Which Clubs Would You Choose For a Three-Club Challenge?

In our three-club challenge you have to select only three clubs to take out on to the course to play your round with. Do you put the putter in?

three-club challenge
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Long-standing Golf Monthly contributors Fergus Bisset and Jeremy Ellwood like a good golf debate, such as which is better links golf or parkland or is Stableford superior to medal play. So we set them a poser – which clubs would you select for a three-club competition? To make matters more interesting, we stressed that they would be allowed three clubs only – our three-club challenge was exactly that - it wasn’t one of those three-clubs-plus-a-putter competitions.

Also they had to make their selections ‘course- blind’ so no tailoring their choices to a specific layout. We did this in the firm expectation that they would not agree. They did not disappoint us. First up was Fergus Bisset, who selected his 3-iron, 7-iron and a 54-degree wedge.

3-iron, 7-iron, 54-degree wedge, says Fergus Bisset

You should always look play to your strengths, and in my case, putting isn’t one of them. I could miss putts with the most expensive blade on the market. So I am not going to waste a pick on the flat stick. 

So when it comes to putting, this will leave me with two choices. With a bit of practice beforehand, the blade of the 54-degree will produce a good roll. It’s a shot many people use from just off the putting surface anyway. Alternatively, a 3-iron works pretty effectively on the greens too.

From the tee, a well-struck 3-iron will provide decent distance as well as reliable accuracy. If my driver is playing up, I often go to the 3-iron to try and find some fairways. It’s also a versatile weapon. You can punch it into the wind, let it fly with the breeze behind, play a low runner, or a cut-up floater.

With a little manipulation, a 3-iron can do all sorts of things… Seve famously used to demonstrate greenside bunker shots with his. OK, OK, but it’s still good for a punch shot!

The 7-iron is also a club that can produce a selection of useful shots. From mid-length approaches to bunts around the green, it’s probably the most used iron in my bag so it would be churlish to leave it out. 

Then the 54-degree wedge for emergencies. If you find the thick stuff, you need an exit strategy. If you have to escape, or cover, a greenside bunker you need to produce some altitude. Without a fairly lofted wedge, there are more than a few situations in which you could find yourself stymied. There we are; all bases covered… Or just about.

Hybrid, 9-iron, putter, says Jeremy Ellwood

I am definitely including my putter. Yes, I could putt with the leading edge of a wedge or use a 3-iron or hybrid, but as Fergus says, you should play to your strengths.

The putter has historically been far and away the best club in my bag, and I would therefore prefer not to go into any golf battle without what I consider to be my number one asset as I would feel that the shots I might gain by still putting with a trusted friend would outweigh the dropped shots elsewhere through not having the right club for the shot in hand.

I would then go for a 9-iron, which, in addition to full shots of 120-140 yards, would also be a good chipping club - I use it quite often on longer chips already. With a little manipulation of the face, it could also be used on all but those most up-the-face bunker shots. For my distance club, I would select my hybrid, which has quite a strong loft of 17˚. This would serve three purposes:

1) It would allow me to get it out there 200 yards or so off the tee;

2) It would offer greater playability from the rough than a long iron thanks to its more forgiving clubhead design and sole; and

3) it could be a handy alternative for chip shots when there are no obstacles to go over.

Just so long as I can get on to the green in the same number of shots as Fergus, I believe I would win our three-club challenge. My putter will win it.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?