates with me is that, no matter what, you need to know your CARRY distance. Once you know that, you can judge factors like wind and cold/warm air, accordingly.

      Reply

      Peter Hedrick

      2 years ago

      Why do you go from the longest club to the shortest club when you are gapping?

      Reply

      bob

      2 years ago

      I solved my gapping problem by carrying more clubs. Every club in my 28 club bag has a 1 or 2 degree difference so I can dial in my yardages down to a 3 yard gap.

      Unfortunately, the overbearing weight of my bag has led to back problems and I am now shooting the worst scores of my life.

      Reply

      HAC

      2 years ago

      Use a cart.

      Reply

      Tom

      2 years ago

      Great article on gapping Tony! Thanks for putting this out. Very helpful!
      You guys at MyGolfSpy do a great job!! Appreciate the info!

      Reply

      Nocklaus

      2 years ago

      I’m always working on my bag/gapping.. My gps watch tells me how far my clubs go when I hit into the green. Works fine for me.
      Driver, 4 wood, 6 wood, 3 hybrid, 4 hybrid, 4-8 iron, pw, 52* and 58*.

      Reply

      Danny J

      2 years ago

      Probably the best article you guys have written. I am lucky in that I have access to Trackman. I am a member of an indoor club with hitting bays and Trackman as well as the others systems. Great article!!!
      Wondering where I am talking about???
      Golfinity baby!!!!

      Reply

      Bob

      2 years ago

      Most golfers believe a 7 iron goes 150 yards. Pitching wedge 120 yards.
      Their ego will not admit to lesser yardage. Knowing your actual yardage and proper gapping of their clubs will reduce their scores.

      Reply

      Tyler Erickson

      2 years ago

      I’ve seen lots of conflicting information about bending cast irons. I have the 5-G in the Mizuno JPX921 Hot Metal, 10-12 yard gaps between most clubs but the set GW is much shorter (20 yards) than the PW. Is it safe to bend the GW or better to find another wedge that gaps better?

      Reply

      Randy

      2 years ago

      I do not believe you can safely bend cast clubs, however check with the manufacturer to find out. Go to a local pro and ask him (when he is not busy) to check lofts on your irons. It is possible that one club is way off, and he will tweak it back to oe specs. However the pro may not know the original specs on your clubs (you should have that information in hand when go to see him, it is available on most manufacturers web sites but it sometimes requires digging to find it on older clubs)

      Reply

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