How many clubs in a golf bag?
When it comes to your golf bag setup, the rules of golf stipulate how many clubs you can carry.
The choice of clubs, however, is down to the individual golfer.
With a limit to the number of clubs you can carry, it’s important to choose wisely – picking the right clubs can make the difference to break 80, lower your handicap and more.
Today we’ll be offering our club recommendations to make sure that you have the right clubs in your bag that match your game.
But first, let’s start by looking at the golf rule book (somewhat abridged as the full rule is quite a mouthful!)
How many clubs in a golf bag? The fourth rule of golf
The fourth rule of golf deals with the player’s equipment.
For detailed requirements for clubs, balls, and other equipment, and the process for consultation and submission of equipment for conformity, see the Equipment Rules.
The most important rule when it comes to golf clubs is the following:
4.1 Clubs Section B, Limit of 14 Clubs; Sharing, Adding or Replacing Clubs During Round
(1) Limit of 14 Clubs. A player must not:
- Start a round with more than 14 clubs, or
- Have more than 14 clubs during the round.
They’re pretty simple rules to follow, but what’s the reasoning behind them? This we’ll explain next.
Golf Bag SetUP: Why 14 Clubs?
As with most rules that involve golf equipment, advancing technology was the reason for this rule.
For years players were content to go into their golf battles armed with a relatively slim array of hickory-shafted weapons – but that all changed when the steel shaft was universally approved for use in 1929.
With no limitations on clubs in a bag, golfers were torn. Should they stick with the hickory clubs they knew? Or would it be a grave mistake to turn down the opportunity of using potentially better equipment?
Related article: The Best Kids Golf Bags: 2022 Edition
Their solution to these dilemmas was to have a bag that incorporated both hickory and steel clubs, sending the number of sticks in the bag soaring.
Lawson Little was perhaps the most infamous offender, as the winner of the 1934 and 1935 U.S. and British Amateurs often had 30 clubs at his disposal.
A survey at the 1935 U.S. Open showed the average number of clubs in a contestant’s bag was 18. At this point, the USGA and R&A had seen enough.
Just as with today in which the governing bodies are fretting about the role of technology in the game, the rule-makers back then were afraid that all these clubs would make skill-less prominent.
Finally, in 1936 the USGA and R&A adopted the 14-club limit with it going into effect in 1938. It has been in effect since. Nobody knows how and why they arrived at the final number of 14 clubs.
The Modern-Day Golf Clubs
Until very modern times, golfers didn’t have too many decisions to make in selecting the 14 clubs they wanted in their bag, because there weren’t many options to pick from.
Over time the options expanded and modern-day golf clubs were born. Here’s the golf club evolution timeline:
The first new club to come along was the sand wedge developed by golf legend Gene Sarazen in 1932. One of only 5 golfers to have won all 4 golf Majors known as the Grand Slam – quite a pedigree!
Although the same club, it is remarkable that the universal move from Persimmon-headed woods to steel heads was only in the early 1980s, their pioneer manufacturer being Taylor Made.
Arguably it was as late as 1991 with the invention of Callaway’s Big Bertha Steelhead woods that Persimmon woods disappeared entirely from the bag.
Now we come to the Big 2 that have been the big game-changers for both professionals and amateur golfers. These are:
- Karsten Ping developed the first lob wedge as late as 1984, less than forty years ago, and soon after came the gap wedge.
- Even more unbelievably hybrid clubs only really came onto the market in the early 2000’s – just 20 years ago!
With the introduction of these Big 2, players now had real decisions to make when asking ‘what clubs should I have in my bag?’
What Clubs Should I have in my bag? 4 Factors
Before we talk specifics, there are four fundamentals to get right in terms of your golf bag setup:
1# Length of Clubs
2# Size of Grips
3# Lie of Clubs
4# Type of Golf Shaft
Are you serious about your golf? Then the best way to find out all these answers is a Club Fitting.
If you are a member of a golf club, many have this facility available. If not, then most big retail outlets and driving ranges do and if you go ahead and buy clubs, then the fitting fee is generally waived.
While you can just buy clubs off the shelf, using a club fitting is a worthwhile investment as they will make sure the clubs are right for your body shape and playing style.
Now we know the make-up of clubs. Next, it’s time to think about what you should put in your bag.
What Are My Options?
|PW||Don’t forget a Putter|
The above are the popular choices, but there are even more numbers available!
With 7 woods, 6 hybrids, 9 irons, 8 wedges you have 30 options that you have to whittle down to just 13 clubs (as everybody has a putter in their bag).
Related Article: Golf Wedges Explained: Which Should You Carry?
The three main factors when picking your clubs will be:
- the standard of your game
- the best parts of your game – woods, hybrids, irons, wedges
The third contributory factor in making that final decision is how often you use each particular club.
This third factor really comes into play if your final selections exceed 14 clubs and you have a decision to make on which club to drop.
Related Article: Parts of a Golf Club Explained & Diagrams
Tour Professionals CLub Choices
We’ll keep this short and sweet – these boys and gals can play, know what they want, and can use any club. The only changes they may make in their golf bag setup are according to weather conditions or the type, of course, they may be playing.
CLUB CHOICES for Low Handicap Golfers (Sub 10 Handicap)
Better golfers, and by this I probably mean golfers under a 10 handicap know exactly what is best for their bag.
