Why Having 14 Golf Clubs In Your Bag Is Too Many...

Should there be limitations on how many clubs you can carry in your bag? Matt Cradock gives his thoughts here

14 clubs laid out
(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

In golf, the maximum amount of clubs you are allowed in your golf bag is 14. There are a number of reasons why this rule was introduced in the 1920's, with the primary one being that caddies were overloaded and simply exhausted from carrying up to 20+ clubs in a round.

Not only were caddies exhausted but, as golf is also considered a game of skill, the governing bodies didn't want some players to seem better than others simply because they had a bigger selection of clubs. The aim was to keep the game as challenging as possible and not to leave all the answers to technology and equipment. Hence why the 14-club (opens in new tab) limit was introduced.

Lydia Ko's Bag

A player is allowed a maximum of 14 clubs in their bag.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

However, I personally believe that even 14 clubs is too many! With technology and club manufacturing far superior to that of nearly 100 years ago. Arguably, the sport is easier to play than it has ever been.

Now, I'm not saying that golf is easy, far from it in fact. What I am saying is that eliminating half a set of golf clubs makes the game more enjoyable and actually has fewer repercussions on your performance than you would expect. If anything, it improves your game even more. 

Recently, I played with a half set around my home course (opens in new tab)and ended up producing a one-over-par round of 72, my joint best round of the year and one of the best rounds I've shot over the last 12 months.

Half set round

Unsurprisingly my putting let me down...

(Image credit: Matt Cradock)

What I learnt from the round is that your decision-making actually becomes easier and it forces you to be a bit more creative with your shot-making, something that has sort of gone out of the sport since 'the power game' took over at the start of the millennium.

I mean, think about it, how often have you played a round and used every single club? It's very rare that every club does come out of the bag throughout the 18 holes. So why do we need 14? Fewer clubs will save you time on the golf course, as well as cash in your pocket, as you don't feel the need to purchase a full set for your bag.

Professionals have previously stated this as well, with 21-time European Tour winner, Miguel Angel Jimenez, stating: “Why don’t we think about playing with 10 clubs rather than 14? People have lost the ability to work the ball.”

When watching golf on the television, we maybe see one or two events a year where players are made to work the ball and hit shots that they wouldn't usually go for. These tournaments include The Open Championship (opens in new tab) and perhaps an event where the wind is up or the course conditions are playing unfavourably.

The majority of the time, golf is a target game, with the player focusing solely on carrying distance and rarely on how much the shot is going to roll out, unless they are coming out of thick rough, obviously. 

By introducing fewer options, it forces the player to create and feel the shot, whether it is stepping on an 8-iron, or perhaps hitting a gentle fade with a 6, it just shows how skilful these players are.

See more

Another factor is that fewer clubs may also reduce the actual playing time on the golf course. In a recent article, data from Arccos showed that slow play has a negative impact on your score. (opens in new tab) The data found that rounds that take 4.5-5 hours cost golfers the most strokes and for every half hour extra on the course, golfers were impacted by around 0.4-0.7 strokes.

During a round, there are many possible reasons for slow play - perhaps someone in the group has lost a golf ball, or perhaps there is a rule infringement that needs attending too... One other reason for slow play, that perhaps isn't considered, is indecisiveness when selecting your club.

Too many options can scramble your brain! Imagine you have a 150-yard shot with a little bit of wind into your face. You know that usually your 8-iron will go 150; however, because the ball may be affected by the wind you need to club up. Now, how severe is that wind? Is it a one-club wind or perhaps a two? Suddenly you're in between a 7-iron and a 6-iron.

Solution? Don't have the 7-iron in the bag! All of a sudden, you know that a 6-iron is the only option, so you commit to it. There's no need to hit an uncommitted 7-iron because that option is in the boot of your car.

Canter hits a shot

Always assess the shot before deciding on the club...

(Image credit: Getty Images)

I understand that this topic will cause a few arguments and that there will be many people out there who will completely disagree with my point. To that, I say, at least try using a half set on the course. Whether it is a knockabout with your mates, or perhaps a Saturday roll-up, you may find that a half set is beneficial to your game. If not, then you have still learnt a thing or two.

Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.