One of the most common golf questions we hear relates to stick and bags. Why, oh why, must golfers be limited to just 14 of their favorite clubs? It wasn’t always this way — but the 14 club rule was put in place for a reason, right about the time that golf club production became industrialized.
Up until 1938, there were no rules on how many clubs you could carry. If you wanted a bag of 50, well, there you were. When The Rules of Golf were first written, this wasn’t really an issue because most players carried about a half dozen sticks. However, with steel shafts officially approved across the board in 1929, better golfers found themselves with a conundrum.
If they clung to their hickory shafted weapons, they’d know exactly where they’d land their balls, but the potential for longer and more consistent ball flight from steel shafted clubs was both tempting and terrifying. Players started solving this problem by simply bringing all of their golf clubs to a golf tournament.
The USGA Puts Their Foot Down
Between 1929 and 1935, the number of clubs any one player brought to tournaments climbed dramatically. Often, caddies would be forced to carry two bags for their player because of the sheer number of sticks involved. Everybody was bringing a ton of clubs, a field survey at the 1935 US Open and Amateur found that the average number of clubs carried by a single player that day was 18.
That same year, a player set the record for sheer number of clubs on the course. He brought 35 with him, one left-handed set and another right-handed set — just in case. The PGA was already asking the USGA for a restriction on the number of clubs because the whole thing was getting way out of hand, this particular showing just drove home their point.
Not only were the caddies exhausted and overloaded, the players and governing bodies were worried that the game was going to be less challenging when technology was the answer for every hole. In addition, they were concerned that wealthy golfers would easily overtake the average golfers because they could bring an essentially unlimited number of clubs for play.
Because of all of this, the 14 club rule was written into golf history in 1936, to take effect in the 1938 playing season. No one knows why the number 14 was chosen, but it was probably because of the standardization of golf clubs at the time. A bag was typically composed of nine irons, a putter and four woods – the only 14 clubs a golfer really needed.
If you need advice on the clubs in your 14 or are simply looking for a new Titleist or TaylorMade golf bag, make sure you swing by 3balls.com. We’ve got lots of strokes behind us and are ready to help you find the perfect club for your game, at a price you’ll love.
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