How Many Clubs Are Allowed In A Golf Bag?

golf clubs bag

Before every tournament, I count my golf clubs. Having prepared for and played in hundreds of golf events, I never want to go over the fourteen club limit.

Golf is a challenging game, and although it can be tough to narrow down which clubs to keep in the bag, it is absolutely necessary. 

Making sure you are in compliance with the USGA rules is part of being a great golfer.

Knowing these rules and abiding by them can be difficult; here are a few of the things you should know about how many clubs are allowed in a golf bag. 

How Many Clubs Are Allowed In A Golf Bag?

A golfer is allowed fourteen total clubs in the golf bag. This is including the putter.

There are no exceptions to the rule, and if the rule is not followed, then the golfer will be penalized.

It can be hard to narrow down the number of clubs you need in your bag, but carrying fourteen clubs makes the game fair for everyone and has us all test our shot making skills. 

Why Is There A Limit On The Number Of Clubs Allowed In Golf? 

In the 1930s, when golf was starting to gain lots of popularity, there was no limit to the number of golf clubs a player was allowed to carry.

This helped certain golfers (with endless budgets) put together an impressive set of clubs with lots of different tools. Although this made the game quite a bit easier for these players, it made the game too easy. 

When golfers don’t have to learn how to hit different types of shots, the game is not nearly as challenging. By setting a limit to 14 clubs, the golfer must be more creative and learn how to play several shots with each club in the bag. 

Another thing that led to the limitation of 14 clubs was the weight of the clubs themselves. As steel shafts started to gain popularity, a golf bag with twenty or twenty five clubs was nearly impossible to carry. The limitation of 14 clubs helped improve the lives of caddies! 

Is There Flexibility In This Rule? 

There is no flexibility in this rule. If you carry too many clubs, you will get a penalty. The only thing that some people consider flexibility is that if you start with less than 14 clubs, you can add one at some point in the round.

The club you add cannot delay the game, and it can not be a club in a competitor’s golf bag. Even if you add clubs to your bag in the middle of the round, you can’t exceed 14 clubs.  

What’s The Penalty For Carrying Too Many Clubs? 

There are different penalties for many golf rules depending on if you are playing match play or stroke play. 

For a stroke play tournament, you will get a two stroke penalty for each hole that you have more than 14 clubs in your bag.

The maximum number of strokes that you can take is a four stroke penalty. Therefore if you were carrying 15 clubs in your bag for eight holes, you will still only get a four stroke penalty.  

In match play, the penalties are a little different. Strokes for each hole is not quite as important as winning or losing a hole. For match play tournaments, you will lose a hole for each hole that you were carrying more than 14 clubs with a maximum of two holes lost. 

Although two strokes per hole may seem like a lot, the penalty for carrying too many golf clubs in your bag was previously disqualification. Disqualification is the harshest penalty there is in the game so the flexibility in the two strokes with a maximum of four strokes is a change that golfers were fine with. 

What To Do If You Have Too Many Clubs In Your Bag? 

Golf is a game of honesty and integrity. If you notice that you are carrying more than 14 clubs in your bag, you need to alert the other players in your group immediately.

You will call the penalty on yourself and apply either the two strokes or the four strokes to your score. 

Once you have made this admission, you will then choose one club that you are going to decommission and not use during the course of the round.

Sometimes golfers will put this club upside down in their bag or leave it at the clubhouse, as long as you are not using the club to help your game in any way. 

Is There A Minimum Number of Clubs In A Bag? 

There is no minimum number of clubs in a bag, but most golfers want to use as many clubs as they are allowed. Golf is a hard game, and once you get very into it, you will notice that 14 clubs does not seem like all that much.

When you consider a few wedges, a few hybrids, some woods, and irons, you will get to that 14 number quite quickly. 

Can You Add More Clubs During A Round? What Are The Options?

When you start a golf round with fourteen clubs, you can never add more golf clubs to your golf bag during the round. However, if you start with less than fourteen, you can add clubs to reach a total of 14. 

One significant and interesting change to this rule happened in 2019. In years past, even if your club broke, you were not allowed to replace it during the course of the round. This was difficult for golfers who had a driver or a wedge break due to natural causes. 

In 2019 the USGA updated this rule to allow players whose golf clubs broke due to natural causes to replace their clubs during the course of a round.

This rule does not apply to golfers who broke their golf clubs intentionally. Surely the USGA and the R&A had to put these rules into place; otherwise, people could intentionally break a club just to pick up a new one at some point during their round. 

Will The Number Of Golf Clubs Allowed Ever Change? 

When you think about the length of the history of the game of golf, the 14 club rule is not all that old. The USGA could change this rule at some point, but it would be a bit shakeup in the world of golf.

Even beginners are drilled with the facts about how many clubs in a golf bag is legal. 

Conclusion

When you practice at the driving range, you are allowed to use extra clubs in your golf bag. You can experiment with lots of different choices for your game, and you will not be breaking any rules. 

As soon as you get to that first tee box, you are going to risk a rules infraction and some penalty strokes. Most great players will get in the habit of counting the clubs in their golf bags before they take their first swing for the day.

Counting your golf clubs is a good practice to consider. The rules of golf are meant to help players and make the game fairer. 

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