How many clubs can a player carry in a bag, what are they called and what are they for?
In the week leading up to the Solheim and Ryder Cups and the women’s and men’s Team Europe vs. Team USA matches, discover the equipment they use.
The one thing about golfers, whether you’re a beginner who just picked up the sport or a major championship player, golf can become an obsession, and you can only think about the game when that addiction sets in.
Clubs are always on my mind
From practicing your swing while pumping gas to trying to read the pavement in a supermarket parking lot to lodge the cart into the back of the rest of the coaches lined up to stopping in your local golf shop to check out what’s new in the world of clubs, golf has a way of infiltrating our minds, gripping on tight and not letting go.
Testing and buying clubs are a big part of any golfer’s journey. Clubs play a significant role in a golfing game. If you have a bad round, it was the clubs. If you string a couple of suitable matches in a row, changing clubs won’t cross your mind in a million years.
The pros have their preference for clubs down to the very finest detail. Sponsors usually dictate which brand of wedges, irons, drivers, and putters they use, but they can customize pretty much everything when it comes to the point. Need a higher degree on your drive to get more loft off the tee? They are provided. Prefer a graphite shaft to a steel shaft? No problem. Want your putter lengthened or shortened? On the way.
The pros stay steady with their clubs... usually
While the best in the world know what they like and generally don’t linger too much with their clubs, there are occasions when some changes are made to the golf bag.
On the PGA Tour, they can have a maximum of 14 clubs in their bag at a time. It doesn’t have to be exactly 14, and they can take less if they want to get rid of weight and make their caddies’ lives more manageable. Most pros take all 14 clubs because it’s like that saying, “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
The driver is the “big daddy” of the golf bag. It’s not taken out on every hole, but most Par 4s, especially Par 5s, start off the tee with a driver.
The driver is the biggest club that gets the most distance and is generally only used for the first shot of a hole.
After drivers, you have woods or fairway woods. These can also be used off the tee shot if a particular hole doesn’t set up to a golfer’s liking with the driver. If the lie is decent enough, the woods can also be used off the fairway, in the light rough, and even in fairway bunkers. We see a lot of woods being used by players looking to make the green in two shots on a par five.
Depending on the course and the player, the norm is to have a set of irons from 3-9. The three iron has the steepest face, which gives the ball less height and more distance. As the iron number goes up, the more inclined the face of the club will be, providing more loft and, most of the time, more control. The nine iron has the highest degree of slant of any irons and is used for any shot that is too long for a wedge. Two wedges are generally a thing of the past unless the course is prone to being extremely windy.
The wedge is an integral part of the short game. When you are around the green, you need to be delicate, but there are a lot of shots you’ll have to play when you are close to the hole. That’s why most pros use three different types of wedges. One is a sand wedge, which is pretty self-explanatory. The other is a pitching wedge, the most common and versatile wedge in a bag and used around the green. It allows lofting a shot high and landing it gently on the floor. A low-pitch shot that skips off the green and checks (in a perfect world) close to the hole can also be used with the pitching wedge. And a lob wedge is the shortest club in a golf bag. Its drastically angled face is used to sky the ball high and over obstacles like a water hazard or a bunker and land it with little to no spin around the hole.
The putter is the most simple but most important of clubs. You can do all the hard work getting to the green, but if your putter lets you down, that can kill the buzz of even the best shots. The putter is mainly used on the green, but as we saw in St. Andrews last year, it can be used from the fairway or the fringe.
Most players have the set of clubs they take to every tournament, and most of the time, they don’t change that set unless the course dictates. If it’s a windy course, you want to keep the ball low, so maybe you take two iron instead of one of your woods. Or perhaps the course is set up with challenging obstacles that may force you into shots you could never have imagined, like the pitted bunkers at St. Andrews. With these obstacles in mind, players will take an opposite-hand club just in case they can’t set up their normal stance because of an obstruction.
Even the pros are prone to club changes. Tiger Woods changed his putter a few years ago, so the average golfer like you and I will constantly search for how to fill our bag with clubs to meet our needs on the course. With so much to keep in mind and so much to calculate when you’re on the links, it’s no wonder golf is an obsession we carry throughout our lives.