How Many Clubs Can Be In Your Golf Bag?

Irons in golf bag

No matter if you have been playing for years or if you have just started to pick up the game of golf, you know that golf is a game of rules.

Every sport is governed by a rule book, it just seems like the golf rule book is the one you would choose to secure a rope to while repelling off a building.

One of the rules that governs the game of golf is how many clubs can be in your golf bag during a round.

The rest of this article will explain how many you can have, what the penalty would be if you have more, and even which clubs are the most common to carry.

How Many Clubs In A Golf Bag? 14 Or Less!

What The Rule Says

The official maximum number of clubs you can carry in your golf bag is 14. You can have less, but you cannot have more. The official rule in the golf rule book states:

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.
  • Is restricted in the use of other equipment that gives artificial help to his or her play.

Rule 4 obviously goes deeper into each of the three subpoints, but the rule is very clear in that you can carry a maximum of 14 clubs.

Can You Be Penalized?

If you are playing an official or sanctioned event, and you carry more than 14 clubs in your bag, you will be penalized.

The actual penalty is 2 strokes for every hole in which the rule was broken with a maximum penalty of 4 strokes.

If you are playing match play, the penalty is forfeiting any hole where the rule was broken up to 2 holes. The penalties may not seem too severe, but if you play golf like I do, every stroke counts!

The worst occurrence of this rule being broken that we remember happened at the 2001 Open Championship to Ian Woosnam.

On the opening hole of the final round, Woosnam birdied to tie for the lead with just 17 holes to go in a major championship.

When he arrived at the second tee, however, he realized his mistake and threw the “extra wood” out of his bag and across the tee box.

The damage, however, was done. He was assessed a 2-stroke penalty, he fell back to t-6 immediately, and then finished t-3 for the tournament. 

It is also important to note that if you are just playing around with some friends, and want to throw in an extra club that you may “experiment” with on the course, it is generally not a big deal.

The rule is there for a reason, so if the match is competitive, make sure you point out your error, but most people are ok with you carrying something extra on a golf outing knowing that you may just want to try something out on a course.

Nuances Of The Rule: FAQs

Can you use your partner’s clubs?

You cannot play with your partner’s clubs…Period. You can, oddly, combine yours and your partner’s clubs into one golf bag, you just cannot use their clubs to strike and advance your ball. You also cannot get around the 14 club rule by having your partner, or your caddie for that matter, carry extra clubs that you plan to use around the course.

Can I add clubs to my bag during a round?

If you were like me, you probably thought the answer to this question would be “no.” Actually, you can add clubs to your bag during a round. If you start the round with 13 clubs or less, you can add clubs as you go to get the number up to 14. It would seem like, to make this happen, there would be a predetermined plan or reason, but it is within the rules to add a club during a round.

How do you take clubs out of play during a round if you have more than 14 in your bag?

The answer to this question is easy, basically, you just remove the club. The rules state that you must “immediately take an action that clearly indicates each club that you are taking out of play.” Whether that means you take it out and toss it across the course, have some type of ceremony for the club, or simply lay it aside and not touch it again, you simply have to make an action that shows the club you are removing and then you remove the club without using it again that round.

Is there a minimum number of clubs I have to carry?

Technically there is no minimum number of clubs to carry unless you consider that you cannot play without 1 club. If you really want to play a round with just a putter, or “Tin Cup” it and play an entire round with just a 7-iron, then you are welcome to try.

Which Clubs Should You Carry?

Almost every golfer on almost every course carries both a driver and a putter so that you have room for 12 more clubs after that.

The general rule is to carry a 3-wood, 4-iron through 9-iron, and 3 wedges.

This leaves you with 3 additional spots available that most golfers will fill with a combination of hybrids, woods, and additional wedges.

Many beginners are using even less irons and more hybrids with the progression in hybrid technology.

Final Thoughts On How Many Clubs in A Golf Bag

If you are a beginner and have never considered this issue, hopefully you learned a little about the ins and outs of the 14 rule club. If you are really going to enjoy a sport and get better at it, you have to follow the rules the way they are written. It may seem somewhat subjective, but 14 clubs is a lot for 1 round of golf, so make sure you pick the right ones and go out and have fun. If you learned something or have friends that might learn from this article, take a moment to share it on social media. We would love to hear your comments letting us know what you thought about the article or any additional information you would like to share.

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