One of the most important rules when it comes to golf is how many golf clubs are allowed in a bag?
I had no idea that there was a maximum number of clubs that I could bring when I first started playing.
Going even further back, I wasn’t even aware that you use different types of clubs depending on various factors.
For beginners, it can be challenging to learn all the rules that come with playing golf. And it’s no surprise because golf is undoubtedly one of the most strict and rule-heavy games.
It’s essential to have a clear understanding of all these intricate details to make the most out of your game. Otherwise, you may end up acquiring penalties over penalties in every round.
If you’re like me who began the golf journey a little shaky, then this guide is perfect for you!
How Many Golf Clubs are Allowed in a Bag
Why do you need to know how many clubs are allowed in a golf bag? Choosing the right clubs before a round can be confusing and nerve-wracking.
Before stepping on the course, you have to take into account various factors to be able to choose suitable clubs. This knowledge allows you to plan your strategy throughout the game.
Today, how many golf clubs are you allowed to carry during a game?
According to the United States Golf Association (USGA), you can only carry up to 14 clubs in your bag. But when did this limit on how many golf clubs are you allowed in your bag started?
Let’s look a little further back.
History for Why it was Regulated
Unlike the current maximum number of how many clubs are allowed in the bag, golfers would bring more than that in the past.
In the early 20th century, professional golfers used to carry around 20 to 25 clubs in their bags during games.
During tournaments, players would bring the most clubs with different combinations to increase their chances of scoring well.
Note that until 1924, the club shafts mainly consisted of wood material. Once they started constructing shafts using steel, it brought a hurdle to controlling the ball during a game.
That’s when players started carrying various combinations of clubs in their bag. They wanted to maximize their shots using different types of clubs.
Consequently, the Professional Golfer’s Association of America (PGA) saw that this freedom to carry around unlimited clubs lessened the game’s challenging aspect.
Since there was no limit on how many golf clubs are allowed, anyone can play however they want. With that, the ruling bodies decided that it’s hurting the game hence formulating a new rule.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) introduced the 14-club limit in 1938. Following that, the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) adopted this rule in 1939.
The rule on how many golf clubs are allowed in a golf bag aims to lessen the clubs that golfers carry.
Then between 1988, there were altered rules made by the USGA regarding club borrowing. The first was in 1988, where they allowed players to borrow clubs during a round from anyone.
The player can use that club throughout the round. Then in 1992, they changed the rule back to only allowing club-borrowing from your partner during a tournament.
Reason for Limiting the Allowed Number
The reason why there is a limitation on how many golf clubs are you allowed to carry is to keep the game challenging.
This limit helps players improve their game and plan strategies during the game by playing different shots using their selected clubs.
Furthermore, the ruling bodies of golf associations see this limit as prevention for cheating in a match.
For the player’s sake, limiting how many golf clubs are allowed in a golf bag lessens the burden of carrying it.
Note that carrying 14 clubs is already heavy enough, what more if you add more clubs on top of that? Additionally, we all know how expensive clubs are.
This limit allows you to be able to participate in a game while keeping the money spent at bay. Now, let’s get to the technical rules on how many golf clubs are you allowed to bring in the course.
How Many Golf Clubs Can You Carry in Your Bag? Knowing these rules is especially important when you’re playing in an open tournament or match-play competition.
Since most golf associations adhere to the USGA’s imposed standards, you won’t have to worry about it changing.
How many golf clubs are allowed in a bag?
The official maximum number of clubs allowed to carry in a golf bag is 14. The number of clubs in an average player’s bag is typically the 12 standard clubs.
It usually includes three woods, eight boards, and putters.
So what exactly are the rules? Let’s get right to the point. The rules of golf are based on a principle that a player’s success should depend on his judgment, skills, and abilities.
- In accordance with the golf principles, golfers can carry a maximum of 12 clubs in their bag during a round.
- You can bring less than a maximum of 14 clubs, but you can bring more than that.
- During the round, you cannot change any of the clubs in your bag.
- If you began the round with less than 14 clubs, you could add more clubs.
- You must use conforming golf clubs and balls.
- You cannot borrow other clubs from another player.
- You cannot use different equipment to replace golf clubs in your play artificially.
These are strict regulations, and violating these rules can lead to penalties, which we will discuss further in the next sections.
The Exception to the Rule
When you’re playing, you can usually replace it with another club during a round in case of damaged clubs.
Furthermore, if you’re just practicing, it is alright to bring more than 14 golf clubs in your bag. Just be mindful when you’re playing in a real tournament since it can cause detrimental effects to your game.
Also, if you’re a beginner, you don’t have to pressure yourself on maximizing the number of your clubs. You won’t usually need all 12 clubs when you’re just starting to learn.
It’s okay to start with 12 standard clubs or less and increase it as you improve.
What are the Penalties
Now let’s talk about the penalties when you violate how many golf clubs are allowed in a bag. Initially, the penalty for exceeding the maximum number of clubs was a disqualification.
Pretty harsh, right? Fortunately, the ruling body changed it to penalties that have no limits. For stroke play, it was two strokes per hole, and in match play, it was a loss of hole.
Hence, you can get up to a 36-stroke penalty for 18 holes per round.
However, in 1968, they changed the structure of penalties into what we currently follow. The penalties vary from the type of tournament you’re playing, so it’s different for every player.
Here are the two types of penalties that you can get when you violate the club limit rule:
- In a stroke play, the penalty is two strokes for every hole you play with an extra club in your bag.
- The maximum penalty you can get during a round is four strokes.
- Under USGA’s rule, a golfer who violated the 12-club limit must declare the excess club as out of play.
