Why are there 14 golf clubs in a bag and what do they all do?

Thomas Tanner
Mar 16, 2018
8 minutes
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According to the rules of golf we are all allowed to carry a maximum of fourteen clubs in your golf bag. But what clubs do you need? What do they each do? In this article we’ll build a virtual bag of 14 clubs explaining why each one has a vital role to play.

No one is the same

You may well have seen traditional sets of clubs with driver, fairway woods, irons, wedges and a putter but what YOU need to assemble is a set of clubs that is SUITED for YOUR game. If you are out on the course and are often left with a shot for which you don’t have the correct club, you're simply not going to score as well as you could do.

So cast tradition aside, the right set of clubs for you are ones which give you the highest percentage of hitting successful shots and which bring enjoyment on the golf course. Some players carry two drivers, some two putters, others have specialist clubs like a "jigger" or chipping wedge and yet others full sets of hybrid clubs instead of irons; everyone is different and it's one of the great things about golf.

But lets build a theoretical bag of 14 clubs and look at the easy and harder choices you’ll face when deciding what to include in your bag.

Top and bottom

Lets start by putting in a driver and putter in our bag. Two essential clubs, The dirver for use off the tee on Par 4s and 5s. And the putter for getting the ball into the hole. Twelve spaces to fill.

Now the middle

Most players will also carry a set of irons in some form, probably running from a 4-irons to a pitching wedge, 7 clubs in total. These clubs are used for the second shots on most holes. The clubs will be from the same set and of similar construction and look, and designed to hit the ball specific distances from long shots to short ones with consistent distance gaps. The 4-itons goes the farthest, the 5-iron 10 yards less, the 6-iron 10 yards less than that… and so on.

Most golfers will know their 7-irons distance as a base yardage and work up or down from there to pick a club based on the distance they have left to the hole. Popping those seven irons in our sample bag means we've now 9 clubs used and five slots left. And this is where it can get tricky and you’ll need to know about your options and what they do.

Mind the gaps

Looking at out bag we have a Driver for the longest shots, irons for the middle shots, and a putter for the shortest shots but there are big gaps between these. To fix this, at the top of the bag, you may want to choose a fairway wood.

Slightly shorter in length than your driver with 5 or so more degrees. This club can be used for long shots off the fairway or from rough AND which can be used as another safe option off the tee, when you don’t fancy hitting driver. It will also cover a yardage that is longer than your 4 iron. Most golfer carry at least one of these, more often than not a 3-wood so we’ll put one in. That's 10 out of our 14 club allowance.

At the bottom end, we’ve got a pitching wedge and then a putter. Depending on the golfer a pitching wedge will go somewhere between 80-130 yards. But what about when you’ve got less than this into the green?

We’re all more comfortable taking a full swing that a fiddly half swing. So let’s put a club in that will cover a shorter yardage than our pithing wedge. A sand wedge will cover this gap nicely and also give us an option out of the bunkers. The additional loft gets the ball up in the air quickly and landing softly. Perfect. That’s 11 out of 14 done.

Time to double down

Believe it or not, the question of what to do with the remaining three clubs, is the same dilemma shared by beginners and the very best Tour professionals.

Options might be:

  • Another fairway wood to bridge the gap between your 3-wood and longest iron.
  • A hybrid or "Rescue" club that is easier to hit than a long iron, handy from all sorts of lies and bridges the distance gap between your fairway wood and longest iron.
  • A "driving" iron which is similar in performance to a rescue club but looks like an iron.
  • A set of wedges to allow to hit consistent short shots into and around the greens as well to hit bunker shots.
  • Or any other specialist club that helps YOU.

Many senior players, especially those with slower swing speeds, will carry extra fairway woods or hybrids instead of long irons which they hit with much more consistency due to their forgiving design.

At the other end of the bag we have wedges. They’re a subject in themselves and we also have a separate wedge educational video also to help you (here), but in essence the key to choosing wedges is to pick lofts that cover the distance, from your shortest iron to the hole, in consistent gaps. If your pitching wedge is 44 degrees, and you have space for three additional wedges they might be 48, 52 and 56 degrees loft. A comfortable swing with each club sees the balls land an average of 15 yards apart.

Be dynamic

The final combination of clubs will depend on your skill level on the course, your personal playing style, the types of courses that you play and the conditions. But the key is making sure you have a shot for any situation or yardage that can occur. The key is to know your skill level and personal preferences. It's pointless carrying a club that you cant hit and thus never use.

It might be the case if you’re just starting out you need to see where the gaps in your game are and fill in once you know a little more. After 20 years of playing I’m still trying to work out what’s best for me!

Further reading

If you're new to golf and looking forward to getting out for your first game but don't know what actual golf clubs you'll need to start, this page is especially for you. In the guide below we're going to put any thoughts about not having the right or enough clubs to bed, and show you that golf can be played and enjoyed with just a few clubs in your bag.

Wedges are the clubs used for the shorter and more accurate shots in golf. Approach shots, chip shots, pitch shots, bunker shots, lob shots to mention just a few. There are different types of wedges generally defined by the lofts they have.