In order to know how many clubs to include in a golf bag, it is important to know what types of clubs exist and what you need them for. It is convenient to know the parts of the golf club too. A club contains the following main parts: grip, shaft, and clubhead. The grip is where you hold the club. the shaft is the long cylinder shape of the club. The clubhead is the part that hits the ball. The loft is the slope of the part of the clubhead that hits the ball. Clubs vary in sizes so that you can easily adjust the type of shots you need during the game. There are six different types of golf clubs: driver. woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, and putter.
The driver is the biggest club. It has a long shaft and a huge bulbous clubhead. It is used for the first shot.
The woods (or fairway woods) have a similar shape than that of the driver, but they have a shorter shaft and a smaller clubhead. Some people even say that the driver is a 1-wood. Woods are used for long shots which the irons cannot reach. They are made of hollow metal, but they are still called woods because in the past they were made of wood.
The irons have a flat clubhead with parallel grooves. They are used for distances closer than about 200 yards from the green (shorter distances than the woods).
The hybrids are a mixture of the woods and the irons. They look like an iron, but with a slightly bulbous clubhead. They are the most recent type of club ever created (21st century). They are meant to substitute the irons, which is why they are numbered in the same way as the irons. It is a personal decision if you want to use them or not. Until recently they have been accepted in professional competitions.
Wedges look like irons, but they have a much greater loft. They are used when you want the ball to go higher than usual and with less horizontal distance. For example, when you want the ball to get out of the sand or above a tree. There are four main types of wedges (ordered with their increasing loft): pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge.
The putter is used in the green to get the ball in the hole. There are many variations of this type of club, but the standard one is the most common.
Woods are numbered from 3 to 25. Irons and hybrids are numbered from 1 to 9. As the numbers increase, the clubs get shorter shafts and greater lofts. This means that the higher the number of the club, the higher the ball will be shot (and with a shorter horizontal distance).
The replacement of the different types of clubs is a personal choice, but these are some general rules. Hybrids substitute irons of the same number. For example a 4-hybrid substitutes a 4-iron. Some woods substitute irons (or hybrids of the same number): a 4-wood substitutes a 2-iron, a 5-wood substitutes a 3-iron, a 7-wood substitutes a 4-iron, and a 9-wood substitutes a 5-iron. Some woods substitute wedges: 21-wood substitutes a pitching wedge, 23-wood substitutes a gap wedge, and a 25-wood substitutes a sand wedge.
As you practice you can start substituting one club for another, depending on which types you feel more comfortable (or the price that the different clubs have). This decision affects the types and quantities of clubs you include in your golf bag.
Golf clubs in the bag
The rules in golf tournaments can vary and it is important to check them in each tournament you assist to. However, the rules of the United States Golf Association (USGA) are respected in most golf associations. They determine that in a golf bag you are allowed to have 14 golf clubs. A very typical combination could be: driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 3-iron, 4-iron, 5-iron, 6-iron, 7-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron, pitching wedge, and putter. These are 12 clubs. You may add any two that you want, like a sand wedge (which you could need) or a lob wedge. Maybe you like hybrids and you substitute the first irons for hybrids (but check if you are allowed to play with them in the competition).
Penalties for Excess Clubs
Excess clubs will be declared out of play. The golfer will have a two-stroke penalty for each hole where an extra club was used. As a maximum penalty the player can get four strokes per round. You can only borrow a club from a partner you are teaming up with.