This question is probably one of the most asked in the golf industry (Besides how to fix your slice). What clubs do you need in your bag? With so many combinations, it can be confusing trying to assemble all of these different clubs. Do you need two fairway woods? How many wedges should you have? What is a hybrid club? The following is everything you need to know about what golf clubs you need in your bag!
How Many Clubs Are You Allowed to Have?
The USGA allows 14 golf clubs in your bag, including your putter. It is essential to know this rule so you can strategically set your bag in a way the best suits your game. Also, when playing in competitive or tournament play, it is a penalty if you have more than 14 clubs in your bag.
- Stroke Play: You will receive a 2 stroke penalty each time the club was used on a hole (Max of 4 strokes per round)
- Match Play: The player will subtract a hole that they won each time the club was used. (Max of 2 holes per round)
Most of the Standard Golf Sets come with 11-12 golf clubs which include:
- 3 Wood
- 4- 9 irons (most are starting to use hybrids for lower irons)
- Pitching Wedge, Gap Wedge, Sand Wedge
If you are looking for a great, well-rounded set, you can read about my choice for a starter golf set here for men and women! If aren’t looking for a starting set and want to customize your clubs yourself, I have outlined some things you should be aware of to get the most out of your game.
Which Clubs Do You Need?
The driver is the longest club in your bag. Also, it is most golfer’s, go-to club, when trying to get the maximum amount of distance off the tee. It is imperative that you have a driver in your golf bag, so you give yourself the best chance to score lower on longer holes. The problem is What kind of driver do you need?
Drivers from various golf companies differ between:
- Head Sizes
- Weighted Heads
- Light Shafts
- Heavy Shafts
- Drivers vary in loft from 8-14 degrees
To find the right driver, I would highly recommend reading my article about how to find a driver that works best for your swing!
Fairway woods are lower lofted clubs that you use to reach long distances out on the course. You need fairway woods for long holes like par 5’s where you have a lot of yards to make up for.
Woods usually fall into the following categories:
- 3 Wood: 14-16 degrees
- 4 Wood: 16-19 degrees
- 5 Wood: 19-23 degrees
- 7 Wood: 23- 28 degrees
A 5 wood is comparable to a 4 iron. And a 7 wood, is similar in loft to a 5 iron. These days, it is common for most golfers to have either a 3 wood and/or 5 wood. This is because of the popularity of hybrids which we will discuss next.
Hybrids are a combination of irons and woods. They are generally thought of as being easier to make clean contact as opposed to an iron. They come in all different lofts; however, they are most commonly used to replace:
- 2 irons – 17-19 degree loft
- 3 irons – 19-21 degree loft
- 4 irons- 21-25 degree loft
- 5 irons – 23-28 degree loft
Hybrids allow a great deal of forgiveness because of the depth of the clubface compared to an iron. This means that if you miss-hit a hybrid, you won’t lose as much distance on your shot.
Hybrids can be a significant addition to your bag if you are looking for more consistency with longer irons.
Irons will be the most used clubs in your bag
Typical Irons and Their Lofts:
- 3 Iron- 18-21 degrees
- 4 Iron- 21-24 degrees
- 5 Iron – 24-28 degrees
- 6 Iron – 28- 32 degrees
- 7 iron – 32 – 36 degrees
- 8 iron – 36 -40 degrees
- 9 iron- 40-44 degrees
Finding irons that work best for you can be challenging, especially if you are a beginning golfer. So pay attention to the following categories to determine which style best suits your golf game.
Irons are broken down into one of these three categories:
Also known as “blades” muscle back irons are designed for experienced golfers. They have a flat back and don’t have a cavity or hollowed out clubhead. Muscle back irons do not offer much forgiveness from miss-hit shots. You have to be exact with your timing. However, they do let you shape your shot more easily and allow a better “feel” of your swing. I always joke that I want my son to start playing golf with muscle back irons so he can learn where the sweet spot is on the clubface, faster.
Cavity back irons have a slightly hollowed out club head to allow more forgiveness from miss-hits. The small cavity on the club provides for better weight distribution on the club head making it easier to hit the sweet spot of the iron. They also still allow a great feel for shaping and controlling your shot. (I use cavity back irons Titleist AP2 Series)
Player improvement irons also have a cavity back. The difference is that the player improvement irons have larger club faces, and a thicker bottom. Their larger club faces allow a higher percentage for you to hit the sweet spot which is what makes them very attractive for beginners. You won’t lose much distance with these clubs missing the center of the club face.
Obviously, you need golf irons in your bag. It’s up to you which irons you want to have, so experiment with different hybrids and woods to find the right combination. I would avoid muscle back irons unless you have been playing golf for many years. For most of my beginning students, I tell them to start with player improvement irons and then upgrade to cavity backs after they start seeing a lot of consistency.
