Golf is a sport that requires a unique combination of physical ability, strategy, and proper equipment. At the heart of a golfer’s equipment arsenal is the set of 14 clubs allowed under the rules of golf. These clubs are carefully selected by each player to provide the right mix of distance, accuracy, and versatility for every shot they may encounter on the course. While building a set of 14 clubs in a golf bag may seem complicated for beginners, understanding the different types of clubs and their purposes simplifies the process.
This article will explain the 14 essential clubs for a golf bag, the role each type plays, and things to consider when selecting clubs.
Woods are clubs with large, bulbous clubheads made of metal or composite materials. They get their name from having originally been made from persimmon wood decades ago. The large clubhead allows woods to hit the ball farther than any other club. The three main woods are the driver, fairway wood, and hybrid.
The driver is the longest club in your bag and is meant to tee off with on par 4s and par 5s. Drivers have a large 460cc head size – the maximum allowed under rules – and the lowest loft around 9-13 degrees. The combination of a large sweet spot and low loft on drivers allows golfers to swing very fast and launch the ball on a high, long trajectory. Most drivers today are made with composite heads and shafts to maximize distance.
Fairway woods are similar to the driver but have slightly smaller heads and more loft. They come in 3, 5, and 7 wood lofts. The added loft (15-21 degrees) gets the ball airborne faster to reach greens on shorter par 4 holes when you cannot tee off. Fairway woods have more mass behind the sweet spot for better accuracy and distance control vs drivers. They allow great versatility to hit tee shots on tight holes or reach par 5s in two shots.
Hybrids blend attributes of both fairway woods and irons. They have the forgiveness and high launch of woods but the familiar swing feel and ball flight of irons. Hybrids come in lofts like 3, 4, and 5 to fill distance gaps between your woods and irons. The clubhead and shaft length are also shorter than fairway woods. Hybrids are easier to hit from various lies like thick rough and replace hard to hit long irons for many golfers.
Irons are clubs with metal heads featuring angled faces to impact and lift the ball. They offer the greatest accuracy and ability to shape shots of any club type. A full iron set goes from 3-iron through pitching wedge.
Long Irons (3-4 iron)
The 3 and 4 irons have the longest shafts and lowest lofts of your irons. They launch the ball on a penetrating flight and roll out on landing. Long irons are challenging to hit consistently but are crucial for long approach shots over 200 yards into par 4s and 5s. Forged long irons offer the greatest feel and workability.
Mid Irons (5-7 iron)
Mid irons have moderate shaft lengths and lofts to cover approaches from 150-200 yards. They launch higher and land softer than long irons. Mid irons provide excellent accuracy and consistency to attack pins on tougher approach shots. They are the easiest irons to shape shots with via draws and fades.
Short Irons (8-9 iron)
Short irons have shorter shafts and more loft for high, soft-landing shots under 150 yards. They excel at accurate approach shots into par 4 greens, getting out of trouble, and hitting to par 3 greens. Short irons allow high spin and precision but are less forgiving than mid irons.
Wedges (Pitching, Gap, Sand)
Wedges have the widest, heaviest heads and most loft for shots 100 yards and in. Pitching wedges land soft from 125 yards out. Gap wedges bridge the distance between pitching wedges and sand wedges. Sand wedges feature ultra loft (55+ degrees) to launch the ball almost straight up from bunkers and deep rough. Great feel and spin control are essential with wedges, making forged and multi-material wedges popular.
The putter is the club used to roll the ball along the putting green and into the hole. It is the only club allowed to be anchored against your body during a stroke. Putters come in many shapes from blades to mallets to offer different feel preferences and alignment aids. The right length, lie angle, and weight match for your stroke are vital to holing more putts.
Blade putters have slim, compact heads for outstanding feel and face feedback. They suit golfers with straight back, straight through strokes. The small head works well on fast, smooth greens but lacks alignment aids and forgiveness.
