The first time I stepped onto a golf course, I was clueless.
Armed with a mildewy golf bag, an old golf ball or two and some golf equipment straight out of the 80s, I hit the links hoping for some success.
After all, how hard could it be to play a sport that was designed for old people?
I was 13 at the time, and boy did I have a few things to learn.
If I could travel back in time (I’m in my late thirties now), I would ask someone to teach me the basics, starting with:
The Typical Clubs in a Golf Bag
Generally speaking, the average golfer carries the following clubs in their bag:
- 3 wood
- 5 wood
- 4-9 irons
- Pitching wedge
- Sand wedge
If you do the math, that totals 12 clubs.
How many clubs are there in a golf set?
A golf set usually consists of 12 clubs, but a golfer can actually carry 14 clubs in their bag without breaking any rules. This leaves room for:
- A lob wedge
- A gap wedge
- A hybrid golf club
Long irons like a 3, 4 and 5 can be very difficult to hit, so some newer golf club sets include a hybrid club (or two) as a substitute for those tougher clubs.
Even though these are the typical clubs in a golf bag, some golfers actually choose to carry fewer clubs.
Professional golfers like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson may omit certain clubs and replace them with others. They do this because their skill level (think swing speed and club head speed) is vastly superior to that of the average golfer. They know that having the right club for their shot makes all the difference.
There is no required set of clubs that a golfer must carry, but for competitive play, all clubs must conform to the United States Golf Association (USGA) standards.
If you were playing in an official tournament, you could only carry 14 clubs in your bag, but that allows plenty of room for flexibility.
You could carry two drivers and two 3 woods for instance, and that would be just fine. You just can’t go over 14 clubs.
I didn’t know any of this stuff when I first stepped onto a golf course. In fact, I think my bag only had 7 or 8 clubs in it.
To make matters worse, I had no idea what each club should be used for.
If you’re a newbie who’s just putting on golf shoes for the first time, here are some golf tips I wish someone had given me along the way.
What are all the different types of golf clubs?
There are basically six types of golf clubs to choose from. Each has a specific use and works best on different areas of the course.
Using the right golf club at the right time can make all the difference in your golf game.
Let’s discuss your options.
This is the biggest club you’ll find in a golf bag, both in terms of the club face and the shaft length.
A driver is typically used at the start of a hole since it offers the most potential distance of any club. It also tends to be a favorite club for many, since it allows golfers to launch a golf ball into the solar system (figuratively speaking).
Even though most people love swinging with a driver, it’s not necessarily the most accurate club. A professional golfer can hit this club accurately, but less experienced golfers sometimes find themselves in the rough or the woods because they can’t shape their shots or swing this club consistently.
Fairway woods look similar to a driver in that they have a long shaft and a larger club head than most options in your bag.
The most common woods are the 3-wood (more distance) and the 5-wood (less distance).
These clubs are quite versatile and can also be used to hit the ball off the tee if you don’t like using a driver or if you struggle to hit your driver accurately.
Because the shaft isn’t as long as a driver, most golfers can hit their fairway wood with better control. I share my thoughts on driver vs 3 wood distance here.
Irons are most commonly used from the fairway or offer a wide range of distances. There are several types of irons:
- Long irons (2-4). Tougher to hit, but offer the most distance.
- Mid irons (5-7)
- Short irons (8-9). Easiest to hit, but offer the least distance.
When you’re hitting with irons from the fairway, you do not use a tee. Even though these clubs can be difficult to hit, they allow the most in terms of shaping your shots, putting spin on the ball, etc.
Side note: If you are using an iron from the tee box, you can use a tee, but consult our write-up on How to Tee Off with an Iron first.
One thing is for sure. When I got my first set of clubs, it didn’t have any hybrids. I wish it did!
Hybrids combine the best of the fairway woods and irons. These clubs are designed to match the distance of fairway woods while still offering the strengths of the irons. Hybrid irons are a relatively new technology.
These clubs look similar to a fairway wood, but generally speaking, they have a smaller club head.
Wedges look similar to irons, but their club face offers a higher loft.
These clubs produce high trajectory, low-distance shots. They are most often used when a golfer is within 100 yards of the green.
There are five types of wedges including:
- Lob wedge
- Utility wedge
- Gap wedge
- Sand wedge (SW)
- Pitching wedge (PW)
The sand wedge and the pitching wedge are the two most commonly used wedges.
The putter is your best friend once you get on the green. Some golfers carry more than one putter in their golf bag.
So I’ve covered the typical clubs in a golf bag.
If you’ve never had a club fitting, you should consider that at some point. Your golf shot will improve dramatically with the right golf club.
In the meantime, take a look at your cart bag or stand bag setup. Find the clubs that work best for you, attach a fancy golf towel and then head to your local course for some stroke or match play.
See also: What clubs should I have in my golf bag?