Pursuant to Rule 4-4 of the Rules of Golf, professional golfers may carry only 14 clubs in their bags during a round. Once a round begins, a golfer carrying 14 clubs may not substitute a new club unless one of his clubs is damaged in the normal course of play. Thanks to modern technology, the 14-club limit presents pro golfers with several options. Every pro carries a driver, a putter, irons and wedges, and most carry at least one fairway wood. But the increasing popularity of hybrid clubs, plus the variety of available wedges, offers pro golfers choices when completing their 14-club allotments.
Irons Vs. Hybrids
Casual golfers jumped on the hybrid bandwagon before the pros did, but this 21st century innovation soon became commonplace in pro golfers’ bags. Golf Channel writer David Allen noted in 2009 that while “very few PGA Tour players” used hybrids five years earlier, hybrid clubs had become “a must-have in players’ bags.” He counted 147 hybrids at the 2009 U.S. Open, including three used by Vijay Singh, whose longest iron was a 6. Tiger Woods, however, said in 2005 that he didn’t use a hybrid “because I love hitting that 2-iron low and with the hybrid I am having a hard time hitting it low.” While winning the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods’ longest iron was a 3, but he still wasn’t using a hybrid.
Golfers who carry two fairway woods typically don’t carry hybrids, while professionals with just one fairway wood in their bags generally include at least one hybrid. For example, Woods carried a 3-wood and a 5-wood in his bag in 2012. Likewise, Michelle Wie, one of the LPGA’s longest hitters, told “Golf Digest” in 2010 that she used a 3-wood and a 5-wood but no hybrid. Both Jim Furyk and Yani Tseng used a single fairway wood -- a 3 -- plus two hybrids apiece in 2011. Bubba Watson was an exception to this rule, using only a 4-wood and no hybrids to win the 2012 Masters. Angela Stanford won the LPGA’s HSBC tournament in 2012 while carrying a 3-wood, a 7-wood and a hybrid with 20 degrees of loft.
Pro golfers typically carry three or four wedges, one of which is a sand wedge. The wedges are generally arranged so they differ in loft by 4 to 6 degrees across the board. For example, Martin Laird told “Golf Digest” in 2012 that he used a pitching wedge with 50 degrees of loft, a sand wedge with 55 degrees of loft, plus a 60-degree-loft lob wedge. Fred Jacobson’s three wedges were separated by 6 degrees each, ranging from a 47-degree pitching wedge to a 59-degree loft wedge. Many big hitters carry four wedges because their longer drives often lead to a variety of shorter approach shots; Watson and Wie both use four wedges. Woods, also a long hitter, used only three wedges in 2012.
You’re not likely to see a 1-iron on any pro tour, while the 2-iron is becoming increasingly rare. Laird told “Golf Digest” in 2012 that he’ll use a 2-iron on courses where he can play it from the tee. Men tend to carry irons 3 through 9, while women pros typically go with 4 through 9. Wie and Tseng, for example, both use the 4 as their longest iron, while Stanford’s longest iron is a 5.