Golf is a complex game with many rules, regulations, and strict etiquette to follow but what about the rules on golf club numbers? Let’s find out if there is a limit to the number of golf clubs you can have in your golf bag.
- What is the Total Number of Clubs Permitted in a Golf Bag?
- Why is There a Limit on the Number of Golf Clubs I Can Carry?
- What Happens If I Carry More than 14 Clubs?
- Match Play Penalties
- Stroke Play Penalties
- Can I Be Disqualified for Carrying More than 14 Clubs?
- Is the Putter Included in the List?
- Can I Legally Carry More than One Putter?
- What are the Recommended Clubs I Should Use?
- Is Sharing Golf Clubs Legal?
- Can I Replace Clubs During a Round?
- Stay Legal on the Course!
What is the Total Number of Clubs Permitted in a Golf Bag?
The rules of golf, as covered by rule 4.1b* from the USGA permit you to carry a maximum number of 14 golf clubs in your golf bag. This rule also stipulates that you are allowed to add clubs to your bag during your round as long the total does not exceed the 14 club limit.
Why is There a Limit on the Number of Golf Clubs I Can Carry?
There are 3 main reasons why the rule exists on club carry limitations, which include:
- Practicality: An average golf bag weighs around 30 pounds with a full set of 14 clubs. Carrying this weight on your shoulder for a full 18 rounds of golf is no easy task.
- Encourages Creativity on the Course: Imagine if you had every club in your bag or if every professional had custom made clubs for every type of shot – this would severely reduce the skill levels required to play golf at a good standard, everyone likes to see a golfer who performs that “shot in a million” on the golf course.
- Affordability: A good set of clubs is expensive. Even a starter set costs hundreds of dollars so to make golf more affordable to the average golfer the limit has been set to 14 clubs.
What Happens If I Carry More than 14 Clubs?
There are strict penalties in force for rule-breakers, particularly in tournament golf.
Below is information on the penalties incurred for the common types of tournament golf, match and stroke play.
Match Play Penalties
The penalty in match play is that a player’s total score is reduced by deducting one hole to a maximum of two holes.
In match play, when you are playing a hole with more than 14 clubs you are penalized at the end of the current hole.
A player must finish playing the hole and then apply the penalty at the end of the hole.
You score the hole as normal but then apply the penalty afterward, giving you the final score for that hole.
If a golfer is playing in between holes and breaks rule 4.1b then the penalty is incurred from the point of the last hole played.
Stroke Play Penalties
The cost of breaking the maximum club rule in stroke play is severe.
On each hole where the breach occurs, a general penalty is applied (a general penalty is classed as a two-shot deduction in stroke play).
A player can receive a maximum of a 4 penalty stroke deduction in match play, per round.
Can I Be Disqualified for Carrying More than 14 Clubs?
All players have the opportunity to take immediate action if they realize they are carrying more than the allowed 14 clubs.
This action avoids disqualification from the course and the procedure to avoid being disqualified includes:
- The player must indicate to their opponents that they have removed every club in their bag that exceeds the 14 rule limit.
- This is done by either giving the club(s) to a course official, placing them on the ground, or turning them upside down in the golf bag.
- The player must not use the discarded clubs for the rest of the round.
- If the clubs are taken out of another payers bag, then that player may still use the clubs as long they stay within the 14 club rule.
A player that refuses to adhere to the above rules can be disqualified as they would be in breach of rule 4.1c(1.)
Is the Putter Included in the List?
Yes, a putter is not classed as an additional club so this must be part of the 14 club limit rule.
Can I Legally Carry More than One Putter?
You can carry as many putters as you like on the course as long your total club allowance does not exceed fourteen clubs.
You may have trouble hitting your tee shot more than 10 yards with your putter though!
Most golfers carry one putter in their bag and choose from a blade, weighted, or mallet style depending on play-style.
What are the Recommended Clubs I Should Use?
With 14 clubs you have plenty of options when it comes to club selection so do not worry about meeting the legal requirements.
The best clubs for you to use may be determined by your golf handicap and course layout but of course, many people use the standard set of 12 clubs plus 2 wildcard picks.
The standard set includes drivers, woods, irons, wedges, and putters with most new players preferring to use a driver, 2 or 3 wood, 3 hybrid, a set of irons (6 in total, ranging from 4 – 9), pitching wedge, sand wedge and in finally the putter.
This makes up 12 clubs which is recommended for a beginner.
For lower handicapped players or pros on the PGA tour then the two additional clubs might be another hybrid or a specialist “A Wedge” club which is designed to fill in the gap between a long iron and pitching wedge.
Is Sharing Golf Clubs Legal?
you can legally share golf clubs with a partner as long as the total number of clubs between the two players is no more than 14.
So for example, Joe has 8 clubs and Fred and has 6 in his bag then these two players could swap clubs as many times as they like.
But if Joe had 12 clubs and Fred had 10 clubs then either player could not share golf clubs with each other as it totals 22 clubs.
Can I Replace Clubs During a Round?
A player cannot replace a club during the round of golf.
If a club is damaged then there is scope for replacement dependent on the below factors:
- If another player damaged the club or if something like a natural event such as water damage or an external factor outside the control of the player concerned.
- The replacement club must be the same club type as the damaged.
- The damaged club must be instantly removed from the golf bag.
If the above 3 points are satisfied and there is no delay to the match and a player does not borrow a club from another player then a replacement club can be issued.
Stay Legal on the Course!
Golf is a game of skill and fun, but it can also be frustrating when you’re not sure what the rules are.
The USGA has created an extensive list of regulations that cover every aspect of golfing from the size of your club to how many clubs you can carry in your bag.
To stay on the right side of the law (and have a better time playing), review our tips before heading out onto the course next time!
* USGA Rule 4.1b concerning the number of clubs allowed in a golf bag.