Alright, I’ll be honest. This post you are reading was originally going to be called “Which Golf Wedges You Need and Why?” I know this can be a confusing topic, so I wanted to spend some time teaching you what to look for and how to choose the right wedges for your game!
Golf wedges come in many different lofts and sizes. Because of this diversity, it can be challenging trying to decide which wedges you need in your bag. Remember, you are allowed 14 clubs in your bag, so it’s best to stock up on different lofted wedges so that you are comfortable in between distances.
Types of Wedges
The pitching wedge is probably the most popular wedge for beginners. It is often included in iron sets and is used within 100 yards of the green. The pitching wedge generates a high ball flight and lands softly with a little roll when appropriately struck. Pitching wedges are usually lofted between 45-49 degrees.
The gap wedge is the club you use when you have a distance between your full pitching wedge and your full sand wedge. (Hence the gap). Sometimes it is marked with an “A” which stands for approach wedge. The gap wedge is significant because it allows you to take full swings at the green. It’s much easier to know your distances with a full swing over half swings. Gap wedges are lofted between 50-53 degrees, so practice with different lofts to find distances that work best for your swing!
You can probably guess when you should use this club! The sand wedge is used for pitching and chipping around the green and for bunkers (sand). The sand wedge is lofted at 54-57 degrees. The higher the loft, the higher the ball flight so if you are looking for more roll with your short game, use a lower lofted sand wedge.
The Phil Mickelson favorite! The lob wedge is your highest lofted club ranging between 58-64 degrees. The purpose of the lob wedge is to get the ball up into the air as quickly as possible so that it lands softly on the green. It is best used when going over a bunker or when you in thick rough and need to “pop” the ball into the air.
Now that you know about the different types of wedges, you need to understand the bounce of the club and how it works!
The bounce angle is the relationship between the leading edge and the trailing edge on the bottom of your club. You can tell what the bounce of the wedge is by looking at the bottom of your club. The numbers range between 8 and 14 degrees of bounce for wedges.
What Bounce do You Need?
- Small Bounce: If you tend to hit your wedge shots thin and you don’t take big divots, you are going to want a lower bounce. Anywhere from 8-10. This will help you “dig” a little more down at the ball which will improve your contact.
- Higher Bounce: If you tend to hit your wedge shots fat or you “dig” too much at the ball, you are going to want a higher bounce. Anywhere from 10-12. This more full sole is going to help your club slide underneath the ball better and decrease the amount of digging.
Choosing a Wedge Strategy
Alright so now that you know what kinds of wedges there are and what bounce you need, how do you decide on which wedges you need? The best way to find out which wedges you need is to find which distances you are struggling with around the green. For example, if you hit your pitching wedge 100 yards and your sand wedge 70 yards, you need to purchase a gap wedge so that you can hit the ball 85 yards. Make sense?
Most wedge sets look something similar to this:
- Pitching Wedge 46 degree
- Gap Wedge 50 degree
- Sand Wedge 54 degree
- Lob Wedge 58 degree
If you notice, the degrees of loft increase by 4 each club you go up. This increase translates to about 10-15 yards making it easier to control your distance!
Here’s another confusing topic when trying to put your golf set together! What kind of putter do you need? I’ll be honest; there isn’t one answer to this one. Putting is one of the few things in golf that depend mostly on the individual’s preference. These days, you can purchase:
- Blade Putters – Thin club head but offers a great “feel” of your putting stroke. Best for faster greens. (Think the club you get playing putt putt)
- Weighted Putters– Offer better centeredness of contact on your putt. The weight helps straighten your putting stroke. Best for all styles of play
- Mallet Putters– Offer the most forgiveness and have a larger sweet spot but are heavy. Best for slower green speeds
There are two ways to go about finding the right putter for your bag:
- Get fitted! Getting fit for a putter is just as important as getting fitted for a driver. (maybe more) Your putting stroke will be analyzed and measured for various spin metrics to find the putter that best suits you. Think about it; you are on the green for the majority of your round. Wouldn’t you want a putter that will give you the best chance to putt consistently? Takes all the guesswork out of it!
- Try out multiple putters and decide which one feels the best. This strategy may take YEARS to find the right putter. However, it does let you explore all of the different models and designs which is quite fun to do. A few things to keep in mind if you are trying to find a putter on your own:
- Experiment with different lengths
- Try different grips
- Try different putting styles
Changing Loft and Lie Angle
To customize your set even further, you can adjust the loft and lie angle of individual clubs
Let’s say that in your bag you have a:
- 50-degree wedge
- 56-degree wedge
- 60-degree wedge
If you notice, there is a large gap between the 50 and 56-degree wedges. Instead of buying a new club to close the gap, you can take your club to a golf store or golf pro shop where they can “bend” the loft of your 56 to a 54. This can be useful with wedges because as you improve your game, your distances will increase and you may find larger gaps between your club distances that didn’t exist before. You can also add loft to clubs by increasing the face angle
Changing Lie Angle
Lie angle is the measurement of the angle between the shaft and the ground. Simply put, it’s how your club rests on a flat surface. This angle can also be adjusted at a golf store or golf pro shop.
