When you think of golf, one of the first things that come to mind is “rules.” There’s a nearly endless list of rules, etiquette, and procedures that guide that player on appropriately playing the game, and for good reason. The rules and regulations of golf give everyone a level playing field so the competition can be about a player’s ability, rather than advantages in equipment. While many rules can be confusing, especially for beginners, the amount of clubs you are allowed to carry is relatively straightforward.
According to the USGA, you are allowed to carry a maximum of 14 clubs in your bag. There are additional rules for replacing, borrowing, and adding clubs during a round.
What’s the Reasoning Behind 14 Clubs?
Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for professional golfers to have 20+ clubs in their bags at a time. For most golfers, this seems excessive, but when your golf career is riding on a single shot, you would want to have the most options to choose from too. With more club types and materials available, it eventually got to the point that golf’s governing bodies decided to step in. Thus, the 14-club rule was imposed by the USGA in 1938 and has stayed ever since.
If you’re a casual golfer that is just playing with friends, no one will likely bat an eye if you have more than 14 clubs for a round. However, if you play the occasional weekend tournament or league match, you should make sure you comply with the 14 club rule before starting the round.
What’s the Penalty for Having More than 14 Clubs?
Depending on the type of match you are playing, the penalty will be different, these can be found in section 4.1b in the USGA Rules & Interpretations.
In stroke play, the penalty for having more than 14 clubs is 2 strokes per hole, with a maximum of a 4 stroke penalty per round. So if you noticed you have more than 14 clubs on the first hole, you would only be assessed a 2 stroke penalty, but if you started the second hole before noticing the extra clubs, you would receive the full 4 stroke penalty.
In match play, the penalty is received by deducting one hole for each hole that the player had more than 14 clubs, with a maximum of 2 holes per round. So if you just finished hole number 3 and were up by 1 hole when you realized you had 15 clubs, you would adjust the score by 2 holes and now be down by 1 hole.
How Do I Take Clubs Out of Play?
When you become aware that you have more than 14 clubs in your bag, you are to immediately notify another player of your mistake, as well as do something that clearly indicates you are taking this club out of play, the most common being to put the club upside down in one’s bag. If you do not take immediate action, the penalty is a disqualification.
Am I Allowed to Borrow My Partner’s Clubs if One of Mine Get’s Damaged?
According to USGA’s Rules Of Golf, the answer is no. The rule states that you cannot use any players club that counts as a stroke towards your score. You and your partner are allowed to have your clubs in the same bag but cannot use each other’s clubs. If you so choose, you can continue to use the damaged club for the remainder of the round or have it repaired as quickly as possible.
Can I Change Clubs During a Round?
Changing clubs during a round is acceptable under certain conditions but should be used only as a last resort. It would be best if you always tried to repair your club before opting to replace it. The rules state that a club can be replaced if the damage occurs from “outside influence or natural forces, or by another golfer or person other than yourself and your caddie”.
This means that you can replace your club under the following circumstances:
- Damaging your club on a poor swing
- Weather damage on the day of your match
- Another person or golfer purposely or accidentally damaging your club
You cannot change clubs in these situations:
- Damaging your club due to anger
- Normal wear and tear, such as grip damage, slight bends in the shaft, or loose club heads
- Discomfort with the club
Can I Add Clubs After Starting the Round?
As long as you are under the 14 club limit, you can add more clubs to your bag at any point in the round. So if you start the round with 12 clubs, you can add a club on hole 3 and hole 12 if that is what you wish to do, as long as you are not violating any other rules while adding them to your bag.
Can I Carry 2 Putters?
The USGA rulebook doesn’t have any limitations to the number of putters you can have in your bag. Better yet, there are no rules limiting the combinations of clubs you can have in your bag. So if you really want to you could have only putters and wedges in your bag, although it would likely be a miserable round for you and everyone playing with you.
Is There a Minimum Amount of Clubs I Need in My Bag?
The USGA is laid back on this rule as well. There’s no minimum requirement for the number of clubs needed to play a round of golf. This is probably because there are very few golfers who want to spend multiple hours swinging the same pitching wedge and putter over and over again.
What Types of Clubs Are You Allowed to Carry?
There are many different combinations of clubs you can carry. A typical golfers bag will look something like this:
- 5-wood or hybrid
- six different irons (typically 4-iron through 9-iron)
- three wedges (pitching wedge, sand wedge, lob wedge)
- miscellaneous choice for the last spot (gap wedge, both a hybrid and 5-wood, 3-iron)
Read more: “14 Golf Clubs to Always Carry in Your Bag”
Driver & Woods
These clubs are used for maximum distance but can be difficult to hit consistently and accurately. Your driver is used on the tee box for most holes, while your fairway woods can be used in the fairway when you still have a significant distance to the hole.
Your irons are used mostly in the approach shot (after your initial drive) but can also be used for teeing off on shorter holes, as well as chipping when you are close to the green. Your lower irons (3-6) can still be used to cover significant ground in the middle of the hole but can give you a little bit more accuracy than one of your woods.
When you get closer to the hole you can use your higher irons and wedges for approach shots, chipping, or getting out of hazards and long grass.
Your putter is a flat-faced club that is used to putt the ball in once you are on the green or the fringe.
Unlike some other golf rules, the number of clubs you can carry in your bag is a relatively easy one to follow. Just remember to double-check your bag before any tournament or competitive match you’re about to play. If you’re under 14 clubs, you are good to go.