They will have been playing a long-time to reach this standard and will have probably tried everything available in the golf market and found what suits. These golfers know their game.
My only caveat here is that sometimes ego gets in the way.
You may prefer to have long irons in your golf bag setup such as a 3 and 4 iron but if you hit your hybrids more consistently, then drop the machismo and play with a club that may help lower your handicap.
So the Professionals and low handicap golfers have their golf bag setup sorted. What about the rest? How many clubs in a golf bag and which ones to pick?
The Fundamental 8 Club Golf Bag setup:
This is our recommendation as to the starting foundation for your bag. This applies to any golfer from a 10 handicap and above right through to beginner level.
Golf Club #1: A Driver
A beginner may struggle with this club early on – but come on, we all like to hit the Big Dog ( a golf slang word for the Driver).
Golf Clubs #2-7: Irons
For these, 5 through Pitching wedge seems to be the given norm these days.
Most manufacturers tend to sell sets of irons these days as this configuration allows golfers to add the rest to suit. So I think a reasonable assumption.
Golf Club #8: Putter.
That leaves 6 clubs to fill your bag. Let us discuss the best options.
These 8 clubs are the fundamental set for any golfer. Below we outline how you can use your handicap to find out which golf clubs you should fill the remaining spaces with.
Mid Handicap Golfers (10-20 Handicap)
Golf Clubs #9 or #9-11: Clubs For your Short game
For your next 3 clubs, your priority when picking should be your short game.
Over 60% of your shots during a round of golf come from 100 yards or closer to the hole, making these the most common shot. Mastering the short game is crucial.
100 yards and in should be the scoring zone, not the hurt zone. This is why the wedges decision is arguably the most important and therefore the first to make.
Many mid/high-handicap golfers struggle with half-swing shots that would be required without a choice of wedges from 100 yards and in. This allows them to swing normally.
If this is you, then a wedge system is the way forward of at least three additional wedges to your pitching wedge.
This leaves just 3 clubs to fill the bag for your longer shots.
However, if you are a golfer that can hit half-swing shots from nearer in, then you will not need as many wedges opening the door for more clubs elsewhere. Two wedges will suffice, pitching and sand for such players.
This option takes care of Club #9 leaving 5 clubs to fill the bag for your longer shots.
If it is 5, then you pretty well have every club you may want for the long game. The choice then becomes a combination of woods, hybrids, and long irons. If it is only three left, then compromises may have to be made.
Golf Clubs #10-14 Or 12-14: Clubs for your Long game
The remaining clubs you pick will be for your long game.
Some golfers can just hit long irons well and enjoy hitting them. For you lucky golfers, then it’s an easy choice – invest in a 3 and 4 iron to the same spec as your other irons.
This would be clubs #10-11 if you still had 5 clubs left to choose from, leaving 3 more woods to fill the bag.
An easy task as the options are only 3 wood, 5 wood, 2 and 3 hybrids. As a 2 hybrid goes about the same distance as a 5 wood, I would simply opt for the one you hit best.
The caveats. Only put a 3 wood in the bag if you are going to hit it regularly. This means at the very least be confident enough to use it to hit off the fairway.
If you like to use a 3 Wood as an alternative to the driver off the tee, then this is a must for your bag.
If you have down the path of a full wedge system, you will already be at clubs #12-13.
Just one club left! Choose wisely. It will either be a hybrid or fairway wood. Pick the option that you consistently hit best from perhaps a 3 wood, 5 wood, or 3 hybrid.
I say 3 Hybrid and you may be saying I have a 3 Iron in the bag. From studies that I have seen hybrids will travel further than Irons – i.e. a 3 hybrid is the equivalent to a 2 iron.
You may want two options, then you have to drop one of those wedges that you need. That’s a tough decision to make.
Higher Handicap (20+ Handicap)
There is not too much difference here. Your starting point is still the fundamental golf bag setup of 8 clubs as listed above.
One difference may be to increase the number of hybrids, possibly losing the 5 iron, maybe even 6 as well. Don’t have them in the bag just for show, you must be able to perform with these clubs.
Then pick wisely between hybrids and fairway woods and you are all set to go.
For those new to golf, I recommend hybrid clubs as the best option, particularly if you are starting golf later in life.
They make the game so much easier compared to hitting fairway woods or longer irons, particularly if you have no previous history to compare with.
In time, you will adjust your bag but by going down the hybrid path at the start, I am confident you will see faster development in your game. For this reason, I would select Hybrids 3-5 as clubs #9-11.
Then fill the bag with a wedge system. If you can master your wedges from the offset, then you have a bright future ahead of you.
Trying to find the perfect formula for your bag of 14 clubs is not quite as straightforward as you’d hope, but if you methodically and rationally review the strengths and weaknesses of your game, you will end up with a bag of 14 clubs to help move your game to the next level.
Want to know more about which wedges to carry For The Perfect Golf Bag SetUp?
Now that how many clubs in a golf bag has been answered, check out our golf wedges complete guide below!
1 thought on “How Many Clubs In a Golf Bag? Rules and Recommendations”
Here in Arizona, some people carry 15 clubs. The 15th club is called the “Desert Wedge”. Out here, many of the desert courses do not have a rough. We have fairway and desert. Depending on where your shot lands, it may be in the desert but still in bounds. However, hitting a ball out of the desert will scratch your irons, so people carry an old mid-iron they purchased on eBay or a garage sale and use that to hit out of a desert lie.