Upright Lie Angle
An upright lie angle is when the toe of the club is slightly raised on a flat surface. It is best to have a more upright lie angle if:
- You hit your shots off the toe
- You are tall in height
- You stand close to the golf ball
If your angle is too upright, your shots will be pulled left of your target line (opposite for lefties)
Flat Lie Angle
A flat lie angle is when the toe of the club is angled slightly down on a flat surface. You will need a flatter lie angle if:
- You hit your shots off the heel
- You are below average height
- Your stand far away from the golf ball
If your angle is too flat, your shots will be pushed to the right of your target line (opposite for lefties) You will need to be professionally fit for your clubs to determine your correct lie angle.
What Kind of Golf Bag Should You Have
Alright, you have a completed set! Now, what kind of bag should you use…
Cart bags are larger, heavier bags that do not have a stand. They are designed to carry an abundance of golf accessories and to fit on the back of your golf cart. Often, cart bags will have more dividers on top so you can keep your clubs organized more easily.
Stand bags are smaller than cart bags and are lighter weight. The best perk of the stand bag is that it… stands (duh). They have two legs that pop out when tilted downward, making this kind of bag the preferred choice for anyone who wants to walk the course.
Staff bags are similar to cart bags, only bigger. These are the types of bags that you see the caddies lugging around on TV. Staff bags are more expensive but can be customized with a name, logo or sponsor.
Check my buyers guide for golf bags in my article here
How to Organize your Clubs
You may not know that there is a “correct” way to organize your golf clubs! I was a caddie at a prestigious country club when I was a kid, and I almost got my head taken off because I didn’t organize this member’s clubs correctly! (If you are curious to know how much money you can make as a caddy, read my article here!)
The back row is where you place your driver, woods, and hybrids. (I go left to right: Low to high)
This is where you put your mid-range irons, 5 -9
This is where your wedges and putter go
Your golf towel is supposed to then cross over the top of your bag, separating your irons from your wedges. Now, you don’t have to organize the bag like this. There is no penalty for an unorganized bag. However, it does keep things convenient and helps keep your head in the game rather than searching for a club.
What Clubs Should a Beginner Use?
Beginning golfers should start with a beginning set that comes with 11 or 12 golf clubs. These sets are well rounded and include everything you need to get started on the course. They are tailored for individuals who need more consistency with ball striking and distance.
What Clubs Should a Junior Use?
Juniors need to have smaller golf sets that are geared towards how tall they are. Take a quick look at my article here for more information on which junior sets I recommend!
What Clubs Should an Intermediate Player Use?
An intermediate player is any golfer that shoots around 90 for 18 holes of golf I recommend that intermediate players start adjusting their sets to best suit their style of play. For example, if you are an intermediate golfer with a starter set, I would have you think about getting fit for a new driver and putter. A simple fitting will determine the best clubs that suit your game and will help to lower your score even further! I also will suggest having a well-balanced wedge setso that you can close out any gaps in your distances.
What Clubs Do Scratch Golfers Use?
Scratch golfers are golfers whose average scores for 18 holes are around par. A skilled golfer will have a fully customized set that includes:
- Fitted Driver
- Fitted Irons
- Fitted Wedges
- Fitted Putter
- No distance gaps in between clubs
All of the club shafts, lie angles, bounce angles and launch angles will be custom made specifically for a scratch golfer!
In my bag, I use:
- Driver: Titleist 917 D3 – 9-degree loft
- 3 Wood: Titleist 980 – 15 degree
- Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1 – 19 degrees and 23 degree
- Irons: Titleist 716 AP2 – 5 through 9
- Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM6- 46, 52, 58 degree
- Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura – 33 inch
- Bag: Titleist Staff Bag
I have 13 clubs currently so I will be completing my set with a 54-degree wedge later this year. All of my irons and wedges have a standard loft and lie. My driver has an extra stiff Project X shaft and 9 degrees of loft which was determined by my club fitting. My bag was purchased through the Titleist website and custom made with my name.
Here is a summary of some of the main points we talked about:
- You can only have 14 clubs in your bag
- Determine which woods or hybrids you may want to use in place of lower irons
- Find out which style iron set you want to use
- Find the distance gaps in your wedges to find which lofts you need
- Every 4 degrees of loft = About 10 yards
- Adjust the loft or lie if necessary
- Get fitted for a driver and putter, so you don’t waste your time looking
- Pick a style golf bag you want to use
- Organize your clubs correctly