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How Many Clubs Do You Need in a Golf Bag?

How Many Clubs Do You Need in a Golf Bag?

What clubs should you put in your golf bag? And how many are allowed? Get answers and more from our golf writer Marc below!

The short answer to the question of “how many clubs in a golf bag?” is that it depends on the golfer.

Think in terms of how many clubs you think it will take you to get the ball from the tee to the hole.

Are you playing a full-size golf course? If so, you’ll probably want a driver, a couple of fairway woods, and some longer irons or hybrids to help you cover the distances of the longer holes. Conversely, if you’re playing a Par 3 course, you can likely leave the big clubs out of the bag and carry only your short irons, wedges, and putter.

The same differences apply when it comes to skill level. Generally speaking, longer clubs (drivers, fairway woods, long irons) are more difficult to hit accurately. So, while a skilled golfer may choose to carry a full set, a beginner might be better off sticking to the clubs that give them the best chance at consistently good contact.

Then there’s the matter of walking vs. riding. If you’re taking a cart, you might as well bring every club that’s allowed. But if you’re walking, you may be looking for opportunities to lighten your load and might choose to bring only your most dependable sticks.

In other words, there is no right answer to the question of how many clubs in a golf bag. It’s a very personal choice.

As for how many clubs are allowed in a golf bag, well, that’s a different story. Read on to learn what the rules permit.

How Many Clubs Are Allowed in a Golf Bag?


golfer holding several golf clubs in each hand while smiling on the golf course


The rules of golf state that a player can’t have more than 14 clubs in their bag while their ball is in play. In competition, the penalty for carrying extra clubs is two strokes for each hole that was played with more than 14. For a competitive golfer, the mistake of exceeding the maximum number of clubs can be disastrous to their score.

You won’t see any manufacturers offer pre-selected full sets of more than 14 clubs because of those rules.

As we talked about, building a full set of golf clubs becomes very personal and is often dependent on the current skill level of the golfer who is choosing which clubs to carry. Generally, a full set of golf clubs will be configured with combinations along the lines of:

  • 1 Driver
  • 1 or 2 Fairway Woods
  • 1 to 3 Hybrids
  • 5 to 7 Irons
  • 1 to 3 Wedges
  • 1 Putter

You’ll notice in the above list that if you chose the maximum number of each of those types of clubs, you’d be at 17 golf clubs, which is more than the 14 you’re allowed to carry. That’s where personal decisions come into play.

Almost every golfer who is playing a full course will choose to carry one driver and one putter. Though even that is not certain, as some golfers struggle so much with their driver that they’ve taken it out of their bag all together.

But beyond the standard driver and putter, full-set combinations can vary considerably. The more time you spend around a golf course, the more various combinations of golf clubs you’ll see. And because there is no minimum on how many clubs in a golf bag, even some serious golfers don’t carry a full set of 14.

Often, very skilled golfers will choose to carry a driver, just one fairway wood, one hybrid, a full set of irons, three wedges, and a putter. While a beginner may favor hybrids to irons and therefore fill their bag accordingly. That beginner might also not be skilled enough to execute different wedge shots and might be best off carrying just a pitching wedge and sand wedge.

Once again, the choices are very personal. And regular golfers might even swap out different kinds of clubs from round to round depending on how they are playing or even what types of shots they anticipate at the specific golf course they are playing. 

Let’s look at how the different types of golf clubs work so that you can build your golf club set with a better understanding of which clubs you’ll need for the various shots you’ll face.

How To Know Which Golf Club To Use

Every golf club in your bag is designed for a general type of shot. And the more skilled golfer you are, the more you can add your own creativity, artistry, and athleticism to know which club to choose for each specific situation.

The beauty of golf becomes working your way around the course with a limited set of tools and figuring out how to shoot your best score. Think of a painter who is limited to 14 colors. The game is to mix, match, and blend in your own personal way.

But let’s get a handle on the basics of which golf club to use for which type of shot.

The Driver

This is going to be the longest golf club in your bag and the one with the biggest clubhead. And that’s because the driver is designed to deliver the most distance.

Grip it and rip it.

Let the big dog eat.

You may have heard some of the endless cliches associated with the driver. Most of them have to do with smashing the ball as far as you can.

The problem is that, especially for beginners, the longer the golf club, the harder it is to hit straight. And, of course, because the driver is the longest, it’s the problem child in most golf bags.

So while you definitely want to work up to being able to consistently control your driver and gain that precious distance, don’t be afraid to dial it back to a fairway wood, hybrid, or even iron off the tee if accuracy is causing you problems.

Fairway Woods

Next longest in length after the driver are what are known as woods, or what are sometimes more accurately called “metals” because no modern golf club includes any wood in its construction.

The full name of this type of club is usually “fairway woods” because they are designed to be hit out of the fairway, or shorter grass, on the golf course. That’s not to say that you can’t use them out of the rough, or longer grass, but the deeper the grass, the harder it is going to be to make good contact using a fairway wood.

So, the typical use case for a fairway wood is when you have a good lie and you are still pretty far from the green — far enough that you can’t reach it with a hybrid, iron, or wedge.

