Technical Director Jeff Summitt Explains Why 14 Clubs is The Magic Number
The golf bag is much like a Swiss Army Knife, those versatile pocket items that are mostly available with a red handle and feature the white cross, or the emblem of
Why are all of these tools available in the first place? Well, just in case you are lost in the woods and need to cut down a small branch, create a crude fishing pole, catch a fish, scale and filet it and start a fire so you can cook your fresh catch. In essence, you just never know when you might need that one tool and it was there in you pocket all along.
The golf bag is somewhat similar. Enacted to the Rules of Golf starting in 1939, we are allowed up to 14 clubs to be carried in the bag at the same time. (Note: Prior to 1939, there was no limit on clubs allowed) For beginning golfers, they may have the full compliment of 14 clubs to carry around, yet may use a single club for the majority of the shots during a round because it is the only club that they feel that can hit consistently. On the opposite extreme, you have the veteran golfer or professional who knows like the back of their hand how far and how each golf club will go based upon hours of pounding shot after shot at the range or out on the course. However, even the most accomplished golfers will realize that not every club in the set will be used during a single round. So why do we carry them all? The simple answer is just in case we need to make a specific shot we have it in the bag. After all, the Rules of Golf allows for it so we might as well make every effort to have a rhyme and reason for each club that is carried.
Before I had as many family and work obligation as I have now, I used to play a lot of golf. Sometimes when I got bored and wanted to break up the monotony, I would play and entire round with just one club. You might be surprised at how little difference there is in your actual score at the end of the round. Of all the clubs and you only had one choice of what was in the bag, what would it be? From a course management situation, you would need to evaluate the scorecard and look at the distances. The course I played by far the most was Granville Golf Course, a semi-private course designed by Donald Ross in the quaint little
Now the problem, none of the Par 4’s could I reach in regulation with two solid 6-irons. However, using my average score as an indicator, the probability for hitting greens in regulation (GIR’s) was only 6 or 7 in a round anyway. This is one of the reasons that playing penalty-free will not yield much more of a higher score. What I mean by penalty-free is to avoid situations were a 6-iron is not really designed, like a sand bunker. Not everyone is as talented as a young Seve Ballesteros to be able to extract a ball out of the bunker with a lower lofted golf club and have any chance of getting it close to the hole. The other problem it putting with a 6-iron, or better put is to blade the club into the ball to get it rolling toward the hole. Of course I had hands of stone back then, but that is another topic to address later. So putting with a 6-iron wasn’t exactly a disadvantage.
Playing a golf course can be fun and challenging if playing with just one club as it also makes one more disciplined. Even though my scores were not much higher (usually 2 or 3 strokes per 9 holes) I would not want to play this way all the time. In fact, I would never get any better than what I was. I guess I could have tried a longer club, perhaps a 7-wood. With two solid and accurate shots, I might have reached the putting surface safely on some of the Par 4’s. Chances are what I gave up to attack the Par 4’s confidently would have posed more problems with the par 3 and 5 holes, thus reducing the likelihood of lowering the score. No, I will take 14 clubs any day as long as the Rules of Golf remain that way, even if only half of the clubs are ever taken out of the bag on a single round.
You can email your questions or comments to Technical Director Jeff Summitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.