Which Clubs Should You Carry in Your Golf Bag?

The must-haves clubs are the ones you hit best

Customer and salesperson in a golf pro shop discussing clubs.

Jopwell x PGA/Pexels

Which golf clubs should you be carrying in your bag? The only "right" set composition is one that works for you, and the only "wrong" set is one that doesn't. Let your skills as a golfer — your strengths and weaknesses — determine which clubs you carry. Practice on overcoming your weaknesses, but play to your strengths.

The needs of a low handicapper are quite different from those of a beginning golfer. Some clubs are easier to control than others, and higher-handicap golfers should focus on the easiest-to-hit clubs. This means they should carry hybrids instead of long irons, and use a 3- or 5-wood (or a hybrid) off the tee rather than a driver. Highly skilled golfers are capable of playing more specialized clubs and playing a wider variety of shots.

The rules of golf allow you to carry a maximum of 14 clubs in your bag. That doesn't mean you have to carry 14, however, as you can carry fewer if you wish.

So which clubs should you be carrying? Here are some suggestions based on skill level. But keep in mind, these are generalities. If there is a particular club that you hit very well but is not listed below, keep it in your bag. Results are what matter, and results should always determine your set composition. There are no "must-have clubs" or "essential golf clubs" other than ones you hit the best and have the most confidence in using.

Visit a club fitter and/or teaching professional who can assess the state of your game and offer suggestions. Improving your set make-up, or set configuration, can help your score.

The High Handicapper's Bag

  • 3-wood
  • 4, 5 and 6 hybrids
  • 7, 8 and 9 irons
  • Pitching wedge
  • Putter

Most high handicappers cannot hit a driver, no matter how badly they want to. Drivers are especially dangerous in the hands of high handicappers because many view distance as the quality they most want to have off the tee. So they spend several hundred dollars on the latest whiz-bang driver that will often only put them farther off the fairway, not farther down the fairway.

You need to own a driver. Practice with it on the driving range, and leave it at home when you hit the course. A 3-wood or a hybrid gives you a much better chance of finding the fairway off the tee. Hybrids are easier to hit than long irons.

The Mid-Handicapper's Bag

  • Driver
  • 3-wood
  • 4 and 5 hybrids
  • 6, 7, 8 and 9 irons
  • Pitching wedge
  • Sand wedge
  • Putter

Many intermediate players will also be better off hitting 3-wood off the tee rather than driver, but certainly have a better shot at controlling the driver than high handicappers.

Mid-handicappers who are strong in their short game might consider adding a lob wedge or gap wedge to this assortment, but most will surely be better off with the hybrids rather than long irons.

The Low Handicapper's Bag

  • Driver
  • 3-wood or 2 hybrid
  • 3-iron through 9-iron
  • Pitching wedge
  • Gap wedge
  • Sand wedge
  • Lob wedge
  • Putter

Scratch golfers will probably want the fourth wedge rather than the 3-wood or hybrid. Low handicappers who aren't yet scratch might prefer the extra wood or hybrid, rather than the extra wedge.

The better you are, the more specialized your game becomes. And that specialization for the best players leads to a concentration on the short game. Most top players hit the ball far enough that they rarely use a long iron, hence the ability to bypass 2-irons or 2 hybrids in favor of an additional wedge.

The lob wedge and gap wedge simply increase a great player's options around the green. But the best golfers also tinker with their set configuration from week to week or even round to round, in response to the types of challenges the golf course they are playing offers.

No matter your skill level, hit clubs you are comfortable with. Let results — not wishes — determine which clubs you carry.