As with every grouping of golf clubs, the lower the number, the further the club is designed to hit the ball.

So, a 3 wood will give you more distance than a 5 wood, which should go further than a 7 wood, etc.

Also, generally, the higher the number on the club, the easier it is to hit. So, if you’re a beginner, you may have better success by putting, say, a 5 and 7 wood in your bag instead of a 3 and 5 wood.

Beginner players who need more help achieving distance will often choose to carry a couple of fairway woods. While expert players who can hit their irons and hybrids far enough to manage the distance required for most of their shots may only carry one fairway wood. Some won’t carry any.


As the name suggests, this type of golf club is a hybrid between fairway wood and iron. It is designed to be easier to hit for beginners than either a fairway wood or iron.

A very skilled player may be able to maximize their shot potential using either a fairway wood or iron. But a beginner may benefit greatly with a hybrid, which might sacrifice some of the distance of a fairway wood and some of the trajectory and spin of an iron but that might in turn deliver a more consistent shot.

Long irons are often the most difficult to hit well for beginners. So in many sets, you will see a 3 hybrid, 4 hybrid, and 5 hybrid instead of a 3 iron, 4 iron, and 5 iron.

Hybrids are also often a good option for shots out of the rough. Because they have a larger head than an iron but a more forgiving face-angle than a fairway wood, they are sometimes referred to as “rescue clubs” and can even help top-level players out of a jam.

When in doubt as a beginner, choose a hybrid. It may be the easiest to hit of any type of club in your bag.


One of the biggest reasons that we have hybrids is because, for many golfers, irons are more difficult to hit.

However, once you learn the skill of hitting an iron, you’ll find that these types of golf clubs give you the most pinpoint accuracy for shots that you’re hitting into the small target of a green.

Like with fairway woods and hybrids, the lower the number, the less the loft. And the less the loft, the further the club is designed to go. So, a 3 iron is meant to fly lower and go much further than a high-flying 9 iron. But, sadly, a 3 iron is also much more difficult to consistently hit solidly than a 9 iron. It’s for that reason that beginners may be better off replacing their longer, less-lofted irons with hybrids.

Irons are often the golf clubs we use for what are called “approach shots,” or those shots that we are hoping will land on the green. Irons give us increased trajectory and spin control. And the higher the loft, the more the backspin the club will apply at contact. So, a 9 iron hit well may be able to hop and stop on the green whereas a 3 iron may hit the green and then run off the back side.


Wedges are just the highest-lofted irons. They are usually marked with the degree of their loft.

Most players, from beginners to experts, will carry a pitching wedge, which generally has a loft of about 48 degrees. You can think of a pitching wedge as a 10 iron. After that, wedge configurations become very personal.

Some players will prefer to carry multiple wedges because they are skilled enough to apply the varying lofts to different situations. A 60-degree wedge, for example, gives a golfer the ultimate stopping power on the green, but it is also not simple to hit correctly.

Because a greenside bunker shot requires more loft to lift the ball out of the sand and to clear the lip of the bunker, most golf club sets will include a “sand wedge” which just means a higher-lofted wedge; something like 56 degrees is common.


Even new golfers probably understand that the putter is used on the green to hit the ball into the hole. It’s the same type of club you use in miniature golf. Same type of shot too, though on the real golf course you’ll face fewer windmills and clown’s mouths and more undulations and varying distances.

The more advanced you get with golf, the more personal your choice in putter will become. When you’re first getting started, most any “flat stick,” as it’s sometimes called, will likely do. But eventually, you’ll find a specific style of putter that best fits your individual stroke.

Good golfers never want to have to putt the ball more than two times on any given green. But mastering the putter so that you can save those important strokes takes time for everyone.

How To Organize Golf Bag

Organizing a golf club bag does involve some personal taste and preference, but there are a few common ways to keep your clubs in order.

How to organize a 14-divider golf bag is easier because there are 14 individual slots. Most golfers put their driver and woods on the top row of the bag. Some golfers also keep their putters next to their driver on the top row. Other golfers put their putter on the bottom row, next to the wedges. Everything in between is usually in sequential order, with the shortest clubs (i.e., wedges, 9 iron, etc.) being at the bottom of the bag working up to the longest clubs until you reach the driver.

Some bags will only have two or three dividers, meaning you group your clubs in batches and they inevitably get a bit mixed up. Of course, how many clubs in a golf bag will determine how easy it is to organize.

Make Your Set of Golf Clubs Your Own

The beauty of golf is that it’s a fully customizable experience. And that includes the clubs.

You can shop for individual drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, and putters.

Or, you can buy package golf sets for men or women.

Golf does not have to be a one-size-fits-all experience. Your individual golf clubs are an extension of your golfing personality. Find what works for your skill level, interest, and budget. You can always upgrade as you fall further in love with this great game.

About PlayBetter Golf Reviewer Marc Sheforgen

Marc "Shef" Sheforgen is a golf writer whose passion for the game far exceeds his ability to play it well. Marc covers all things golf, from product reviews and equipment recommendations to event coverage and tournament analysis. When he’s not playing, watching, or writing about golf, he enjoys traveling (often golf-related), youth sports coaching, volunteering, and record collecting.

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