How Many Golf Clubs in a Golf Bag? Standard 14 Club Setup + Tips

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Are you carrying the right golf clubs in your bag? In this guide, I’ll go over all of the standards and rules of thumb for how many clubs in a golf bag is appropriate.

Specifically, I’ll teach you:

  • How to ensure you’re carrying the right equipment for your golf round
  • All of the official golf rules on how many clubs in a golf bag you can have
  • An overview of each club and its main purpose
  • How many wedges you should keep in your bag
  • The difference between irons and fairway woods

For beginner golfers, it can be intimidating how many clubs in a golf bag you have. By simplifying your selection, you can take strokes off your game and break 100. Every golfer should know all of the club choices they can carry in their golf bag setup.

How Many Clubs Can You Carry in a Golf Bag?

If you are a beginner golfer or someone who just tries to hit the course on the weekend, there is no limit of golf clubs that you are able to carry in your bag. Technically you could carry as many as you wanted to and no one is really going to care.

However, for professional golfers or those planning on playing in tournaments following USGA rules, the limit of golf clubs you can carry in your bag is 14 clubs.

Most golfers have specific setups and clubs they prefer to use such as maybe a hybrid over a long iron or long irons instead of a 5-wood. Either way, it does not matter as long as you do not have more than 14 clubs in your golf bag.

how many clubs in a golf bag

What’s the Story Behind Limiting the Number of Clubs?

Back in the early 20th century golfers used to carry up to 25 golf clubs with them in their bags. At the time, steel-shafted clubs, which were the most popular, started being replayed by hickory-shafted clubs. The reason was that the steel-shafted ones didn’t provide the same number of shot potentials. Therefore, the need to bring many golf clubs went down, as the hickory-shafted clubs were more versatile and could be used for more scenarios than their steel-shafted counterparts.

As a result of this development, in 1938 the USGA introduced a rule limiting the number of golf clubs per player to 14 clubs only. This was then followed by the R&A in 1939.

As per the website RulesHistory.com, the penalty for having more than 14 golf clubs was disqualification at first, but then was changed to two strokes for a hole in a stroke-play game and losing a hole in a match-play.

The current rule and applied penalty has been in place sine 1968.

USGA Golf Rules

The rules of golf refer to how many clubs you can have in your golf bag in a number of different ways.

Use of a Damaged Club

Rule 4.1 (a) (2) states that if a golf club becomes damaged during your round, it is treated as conforming for the rest of the round. You may either continue making strokes with the damaged club or have the club repaired as close to possible its condition prior to the damage.

However, you cannot unreasonably delay play to do so. Damage can mean a few different things and obviously it will depend on how playable the club is if you decide to keep using it or not.

Limit of 14 Clubs

Rule 4.1 (b) (1), the 14-club rule, states that a player must not start a round with more than 14 clubs or have more than 14 clubs in their bag during the round at any time. If you were to start a round with less than 14 clubs, you may add clubs during the round to get up to the 14-club limit.

If it is found that you are carrying more than 14 clubs, you must immediately take the extra club or clubs out of play. In a professional tournament, you will be assessed a two-stroke penalty for each hole where a breach of the rule happened. The maximum penalty is four strokes.

Altering Clubs Mid-Round

Rule 4.1 (a) (3) states that you are not able to make a stroke with a club that you deliberately altered during the round. This includes using an adjustable feature or applying a substance to the club head to affect how it performs in making a stroke.

There is one exception and that is only if you restore the club as nearly as possible to its original position you initially adjusted.

Sharing Golf Clubs

Rule 4.1 (b) (2) states that you are only limited to hitting those clubs you started with or added in during the round to get up to the 14 club limit. You are not able to make a stroke with someone else’s club, even if they are in a different playing group.

Taking Golf Clubs out of Play

Rule 4.1 (c) states a few different procedures when removing clubs out of play. If it is during the round, you must immediately take action by advising your opponents or by turning it upside down, placing on the floor of the cart or giving it to another person.

If you become aware before the round starts that you are over the 14 club limit, you should try and leave the additional club behind.

