One of the first questions a new golfer asks is, “what golf clubs do I need in my bag?” The second one is “what can I do to stop slicing the ball?” But that’s a topic for another article.
Newcomers to golf need to understand the shot dynamics and handling of all the clubs in the bag, and they’ll eventually learn which clubs work in which shots and how to choose the right clubs to match their height and swing.
So, what clubs do you need in your golf bag? Fairway woods? Hybrids? Long irons? Wedges? What’s essential? Do you need everything, or can you start with a few basic clubs? What’s the maximum amount of clubs you can carry in your bag?
Let’s unpack all these questions and more. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
How Many Clubs Can You Carry in Your Golf Bag?
According to the rules set by the USGA, players may carry up to 14 clubs in their bag. This figure includes the putter. Sure, you could walk around with a 16-club bag, but it teaches you to rely on clubs you might not have in competitive play scenarios.
Every golfer needs to learn how to use the clubs they have in their bag. In competitive scenarios, players with more than 14 clubs in each bag receive the following penalties.
- Stroke Play – Two-stroke penalty every time you use the club on a hole (Maximum of four strokes per round).
- Match Play – Players subtract a hole they won every time they use the club.
Standard golf sets come with 11 to 12 clubs in the bag.
- #4 to #9 irons .
- Hybrids to replace the lower irons.
- Wedges – Pitching, Gap, Sand.
Many brands manufacture affordable standard golf sets for men and women. You have different options for quality and budget, and most premium brands come with free fitting to customize your clubs.
What are the Golf Clubs I Need In My Bag?
The driver is the longest club off the tee and your go-to when you want the most distance possible in a shot. You won’t use it outside the tee box, as the fairway woods and hybrids better suit this purpose. Drivers are available in pro-model heads and oversized heads, with the rules allowing 460cc maximum capacity for the clubhead.
Some of the components to consider when selecting a driver include the following.
- Head Size.
- Head Weight.
- Light or Heavy Shafts.
- Shaft Length.
- Clubhead, Shaft, and Grip Technology.
The loft is the degree of lift the face offers when contacting the ball. Typically, drivers have lofts between eight to 14-degrees, with many top-end models offering adjustable loft.
The fairway woods are your lower-lofted clubs suitable for reaching long distances on the course. Fairway woods are ideal for par 5’s where players have to make up yardage. The woods come in the following sizes.
- #3 Wood: 14 to 16-degree loft.
- #4 Wood: 16 to 19-degree loft.
- #5 Wood: 19 to 23-degree loft.
- #7 Wood: 23 to 28-degree loft.
The #5 wood gives a similar distance to the #4 iron, and the #7 wood is similar to the performance of the #5 iron. This is why hybrids are becoming increasingly popular as a versatile option to replace these clubs in the bag.
The hybrid offers you the combined performance and features of a fairway wood and a long iron. Most golfers prefer hybrids over longer irons due to the cleaner contact they offer with the ball on longer shots.
Hybrids are available in a range of lofts, with the most common replacements for irons being the following loft options.
- #2 irons – 17 to 19-degree loft.
- #3 irons – 19 to 21-degree loft.
- #4 irons- 21 to 25-degree loft.
- #5 irons – 23 to 28-degree loft.
The 23-degree hybrid offers the best all-around replacement for the #4 and #5 irons. Give it a shot and test other lofts to see which ones suit your playing style and swing. Hybrids give you better consistency in your shots, reducing miss-hits while providing plenty of length and accuracy.
The irons are the most frequently-used clubs in the bag. Like all clubs, the irons have different lofts to suit various shots. The common lofts for each numbered iron are the following.
- #3 Iron: 18 to 21 degrees.
- #4 Iron: 21 to 24 degrees.
- #5 Iron: 24 to 28 degrees.
- #6 Iron: 28 to 32 degrees.
- #7 iron: 32 to 36 degrees.
- #8 iron: 36 to 40 degrees.
- #9 iron: 40 to 44 degrees.
Finding the right iron for different shots takes plenty of testing and patience. To find a “forgiving” set of irons, beginners need to pay attention to the following aspects of clubhead design to find a “forgiving” set of irons.
Iron Clubhead Design – Muscle Back
This club head design also goes by “blade,” which suits professional to low handicap golfers. The muscle back design provides more feedback through the shaft, which pro golfers use to adjust their grip and performance with the club. However, beginner golfers may find this feedback annoying and frustrating.
They have a flat-back design with no cavity or scoop. Typically, these clubs are less forgiving than cavity backs, and they suit players with experienced skillsets that understand timing in their swing. However, you get a better feel in your swing and better shot shaping.
Iron Clubhead Design – Cavity Back
The cavity back design for irons features a slightly hollowed-out or scooped look to the clubhead. This design increases forgiveness in the iron without compromising on distance and performance. It also reduces feedback through the shaft and into your hands, making it a better choice for beginners that don’t appreciate shaft feedback.
