how many clubs go in a golf bag

Many novice golfers may be surprised to learn that anyone cares how many clubs in a golf bag you have or not.

You should know that there are rules about excess clubs in your golf bag, and they can kill your game quickly if you aren’t prepared! Plus, just having the right number of clubs doesn’t mean you have a complete set.

You must have the right variety of clubs in your bag to suit your game and the course you play golf on.

This is one of the less-often discussed rules of golf but it is still an important one to know. So how many golf clubs can you have in a golf bag? Can you have too many clubs?

To answer the question simply: A complete golf bag is comprised of 14 clubs.

Let’s take this fun fact a step further and dig into the reasons behind this.

Is there minimum number of golf clubs allowed?

In the United States, there is a maximum limit of 14 clubs allowed in the same golf bag.

That’s not to say that you can’t carry fewer clubs than your limit. There is no minimum number of clubs—for example, if you were playing a nine-hole game of golf, it would be perfectly acceptable to only have 9 clubs in your bag.

Why is there a club limit?

In the first half of the 20th century, as technology began to evolve, golf equipment was made out of a variety of materials.

As more clubs with steel shafts became more available, many players favored them for their durability and supposed power.

However, the variety of shots you can make with steel clubs is simply different than those of wooden clubs.

As a result, some players would carry an excessive number of clubs in their bags. Not only does having more clubs offer an unfair advantage, but it can slow down the pace of play.

In 1938, the USGA introduced the 14 club limit allowed in golf. However, there is no minimum number of clubs allowed in a golf bag.

Is There Any Way to Use Your Partner’s Clubs While Playing?

You’re not allowed to use your playing partner’s golf clubs. Even if you join them for a round, the rule is clear – each golfer has to use their own set of clubs.

In fact, if you borrow another player’s golf club without their permission, you can be penalized in stroke play.

Is there a penalty for carrying too many clubs?

The penalty depends on different factors, including the number of clubs involved and the type of play.

The rules differ for the United States Golf Association compared to match play or stroke play. Regardless of the type of play, the number of clubs permitted will remain the same.

If you’re playing a golf tournament under official USGA rules of golf, then there’s a penalty for having too many golf clubs in your bag.

How Many Strokes is the Penalty?

From the moment you tee off, if even one extra club in your bag, you’re assessed a two-stroke penalty (but only up to a maximum of four strokes). You’ll have to remove the offending club from your bag.

In a match-play scenario, you automatically lose the hole, up to a maximum of two holes per round. This means the maximum penalty is four strokes.

How Many Clubs Can Go In Your Golf Bag?

Besides your putter, there are three classifications of clubs you might be familiar with: woods, irons, and hybrids. Hybrids are, as the name suggests, hybrid materials that help carry the golf ball a little bit farther than the iron of the same number.

Your “driver” is actually a 1-wood, and a vast majority of golfers will also carry a 3-wood. The 3-wood is essentially a “fairway driver” for hitting your 2nd shot a long distance to the hole.

Irons are for your mid-range shots. Their heads are designed at different angles depending on the desired effect- distance vs loft. Your higher-numbered irons are for your shortest shots. Your wedges are also considered irons, even though they’re mostly for shorter-range shots.

Can I replace a damaged club during a round?

If you break or dent a golf club during your round, you are allowed to replace it with another club in your bag.

Unlike the United States Golf Association’s rules, you’re not required to tell anyone when replacing a damaged golf club. You’ll just need to write down what happened (and I highly recommend taking pictures). Your playing partners (who are in the same group as you) may need to sign a form stating that they witnessed the damaged club.

What’s the procedure for taking clubs out of play?

Golfers need to “immediately take” out of play clubs for an extra-club violation. If you have a violation, you must take out of the club immediately. Before you hit the shot, make sure to remove any extra clubs before your next stroke.

What are the typical clubs in a golf bag?

Every standard golf bag is going to include a driver, between five and eight irons, a pitching wedge, and a putter. This makes 7 of our 14 clubs. Then, almost all standard bags will include a 3-wood, so we’re up to 8 clubs. The rest is where the lines get a little more blurry.

The 5-wood is probably the next most common club you’ll see, offering a more substantial range than a 5-iron but not nearly the power of a 3-wood.

Are Hybrids Allowed?

Absolutely.

Some sets do replace this with a 5-hybrid, and you’ll also see a 4-hybrid. But a number of clubs in this category are uncommon among players with high handicaps, so it shouldn’t be surprising if you don’t see them as often.

The 9-iron is another common club you’ll see in a bag, and it may be the shortest club you find among players with higher handicaps. It’s essentially a lower-numbered iron, offering less loft for those shots that require more precision on the golf course.

The Variables In Club Options

Even with the presence of a 3-wood, the 3-iron is still present in many golf bags, though more skilled players have taken a liking to 3-hybrids in recent years. The low iron clubs are thicker along the bottom, which gives them more striking power when they make proper contact with the ball, sending your shot farther.

Hybrids versus Irons

Hybrids have more even weight distribution and a greater surface area on the club face. This means imperfect contact with the ball doesn’t result in as imprecise a shot as it does with an iron.

Additionally, irons are designed to dig slightly into the turf under the ball as it makes contact, giving us control over the spin on the ball.

However, only the most skilled players even begin to consistently apply these techniques to their game, so this design is more of a hindrance for many players, who simply cut divots in the dirt behind their ball on a misfired shot.

Hybrids have a much wider bottom that slides more smoothly along the grass, making it easier to achieve a smooth swinging motion into the ball.

Tl;dr—how many clubs are allowed in a golf bag?

To summarize, your bag should always include a 1-wood (driver), a putter, a pitching wedge, a sand wedge, and irons 6 – 9. Just make sure you stick with the legal number of clubs allowed in your bag.

You should have at least one other wood (a 3-wood) and at least two lower irons or hybrids. Bearing in mind the low popularity of the 4- and 5- hybrids, we’d recommend irons for these.

This makes 11 clubs. And to round out the total 14 golf clubs you’re allowed to carry, try a mix of the 5-wood, 7-wood, 2-hybrid, and 3-hybrid to find out what works best for you.

Our Final Thoughts

Now you know how many clubs belong in a golf bag, as well as the club options and procedures for proper use. Take note of the clubs you see most often on the course, including those that may not appear to be your typical standards.

So when it comes to the higher woods and lower irons, what you choose will largely come down to a matter of preference and skill level.

Then, leave us a comment to let us know which 14 golf clubs you take out on the green!

About the author

Jordan Edwards

Jordan is a golf lover and the founder of Cyber Caddie. When he’s not on the green, you can find him wishing that he was – Fortunately he’s happy to just chat about it here until the next time.

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