Less than 14 Clubs?


Why can I only carry 14 clubs and would more clubs help my score?

— Brian, TN


I have covered this issue in our book “From Sticks and Stones” which is the evolution of equipment rules, published in 2011, which I urge anyone interested in changes to equipment rules to read.

I will gladly summarize the reason for the 14-club rule which was adopted in 1938/1939. This was before commercial jet planes, personal computers, cell phones, or even Google, but we were playing golf, with fundamentally the same rules. However, in an effort to be more specific and overly inclusive, the rules today have become extremely complicated and difficult to interpret conclusively.

The rules change re. 14 clubs was made for several reasons, the primary one being that without a limit – some golfers were reported to have been carrying up to 24 clubs— a club was available for every occasion and this compensated for the skill required to create shots and cope with different situations. The second was that it had become an undue physical burden on caddies who, in the most part, were children.

The second part of your question was, “Would more clubs help my score?” The answer to this one is NO for most of us.

If we were as skilled as the touring pros, then more clubs would help such as a couple of left handed clubs to get out of awkward spots and others for specific in-between shots for different types of trajectories etc. 

For most of us, more clubs would mean more decisions and slow down play while trying to make up our mind regarding which one to use. With fewer clubs in the bag, we should in most cases pull the longer one out and not swing too hard. Nine out of ten times this results in a better swing and we will find ourselves on the green more often than when we try to force the shorter club to make the distance.

I suggest that you take five clubs out of your bag (as an experiment) and see how well you play. A nice by-product may also be that you play faster.

Do you think that the governing bodies should change the 14-club rule and what effect might this have on the game? Share your thoughts with us and other readers by replying below.


15 thoughts on “Less than 14 Clubs?

  1. Our league every so often plays 3 clubs and a putter and depending on my game that day my score is about equal to any other round.

  2. I’m a HS golf coach and every year I hold the “Chick Evans Tourney” for my team (Chick only used 7 clubs in winning his national titles). The players look forward to it every year discussing which clubs they will carry and how they will play certain shots. They are always surprised on how well they play because they have to think and be creative around the course.

  3. Interesting subject. I have noticed that several clubs in my bag … (pretty traditional makeup) ….overlap distance wise with other clubs. It all depends on how much you need out of a particular club. I think most golfers would do just as well with fewer clubs – like the guys who mentioned using just “even” or “odd” numbered irons. I also think the instruction industry (along with the manufacturers) have talked players into more “specialty” wedges than are really needed.
    I love the whole golf equipment scene – and love to see what other people are playing – but, yeah…..most of us have more than what is necessary.

  4. Golf clubs and golf balls are some of the most beautiful things that modern man has ever created and the golf courses where golf is played are magnificent. Too bad that certain rules had to be devised to sort of control this game we play but I would still rather be out on the course with good friends than most anything I can think of.

  5. At 18 (1954) I began playing golf with a 2wood,4wood, 3,5,7,9, putter and nice Xout balls. All this in a cloth Sunday bag. What more could you ask? Now most beginners spend several hundred dollars for an outfit. Today I don’t play much but still have not lost my love for the game. I wish all the new beginners lots of luck and much fun.

  6. I’m not certain whether I like the idea of having fewer clubs in my bag, but the issue has aroused my curiosity. For the next month I’m going to keep track of how many times I hit each club. If I’m only using several clubs once every few rounds, maybe I’ll take them out. For my purposes, I’m not a “walker”; I ride a cart for every round, so the number or weight of clubs isn’t a factor. The reason I ride is that I play a hilly course, and at age 70 with a few physical limitations, I’m able to play more than 18 holes whenever I golf.

  7. I think 10-12 clubs are all that are needed. I would love to see the USGA & R & A limit the number of clubs to 10. The problem would be the cost. Manufacturers would increase prices accordingly to maintain margins. Instead of $500 drivers you would be looking at $800-$900.
    I have played with 5 clubs from time to time and don’t see a big difference in score. The time I did was playing hickory shafted clubs from the early 1900s. My thought is the difference was due more to the hickory shafts and NO forgiveness at all.

  8. I started playing golf about 75 years ago. First “set” of clubs (non matched!) were all hickory shafts ( Driver, Spoon, 3 iron, 5 iron, mashie niblick and putter). The mashie niblick was “all purpose” from about 90 yards to the hole. Technical addition was a strip of electrical tape at various places on the shaft where my right thumb would be placed for shorter shots. A hickory shafted niblick was added later to improve bunker play. The original mashie niblick is still in my bag – having survived numerous sets of modern irons. It still does a great job of “throwing” the ball on the green from short distances!

  9. Frank. It would be much more fun with 5 clubs in the bag and make us shape our shots, having more control.. 14 clubs is just to keep happy the club makers and club pros who rent the buggies and ruin our exercise. Walk the course, socialise and enjoy.

    Nic Bown

  10. Add one more club to the rules. I like the idea of 15 clubs (traditional set plus one more wedge) so to fill the large gap between today’s lower lofted pitching wedge and the 60* lob wedge.

  11. A few years ago, I had a “junkyard” bag made up of an 11* driver, 16* fairway, a familiar old wedge and putter, and 3 dissimilar irons-a 5 iron and 2 9 irons. The irons were all different brands, but I had them shafted with the same shaft, and cut and bent to my desired lofts and lengths, so that they played like a 5-7-9. I stuck all this in an old light carry bag that belonged to my wife, and played walking. I bettered bogey pretty consistently with this menagerie.

  12. As a kid (I’m 48 now) my brother and I would split the irons, one of us had even and one odd numbers. The by-product was actually developing as a feel player who could better adjust to conditions and the course. As someone who volunteers with junior golfers today, I see many young people laboring over club selection like it’s Sunday at the Masters in every round. Slow play and less fun are the result – we all need to remember to hit it, find it, hit it again!

  13. Several years back I only had room to pack a sunday bag with 5-7-9-W-P–somebody had taken up all the luggage space. Shot bogey on the short destination course.

    Since then, I’ve been using a half-set all the time, usually adding a driver or 3W and a sand wedge, depending on the course. Walking and carrying a half-set makes my doctor happy, creating a between-clubs shot is now second nature, and I can usually finish nine holes in 90 minutes. Oh, and the putter is usually my Frog, Frank.

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