Even amateur golfers should understand the rules of golf before they play.

What are the Standard 14 Clubs in a Bag?

The most common 14 club setup that most beginner golfers use are as follows:

  • Driver
  • 3-wood
  • 5-wood
  • 3 iron
  • 4 iron
  • 5 iron
  • 6 iron
  • 7 iron
  • 8 iron
  • 9 iron
  • Pitching Wedge
  • Lob Wedge
  • Sand Wedge
  • Putter

There are many different combination of clubs that players will use, depending on what clubs they are most comfortable hitting.

Instead of a 5 wood, some golfers may opt for a 7 wood with a little more loft. Instead of some of the long irons such as a 3 and 4 iron, players may opt for rescue hybrid clubs as they are more comfortable hitting them.

In terms of wedges, there are so many different options in terms of loft and bounce that you are best off hitting what you are comfortable with and what fills your distance gap. Usually players have a distance they can hit each club, so that there are no gaps between the 14 clubs.

Types of Clubs in Your Bag

Driver

The driver is one of the most important golf clubs in the bag. It has the least amount of loft and you will hit the ball the furthest with it.

Having a good driver and being able to hit it consistently will allow you easier secondary shots into the green. With drivers, you can find many different options in terms of loft, shaft type, grip type, etc. Find what works best for you as having a good drive is very important to shooting a good score.

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Fairway Woods

Fairway woods are typically made with a little shorter shaft, smaller club head and more loft than a driver is. The most popular fairway wood is usually a 3 wood as you can get great distance with it and it can be very reliable in many different situations.

Other fairway woods include a 5 wood and 7 wood, which all comes down to personal preference and what type of loft you are looking for.

Click here to view the best golf fairway woods.

Hybrids

A hybrid golf club is a mix between a fairway wood and a long iron. They are very reliable clubs and most beginner golfers prefer them over a long iron because they are easier to hit.

Hybrids have a little higher loft and the biggest wood-like club head is very forgiving on the golf ball. You can also use hybrids out of rough and the loft will drive the ball into the air.

Click here to view the best golf hybrid woods.

Irons

Irons are generally used when you are less than 200 yards away from the green. The closer you are to the green, the higher the number of iron you will use because they have a higher loft.

The higher irons are easier to hit because the shafts are shorter and the loft is higher, promoting an easy hit on the golf ball.

Irons are also used off the tee on par 3’s and again, the shorter the distance the higher the iron used to get the ball to go into the air and land on the green.

Click here to view the best golf irons.

Wedges

Wedges are the highest lofted clubs you will carry in your bag. You will need these when very close to the green and also when you are in hazards such as long rough or bunkers. There are many different kinds of wedges, all with different lofts for different shots.

Click here to view the best golf wedges.

Pitching Wedge

The Pitching wedge has a loft of about 46 degrees and is the easiest club in the bag to hit for most amateur golfers. It can be used from a little farther out and you can use a full swing with it. It is also very forgiving around the green for shorter chips where you have some room to “bump and run” the golf ball.

Sand Wedge

The Sand wedge is meant for hitting the ball out of the sand with enough loft to land on the green.

Gap Wedge

The Gap wedge is a loft that fills the gap between the sand wedge and pitching wedge. It can be used in many different situations.

Lob Wedge

The lob wedge has the most loft out of any wedge. This is used to get the ball as high as possible and as quickly as possible to lob over a hazard in front of you.

Putter

The putter is probably the most important golf club you will carry in your bag. The purpose of the putter is to roll the ball into the hole when you are on the green. Use a nice pendulum putting stroke and the head of the putter will hit the ball towards the hole. Being a good putter will help your golf game immensely.

Click here to view the best putters.

Do You Need all 14 Golf Clubs?

No, most beginner and weekend golfers do not need 14 clubs in their bag. While you can carry up to 14 clubs as per the USGA rules, it is not a requirement. You can use whatever clubs you want to and most times that is less than 14. It all depends on your distance hit with each club and what you are comfortable using.

