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How many clubs are in a golf bag? What you need to know

There is a rule to how many clubs go in a golf bag every player should know

A golfer carrying their bag on the course.
Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock

Learning how to play any sport takes time and patience to nail down the ins and outs. Then there are rules to the game you wouldn’t even think of until you are in it, like how to pack your golf bag for tee time. If you think you can toss some irons in and be on your way to the green, put the clubs down for a second. Knowing how many clubs go in a golf bag won’t only help separate you from the newbies but will prevent you from earning penalties while playing. Step up your golf knowledge with the rundown on golf club etiquette.

How many clubs can go in a golf bag?

Golf clubs in golf bags.
Diana Palkevic / Unsplash

The straight answer — 14 golf clubs is the limit for your golf bag. It gets more nuanced, but 14 of your favorite sticks is the max. This number won’t vary from club to club or course to course. Fourteen is the number provided by the USGA (United States Golf Association) and the R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews), so the powers that be are all in agreement.

The exact rule to follow

For those who love to know the specific rules, there is one for the golf clubs. In The Player’s Equipment USGA Rules of Golf, check out Rule 4 in the book, which tells players, “You must not start a round with more than 14 clubs or have more than 14 clubs during the round.” From start to finish, every round must begin and end with the player having a total of 14 golf clubs. No wiggle room in there.

Why there is a limit on the number of clubs

From uniforms to the number of players on the field or court to the dimensions of equipment used — we follow the rules in sports. When it comes to the number of golf clubs in your bag, nobody knows why 14 was picked. But if you like the lore behind the law, it was in 1936 when John Jackson, the USGA President at the time, proposed the ruling in response to a player rolling into the 1935 U.S. Open with 32 clubs. It took two years for the rule to stick but has been the standard ever since. We’re sure caddies everywhere are thankful.

What clubs to pack in a golf bag

Players on the course with their golf bags.
Peter Drew / Unsplash

This part is completely up to the golfer. This is where your personality, skill level, talent, and preferences shine. Are you going for a friendly Sunday afternoon game with friends? Which course are you playing on, and what type of hazards are there? The picking of clubs is where your experience comes in handy.

It doesn’t matter what clubs you pack

You can put whatever clubs you want in your bag as long as you have 14 or fewer. If you play on a course where you know you only need nine clubs, bring those and leave the rest home. A good rule of thumb is to start with the irons and wedges needed and work around the course from there, making sure you don’t have duplicates with putters and drivers. We aren’t all Phil Mickelson winning the 2006 Masters with two drivers.

A deep swing into the rule

People loading their golf bags into the cart to start playing a round.
Jopwell / Pexels
  • You can have fewer than 14 clubs.
  • Players can have any combination of clubs they want.
  • You can pick up someone else’s lost club as long as you don’t use it.

If you know you can play through your usual course using only nine clubs, leave the rest at home. You do not have to bring the maximum number of clubs with you.

If your golf bag is at capacity and you find a lonely club that might have been thrown in anger by another player, you can pick it up and put the extra club in your bag upside down, just don’t accidentally use it.

What the penalty is

If you have 15 or more clubs at any hole, you will be penalized, whether it’s match play or stroke play. For each hole you are caught with 15 or more clubs, you will be hit with a two-stroke penalty, with up to four strokes as the maximum penalty. To correct the mistake, officially declare the extra club, turn it upside down in your bag, and don’t touch it for the rest of the round.

If you think it never happens in the pros, this rule has cost even them. A notorious example is when Ian Woosnam realized he had 15 clubs in his bag at the Open Championship in 2001, at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s. After chucking the stowaway club across the tee for everyone to see, Woosnam miraculously managed to pull off third place in the tournament. Don’t worry about the caddie; he wasn’t fired.

The next time you golf, double-check your bag before going from the range to the green. If you switch out sets, make sure to clean out all of the old ones before you tee off. Even if you swing to relax on the weekends, playing the game correctly is part of the fun. Remember how many clubs go in a golf bag, and if you do find yourself in violation of the rule, just turn your club upside down instead of chucking it across the green.

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Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
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