How Many Clubs Can You Carry in Your Golf Bag?

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how many clubs can you carry in your golf bag

Golf governing bodies such as the USGA (United States Golf Association) and the R&A (The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland) lay out very specific guidelines on the maximum number of clubs you can carry. So how many clubs can you carry in your golf bag? Rule 4.1b says that golfers can carry a maximum of 14 clubs in their bag during a round.

Here at The Golf Experts, we’ve taken the time to go through section 4 (The player’s equipment) with a fine comb to show you some other essential equipment-based rules you may not be familiar with:

What’s the penalty for carrying too many clubs?

The USGA and the R&A deem the penalty for carrying too many clubs in your bag as two strokes for each hole where the rule breach happened. So if you have more than 14 clubs in your bag but don’t realize it until you tee off at the second hole, you will receive a four-stroke penalty. Fortunately, the maximum penalty is four strokes. If you realize you’re carrying too many clubs after teeing off, the penalty is assessed once you’ve finished the hole. If instead, you notice the violation between holes, the penalty is applied to the hole you just completed.

In match play, the player must complete the hole, apply the result of that hole to the match score, and then apply the penalty to adjust the match score

See The Players’ Equipment section for the official wording on this rule.

how many clubs can you carry in your golf bag

Why is there a limit on the number of golf clubs that can be carried?

Golfers are only allowed 14 clubs to promote creativity on the course and speed up play. Having more than the allowed 14 clubs would make your golf bag pretty heavy and add unnecessary cost to a sport that is already expensive. Amateur golfers, and especially any golfers that don’t hit any further than 200 yards, don’t need too many clubs to enjoy the game, so the limit is a good thing and helps golfers. Professional golfers might want more options in their bags, such as multiple types of wedges, different drivers and generally more choice of clubs to choose from, but again, creativity should be encouraged.

What’s the procedure for taking an extra club out of play?

It is possible and quite straightforward to remove an extra club during your round. When you’ve realized that you have too many clubs in your bag, you must immediately take an action that definitely identifies each club that you are taking out of play. You can do this by notifying another player or by turning the offending club upside down in your golf bag.

Can I add clubs to my bag during a round?

Yes, as long as the act of adding another club does not cause a delay in play and the extra club or clubs are not from another player. Technically, if you’re not happy with your driver during your round, you could run back to your car and grab another, assuming of course you are lucky enough to have a second! The same applies to the putter if you find that your flat stick is cold on the greens. Make sure you remember to not hold up play and grab your extra club when the course loops back towards the car park.

What happens if I break a club?

You can replace a damaged or broken club without penalty. There are a few restrictions about how the damage occurred though if you want to add one in its place.

A club damaged by outside forces such as a swing that hits a tree root means you can replace it with another club. Yet, having a meltdown after slicing two drives out of bounds and breaking your driver across your knee is, funnily enough, not seen as a legitimate outside force and you’ll have to tee off on those long, daunting par 5s with a wood or long iron. Using a damaged club used to disqualify you before a recent rules change. Today, you can use a damaged club if you want to. This mainly applies to bent shafts – the sort of bent shaft that occurs when enough force is applied to it across your knee.

how many clubs can you carry in your golf bag

Can I carry two of the same club?

Yes, you can carry more than one of the same club as long as the total number of clubs does not exceed the maximum of 14. The rules of golf include no restriction on the makeup of your bag. If you want to carry 14 2 irons, go right ahead. We don’t know why you would, there are no rules against it and you’ll more than likely not get anywhere near the green as no one can hit a 2 iron.

When pros carry more than one of the same club, it’s for a reason. If your playing partner has two of the same club, it might be for a reason, but he or she is probably showing off.

Phil Mickelson has famously carried more than one driver on many occasions. During parts of the 2006 season, Phil carried two drivers with great success, including victories at the BellSouth Classic and The Masters. His reasoning was that one driver was for draws and the other cuts.

Famous examples of players carrying too many clubs

Ian Woosnam had a chance to win his first open tournament at the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s. After the third round, he and three others shared the lead. He began his round on the last day with a birdie at the first par 3. Then the action started. Myles Byrne, his caddie, approached him and said, “You’re going to go ballistic,” adding, “We’ve got two drivers in the bag.” Woosnam was carrying 15 clubs, That meant a two-shot penalty, which turned Woosnam’s opening birdie into a bogey and did little for his mental state. Woosnam eventually finished T-3, four shots behind eventual winner David Duval.

The Cut Line

If you’re playing in a competition, you might want to count your clubs before grabbing your traditional morning burger / hot dog/beer (delete as appropriate)!

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Tommy is a confirmed golf fanatic. He's been playing golf for 20 years and just loves everything about the game. His dad used to play golf a lot and watch the PGA and European Tours, so Tommy started watching too. Now he knows a lot about golf and loves to coach people and help them play better.

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