Counting Clubs Before A Tournament

Playing in a golf tournament requires some preparation on the competitors part to ensure they are ready. There are many aspects of prep that require attention, but one specific rule is often overlooked by amateurs and professionals alike. The rule that many players overlook prior to teeing it up on the first tee is to ensure they are carrying no more that 14 clubs. Yes, you read it right…..14 clubs. I bet you are wondering why.

According to, 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. I think that this information is probably true, but the reality is that when the new rules were published in 2019, they kept the 14 club rule.

14 and no more than 14 clubs when playing golf!

Rule 4-1b of the Rules of Golf: The player must not start an official or competitive 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 penalty for this rule breach is: players with more than 14 clubs in the bag are penalized two strokes per hole, with a maximum penalty of four strokes in the round.

I bet you are wondering why this rule is so important.

Jillian Hollis had 15 clubs in her bag ahead of her opening tee shot. However, as per the USGA, pro golfers are only allowed to have 14 clubs in their bags. Hollis starting her Thursday’s round with 15 clubs in the bag would have resulted in her receiving two-stroke penalties. If she had played two holes, another two strokes, though Hollis wouldn’t have been assessed more than that.

One of the biggest mistakes regarding this rule was made in the 2001 Open Championship by Ian Woosnam. He carried 15 clubs at the start of the fourth round. After a birdie on the first hole, then a 2 stroke penalty for carrying an extra club, Woosnam was flustered and finished with 71 strokes, four behind winner David Duval, in 3rd place tied. 

As you can see, paying attention to rule 4.1-b Limit of 14 Clubs; Sharing, Adding or Replacing Clubs During Round is important to all golfers. Some of my friends who carry more that 14 clubs for friendly matches and it does not matter to me. But when we start a tournament, I remind them to limit their clubs to 14 so they do not incur two strokes needlessly. It is important and such a simple rule to overlook just ask Ian Woosnam.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


4 thoughts on “Counting Clubs Before A Tournament

  1. Jim, I wonder if anyone has started the last round with a big lead and like 20 clubs in their bag, and knowingly sacrificed the four penalty strokes because they thought they’d need the extras? Probably not but at least it’s an option.

    When I bumped into Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill about 10 years ago, I noticed he had a full stack in his bag. He was obviously playing a friendly but told me he “took a fee bucks off his friends.” On the other hand, who’s to tell the King what he could and could not do. 😀



    Liked by 1 person

  2. Be sure to count them. Not just fill your bag. Some bags have 15 slots. I remember I once I played for months before noticing I was carrying one too many. Thankfully it was friendly golf, not tournament golf. Imagine having to turn yourself in months late. lol

    Liked by 1 person

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