Knowing how many clubs you're allowed to carry is vital if you're playing in a match play competition or open tournament. The United States Golf Association (USGA) has rules that many local and state golf associations adhere to about the number of clubs allowed in a player's bag. Having too many clubs may result in penalties that could make a quality round of golf go South.
According to the USGA, a golfer is allowed to have 14 clubs in his bag. This may include three woods (driver, 3-wood and 5-wood), eight irons, (3-9 iron and pitching wedge), and putter. These are the standard 12 clubs in many golf bags. If the golfer starts with a number of clubs in his bag less than 14, he can add to the number of clubs until he reaches 14.
In 1988, the USGA altered a rule about club-borrowing that allowed a player to borrow a club from anyone. The borrowed club could be used throughout the remainder of the round. However, in 1992, the USGA changed the rule back to the pre-1988 interpretation that allows you to borrow a club only from a partner you're teaming up with during a tournament.
The penalty for excess clubs is assessed in various golf formats, including the popular stroke and match play formats. The USGA requires that golfers in violation of the club limits have the excess club be declared out of play. The club is declared out of play by the golfer's match-play opponent or fellow competitor in a stroke play competition. A golfer will incur a two-stroke penalty for each hole where the extra club was used, with a maximum penalty of four strokes per round. Match play penalties require a golfer to deduct a hole he won for each penalty up to a maximum of two holes per round.
When choosing your 14 clubs, you can usually add two clubs to the normal allotment of 12 clubs in the bag. The last two clubs can be a hybrid driver for use on the fairway and a wedge for the golfer's short game. Or you may choose to use two wedges, which can include a lob wedge or sand wedge. The lob wedge provides better lift, while the sand wedge may help with those tough bunker shots.
The hybrid golf club is a combination of a wood and iron that can help condense the number of clubs in a bag. Some hybrids look like an iron and some more resemble a 3-wood. The hybrid is counted as one of the clubs in the golf bag but can serve multiple purposes on the course. A hybrid can be used off the tee, as a replacement for long irons and sometimes for chip shots around the green. By using a hybrid, you may be able to eliminate a fairway wood and 3-iron, allowing you to add another wedge in your bag.