How Many Clubs Can You Carry in a Golf Bag?

You’re on the green, clubs in tow, but do you know your limit? Understanding the rules about how many golf clubs you can carry is vital.

In this guide, you’ll discover the club limit, the reasons behind it, and the penalties for excess. Whether you’re a rookie or a pro, we’ll help you navigate these regulations and enhance your game.

Let’s dive into the captivating world of golf club rules.

How many clubs are allowed in a golf bag?

When packing your golf bag, you’re allowed to carry a maximum of 14 clubs, according to rules set by the R&A and USGA. This rule is universal, applying to all major golfing authorities. The 14 clubs typically include 1 putter, 3 types of wood, 8 irons, and 2 additional clubs of your choice. However, the combination can vary as long as the total doesn’t exceed 14.

If you start a round with fewer than 14 clubs, you’re allowed to add more during the round, up to the 14-club limit. Be cautious, though, as there are restrictions on doing this. For instance, if you accidentally start with more than 14 clubs, you must immediately take the excess club or clubs out of play. You can choose which clubs to take out if you start with more than the allowed number. However, if you added clubs during the round, the added ones must be the ones taken out of play.

Interestingly, if you unknowingly pick up another player’s club or if a club is mistakenly put in your bag, it’s not considered one of your clubs for the 14-club limit – but you mustn’t use it. Violating these rules can result in penalties, which can vary depending on the type of round or tournament.

The reason behind a limit on the number of golf clubs allowed

Understanding why there’s a limit on the number of golf clubs allowed in your bag can give you a deeper appreciation for the game’s history and its emphasis on skill over equipment. In the past, professional golfers were permitted to carry between 20-25 clubs, providing a broad range of shot-making possibilities. However, as steel-shafted clubs emerged, the variety of shots achievable with a single club decreased. As a result, golfers began carrying extra clubs, leading to an unfair advantage based on equipment rather than skill.

This significant shift in the game led to a rule change in 1938 by the United States Golf Association (USGA), followed by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) in 1939. The new rule capped the number of clubs in a golfer’s bag to 14, a regulation that still stands today. The primary aim of this rule was to maintain the game’s integrity and challenge, ensuring it wasn’t solely reliant on technology and equipment.

Having a limit on the number of clubs also encourages creativity in shot-making, decision-making, and shot selection. It allows you to work the ball, showcase your skill, and reduce playing time on the golf course. Moreover, it simplifies club selection, making decision-making easier, and improving focus and confidence.

The penalty for carrying more than 14 clubs

You might be wondering what happens if you’re caught with more than the maximum of 14 clubs.

Well, brace yourself for penalties, but remember, they vary based on whether you’re playing match or stroke play.

Let’s unpack the specifics of these penalties, so you’re well-informed and can avoid any unnecessary strokes or adjustments.

 Match Play

Though you might think carrying an extra club in your bag is harmless, in match play it can lead to a deduction for that particular hole.

In match play, if you exceed the club limit:

  • If discovered on the first hole, a two-stroke penalty is applied.
  • This means two extra strokes are added to your score for that hole.
  • If discovered on the second hole or later, the maximum penalty is four strokes.
  • However, the penalty doesn’t increase if the violation extends beyond two holes.
  • Notably, Woody Austin was penalized during the 2013 PGA Championship for this rule violation.

 Stroke Play

While in match play the penalty for carrying more than the permitted clubs might seem harsh, it’s even more severe in stroke play. If you use an extra club, each hole you play with will cost you two strokes, up to a maximum of four.

So, if you realize your mistake on the first hole, you’re looking at a two-stroke penalty. If you discover it on the second hole or later, you’re hit with four strokes.

It’s crucial to remember that you’re penalized not just for having extra clubs, but for each hole you play with them. So, keep a count of your clubs and ensure you don’t exceed the limit of 14. It could be a costly mistake.

What is the best club breakdown?

Choosing the best club breakdown for your golf bag depends largely on your skill level. As a beginner, you’ll likely favor clubs that assist with distance, while more experienced players often prefer clubs that aid precision.