- It will officially be declared offside by the opponent or fellow competitor during a stroke play.
- In a match play, the penalty is deducting one hole from the player’s score for each violated hole.
- The maximum deduction that you can get during a match play is two holes. Hence, if you make the violation, your score can change drastically.
- If you notice the violation while playing a hole, the penalty will be assessed at the end of the hole.
- If you notice it between holes, the violation then applies to the hole you completed.
It’s important to always count the clubs in your bag before entering a competition. Doing so would prevent avoidable violations that can ruin your play.
Importance of Knowing the Rules
The rules apply to all players when playing a tournament. It holds whatever your handicap level may be. So you can’t expect this rule to change for specific situations.
You should always be mindful of not carrying excessive clubs in your bag. You might think that pro golfers would be safe from these mistakes.
However, it happens even within the best golfers in the industry. One of the most classic examples of this is Ian Woosnam, who was the 1991 Masters champion.
During the first round of 2001’s British Open, Woosnam made a mistake relating to the 14-club rule. That round, his caddie notified him that there is an excess of clubs in his bag.
He found that the second driver he used for practice was still inside the bag. He had to declare the situation to a game official. This mistake on Woosnam and his caddie led to a 2-stroke penalty.
That one small mistake caused his winning chances to decline, although he ended up in third place for that tournament.
Golf Clubs, Golf Bags, and Caddies: The Know-Hows
Now that you’re aware of how many golf clubs are allowed in a bag, you should focus on maximizing your result using it.
The golf club, the golf bag, and the caddie are the most critical elements when you’re on the course. Everything you carry in the course must comply with the regulations imposed by the golf ruling body.
With that, here are the essential know-hows when it comes to your golf equipment:
Standard Club Set
The standard set of clubs that you can buy at retail shops would generally include:
- 1 driver
- 2 fairway wood
- 3-iron to 9-iron
- Putter (the golfer himself usually chooses the putter that suits him)
You can also buy standard club sets, which include hybrids instead or 3- or 4-iron. Hybrid clubs are the best replacement for lengthy irons as it is easier to hit.
It also allows you to cover more distance with better control than when you’re playing long irons.
Also, some golfers carry fewer clubs, around 9 or 10, as the golf bag is lighter to carry. You can even just walk the course instead of taking a golf cart with you with fewer clubs.
With the right choices of club and strategy, you can score just as well even with fewer clubs.
Clubs for Beginner Skill Level
For beginners, especially, you won’t need to invest in a full set of clubs at first. Try the minimum number of essential clubs first to learn different shots and playing style.
Here’s a quick guide on the preferable clubs for making particular shots:
- When learning how to hit long distances, you would usually need a driver or 3-wood.
- When learning how to hit short shots around the green, you would need a pitching wedge.
- When learning how to hit iron shots, the best club would be a 6-iron.
- Beginners also need a putter that suits their style.
When choosing a club, you should base it on whether it is comfortable and functional for you.
Evaluate the clubs, weight, length, and overall feel. It can also help to get fitted for your clubs if you want to take your game seriously.
Golf Club FAQs
Here are the answers to the frequently asked questions when it comes to how many golf clubs are allowed in a bag:
Can I use my partner’s golf clubs?
The straightforward answer to this is no. Based on the rules of golf, you cannot use your partner’s or other people’s clubs during a round.
However, the rules allow you to share the same golf bag with your partner.
But once it’s your turn, you have to identify whose club is which. If you want to try your partner’s club, you have to do it before or after the game.
Is there a minimum number of clubs I can carry?
While there is a maximum number of golf clubs you can carry, there is no minimum. So if you want to play the round with only drivers or irons, then you can.
Can I add clubs to my golf bag during a round?
Yes. When you have fewer clubs than the maximum in your bag, you can add as long as it doesn’t exceed 14. S
o if you started the round with 12 clubs, you could add two more clubs without acquiring a penalty.
Different Types of Golf Bags
Now that you’ve equipped yourself with the proper knowledge about golf clubs, let’s look at the golf bags.
Different golf bags have different capabilities, and you should choose which one suits your needs. Here are the differences between different types of golf bags:
- These are large and heavy bags without a stand.
- Its design allows you to carry a considerable number of golf accessories and equipment. Even so, you could still fit it on your golf cart.
- Cart bags usually have dividers on top, so golfers can keep their clubs and equipment organized.
- Stand bags are lighter in weight and size than cart bags.
- Since it has two legs, it can stand, and it is perfect when you want to walk the course.
- This type of bag is similar to cart bags but are slightly bigger in size.
- It is usually more expensive, and you can customize it with your name or logo.
Role of Caddies
A caddie is the assigned person who will assist and perform tasks for a golfer. They can carry your clubs or ask them to choose a club for you.
For other players, they hire caddies with extensive knowledge of the course and about golf in general.
For pro golfers, a caddie plays a massive role in a tournament since they evaluate information about the course. They can also advise a player when it comes to strategy and selection of clubs.
Here are the rules when it comes to having caddies on the course:
- The USGA rule limits players to use only one caddie at a time.
- The exception to this rule would be when a caddie is injured, and you need to replace them with another one. The replacement bears the same rights and responsibilities as the one they replaced.
- The golfer may not change caddies only to gain advice. It may lead to a violation, and you can receive either a two-stroke penalty or lose a hole during a match play.
Keep Your Clubs in Check
Now that we’ve answered how many golf clubs are allowed in a bag, you must keep it by heart. Knowing that you have the right number of clubs in your bag enables you to ease your mind when playing.
We also discussed the various elements that will determine how you will perform on the course. These are important to ensure that you’re making the most out of your game.