When it comes to equipment, the typical pro golfer isn't that much different from the average Joe.
Sure, the pros use stiffer shafts due to their high swing speeds, and can adjust the lofts, lengths and lies of their clubs any time they please in the nearest tour equipment van. But the 14 clubs in a pro's bag probably look a lot like what's in yours.
Obviously, the driver, putter and pitching wedge are part of every pro's set. Most carry a 3-wood and the 4 through 9 irons as well. That's 10 clubs, leaving four to go. The variations come in the fairway wood/hybrid/long iron category and in the wedges. Here's a standard set makeup for a PGA Tour pro:
- Driver: 44-47” shaft, 8-10.5° loft
- 3-wood: 13-14° loft
- 5-wood, 2-iron or 17-18° hybrid
- 3-iron or 21-22° hybrid
- Irons: 4-9
- Wedges: Pitching wedge (47-50°), gap and/or sand wedge (53-56°), lob wedge (59-64°)
- Putter: Conventional (33-35”), belly (39-43”) or long (48-52”)
Pros will often tweak the makeup of their sets based on the demands and conditions of the course. For example, they may put an extra wedge in the bag if the greens are surrounded by thick rough. Or they might swap out the 2-iron for a 5-wood to deliver extra height on second shots to reachable par 5s.
Pros are careful not to leave any big distance gaps between clubs – and you should be, too. For instance, if you carry a 5-wood that flies 200 yards, the next club up should hit the ball around 185-190 yards, the next one 175-180 yards, and so forth throughout the set. Along those lines, avoid carrying two clubs that hit the ball approximately the same distance.
What's in Most Pro Golfers Bags and Why?
One of the best ways to improve your golf game is to look to the pros. After all, these are the best players in the world, so why wouldn't you want to learn from them when trying to shave strokes off of your own game? You aren't going to be able to exactly copy the game of a top player, but you can certainly take various little pieces of information which will help you elevate your level of performance. Golf is an extremely hard game, so any small edge that you can find is one you should take advantage of right away.
Of course, lumping all professional golfers into one single category isn't really possible as these are individuals who all have their own style when playing the game. They do, however, share a number of traits and techniques for playing golf that can be observed. Specifically, many carry the same items in their golf bags from round to round. Setting aside the differences that come from using equipment from various manufacturers, you will find that pro golfer's bags have more in common than you might think. If you are able to set up your golf bag in the same way that most professionals arrange their bag, you should be able to take a step closer to reaching your goals.
Before you go building out your golf bag in the exact image of your favorite pro, there is one key point that you need to remember – you don't have a caddy. Professional golfers have a caddy by their side every step of the way, and that caddy is the one who shoulders the heavy load of the bag and all of the gear inside. Unless you ride during all of your rounds, you will want to build a bag that has everything you need but also maintains a reasonable weight. Fortunately, there are plenty of lightweight golf bags on the market today, so it shouldn't be too difficult to create a setup that is easy to carry on your back or push on a cart.
You also need to understand that the specific items included in your bag are going to depend on where you are playing golf and the conditions that exist on that day. For instance, a rain jacket and umbrella are essential when playing during the rainy season, but they would be a total waste of space on a dry and warm summer day (unless you want the umbrella for shade). So, rather than having one bag setup that you use for every single round, you should instead have a few different combinations that you can use based on the details of the round at hand. Weather conditions are the big consideration to make when assembling your gear for the day, but you can also adjust based on whether you are walking or riding, the time of day you are playing, and more.
It all starts with your set of fourteen clubs. Of course there are many other things that you need to included in your bag – balls, gloves, snacks, tees, and more – and we will get into those items later. For now, it is important to focus on the set of clubs that you are going to use to actually hit your shots. Without the right clubs, the rest of your bag won't make much difference because you won't be able to play up to your potential. Pro golfers spend plenty of time thinking about exactly which clubs to include in their set, and you should do the same.
Assuming you already play golf, you obviously have a set of clubs that you use when you head out for a round. While you may have fourteen clubs assembled, are you sure that they are the right fourteen clubs to optimize your scores? Pro golfers spend countless hours working on the various combinations of clubs that they could use in order to make sure they have the right tools for the job. It is difficult to hit great shots when you don't have the right clubs at your disposal, so make sure you think through the makeup of your set very carefully.
To help you wind up with the right fourteen clubs in your bag, consider the following points –
- A few automatic spots. Without even having to think about anything, you are automatically going to want to include a few specific clubs in your bag. No matter what kind of player you happen to be, you will want to include a driver, a putter, a sand wedge, and at least the 7-PW irons from a set. By putting those clubs in your bag, you will already have seven of the available fourteen spots filled.
