In 1938, the R&A introduce the rule limiting the number of golf clubs in a bag to 14. Prior, there was an unlimited number clubs any player could carry. Amateur golfer Francis Ouimet won the 1913 US Open carrying just seven clubs. Interestingly, 21 years later Lawson Little won the British Amateur using 31. Technology of the day drove the use of different clubs and the inconsistent nature of construction was a factor in the number of clubs used during any round.
As advances in technology, specifically the introduction of metal shafts, the need to carry many clubs seemed to disappear. The evolution of golf clubs is very interesting and the fast evolution of modern technology continues to drive the golf industry. Has the change in golf club construction actually contributed to the greatest changes in golf club performance over the years? Or is it something else?
Depending on what you believe or read changes in club technology might just be a red herring. Regardless, why 14 clubs? Why not 13 or 15?
According to Canada.com, golf historians suggest the 14-club rule was made to benefit caddies, because it was common for golfers before 1939 to use 20-30 clubs of varying styles and uses. Caddies would routinely double-bag – carrying two bags at a time – and many did it twice a day to earn a living. Well I would have hated to be a looper then.
Rule 4-4. Maximum of Fourteen 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.
So there you have it, the 14-club rule was introduced for caddies, not technology, not to make if fair for everyone, increase speed of play or even to help drive the golfing industry by reducing the number and types of clubs they have to manufacture. It was all for the caddies.
I carry 14 clubs. How many do you carry?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!