26 August 2022
Since the first known set of rules were devised for golf back in 1744, the sport’s rulebook has continued to evolve and change. However, this can make it difficult – particularly for new golfers – to keep up and avoid any unfair penalties. So today we are going to deal with one of the most commonly asked rule-related questions in the world of golf: how many golf clubs can you carry in a bag? By the time you’ve finished reading, you should have a solid understanding of this crucial rule and some of its more nuanced elements, as well as a new-found knowledge for the history of the game.
First things first, there is a limit to the number of clubs you can carry on the golf course. Dictated by rule number 4 which relates to a player’s equipment, the maximum number of clubs you can have in your bag is 14. Despite this though, there is no restriction on which 14 clubs you opt for.
For example, you may wish to double up on a certain type of club (like a lob wedge) to gain some added flexibility in your short game.
Intentionally (or accidentally) carrying more than 14 clubs is something which golfers should avoid at all costs, as there are harsh repercussions for doing so. A 2 shot penalty will be given to players in breach of this rule, but even worse is the fact that this then doubles to a 4 shot penalty if you fail to notice your mistake until the second hole. An easy, but costly mistake to make then…
While it’s frustrating to receive any penalty, the best thing you can do is own up to your mistake as soon as possible and choose the club/clubs which you wish to take out of play. This can either be done by alerting a playing partner of your decision, or by simply placing the club back in your bag grip-end up.
The good news is that you don’t need to carry around a full complement of 14 clubs. This means that if you have clubs in your bag which you know you don’t use – or are simply looking to simplify your strategic decision making while out on the course – you can play with as few clubs as you like. Taking a few redundant irons out of your bag might even help to reduce the load on your back or trolley battery!
Contrary to popular belief, there hasn’t always been a limit on the number of clubs you can play with. The origins of the 14 club limit can actually be found in the late 1920s when steel shafted clubs were introduced. As golfers were unsure if they wanted to change from their old hickory shafts to this new technology, many decided to carry both – resulting in bags with up to 20 clubs in them! However, the governing bodies of golf were quick to realise the problem, and in 1938 the USGA and R&A brought the 14 club limit into force.
You could reasonably argue that thanks to modern adjustable club technology, 1 club can now be turned into many different clubs – thereby rendering the 14 club limit useless. The rules of golf have been quick to reflect this new adjustability though, clearly stating that players must not make any alterations to their clubs during a round. That doesn’t mean you should leave your adjustable wrench at home though, as the rules do permit players to re-tighten clubs which have come loose during the course of play.
Now you know about the 14 club rule (and why it’s necessary) you should never fall foul of the dreaded 2 or 4 shot penalty which one incurs for ignoring it. Choosing which 14 clubs you want to include requires a bit more thought though. Thankfully, Shot Scope tracking tags can be easily programmed to compare old and new sets of clubs – helping you to discover which brands and styles best suit your game. To discover the many other benefits of performance tracking products, click here to browse Shot Scope’s award winning range.
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