If you are new to golf and are a little bit confused about what all the numbers and letters on your golf clubs mean, that's understandable. Depending on the clubs you have, you could have two or even three #5s, others with a single-digit number, some with a double-digit number, some with numbers in various places, and even some with letters!
Know what you're looking at
Before we talk about the numbering system used in golf, you will need to understand what you're looking at. Knowing which type of golf club you have in your hand will go some way to explaining the numbering (and explain why you might have some clubs with the same number).
At their simplest, you can divide golf clubs into two categories - woods and irons - and the numbering system broadly following this, with both types starting at #1 and working down from there.
Woods are the bigger golf clubs that hit the ball the furthest, while irons are smaller and more compact in their appearance for the more precise shots in the game.
We have a separate video explaining all of this, which you can view here.
How numbers translate
Again, breaking it down to its simplest form, the numbers on your golf clubs relate to how far they hit the ball - the lower the number, the further the ball should travel. A club with a #4 on it will hit the ball further than one with a #9 on it.
Numbers on woods
Modern woods (even though they're not made out of wood anymore!) are more likely to have the loft stamped on them rather than a simple number. However, not long ago, your driver, which could be anywhere from 8-12-degrees, would have been labelled #1, marking the start of the 'scale' on where your other woods will slot in.
Following on from this, we know that any other woods you have in your bag will have a higher number, which means more loft. For example, if you have a club with a #3 on it will have more loft than your #1 wood, but less than one with a #5 on it.
You can get woods in almost every loft from 8-degrees up to lofts in the mid-twenties or from #1 to #9.
The orange labels on the illustration below show roughly how the number on your wood can relate to the club's loft.
How golf club numbers can be translated into loft
Numbers on irons
In the same way as woods, numbers on your irons will directly translate to the loft on the club.
However, where it can get a little confusing is the starting point. Most modern sets of irons only start at a #4 - leading to the question where are #1, #2, and #3? Before the dawn of hybrids (which we'll come on to), manufacturers used to make irons form #1 - #9. As the game has changed, these clubs have become almost redundant, so the manufacturers chose not to make them.
But as the principal is the same, wherever your irons start, you'll then have a simple to understand run of clubs (for example, form #4-#9) which will hit the ball slightly decreasing distances.
Why no #10?
Golf is strange for many reasons, and a bit of a quirk in the clubs is there is no #10 iron! Instead, after #9, the numbers change to letters because they are speciality irons called "wedges." The next club in your set will look and play like your irons; it'll just have a P or PW stamped on it. You can consider it a #10 iron, though, as it is slightly more lofted than a #9 iron and used for hitting slightly shorter shots into the green.
The final club in your iron set is likely a sand wedge, represented by an S or SW. This will play like your other irons, but as you can see from the diagram below, this can not be thought of as a #11 iron - but more a #12.
There are wedges available - handily called gap wedges - which are the appropriate loft to bridge this gap left between your PW and SW.
Be careful of the gap between your PW and SW
A little more on wedges
As you get better and add more clubs to your bag instead of a traditional number or letter, it could be the case that any new wedges have the loft stamped on them - anywhere from 46- 64. This number will represent the club's loft, and as you know, the more loft, the shorter distance the ball will fly.
Where do hybrids fit in?
We mentioned above how long irons are no longer viable golfing equipment and have been replaced by hybrids that can bridge the gap left by not carrying long irons.
A hybrid is not an iron, and it's not a wood; it's something in between which takes the best characteristics of both!
One of their main uses is as an iron replacement - in the video above - Instead of having a 4-iron as part of his iron set Donal has a #4 hybrid which will replace it. The hybrid will have a #4 on it, indicating this. It could also have the loft stated too.
Three clubs, all #5!
To close, let's look at one final example where you could have three clubs, all with a #5 on them. The below illustrates how, although they all have #5 on them because they're in different categories (woods in orange or irons in blue), their lofts are different, and therefore you could justify having them in your bag.
How two #5 golf clubs can be included in the same set
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