Understanding your playing style and skill set can greatly influence your club selection and ultimately, your performance on the course.


If you’re a beginner golfer, it’s essential to select the right combination of clubs to carry in your golf bag. A forgiving set of clubs that generate distance will be your best ally on the course. Here’s an ideal setup for a novice golfer:

  • Long Distance Clubs
  • Driver: For your longest shots off the tee.
  • 3 Wood and 5 Wood: Useful for long shots, especially from the fairway.

  • Medium Distance Clubs

  • 3, 4, & 5 Hybrids: These combine the best of woods and irons.
  • 6, 7, 8, 9 Irons: Great for a range of situations and distances.

  • Short Game Clubs

  • Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge, and Sand Wedge: Essential for your short game.
  • Putter: For those final, crucial shots on the green.


Now that you’ve got a handle on a beginner’s setup, let’s delve into the ideal club breakdown for a skilled golfer.

You’ll likely be carrying more long irons, fewer woods and hybrid clubs, and an additional wedge. If you’re a fan of wedges, you may even have a set of four; a pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge.

This typically means sacrificing a long-distance club or two, but if you’re a long hitter, it’s a compromise you can afford to make.

Ultimately, as an experienced golfer, you know your game best and can customize your club selection accordingly.

It’s not about the quantity of clubs, but the quality of your game that counts.

Can you carry two of the same club?

In your golfing journey, you might wonder at times, can you carry two of the same club in your bag? The simple answer is yes, you can. The rules of golf set a maximum limit of 14 clubs in your bag, but there’s no restriction on the type or number of each club you choose to carry.

It’s not uncommon for professional players to carry more than one of the same club. The reasons behind this can vary:

  • Specific Shot Requirements
  • Professionals like Phil Mickelson have been known to carry two drivers, each for a specific type of shot: one for draws and another for cuts.
  • This strategy served him well in 2006, leading to victories at the BellSouth Classic and Masters.

  • Variation in Putters

  • Some golfers carry a left- and right-handed putter.
  • Others prefer one putter for long putts and another for short ones.
  • Adam Scott famously doubled his putter count from one to two during the 2018 season.

However, unless you’re playing at their level, we recommend sticking to one of each club. Carrying two of the same club might work for pros, but it’s not necessarily the best strategy for the average golfer:

  • Potential Confusion
  • Carrying two of the same club can lead to confusion and may not significantly improve your game.

  • Extra Weight

  • The additional club adds extra weight to your bag, which can affect your endurance on the course.

  • Skill Development

  • Focusing on mastering each club in your bag can be more beneficial in developing your golfing skills.

What happens if I break a golf club?

So, you’ve accidentally broken a golf club during a game – what happens next? The rules of golf are explicit about this scenario, allowing you to replace a damaged club without penalty, but with a few stipulations.

If the damage to your club occurred during the normal course of play, such as during a swing or other outside forces, you’re allowed to bring in a replacement. However, if your club has been damaged due to what’s classified as ‘abuse’, like throwing it in frustration or bending it over your knee, the rules don’t permit its replacement.

Before a recent rule change, using a damaged club could result in disqualification. But the golfing world has evolved, and now you’re allowed to use a damaged club if you wish, mainly applicable to bent shafts. This flexibility can prove beneficial, especially if the damaged club is one of your favorites or a crucial part of your game strategy.

The key is to understand the rules and navigate them effectively. It’s crucial to control your emotions on the golf course; not just for the sake of sportsmanship, but also to ensure that you don’t find yourself down a club with no replacement option.

From this perspective, golf isn’t just about skill and precision, but also about managing your equipment. By acknowledging and respecting these regulations, you can maintain your composure, keep your club count within legal limits, and ultimately, enhance your overall game performance.


In conclusion, adhering to the 14-club rule is essential in golf. Understanding why this rule exists, its penalties, and how to strategically select your clubs can significantly improve your game.

Remember, carrying two identical clubs is allowed, but be mindful of the total count. If a club breaks, it doesn’t count towards your limit.

Ultimately, it’s about finding a balance that suits your game style and skill level.

Happy golfing!

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