While you’re in the novice stage as a golfer, you don’t really need a full set of 14 clubs (the maximum allowed by the rules). In fact, you’re better off cutting that number down nine or 10, which will make club selection easier on the course and boost the quality of your practice.
If you’re not sure what each club is used for, read this tutorial covering woods, irons and hybrid clubs.
Let’s start by eliminating a handful from your bag. As you improve, you’ll want to add clubs to reach the full complement of 14.
Irons & Wedges (4-5)
There’s no reason to have any iron numbered lower than 5 in your starter set (the long irons are numbered 2-4). These days, even experienced and skilled golfers typically use hybrid clubs instead of long irons, which are notoriously difficult to hit well.
The 5-iron is a good starting point as it’s relatively easy to get airborne off the fairway. It’s also useful for par 3 holes when you can place the ball on a tee. Next add a 7-iron and a 9-iron, skipping the 6 and 8.
You’ll want a pitching wedge (labeled P or PW) for short shots and for chipping around the green. A sand wedge is optional at this point, as your bunker technique isn’t refined enough to take advantage of the club’s benefits.
Hybrid Clubs (2)
As the name suggest, a hybrid club is a cross between an iron and a fairway wood. The head of a hybrid resembles that of a wood (but smaller) while the shaft length is similar to an iron. This combination makes a hybrid easier to hit solidly than equivalent irons and woods.
For the beginner’s purposes, two hybrids should be plenty; they should travel farther than your longest iron, in this case the 5. For your first hybrid, look for a loft between 18-21°, which may be labeled a 2- or 3-hybrid. Your second choice should have 22-25° of loft and will be labeled a 3- or 4-hybrid.
Every golfer’s bag should include a driver, or #1 wood. You’ll use it to tee off on most if not all par 4 and par 5 holes, and possibly some par 3s as well. Beginners should use a driver with plenty of loft, which helps lift the ball higher in the air. Look for a loft of at least 10.5° and as much as 13°. Unless you’ve got uncommon clubhead speed for a novice, a shaft of regular (R) flex is ideal. (This holds true throughout the set.)
Next, add a fairway wood. You’ll eventually want to own a 3-wood, but for now a higher-lofted club such as a 5- or 7-wood will better serve your needs. These clubs are excellent for long fairway shots and can also be used when hitting from the tee.
Of course, every golfer needs a putter. There are literally hundreds of styles and variations to choose from. The most important thing is to find a putter that’s comfortable to you based on its length, weight and the feel of striking the ball. If possible, try out several different models before choosing.
There you have it: a starter set of just nine or 10 clubs, more than enough to suit your early needs. Limiting the clubs you carry will reduce your time spent making decisions on the course; it will also narrow down your practice focus, giving you more time to spend with each club.