August 5, 2021

If you’re a beginner picking up golf, there’s so much you need to learn about the game. It can be a little intimidating at first, and this prevents some people from playing at all. Teachers can, at times, overlook the basics, such as the rules regarding how many clubs you can carry in a golf bag as they focus on the most critical part.

Every golfer should know how many golf clubs they are allowed to carry. Here we cover the vital information that'll help golfers get started in the game, know the number they can take to a golf tournament and answer additional simple questions that experienced golfers might be too afraid to ask.

Rules of golf (Players' Equipment)

Let's start from the beginning. In traditional golf, in the early 20th century, pro golfers and experienced golfers carried 20-25 clubs in their bags to tournaments. Presently, the official maximum number of clubs players are allowed to carry in a golf bag is 14.

Golf governing bodies, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the R&A have strict regulations that cover golf equipment. More specifically, the number of clubs in a golf bag is regulated by Rule No. 4: Rules of Golf (Players’ Equipment)

Rule no. 4 covers the golf equipment that players can use during a round. Golf is a challenging game, and the success depends on the player’s judgment and skills. Therefore basic principles include:

• The player must use conforming clubs and balls

• The player is limited to 14 clubs and cannot replace damaged or lost clubs

• Golfers are restricted from the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to his or her play

The Minimum Number of Clubs You Are Allowed to Carry

Simply put, there's no minimum number of golf clubs you can carry. So, if you’re dying to use only a putter through your round, go ahead. Have a blast.

Amateurs need the club set that allows them to learn each shot. To get started, an amateur player needs a wood club such as the 3-wood or driver. This helps the player learn how to hit the golf ball for long distances.

A golfer needs to learn how to hit accurate iron shots. A 6-iron is an excellent choice for this, compared to the 3-iron. To practise the short shots around the green, the player requires a pitching wedge and a putter.

The Option to Add golf clubs

If a player begins the round with less than 14 golf clubs, the player can be allowed to add clubs while playing but only under the condition that:

  1. It's not causing a delay in the game
  2. The clubs are not borrowed from another player

The 14 Clubs You Can Carry in a Golf Bag

Out of the 14 clubs, there is a standard 12 clubs' composition that can be carried in golf bags, which include either:

  • 3 wood - 1 driver + 3-wood + 5-wood
  • 8 irons – 3-9 iron + 1 pitching wedge
  • 1 Putter

The last two clubs to make up the 14 clubs depends on a player’s preference and play needs. The player can add 1 hybrid driver for the fairway wood or add 1 lob wedge and 1 sand wedge.

Generally, the 14-set of clubs sold at golf retailers include 1 driver, 2 fairway woods, 3-iron through 9-iron, 1 pitching wedge and 1 sand wedge. Rarely will you find a set that includes hybrids instead of the 3-iron and/or 4-iron.

Does the Type of Golf Clubs in The Bag Matter?

All the clubs you choose to carry in the golf course for a round must conform to the regulations stipulated in the Rules of Golf for golf equipment. However, there are no rules to govern the make-up of your clubs. So, you can carry a different composition that may include 4 putters, 5 drivers, and 5 lob wedges.

Why the Limit in Golf Clubs?

The limit was put in place to regulate the number of clubs a player can bring in a round which then causes the players to become more creative with course manoeuvres. Other benefits include:

  • To keep the golf bag light enough to carry around the course, especially if you prefer to walk instead of using a golf cart. 14 golf clubs can get a little heavy
  • To keep the costs down. Since 14 clubs can get quite expensive
  • To allow more creative shots

The regulations changed because:

  • Steel-shafted clubs couldn't allow the same number of shots like the hickory-shafted clubs
  • The golfers carried extra clubs, especially since extra steel-shafted clubs offered more shot possibilities

Frequently Asked Questions on How Many Golf Clubs You Can Carry

1. What’s the penalty for carrying too many clubs?

The penalty for exceeding the number of golf clubs depends on factors such as the type of game. These include:

 a) Match play - In a Match play, the penalty for carrying more than 14-clubs is, one hole from your score is deducted for the hole that you used the 15th club

b) Stroke play - The penalty in a stroke-play is 2 strokes for each hole that you violate the rule. More specifically, if you have 15 clubs in your bag and start playing the second hole, you'll get a 4-stroke penalty. Additionally, 4 strokes is the highest penalty you can get

In the scenario that you have 15 clubs in your bag but didn’t realise until you played the second hole, you'll get a four-stroke penalty. Fortunately, the highest penalty for breaking these rules is 4 strokes, and it doesn't get any worse than that.

If the player realises this rule's breach while playing a hole, the breach is assessed and the penalty applied at the end of the hole. However, if the player notices the violation between holes, the penalty is applied to the hole you just played.

The penalty is one hole in Match Play, meaning that if a player breaks the rule, instead of just losing the hole being played, the total match score is changed.

2. Does the putter count in the 14 clubs?

Yes. In the typical composition of the standard 12 clubs in a golf bag, the putter is counted as one.

3. What's the worst penalty for too-many-clubs in history?

The most notable violation occurred at the 2001 Open Championship that was held at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. Ian Woosnam made birdie to tie for the lead with only 17 holes to play at the opening hole that year. But it didn’t last.

Woosnam realised he had an extra wood at the 2nd tee, bringing the total to 15. After he famously tossed the offending club across the tee, the appropriate two-stroke penalty was applied, and he fell into a tie for 6th. However, he eventually finished T3.

About the author 

Andrew Robertson

My name is Andrew and I have been playing golf since I was 5! I currently play on HCP 2 and I have been working as both PRO for many years where I have been instructing both junior golfers and more established and experienced golfers. I have been working part-time at a large Golf Shop where I have been in charge of purchasing and custom fitting. My favorite item in the bag at the moment? My TaylorMade Spider X Putter, for sure. I hope you enjoy my guides here at Pine Club Golf. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at Andrew@pineclubgolf.com if there is something you want to ask!

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