Golf is a tough game, even with a bag full of clubs. 

I’m a teaching pro & a scratch golfer, who has played golf for 30 years. I’m always looking to improve my game even if its just a shot or two here and there. I love testing new strategies both on and off the course and studying golf swings to see what actually works.

The more time you spend on the course, the more you realize that each club in the bag has a role and a purpose, and it might be nice to have a club to fit every situation you may encounter. 

Well, that’s not possible. 

The number of golf clubs you can have in your golf bag is limited. I’ll show you why that is and how to put together a club set makeup that has you prepared for anything on the course. 

How many clubs can you have in a golf bag? 

The rules of golf state that you can have 14 golf clubs in your bag. This 14-club set counts the putter – carry more than 14 clubs in the bag and you get a penalty. 

What golf clubs are in a 14-club set?

Your set can vary depending on your individual needs. For instance, you may like an extra hybrid instead of a fairway wood or a hybrid instead of a long iron. In addition, some golfers like four wedges, while others prefer three. 

Then there is the golfer that actually thinks two drivers in the bag are necessary. This is all within the rules of golf, as long as the total is not more than 14 clubs. 

Here is a typical set of clubs that make up a standard 14-club set: 

  • Driver
  • 3 Wood
  • 5 Wood
  • 4 Hybrid
  • 5 Iron
  • 6 Iron
  • 7 Iron
  • 8 Iron
  • 9 Iron
  • Pitching Wedge
  • Gap Wedge
  • Sand Wedge
  • Lob Wedge
  • Putter

Why is the number of golf clubs in a bag limited? 

I was curious about this same thing a few years ago and did some digging. 

Sometimes I only have 13 clubs in my bag, depending on the course and how I’m hitting the ball, so I started considering what someone with 16 or 17 golf clubs would do with them all. 

It turns out that years ago before there was a rules restriction, wealthy golfers would carry 20 or more golf clubs in their bag. (Don’t worry; they also had caddies to lug this all around for them!)

What happened was the golfers with all the extra clubs in the bag ended up having a real advantage on the course…an unfair advantage. 

Think about it in today’s world. Imagine showing up to play in a match at your local club, and the guy with no issue spending money rolls out a cart with the new Stealth line, Paradym line, and the Titleist TSR series all packed in. 

Regardless of the course conditions and his ability, chances are he ends up with a slight advantage. We can all just agree 14 clubs is enough to make the game still a challenge and, at the same time, fair for everyone. 

Penalty for carrying too many golf clubs in the bag 

The penalties are different in stroke play and match play for carrying too many golf clubs in your bag. 

  • Stroke Play – you get two strokes for every hole you play with more than 14 clubs, up to 4 strokes. 
  • Match Play –  one hole for each hole where there was a breach of the rules is deducted. If you finished the hole 2 up, your match just went to even. 

If you notice that you have too many clubs in your bag on the way to the first hole, simply call one out of play; the best way to do this is to put it upside down in your golf bag or leave it on the cart. 

When I was playing in tournaments, I would always count my clubs before I got to the tee box. I was not about to give up four shots for something as simple as counting clubs. 

You’ll be disqualified from the match If you knowingly play 15 clubs in your bag. If you were thinking of carrying 16 clubs and taking the 4-shot penalty, it’s not how it works. 

What about carrying less than 14 clubs in a bag? 

Carrying less than 14 golf clubs in the bag is completely acceptable and within the rules of golf. If you want to head out for a round with just one club, you can, but I certainly don’t recommend it. 

How do I decide how many golf clubs to carry

The key to this entire “how many clubs in golf bag” equation is to decide on how many and WHICH clubs should be in your golf bag. I’ll break this down by handicaps to make it a little easier to absorb. 

Beginner Golfers

Notice I didn’t put the beginners and high handicappers in the same category. Swinging a club for the first time and being a high handicapper your entire life are not the same thing.

With most beginners, the golf ball flies about the same distance regardless of the club in your hands. For instance, a beginner hitting a 4 hybrid, 7 iron, and 5 iron all the same distance would not be unusual. 

