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Which Clubs Should You Carry in Your Golf Bag?

Skill Level Should Determine Your Set Make-Up

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A bag of golf clubs sits on the course while a young Asian female golfer takes a swing in the background
Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Which golf clubs should you be carrying your bag? The only "right" set composition is one that works for you, and the only "wrong" one is one that doesn't. Let your skills as a golfer - your strengths and weaknesses - determine which clubs you carry. Practice 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. Highly skilled golfers are capable of playing more specialized clubs and playing a wider variety of shots.

Plus, 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, though; 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.

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 an oversized titanium driver that most of the time will only put them farther off the fairway, not farther down the fairway.

You need to own a driver - just 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. And hybrids are easier to hit than low 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 probably 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 to 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.

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

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