Each year players from around the USA gather in the Atlanta area for the annual One-Club Golf World Championship. Dating back to 1980, the 18-hole stroke-play event at Bridge Mill Athletic Club welcomes both professionals and amateurs.
"It's the most fun you can have on a course," says Thad Daber, a four-times winner who, in October 1987 at Lochmere Golf Club in North Carolina, shot a hugely impressive round of 70 using only a Titleist 6-iron to set the Guinness World Record for the lowest competitive round by a one-club golfer. More than 27 years later, no other one-club golfer has managed to go lower.
The advantages of playing with only one club are manifold: no headaches over club selection; rounds lasting three instead of four hours; no heavy bags to carry; no caddie fees and (the biggest benefit of all according to CBS golf analyst Bobby Clampett) it's one of the best ways to find your feel.
"I'm old-school when it comes to shaping shots,” says Clampett. “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."
Thad Daber agrees. "Playing with one club does a lot of great things. First, it makes you play defensively… 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 a different game.”
Seve Ballesteros grew up playing golf with just a 3-iron. Not having a selection of clubs, purpose-built to accommodate different on-course situations, improved his creativity and made him one of the game's most inventive players. In the 1970s and '80s, he would team up with fellow shot-making legend Lee Trevino for improvised one-club mini-tournaments before the British Open.
The so-called ‘big three’ – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player – all sing the praises of playing one-club practice rounds and Fred Couples passes range time by hitting full-swing, half-speed drivers 150 yards.