My Golf Instructor

The 14 Club Rule
Stay Within the Limit

Learn the rule for amount of clubs allowed in your bag and the penalty for exceeding the limit.  14 is the Max

Many of you may remember the 2001 British Open when Ian Woosnam had just eagled the first hole and moved into a share of the lead. Not but minutes later he was informed by his caddy Miles Byrne that he was above the legal limit for clubs (14) and was carrying 15 clubs in his bag. The unfortunate incident occurred because Ian was trying out two drivers on the driving range before the even and his caddy had left both in the bag. It's said that the mistake cost Woosnam a shot at the Ryder Cup team and 225,000 British pounds.

Take It to the Limit

One can see how easy a mistake like that would be as many golfers experiment with drivers, putters and wedges in practice and even right before a round to see what is feeling good on that particular day. It's also not uncommon to carry certain clubs for certain courses. For instance, I used to exchange out my 4 iron with my gap wedge. They were both clubs I hit infrequently and I would find out during the practice round of each event how the course laid out for my game and which club I probably wouldn't need much if at all. Wedges, long irons and fairway woods are often switched out by good players trying to shape their game for a particular course. The old staples like driver, putter and pitching wedge through 5 iron are usually in the bag no matter what, but occasionally an extra can be added if a player is searching for a new replacement.

The USGA Rules of Golf states in Rule 4-4:

"a. Selection and Addition of Clubs
The player must not start a stipulated round with more than fourteen clubs. He is limited to the clubs thus selected for that round, except that if he started with fewer than fourteen clubs, he may add any number, provided his total number does not exceed fourteen. The addition of a club or clubs must not unduly delay play (Rule 6-7) and the player must not add or borrow any club selected for play by any other person playing on the course or by assembling components carried by or for the player during the stipulated round.

b. Partners May Share Clubs
Partners may share clubs, provided that the total number of clubs carried by the partners so sharing does not exceed fourteen."

Should you violate this rule you get a healthy 2 strokes added to your score for each hole you played with the extra club in your bag. The maximum (thank goodness) is 4 strokes per round. You must also remove the club and declare it out of play. If you are playing match play you will lose the hole you discovered your mistake on and another if you played one previously (up to 2 holes per match).

Tally Before You Tee

It shouldn't be too difficult to follow this rule if you have a fairly standard set which would include a putter, 2 wedges, a pitching wedge through 4 iron, a hybrid, 2 fairway woods and a driver. As you saw earlier though, even the best players in the world can succumb to this easy to follow rule. In golf anything can happen. Non the less it is advised that you always count your clubs before teeing off in a competitive event.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
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