Mallet putters have oversized heads for maximum forgiveness on off-center hits. This makes them ideal for newer players and those with arcing putting strokes. Many mallets have customizable weights and handy alignment lines. However, some find mallets reduce feel compared to blades.
Counterbalanced putters feature heavier heads and grips to increase swing weight. This stabilizes the stroke for more consistency in distance control and direction. Counterbalancing also takes pressure off your hands and wrists. Players who struggle with nerves or yips may benefit most from counterbalanced designs.
Filling Out Your Bag
Building a balanced set of 14 clubs in a golf bag is key to being prepared for every game situation. Here are some final tips on filling your bag:
- Carry a driver plus fairway wood for tee shots and par 5s in two
- Hybrids and/or long irons give you long approach shot ability
- Mid irons are the workhorses for accurate shots into greens
- Short irons and wedges handle short game scoring
- Putter weight, length, and lie angle should match your stroke
- Match clubs to your skill level and swing speed
- Consider cavity back irons for added forgiveness
Carefully considering all 14 clubs in a golf bag will help improve your scores and enjoyment! The right clubs tailored to your game can make golf more fun and progress faster. Understanding each club’s purpose brings you closer to mastering course strategy and shot selection skills.
Time to double down
Believe it or not, the problem of what to do with the remaining three clubs is shared by both beginners and the best Tour professionals.
- Another fairway wood to fill the space between your 3-wood and your longest iron.
- A hybrid or “Rescue” club that is easier to hit than a long iron, can be used from any lie, and bridges the distance gap between your fairway wood and longest iron.
- A “driving” iron that performs similarly to a rescue club but looks like an iron.
- A set of wedges for hitting consistent short shots into and around greens, as well as bunker shots.
- Or any other specialised club that can assist YOU.
Many senior players, mostly those with slower swing speeds, will carry extra fairway woods or hybrids rather than long irons, which they hit with greater consistency due to their forgiving design.
We have wedges on the other end of the bag. They’re a topic in and of themselves, and we have a separate wedge educational video to help you (here), but the key to choosing wedges is to choose lofts that cover the distance from your shortest iron to the hole-in-keeping gaps. If your pitching wedge is 44 degrees and you have room for three more wedges, they could be 48, 52, and 56 degrees. A comfortable swing with each club results in the balls landing 15 yards apart on average.
The last club combination will be based on your course skill level, personal playing style, the types of courses you play, and the conditions. The key, however, is to ensure that you have a shot at any situation or yardage that may arise. The key is to understand your skill level as well as your personal preferences. Carrying 14 golf clubs in a golf bag that you can’t hit and thus never use is pointless.
If you’re just starting out, you may need to identify the gaps in your game and fill them once you’ve learned more. I’m still trying to figure out what’s best for me after 20 years of playing!
The 14 clubs in a golf bag you carry should be based on your individual playing ability, typical yardages, swing speeds, any distance gaps in your bag, course conditions, personal club preferences, and eliminating redundant clubs. Assess your skills and needs to select clubs you are confident hitting and that maximize shot options.
Tour pros tend to carry a driver, a 3 wood and sometimes 5 wood, blade irons from 4-PW for versatility, multiple wedges for short game finesse, a putter suited to their stroke, and often a utility iron or two to fill distance gaps. Workability and shot-shaping ability are prioritized over forgiveness.
In 14 clubs in a golf bag the high handicappers benefit from game improvement clubs that provide consistency over workability. A very forgiving 460cc driver, fairway woods and hybrids to replace difficult long irons, cavity back irons, just a gap and sand wedge, mallet putter, and no utility irons make up a solid starter set. The focus is on developing consistent contact and reaching greens in regulation.
The optimal club makeup depends on your individual strengths, weaknesses, and golfing goals. Monitoring changes in your yardages and shot patterns over time allows for fine-tuning your bag’s contents to lower scores. Find clubs suited to your game to make golf more enjoyable!