Most beginners won’t use any long irons and will instead use solely hybrids. A lot of beginner golfers won’t worry about having 4 wedges and will instead rely on 1 or 2 wedges for all of their chipping needs.

Whatever works best for you out on the course is the best answer.

How Many Wedges is the Right Answer?

As golf clubs have gotten better, the distance you can hit all your clubs, including wedges, has increased. For this reason, less players are carrying a 5-wood and instead going with three or four different golf wedges in their bag.

How many wedges you should have should depend on whether you have all distances on the course covered. Some golfers are okay using a half swing with an approach/gap wedge from 50 yards out, while others like to full swing a lob wedge.

Go and hit some balls into a golf simulator or with a launch monitor to get a better understanding on what is right for you.

Here is a video to help you understand each golf wedge better:

Which Golf Wedges Should You Be Using? | THE WEDGE BUYING GUIDE

Hybrid vs Irons Golf Clubs

If you’re a new or beginner golfer, hitting a 3-iron or 4-iron is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do on the course. They have driver-like loft but with 20% of the club head size, making it easy to hit bad shots that are inconsistent and sliced or hooked.

Instead, look at a 3-hybrid and 4-hybrid instead. Hybrid clubs are easier to hit because have a bigger club head which is more forgiving and weighted. You will have more success hitting the ball further with a hybrid.

The only downside to a hybrid vs irons is that you won’t get as much spin on your ball, but this is not as big of a deal from a longer distance.

Minimum Number of Clubs You Can Play With

Although the maximum number of clubs you can carry in your bag is 14, a lot of weekend golfers are looking at minimal setups when hitting the course. This makes the golf bag a little lighter and also makes you not think as much during your shots.

As I said above, use whatever clubs work best for you. In terms of a minimal setup, you could consider club choices like this:

  • Driver
  • 4 hybrid
  • 7 iron
  • Pitching Wedge
  • Putter

This gives you a club for every kind of shot and allows you to not take as big of swings for different shots to use different distances. Give it a try and challenge yourself next time!

What Clubs Should I Have in My Beginner’s Golf Bag?

There’s no firm right or wrong when it comes to the type of golf clubs in your bag. However, because they’re the most important factor in your golf kit, they should be chosen according to your personal needs and skills.

Here are our most recommended clubs to have in your beginner golf club set.

What Driver to bring as a Beginner?

This is the longest and most important club in your golf bag. Its power will aid you in getting the ball farthest from the tee. It’s an ideal club for long holes, specifically designed for the first shot on a hole.

Old clubs of the driver category used to be made of steel, but nowadays the sophisticated technology has evolved and they are made of more than one type of material. Aim for a driver’s shaft made of carbon fiber or graphite. This will give you a lighter driver and a more flexible feel.

What Woods to bring as a Beginner?

The best choice for a beginner would be to bring at least a 3-wood. Usually, an advanced golfer would have extra woods with them, to provide versatility in play. Typically a driver will be used to tee off, and the wood will be used to push the ball closer to the hole if a second long shot is needed.

We recommend adding a wood to your bag as a beginner, as they’re most popular for use on the fairway, despite them being a bit difficult to handle. It might require you some time to master woods, especially if you need to push the ball up a high course. Once you’ve achieved your mission of mastering this club, it’ll be your favorite choice when in a pinch.

What Irons to bring as a Beginner?

Iron clubs range in name from three to nine, each providing a different degree of loft. A higher number indicates shorter distance play. They’re the type of clubs that you run to if you get stuck on the golf course. Having a mix of short, middle, and long irons with you will provide you with more opportunities for accurate shots in all possible situations. This could mean taking a 3, 5, 7, and 9 iron for example.

Short 9-iron Club

Short irons are made to provide accuracy in small distances. They’re typically used for shots that are between 80 and 130 yards. As a beginner, you should make sure to bring a 9-iron.

Middle 5 to 7 Iron Club

The middle irons are for achieving distances between 130 and 180 yards. It might be confusing to bring too many different clubs for similar use cases in the beginning, so we suggest bringing a 5-iron and a 7-iron and get a feel for them before making your individual choice of preference.

