Why 14 clubs is too few

Lift the numerical ban on what's in the bag

Bob Warters's picture
Wed, 16 Oct 2002

Only caddies might suffer.

It was interesting to see a thread devoted tohow many clubs we carry. Some believe we carry too many, I reckon we could carry more and that restrictions could be lifted.

While I agree that the occasional club competition should be encouraged for, say, a maximum of three clubs, I believe there’s little to be gained in restricting golfers to a maximum of 14.

What’s the point? Is it just because, back in the 1938, when the Rule was adopted, it was the sacred Bobby Jones who couldn’t agree with his opponent on the number of clubs each would carry in their canvas bags? They compromised on 14 and suddenly it became law.

Apparently a mere six or seven hickory-shafted clubs was the usual complement for Harry Vardon and his rivals in the early part of the 20th century.

But with the refinement of matched sets of steel shafts, previously outlawed by the R&A until 1929, it was tempting for top players to carry a club for every length and variety of shot imaginable.

Why stick with 13,14 or 15 clubs?.

Indeed the poor caddie for Lawson Little, who won the British and US Amateur championships in 1934-35, had to carry 25 clubs. Shortly afterwards, Jones stepped in.

However, with more golfers using buggies, push and pull carts and sophisticated remote-controlled powered trolleys, I say the golf business needs all the help it can get. And by lifting restrictions, it could allow itself to be far more innovative in the clubs it makes.

We all want gadgets and gismos to help us to lower scores, so why not introduce even more shot-saving equipment, like theSlippery Frog, a club which is a cross between a chipper and a 3-wood, developed (where else?) in the US.

It’s not as if it would only improve the games of the well heeled, who could afford them. To my mind lower paid golfers wouldn't be handicapped because the more clubs you put in your bag, the more confusing the game becomes. Perhaps lower income golfers would become more versatile.

Deciding between the 15-wood or an 8-iron would do your head in before you got anywhere near the green and had to make your choice from three putters!

Lifting restrictions on the number of clubs would tend to make us more discerning in the clubs we buy and teach us to make better use of them.

There’s no limit on the number of rackets a tennis, squash or badminton player can use in a match or restrictions on cricket bats used in an innings.

By all means put 20 or so clubs in your bag if you want. What difference does it make, as long as you carry, pull or transport them on a buggy? The only rule I’d make if you use a caddie, would be to allow them to be 'weighed-in' first with a maximum weight to lug around.

Surely, St Andrews, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Wentworth or Sunningdale could afford a set of scales!

By lifting restrictions, I reckon we would tend to carry less rather than more.



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