The cavity back also provides better weight distribution throughout the clubhead, allowing for fewer miss-hits and better contact with the ball when you do make miss-hots. It’s the ideal choice for beginners, and all leading golf brands manufacture irons with cavity and muscle back designs.
Iron Clubhead Design – Player Improvement Irons
These irons also feature a cavity back design. However, they have a larger clubface, giving the player more room for error when making their shots. They are highly forgiving, offer good distance, and carry in your shots. However, you lose maneuverability and sot-shaping with these clubs.
Player improvement clubs are ideal for beginners that find they struggle with miss-hits. It gives the player a chance to focus on developing their swing and fixing errors in their posture and swing, rather than worrying about contacting the ball correctly.
There are four wedges, each serving a different role in your game. With the 14 clubs in your bag, you’ll probably include all four wedges in your arsenal. However, some players like to forgo the gap wedge or lob wedge for another club.
These wedges have lofts from 45 to 49-degrees. They are the most popular choice for beginners, offering easy shots within 100-yards of the green. You get plenty of ball flight and height to the shot, with some roll when landing on the green.
The sand wedge has a loft between 54 to 57-degrees, and it’s good for chipping and pitching around the green and for getting your ball out of the bunker. Sand lofts have a high loft, allowing you to scoop the ball out of the sand without impacting the sand and slowing down the shot or misdirecting it.
The gap wedge is for distances between your pitching and sand wedge. Some clubheads will have the letter “A” stamped on them, standing for “Approach.” The gap wedge allows players to take full swings targeting the green. Gap wedges have lofts between 50 to 53-degrees. Practice with a range of lofts and experiment to see which angle suits your game.
The lob wedge is the highest-lofted club in the bag, ranging between 58 to 64-degrees. With the highest trajectory, the lob wedge gets the ball in the air fast. It’s ideal for getting over objects in the rough. The ball lands and doesn’t have much role to it. The lob wedge allows you to “pop” the ball in the air for shots that land on or around the green.
The putter is the final club in the bag, and most bags come with a dedicated putter hole. Putters come in several designs. The most common options are the following.
The choice of the pros, these putters have thin clubheads. They offer the player good feedback through the shaft, and precision placement, with more options for shaping the shot. However, they are the least-forgiving option for beginner golfers.
Mallet putters have a larger putter head and weigh more than blade putters. However, they offer a bigger sweet spot and perform better on slower greens. They are a good choice for intermediate to beginner golfers.
Weighted putters are the best choice for beginners. They feature an oversized putter head design with stabilizer wings on the sides and long alignment posts on top of the clubhead for effectively lining up your shots. Many of these options come with adjustable weights allowing for a custom setup.
What are the Best Golf Clubs for Beginners?
So, what are the best club choices for the beginner golf bag? As mentioned, most beginner sets come with 11 or 12 clubs. These sets have everything you need to enjoy getting to know the game of golf. You get a driver, fairway wood, irons, wedges, putter, and bag.
As a beginner, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a set from a top name brand. There are plenty of affordable entry-level beginner sets available. You can decide to purchase a more expensive set when you grow out of the beginner phase.
You’ll benefit from a custom-fitted set of clubs to improve your game as you get better.
What are the Best Clubs for Junior Players?
Junior players need a set of clubs catering to their height. Since juniors tend to grow out of their clubs fast, having them fitted or spending money on expensive brands is pointless. Look for cheap but functional junior sets that familiarize the youngster with the game.
What are the Best Clubs for Intermediate Players?
You’re probably shooting around 90 for 18 holes as an intermediate golfer. Once you hit this performance level, it’s time to think about upgrading your clubs to something decent. Remember to stay within the 14-club limit when you buy a new set.
It’s tempting to go with a 16-club set, but it’s only really going to set you back in your game. Remember to book a fitting for your new clubs and customize them to your height and reach. It might cost you a bit more for the fitting, but it’s worth the money. Some brands offer free fitting when you purchase a set.
What are the Best Clubs for Scratch Golfers?
A scratch golfer scores around par over 18-holes. A skilled scratch golfer will have a fully-fitted set with the following clubs.
The scratch golfer will have the lie in each of their clubs customized to their preferences and have a good handle over their equipment.
What Golf Clubs Do I Need In My Bag? – Key Takeaways
- The rules say you can only have 14 clubs in your golf bag.
- Stroke play and matchplay penalize players for having more clubs in their bag.
- Understand the performance criteria of each club in the bag.
- Think about which hybrids you can use to replace the long irons in your bag.
- Find out what clubhead design in irons suits your playing experience and skill level.
- Test the gaps in distances in your wedges to find the right clubhead lofts.
- Four degrees of clubhead loft equates to around 10-yards of distance.
- Get fitted for a putter and driver or for an intermediate set.
- Many club sets come with a bag included with your purchase.
- Avoid getting a white bag as it gets dirty faster than other colors.