Long Iron and/or Hybrid

We recommend that you go for a 3-iron or a hybrid. These are used to ease second and third shots on the fairway with a distance between 180 and 210 yards. They get magnificent loft and distance, and a new player could face a little difficulty in mastering the use of a 3-iron.

Usually, golfers prefer a hybrid, as it integrates the best characteristics in fairway woods and irons in one club. It’s an easy club to use, particularly for beginners.

What Wedges to bring as a Beginner?

We highly recommend to everyone – skill level aside – to always bring a sand wedge. It’s already frustrating enough to get stuck in a sand trap. So you want to have all the tools at your disposal to get you of there with the least harm.

Wedges generally are among the essentials in your bag as a beginner. They’ve got the shortest shafts of the irons family and the heaviest loft.

Lob wedges are specifically used to hit the ball up an elevation on the course and onto the green. A pitching wedge might be nice, however, you might not want to confuse yourself with too many similar clubs right out the gate.

What Putter to bring as a Beginner?

The final necessary club in your golf bag will be the putter. Putters are the masters of “putting” the ball into the hole. Most likely, just like the driver, you will be using the putter for every single hole. Hopefully just once. However, if it’s your lucky day you might get a hole in one, and then you can keep your putter in the golf bag.

Most people only think about going to the driving range, when putting practice would be just as valuable if not more.

Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many clubs in a golf bag is standard?

There is no set standard number of golf clubs, but you are able to have up to 14 clubs in your bag. A good rule of thumb is to have a golf club for every distance on the course.

What is the penalty for having too many clubs in your bag?

The penalty for having too many golf clubs in your bag is two strokes per hole, up to a maximum of a four-stroke penalty.

Do I need to buy a special golf bag if I have 14 clubs in my bag?

Golf bags come with dividers on the top for you to fit and sort your clubs into. Most full-size golf bags will come with 14 dividers, the same number as the maximum clubs you can have. Others come with 5 bigger dividers that still allow you to group similar club lofts together.

Can you play with two putters in your golf bag?

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to play with an extra putter in your bag. However, it’s not common for experienced golfers because there is no need. Putting is all about feel and consistency and having two putters can throw you off.

Should I keep a pitching wedge in my bag?

Yes, you should definitely keep a pitching wedge in your bag. Pitching wedges are great for short game shots such as chips and pitches.

Can I use a sand wedge instead of a pitching wedge?

A sand wedge is a great alternative to a pitching wedge. Sand wedges are typically used for shorter shots around the green and have a higher loft than a pitching wedge. Most golfers will keep both clubs in their wedge setup.

What is the difference between a fairway wood and a driver?

A fairway wood has more loft than a driver and with a smaller club head that is easier to hit off of the fairway from. Fairway woods are usually used for long approach shots into the green. Drivers are typically only used for tee shots because the club head is too big for the fairway.

What is the best way to learn lhow to play golf?

I recommend starting out by playing mini games where you practice putting and chipping. Once you feel comfortable with those skills, start working on driving and full swing shots.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there isn’t a set rule for how many clubs you should have in your bag. It really just comes down to personal preference and what works best for you. However, you will want to make sure that you don’t exceed the 14-club limit set by the USGA.

In recent years, there has been more flexibility in what golfers choose to fill their bag up with, thanks to new hybrid clubs and technology. The result is more options than ever before for golfers to find the perfect fit for them.

A casual round at your local clubhouse is no big deal, but you should familiarize yourself with the rules before a real tournament.

How many clubs do you carry in your golf bag? Comment down below and let us know!

Denny Putsh
Denny Putsh

I’m a golf enthusiast just like you and have been playing the game since I was 12 years old. Although I love watching the PGA Tour and following my favorite stars on tour I’m also fascinated by all of the unique and innovative products that are associated with the game I love. It's my greatest joy to share my fascination with golf gadgets, equipment, training aids, and golf accessories with fellow golf lovers on all levels.

Last update on 2022-09-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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