how many golf clubs

How Many Clubs in a Golf Bag?

In golf, there are 24 different rules to abide by. Each of the 24 rules of golf have specific sub-rules within them. Today we will discuss Rule 4 in the USGA golf rule book which talks about the player’s equipment. It’s important to understand the rule regarding the maximum number of golf clubs allowed in a golf bag and the penalty associated with breaking this rule.

Below we will also discuss the minimum numbers of golf clubs a player is required to carry in addition to the maximum golf clubs in a bag rule.

Let’s start off first by reading about Rule 4 in the snippet below.

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Rule 4 – The Players Equipment

The Rule Book states (see USGA ruling here) the following:

Rule 4 covers the equipment that players may use during a round. Based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the player’s judgment, skills and abilities, the player:
• Must use conforming clubs and balls,
• Is limited to no more than 14 clubs and normally must not
replace damaged or lost clubs, and
• Is restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial
help to his or her play.”

golf clubs

Maximum Golf Clubs Allowed = 14

According to this rule, the maximum number of golf clubs allowed in a golf bag is 14 clubs.

There is no rule to which clubs you have to have in your bag, so you can create the 14 club maximum using any variation of 14 golf clubs that you wish.

Minimum Golf Clubs = 1

There is currently no minimum number of golf clubs rule set by the USGA but in order to play a round of golf you will need to have at least 1 golf club. You cannot throw the golf ball or kick it with your shoe. It must be hit with a golf club.

Penalty for More than 14 Golf Clubs

If you start a round of golf and you realize that you’ve been playing with more than 14 golf clubs, here is how the USGA has defined the penalty for using more than the maximum allowed golf clubs:

Stroke Play

  • Assess a 2-stroke penalty for each hole played with more clubs than allowed
  • A maximum of 4 strokes may be assessed
  • Assess the penalty to the first two holes that the breach occurred

In stroke play, you will incur a 2 stroke penalty on hole #1 for playing with more than 14 golf clubs. If you didn’t realize you had too many clubs until hole 6, don’t worry, the USGA rules don’t assess you a 2-stroke penalty on all of the 6 holes. Instead, you’ll get a two-stroke penalty only on holes #1 and #2 since there is a maximum of 4 penalty strokes to be assessed for this rule breach.

Match Play

  • At the end of the hole you are playing or just completed, the match score is revised by deducting one hole for each hole where a breach happened, with a maximum deduction of two holes in the round.

In match play, you will go back and remove wins from your score if you used more than the maximum allowed clubs for that hole. For example, if you’re on hole 6 and you just won hole 6 and hole 5 to go 2 up in the match, you’ll be required to adjust the score and remove those wins on hole 6 and hole 5, making the match all tied instead of being 2 up.

If you notice a breach of the penalty in between holes, always apply the penalty to the previous hole just completed.

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How to Remove the Clubs Causing a Rules Violation

When you notice you’ve breached the 14 club maximum golf rule, you should immediately alert your playing partner of the rules violation. You can work with your playing partner to adjust scores for the penalty you incur.

You should then proceed to remove the clubs from the bag and take them out of play. You can do this by turning the club upside down in the golf bag to symbolize being taken out of play and no longer use that club the rest of the round.

Adding Golf Clubs During the Round

If you realize that you have less than 14 golf clubs in your bag, you may add golf clubs up until you reach the 14 club maximum limit. This can be done during a golf round you’ve already started.

Replacing a Damaged Golf Club

Since you’re allowed to have 14 golf clubs in your bag during a round of golf, what happens if one golf club becomes damaged or broken during play?

Here’s what the rule book has to say about replacing a damaged club:

  • A player is allowed to keep using and/or to repair any club damaged during the round, no matter what the damage and even if the player damaged it in anger.
  • A player is not allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence or natural forces, or by someone other than the player or his or her caddie.

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Which 14 Golf Clubs Should You Carry in Your Bag?

Since you get to hold 14 clubs in your golf bag, making club selections can be difficult for beginners who aren’t sure what they’ll need during a golf round. Let us help by giving you an example 14 golf club setup for your golf bag:

  • Driver
  • 3-wood
  • 5-wood
  • Hybrid
  • 4-iron
  • 5-iron
  • 6-iron
  • 7-iron
  • 8-iron
  • 9-iron
  • Pitching Wedge
  • Sand Wedge / Gap Wedge
  • Chipping Wedge (58 degree or 60 degree)
  • Putter

Your driver will help you hit long tee shots on longer golf holes.

The 3-wood, 5-wood, and hybrid will bridge the gap between driver and 4-iron making it easy to hit long distances with these beginner friendly clubs since a 4-iron can be quite difficult to play with. You may even decide to replace your 4-iron, removing it from the bag and putting in a hybrid with the same loft as a substitute.

Most golf bags come with a standard set of golf irons so you’ll usually have a 4-iron through 9-iron in your bag.

Golf iron sets might also come with a pitching wedge (P) and a sand wedge (S).

You can also buy individual chipping wedges with varying lofts and bounces to suit your short game needs. I recommend having a higher lofted chipping wedge like a 58 degree wedge or 60 degree wedge.

Lastly, you want a putter to use on the green to roll the ball into the hole. Putters come in mallet style and blade style so choose the one that feels the best fit for your putting stroke. Blade putters tend to work for arcing putting strokes while mallet putters are good for straight back, straight forward putting strokes.

Give this 14 golf club set a try in your golf bag when choosing which clubs to add to reach the 14 club maximum.

Final Thoughts of 14 Club Golf Rule

Overall, be aware that golf rules only allow for a maximum of 14 clubs in the bag during your golf round. Make sure to check before you start your round, counting how many clubs are in your bag so you don’t find out during play you’ve breached the rule.

Catch it beforehand so you can remove the extra golf clubs to meet the 14 club limit and not incur the two stroke penalty on the first hole.

And if you do breach the rule, remember the maximum penalty strokes to add to your score is 4. You’ll add 2 strokes to each of the first two holes played over the 14 club limit.

Make sure to turn the offending clubs upside down in your bag and don’t use them anymore during the round.

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