How many clubs do you have in your golf bag? How often do you change them? Do you ever consider the course you are playing that day to determine the ones that get to come out and play? What about weather or turf conditions?
The maximum number of clubs you are allowed to use during a round is 14 and you cannot have more than that in your bag. Of course, you are welcome to have less than 14. The typical golfer will have the following: Driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 4-iron, 5-iron, 6-iron, 7-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron, Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge, Sand Wedge, and Putter. Maybe you take out the 4-iron and replace it with a hybrid or a Lob Wedge. The options are almost endless.
The Purpose Of Each Club In Your Bag
Let’s talk about each club you might carry and how/why you should use it.
Your driver is the longest club in your bag and the one that you should hit the farthest. You use it to hit your first shot on par 4s, par 5s, and extremely long par 3s. The golf mantra “tee it high and let it fly” is talking about your driver. You use a golf tee to get the ball as high off the ground as possible and you swing hard.
Drivers have the most prominent sweet spot of any club in your bag and most players find it the easiest club to hit solid. Regardless of your bag configuration, we think everyone should use a driver.
You can have several different fairway woods, but the most common are 3-woods and 5-woods. The loft of the fairway wood is what determines how far the ball will go. A 3-wood typically has 15 degrees of loft and a 5-wood has 21 degrees of loft.
You will hit fairway woods out of the fairway or a good lie in the rough. You may also use them on a short/tight par 4 or par 5 off the tee.
The hardest decision for most golfers when determining their golf club configuration is choosing between fairway woods, hybrids, and long irons.
Hybrids get their name because they are a combination of fairway wood and a long iron. Most golfers find them easier to hit than a long iron, so you might use a 3-hybrid instead of a 3-iron. Hybrids work great when you need to hit a long shot from a bad lie in the rough.
We define long irons as 1-irons, 2-irons, 3-irons, 4-irons, and 5-irons. You are going to use these clubs when you are hitting your approach shot to the green and when you are teeing off on a par 3. Irons go different distances because they have different lofts. To become a great player you need to learn how far you hit each of the irons you carry in your golf bag.
We define medium irons as 6-irons,7-irons, 8-irons, and 9-irons. They are used the same as long irons, but they have more loft, so they travel a shorter distance. Ideally, you hit them high, so they can land softly on the green.
You have several different options when it comes to your wedges. You can use a pitching wedge, a gap wedge, a sand wedge, and/or a lob wedge. They are considered irons and just like the Long and Medium irons, the difference is the amount of loft.
Wedges are used to hit approach shots when you are close to the green (less than 100 yards) and they are also used to chip shots around the green. Most golfers use a sand wedge or a lob wedge to hit shots from sand traps. The typical player will carry between 2-4 wedges in their 14-club configuration.
The putter is used to roll the ball once you are on the green. You can save a bunch of strokes if you are a great putter. It is important that you find one that gives you confidence. All golfers carry one putter in their bag.
Why Change the Configuration of Your 14?
Are you currently playing with the best 14 for your game? Do you ever tinker with the club choices in your bag?
Do a quick assessment – are there certain clubs you don’t hit very often, but maybe you struggle around the greens and adding an extra wedge could help you with your short game? Do you hit your 5-wood and 4-iron the same distance? If so, maybe replace one of them with a driving iron to give you a different option from the tee box.
You can get creative. A few years back, Phil Mickelson won a PGA Tour event while carrying two drivers! Why did he carry two drivers? He used one when he wanted to hit long drives, on more forgiving holes and the other driver when he needed to make sure he hit it straight with a soft cut.
Maybe the course or weather suggests a different configuration. If it is windy, you might want a 3-iron you hit low instead of a 5-wood that gets up in the air. On slow greens, maybe you want to pull out your mallet-style putter, instead of a blade.
Does it ever make sense to have less than 14?
Definitely. If you are just getting started with the game of golf, you may use a reduced set. Your set of irons may only include a 5-iron, 7-iron, 9-iron, and a couple wedges. Does a player just learning to play, really need 14 options – probably not.
What if you are just heading out to walk a quick 9 or 18 in the evening? You can find a very light carry-bag that holds 8-9 clubs. Enjoy the evening with less stress on your back. If you are really looking to simply enjoy the stroll, forget the bag and just bring your 3-wood, 7-iron, and putter. You might be surprised what you can shoot with 3 clubs – just try to avoid the bunkers. The 7-iron out of a fried-egg lie can be a bit tricky!
How Many Clubs In A Golf Bag: FAQs
Is there a penalty for carrying more than 14 clubs?
Yes, you receive a two-stroke penalty for every hole you play with an extra club in your bag. If you play 3 holes before you realize you have 15 in your bag, you would receive a 6-stroke penalty.
How many clubs do the pros carry?
Professional golfers want as many options as possible. They always carry the legal maximum of 14 clubs.
Can you carry two of the same club?
Yes, you can carry as many of the same club as you want, as long as the total isn’t greater than 14. It wouldn’t go well, but you could play with 14 6-irons if you wanted!
What Clubs To Carry Based On Your Golf Bag
Your golf bag will dictate how many clubs you can carry and we can help you build the best possible configuration. Find your bag type below and check out our recommendation.
Cart bags are built for storage and designed to be used on a golf cart, push cart, or with a caddy. They may be light enough for you to carry as well. If you are using a cart bag, you should bring the legal maximum of 14 clubs. There is simply no reason to leave any of your sticks at home.
Our favorite 14-club configuration is Driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 4-iron, 5-iron, 6-iron, 7-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron, Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge, Sand Wedge, Lob Wedge, and Putter. We like carrying 4 wedges because it gives you more options around the green. If you want, replace the 5-wood with a 3-hybrid.
If you enjoy getting exercise when you play and you want to lighten the load on your back, you probably use a walking/carry bag. Yes, the bag is lighter, but you can also reduce the weight by carrying fewer clubs. In this case, we would recommend you bring 10.
Our favorite 10-club configuration is Driver, 3-wood, 4-iron, 6-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron, Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge, Sand Wedge, and Putter. You can play great golf with only 10 clubs.
Next up, is a minimalist golf bag. You believe less is more and want to keep things simple. There is more to golf than the numbers on your scorecard. If this sounds like you, you might be a minimalist! These golf bags are designed to carry 8 clubs.
Our favorite 8-club configuration is Driver, 3-wood, 4-iron, 6-iron, 8-iron, Pitching Wedge, Sand Wedge, and Putter. You will be surprised by the scores you can shoot with only 8 clubs in your bag.
Look, you are out there to have a good time with your buddies. You are going to hit some great shots and some terrible ones. You are a casual golfer that is serious about the fun. It sounds to us that you need a Sunday Golf Bag. They are super-lightweight and can handle 5-6 golf clubs.
Our favorite 6-club configuration is Driver, 4-iron, 6-iron, 8-iron, Sand Wedge, and Putter. You will be surprised by the scores you can shoot with only 8 clubs in your bag.
Finding the Right Configuration of Golf Clubs
How many clubs should be in your golf bag? The rules say you can only have 14, but they don’t dictate which 14. Most golfers tend to collect clubs over the years and end up with a garage or attic full of dusty sticks. Maybe it is time to give one or two of them a second chance for glory?
One way to improve your golf game is to find a configuration of clubs that help you cover up your weaknesses. Give the weather and/or course conditions some thought before your next trip to the course. If you have lost confidence in a certain club, maybe it needs a break – swap it out for a different option.
And finally, if you only need 10 clubs to enjoy the game, have fun carrying a lighter bag down the fairway.