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How To Select Which Golf Clubs To Put In Your Bag

If you're playing a casual round of golf, you can put as many clubs into your bag as you can carry. But if you want to play properly, according to the Rules of Golf as written by the U.S. Golf Association, then you're limited to 14 clubs. And with the number and variety of woods, hybrids, irons, wedges and putters offered by today's manufacturers, selecting those 14 clubs isn't easy.

The one club that every golfer must carry is a putter, which is the only club that you may use on the green. Indeed, with rare exceptions, you'll swing your putter on every hole you play. After that, however, you have some decisions to make.

Off the Tee

Since every hole begins with a tee shot, decide which club you'll use on the par-4 and par-5 holes. All else being equal, a driver will hit the ball farther than any other club – if you hit the ball square. Unfortunately, the driver is also the lowest-lofted club – not including the putter – and is therefore the most difficult to hit well. If you can handle the driver, then include it in your bag. If you're not accurate with a driver, use a wood with more loft, such as a 3-wood, or a comparable hybrid club.

From the Fairway

When you're between the tee and green you'll use a variety of woods, hybrids and irons, depending on your distance to the green and the ball's lie. Each club has a number, with the lower numbers indicating less loft – and therefore less accuracy – but more potential distance. Beginners or high-handicap players should avoid the low irons and rely on woods or hybrids for longer shots. But definitely carry 6- through 9-irons for shorter approach shots to the green. The higher lofts on those clubs make it more likely that a shot hits and remains on the green.

Short Game

Most players carry a sand wedge for hitting out of bunkers, but the club isn't an absolute necessity. In fact, if your ball sits on top of the sand, another club may be a better choice for that particular shot. But if your ball is partially buried in the bunker, then you'll appreciate the sand wedge, which is made specifically to bounce on the sand and help you lift your ball out of the hazard. Include at least one additional wedge in your bag, as wedges are more lofted than any iron. A wedge comes in handy for very short shots into the green, because its extreme loft makes it a very accurate club.

Putting Your Bag Together

Your exact club selection depends on your ability, but for a fairly new player, consider using three woods (a 3-wood plus two woods between numbers 5 and 9), three hybrids (between 3 and 7), five irons (5 through 9), a pitching wedge, a sand wedge and a putter. When you become comfortable with a driver, substitute it for one of your woods. For more advice, speak with experts like The Golf Guys.