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What Golf Clubs Should I Have In My Bag?

First of all, you are allowed to carry up to 14 golf clubs in your golf bag when you play a round of golf.

As an experienced golfer, I get this question a lot from golfers starting out.

Now you know how many clubs you can have in your bag, the next part is what clubs should you have.

I’m going to explain the clubs to have in your bag based on your skill level.

What clubs should I have in my bag based on my skill level?

A golfers skill level will help decide what golf clubs should be in a bag. This is because based on a golfer’s skill level, the needs are different to suit their game.

Novice (shooting a score of over 100)

  • Driver (optional)
  • 3 & 5 wood
  • 5 Hybrid
  • 6-PW
  • Sand Wedge
  • Putter

When starting out there are two things too think about, forgiveness and distance. To provide this, cavity back irons are the way to go when purchasing your first set of irons.

I agree with other professionals that novices shouldn’t use a driver off the tee. It would be better to use a fairway wood or hybrid as they are more forgiving. Once comfortable and have better swing control, then introduce the driver.

Novices do not need long irons in their bag (3-5 irons). These clubs are hard to hit and require swing speed to hit them properly. Hybrids will replace the long irons to give the forgiveness and control needed.

Do not forget about the short game. This is where the majority of the shots occur. Make sure there is at least a sand and pitching wedge in the bag.

A mallet putter which will help with putting as this putter has a larger sweet spot. To help with the basics of putting, check out putting tips for beginners.

As a beginner it is alright to have fewer than 14 clubs. In fact, this is what I would recommend.

Advanced Beginner (shooting a score between 90-99)

  • Driver
  • 3 & 5 wood
  • 4 Hybrid
  • 5-PW
  • Sand Wedge
  • Lob Wedge
  • Putter

It is important to make a distinction between a novice and an advanced beginner. Too often all beginners are thrown into the same basket. As you become more skillful the club requirements are different, than when you are starting out in the game.

They key differences for an advanced beginner from a novice are the following:

  1. A Driver is now a must have in your bag
  2. Introducing a 5 iron to become more comfortable in hitting longer irons
  3. Introducing another wedge for an improved short game and chipping around the greens

The introduction of these clubs is all about continually improving and reducing scores. Being consistent and comfortable with driver is critical for game improvement. Carrying longer irons in your bag will provide greater shot variety and improves mid-range approach shots. Another wedge improves approach shots into the green and greater shot variety around the greens.

Remain with the mallet putter to progress your putting.

Intermediate (shooting a score between 80-89)

  • Driver
  • 3 & 5 wood
  • 4 Hybrid
  • 5-PW
  • Wedges (based on what suits)
  • Putter

An intermediate golfer has a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. The clubs in the bag should reflect this.

From Driver to pitching wedge the clubs remain similar to an advanced beginner. Consider gapping at the top-end of your bag between your driver, fairway woods, hybrids and long irons. This will determine what clubs are needed to suit your game. Gapping will also help with your back-up driving option. In case your driver is out of sorts or there are hazards at the distance where you would usually hit driver.

The big change in club selection are the wedges. Similar to the top end of your clubs, you need to get your gapping correct with your wedges. This will give you more accuracy & feel in your approach shots into & around the green. For me, I have a 52-, 56- & 60-degree wedge.

Advanced (shooting a score of under 80)

  • Driver
  • 3 & 5 wood
  • 3 Hybrid (optional)
  • 3-PW
  • Wedges (based on what suits e.g. lob wedge, gap wedge etc.)
  • Putter

As an advanced player the main difference in club selection is having the full suite of longer irons with a 3 & 4 iron. This is achievable as advanced players have the swing speed to be able to hit longer irons properly.

Advanced players will be looking for accuracy, feel and shot shaping rather than forgiveness and distance. Blade irons will provide this.

The choice of wedges remains the same in obtaining the right gapping.

For more information about what wedges to choose, check out the following articles:

The need of a hybrid is optional, and it depends on choice. If the hybrid is chosen, then a longer iron or fairway wood is not required.

Final Thoughts

It is never easy, choosing what clubs should be in the bag as there are a variety of clubs out there.

As I have mentioned, when starting out in the game get a well-rounded set of clubs that provides forgiveness. The driver and long irons should be put away for now and let the fairway woods and hybrids be in the top end of your bag. Look for cavity back irons and a mallet putter to provide the forgiveness, you need.

As you start to finetune your game and improve your swing, introduce your driver and longer irons into your game. The same goes with wedges. Ensure you have the right gapping to improve your approach shots and provide greater shot variety around the greens.

Remember golf is a journey, and the clubs in the bag should evolve with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why am I only allowed to carry only 14 clubs in my bag?

This is a rule of golf set by the USGA which allows 14 golf clubs in your bag. If you had more than 14 golf clubs in your bag when playing in a competition. You would receive a 2-stroke penalty at every hole it occurred (max 4 strokes per round).

You are allowed to carry less than 14 clubs, just not more.

What does gapping mean?

Gapping refers to the consistent distribution of distances between the shots you can achieve with each club in your bag. This ensures that there are no significant yardage overlaps or gaps between clubs. This allows to have a club available for any given distance.

Where does gapping really matter?

Gapping really matters at the top and bottom end of your bag. The top end being your driver, fairway woods and long irons. You need to know the yardages of these clubs, which will help to choose the right clubs. The bottom end being your wedges, so you are confident when hitting your approach shot to the green you know your yardages of each wedge.

If I am starting out in the game, should I use a driver?

If you are starting out in the game, I would recommend not to use a driver on the course. Use a fairway wood or hybrid in the first instance, as they are more forgiving. I understand these clubs will not go as far but it is not about distance, it is about control and accuracy when you start playing.

Definitely, practice it on the driving range to get comfortable with the club. Then once you are comfortable with your swing, start introducing the driver on the course.

Do I need to consider course conditions when purchasing my clubs?

Yes, you do need to consider course conditions when purchasing your clubs. However, this will really matter if you are a member at a golf club or you play a course on a regular basis. If you are playing a variety of courses, then it makes it harder as the course conditions would be different each time you play.

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