Why? There is just too much inconsistency. 

Therefore I think beginner golfers can get away with around a 10-club set to start out with. Get something that has a fairway wood, a hybrid, a few irons, and at least two wedges…and a putter.

High Handicappers

High handicappers should have all 14 clubs in the bag. However, making sure these 14 clubs are geared towards forgiveness is essential as well. 

I recommend something that looks like this: 

  • Driver
  • 5 Wood
  • 7 Wood
  • 4 Hybrid
  • 5 Hybrid
  • 6 Iron
  • 7 Iron
  • 8 Iron
  • 9 Iron
  • Pitching Wedge 
  • Gap Wedge
  • Sand Wedge
  • Lob Wedge 
  • Putter

Some high handicappers stay away from the lob wedge, but with so many improvements in wedge forgiveness and technology, I don’t think that’s necessary. The lob wedge is an excellent club for getting out of bunkers. 

Notice I left the 3-wood out; it’s hard to hit at times and not used enough during a round where the 7-wood seems to be a better choice. 

Mid Handicappers

Mid handicappers will have a set that looks very similar to the high handicappers, except for the woods and hybrid makeup. 

Many mid handicappers love the 3 wood and often use it as a replacement for their driver. In addition, some mid-handicappers with faster swing speeds play better with long irons as opposed to hybrids. 

The short iron and wedge configuration will be the same. 

Low Handicappers 

Low handicappers with high swing speeds often take the hybrids out of the bag entirely and replace them with utility clubs or long irons. Almost all low handicappers find the need to have four wedges in the bag. 

Many low handicappers love the 3-wood, even with its low loft. You know your game, if you hit the ball cleanly, with a lower lofted club, keep it in. 

How many golf clubs does a golf bag hold? 

Now we move to our next piece of this puzzle, how many clubs does your golf bag actually hold? Golf bag manufacturers are well aware of the 14 club rule in golf, so you don’t have to worry too much if you are following the USGA 14 club rule. 


A staff bag is huge and can hold many more than 14 clubs. Some golf shops use a staff bag as a display and put 20 or more golf clubs in here. 


Many golf cart bags have room for fourteen clubs, and some have room for 15. The 15-club configuration confuses some, but that 15th spot is really for your alignment sticks and training aid, and sometimes it can even fit an umbrella. 

If you like to stay organized on the course and ensure you never have more than 14 clubs, the cart bag is a good choice. 


Stand bags hold 14 clubs, but they don’t typically (but can) have the 14-club divider (to help save weight). 

A stand bag sits at an angle that sometimes makes it hard to see exactly how many clubs you have in the bag. 

If you experiment with equipment a lot, count the 14 clubs in your stand bag before you head to the first tee. 


A Sunday golf bag may only carry about 8 or 9 clubs. These smaller bags don’t have the capacity or the width to be filled with 14 clubs, and they are a good choice for travel, beginners, or a quick nine in the afternoons. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I carry 15 clubs?

In tournament play, you can carry 15 clubs as long as you announce before the start of the match that one of the clubs is out of play. It’s best to avoid this and just leave the extra club at home. 

How many clubs can a pro golfer carry?

Professional golfers can carry 14 clubs as per the USGA rules of golf. 

Why can you only carry 14 clubs?

Only 14 clubs are allowed to make the game fairer and to save caddies years ago who had to carry 20 or more clubs while working for wealthy clients that bought all the new equipment they could find.

What is a full set of golf clubs?

A full set of golf clubs has 14 clubs. These include a driver, 2 fairway woods, a hybrid, 5 irons, 4 wedges, and a putter. 

Final Thoughts 

Ultimately how many clubs you have in the golf bag is a personal decision (as long as it’s less than 14). 

My pro tip here is to have 13 or 14 clubs, as long as you are using them all. If you only use 10, you may as well only carry 10 around. 

However, maintaining 14 is advantageous when you learn how to use them all the correct way.