Particularly early on in your golfing career it can be a bit intimidating what to bring to the course and how to organize it in your golf bag. You'll be sure not to forget your set of golf clubs and some golf balls, but how many clubs can you bring? Which ones do you absolutely need? And how should you organize your golf bag?
Interesting and crucial questions! This is essential information that you need to know, whether you’re participating in a tournament, a competition, or only beginning to practice golf. In this article, we’ll be highlighting important information and answering some common questions like how many clubs are allowed in a golf bag and how to arrange golf clubs in a cart bag.
We're gonna take the mystery out of all these questions and help you look forward even more to your next round.
How Many Golf Clubs Can You Have in Your Bag?
According to The United States Golf Association (USGA), and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A), a player is allowed 14 clubs in their bag. However, there are also many golf bags out there which will only fit fewer clubs. This constraint is not grounded in the rules, but just a design choice by some bag manufacturers, often to keep costs down.
Players aren’t allowed to change clubs during a round, so it's a pretty important decision what clubs to bring in the first place.
A penalty will be charged if you have too many clubs in your bag. You are charged a penalty of two strokes per hole, with a maximum of four penalty strokes as a total maximum for this rule. If you're interested in the technicalities of this rule: If you realize that you broke the rules by carrying too many clubs during playing a hole, the penalty will be applied at the end of tis very hole. However, if it is realized between holes, the penalty is assessed to the hole the player has just completed. Summing up: don't bring too many golf clubs, otherwise you're breaking the rules.
Restricting the number of golf clubs for players forces them to become more skillful at the different types of shots played with the clubs they already have with them. It also keeps the gap between pros and amateurs, as well as wealthier players and the rest of the world, smaller, because it limits the amound of advantage you can get from having a special club for every possible scenario.
It is worth mentioning, however, that golfers are not restricted in how many golf clubs to bring during practice.
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.
What’s the Minimum Number of Clubs I Can Have in My Bag?
You can have only one golf club in your bag if you wish of course. However, this will dramatically limit your ability to play a successful round of golf. If you are a true minmalist, please still make sure to bring a golf ball at least.
In all seriousness, there is no rule on the minimum number of golf clubs in a bag. However, there are certain club types that are more important than others.
Types and Categories of Golf Clubs
Golf clubs come in many types and categories, each suitable for a certain scenario and time in your play. Below, we give a quick explanation for each.
The driver is the club you will be using once for every single hole on the course. The first and - hopefully - longest shot is taken with the driver. It is designed for maximum impact on the ball and reducing the force lost in the exchange from your swing to the ball. Many would consider the drive to be the most important shot, making the driver choice a critical choice for every player.
Woods can be further divided into fairway woods and driving woods. However, fairway woods are most commonly referenced by "woods". These clubs originally had club heads made of wood, hence the name. This has changed over the years. Woods have a long shaft and large head, with a low angle. They swing fast and are usually used for long distance shots after the initial drive.
The irons, also called blades, usually come in sets numbered from three to nine. They have more compact club heads and are generally thinner clubs in comparison to the woods. The number of iron indicates the angle with higher numbers indicating a higher angle. As a result, the lower the number, the longer the shot you will use the iron for. Irons are often sold in sets.
The Hybrids are the newest golf club category to the game. Their popularity increased over the last couple of decades, despite their existence long before that. They’re somewhere between a wood and an iron and are often considered a replacement to irons. The hybrids’ club head size is somewhere between the woods and irons. The numbering convention for hybrids corresponds to irons, making a 3-hybrid a potential replacement for a 3-iron, and so on. Their popularity comes from many golfers finding them more comfortable to play.
This category has four types. The lob wedge, the gap wedge, the pitching wedge, and the sand wedge. They are the logical extension to irons, as they both share club heads with the same style, just with sharper angles. Wedges are typically used for shots with shorter approaches. Their high angles allow to better get under the golf ball, resulting in higher and shorter ball flight arches. One wedge, which everybody should have in their bag from day one is the sand wedge, as it is only a matter of time before even the best golfer will put one of their balls into a sand trap.
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. Because they’re specifically designed for the accuracy they give, 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, that's why we could suggest to bring a 5-iron and a 7-iron and get a feel for them before making your individual choices 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 got magnificent loft and distance, 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. But don't be disappointed if you need some practice before that happens. Just keep in mind that driving and putting are the two most common shots for a golfer. However, most people only think about going to the driving range, when putting practice would be just as valuable if not more.
What’s the Ideal Golf Bag Setup and How Do I Organize The Pockets?
Before you get to that point you need to consider which type of bag you will go for or already have? There are so many different designs on the market, each with different specifications regarding weight, size, functionality. These include Sunday golf bags (also pencil bags), golf cart bags, travel bags, bag boy bags (also staff bags), and the list goes on.
Usually, a golf bag will have two to four sections in them. Ideally, the front part of the bag is the longest one and should have your woods, putter and hybrid clubs. The second section in the bag will have your irons, the mid-range, and long ones. So, if you have a 3-iron and a 7-iron, they’ll go into this section. A practical advice would be to put the 3-iron to the side closest to you while playing and align the rest of the clubs in order, in the other direction that’s farther away from you.
It’s very handy to have a towel with you, and a good place for it is the front of the bag, where it’s left hanging. Most bags come with a little carabiner or other way of hanging it. Luckily, most golf towels have a whole with a metal ring in them for easy clipping at the bag front.
Balls and tees are also crucial items to have in your bag, and are best placed in the lower-back pocket in your bag. Usually, bags have two of these pockets specially designed for carrying extra items. Tees are best kept in the smaller one of the pockets, as they go higher up the bag, which will be more accessible for you during a game. Golf balls take up more space, so it’s best to keep them in the lower-back pocket because it tends to be larger.
Now that you know how many clubs are allowed in your golf bag, the types of golf clubs that you can use, and how to arrange them, you'll be fully prepared for your next game! Feel free to check out some of our recommendations for best beginner golf club sets, best golf balls for beginners, training aids you might want, or check out some of our instructional material. If you want us to keep you in the loop, just sign up for our newsletter and we'll be sure to send you some great material to work with.