How much sleep have you lost pondering: How many golf clubs in a bag are allowed? Or stressed out over having the right club set up for the course you’re playing? Chances are unless you’re a professional golfer, you might not.
In this article, we’ll cover the USGA and R&A golf club limit ruling and then give you a quick guide on how to choose the right golf clubs for your bag. So whether you’re just starting out or want to improve your game, keep reading!
How Many Clubs Are Allowed in a Golf Bag
So, how many clubs are allowed in a golf bag? The answer may surprise you. Let’s first look at how this rule came into effect…
USGA and R&A 14-Club Rule Origin Story
This rule was adopted back in 1936 and came into effect in 1938 due to the evolution of golf clubs and the adaptation from hickory-shafted clubs to steel shafts. Click here for a Golf Digest article on the subject. However, if TDLR, continue on.
With newer and better technology, players began to experiment with different club configurations (right and left-handed clubs) along with the number of clubs in their golf bag. Some golfers, such as Lawson Little, often carried around 30 clubs in tournaments.
The golfing fascist ruling bodies, USGA and R&A, had seen enough. One reason… it benefited wealthy golfers who had the financial wherewithal to buy more equipment than their less fortunate counterparts. Furthermore and probably more relevant, they were concerned that such a large number of golf clubs would render technique irrelevant.
The USGA and R&A implemented the 14-club rule in 1936, which went into effect in 1938.
Rule 4 – The Player’s Equipment
Per USGA Rule No. 4, The Player’s Equipment, clearly states the maximum number of clubs a golfer is allowed in their golf bag while playing is 14.
Here is exactly what the USGA states for Rule 4:
Purpose of Rule: Rule 4 covers the equipment that players may use during a round. Based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the player’s judgment, skills, and abilities, the player:
- Must use conforming clubs and balls,
- Is limited to no more than 14 clubs and normally must not replace damaged or lost clubs, and
- Is restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to his or her play.
For further clarification of the rule, here is section b:
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.
There you have it. Why and how we are limited to 14 clubs in a golf bag.
So, the next time you’re out on the green, make sure to double-check that you’re not carrying too many clubs!
Tell Me the Penalty for Carrying More than 14 Clubs?
The penalty for violating the maximum number of clubs in your bag is two strokes for each hole where a breach of the rule occurred. A four-stroke penalty will be assessed if you have 15 clubs in your bag but fail to realize it until you’re on the second hole. Thankfully, at most breaking this rule only results in a four-stroke penalty total, so it won’t get any worse than that.
Can you carry less than 14 clubs?
When reading Rule 4 of the USGA Rulebook it states, ‘Is limited to no more than 14 clubs’ and makes no mention of how few clubs in your bag you can carry.
Does it Matter What Type of Golf Club You Are Carrying?
Now that you understand Rule 4 and the 14-club limit let’s dive into set configurations. There are three factors to consider when setting up your bag: Skill level, course style/condition, and self-esteem.
For beginner golfers, it is best to carry a set of clubs that will help them cover a wider range of distances. This includes a minimum of a driver, 5-wood, 7-iron, pitching wedge, and a putter. Keep in mind, more options aren’t always the best options for noobs and/or weekend warriors.
More experienced golfers can add more clubs to their arsenal, but should still try to maintain a bag that is versatile enough to cover all the distances and obstacles on the course.
Here are some different ways golfers carry clubs in their bag:
Old school tradition bag of golf clubs
For decades golfers carried a traditional set configuration of 14 clubs in their bag. This makeup consisted of:
- 3 woods: the driver, 3-wood, 5-wood
- 7 Irons: 3-iron through 9-iron
- 2 Wedges: the pitching wedge and sand wedge were usually the 12th and 13th clubs
- The Putter: the 14th club
Hybrids Changed Everything… Kind of
Not too long ago, early 2000s, the hybrid club really started gaining popularity. Golfers found that they could hit this club much further than their traditional irons, and it soon became a staple in many golf bags. While some purists argue that using a hybrid takes away some of the challenge and skill of the game, for the average golfer, hybrids make getting around the golf course much easier.
Hybrids are a type of golf club that is made to replace low-lofted irons, like the 3-5 iron. They are designed to give you more distance and are perfect for getting out of trouble spots on the golf course. If you are someone who is looking to add a little distance to your game, or if you are struggling with your irons, then hybrid golf clubs might be the right choice for you.
Does Happy Need a Short Game? How to Set Up Your Wedges
Boom Baby. Your crushed your drive and within 100 yards to the pin. Now, what are you going to do? Your best option is to pull out your trusty wedge and take a swing. Wedges are your friend when you’re close to the green, and they can help you save strokes on your score.
If you’re not comfortable with your wedge shots, or if you find that you’re not getting the distance or accuracy you want, you might want to consider adding another wedge to your golf bag.
Wedge lofts range from 46 to 64 degrees in 2-degree increments. And nowadays you can also select different grind and bounce options depending on how soft or firm the ground is at the golf course.
It’s best to select 2 to 3 different wedges making sure you have at least a 4-degree separation in loft and, if possible, have different grind and bounce angles too.
14 Golf Clubs Means So Many Possibilities
When playing a course with tight fairways or difficult rough, it might be beneficial to carry a different set
When playing a course with tight fairways or difficult rough, it might be beneficial to carry a different set of clubs. For example, you might want to carry a 4-wood or even a 2-hybrid as an alternative to your 3-wood. This will give you a bit more distance and help you avoid getting stuck in the rough.
Some golfers prefer to carry just three wedges in their bag – a pitching wedge, a sand wedge, and a lob wedge. This gives you all the shots you need around the green, and can help you keep your bag light and easy to carry.
Does 14 Clubs Include Putter?
In a nutshell, during a round, golfers are limited to carrying a total of 14 clubs in their bag and the putter is regarded as one club., so yes the putter is included with the 14 clubs.
Fun Fact: Phil Mickelson + 2 Drivers = 1st Place
Here’s a little fun fact.
Did you know that at the BellSouth Classic in 2006, Lefty… aka Phil Mickelson, won by 13 shots after employing two drivers: one to draw the ball and one to fade. This strategy was so successful that it’s become known as “The Phil Mickelson Method.”
Okay, I actually made the whole Phil Mickelson Method part up.
However, maybe you should try it out and see if it works for your game.
There’s a lot to consider when you’re buying golf clubs. The USGA and R&A limit the number of clubs in your bag to 14, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all driver heads or putters. Check out this quick guide on how many golf clubs you should have based on what kind, of course, you’ll play.
And comment below if anyone needs help selecting their perfect setup!