- How many total wedges? With a pitching wedge and sand wedge in the bag, you already have two wedges that you can pick from for your short shots. From there, how many more are you going to take? Basically, you will need to decide between adding one or two more wedges. If you go with one, it should probably be a gap wedge – something in the range of 52*. That would mean that you would have a pitching wedge around 48*, a gap wedge near 52*, and a sand wedge that is probably around 56*. That is a nice spread, but it leaves you without a high loft option for lob shots around the greens. Should you decide to go with one more wedge, make it a 60* model so you can get the ball high up into the air on your chip and pitch shots.
- What about long clubs? So far, you will have eight or nine clubs in your bag, depending on whether or not you added that fourth wedge. Next, you need to add to your collection of long clubs. At this point, you only have a driver, and that obviously isn't going to be enough to get you around the course. You will almost certainly want a three wood, and then either a five wood or hybrid club. Adding those two brings you to ten clubs (or eleven with the extra wedge).
- Finish with more irons. At the starting point, we placed the 7-PW clubs in your bag, and now you will want to fill out the rest of your bag with either more irons or hybrids. Assuming you went with just three wedges, you can now add four more irons to your bag to reach the magic number of fourteen. That means you can add the 3-6 irons from a standard set. However, if the three and four irons are hard for you to hit – as they are for many golfers – you could choose to swap those out for hybrid clubs with similar lofts.
Obviously, professional golfers have no trouble hitting long irons, so they often will carry what most people would consider a 'traditional' set – driver, three wood, hybrid, 3-PW, gap wedge, sand wedge, putter. Of course, plenty of players deviate from that template, as many have chosen to add an extra wedge while tossing out one of the long irons that they don't need (the four iron is a common casualty). While looking to the pros for guidance on this part of the game can be helpful, you shouldn't fall into the trap of imitating them completely. For example, if you can't hit your long irons well enough for them to be useful, there is no sense in carrying them around. Hybrid clubs are easier to hit than long irons and typically carry similar distances, so they make for a great pick for the amateur player. In the end, your set should be composed of fourteen clubs that give you confidence to handle any situation that may arise from the first tee to the last green.
Supplies for the Day
It is easy to forget that you are going to be out on the golf course for four hours or more when you set off to start a round. If you are walking the course and carrying your bag, the physical demands of a four-hour round should not be overlooked. Most 18-hole courses will demand that you walk five miles or more to complete the round, and there are often plenty of hills involved. Even though golf will never be a 'physical' sport on the same level of basketball or football, it does wear on your body in its own way.
If you were going to set out on a five-mile hike over the course of a few hours, you would certainly take at least a few supplies with you. The story should be no different when playing golf. Before you walk up to the first tee to get started, make sure you think about putting some (or all) of the items below into your bag.
- Water (or another drink). This should always be at the top of your list when preparing for a round of golf. It would not be a good idea to head out onto the course without anything to drink over the next four hours or so. You are likely going to be sweating while walking around the course, even if the weather isn't particularly warm. With that in mind, be sure to take some sort of non-alcoholic beverage with you in your bag. A simple bottle of water should work just find, or you could opt for a sports drink if you prefer. Also, don't depend on the course to supply water or to have the beverage cart driving around – you might be able to use those luxuries if they are available, but don't count on it as your only source of hydration.
- Snack. Some golfers like to eat while they are playing, while others prefer to keep the snacks to a minimum. Regardless of which camp you fall into, it is a good idea to have at least a small snack in your bag in case your energy starts to lag. You don't want to think about eating on the course in terms of enjoyment – that delicious hamburger or hot dog can wait until after the round is over. Instead, you should think about eating in terms of performance, just as you would when playing another sport. Eat enough to keep your energy levels up throughout the day, but don't eat so much that you feel full and have a hard time making your swing properly. Things like granola bars, pieces of fruit, and even candy bars can work well while on the course.
- Basic first aid. As the round goes by and the miles of walking add up, there is a chance you could develop some minor issues that need to be treated. For instance, blisters are a common issue among golfers, either on the feet or on the hands. If you have some basic first aid supplies in your golf bag, you can treat these problems quickly without having to interrupt your round. Athletic tape is one thing that you should always have in your bag, along with sunscreen, ointment/lotion, medication that you can take for pain (with doctor's approval, of course), and small bandages. You don't need to cram a whole hospital into your golf bag before starting off, but having the basics on hand can prevent you from having to cut a round short due to a minor physical ailment.
- Appropriate clothes. The last thing you need to think about in terms of supplies is the clothes you are going to wear for the round. Remember, since you are going to be out there for four hours or more, the clothes that work at the start of the day might not be right for conditions later on. If you tee off early, you may need warmer clothes on the first few holes than you will need later. Or, if you tee off in the heat of the day, you might need a jacket as sunset starts to draw closer. Look at a weather forecast to observe the chance of rain and predicted temperatures and then pack accordingly.
Professional golfers will typically have all of the above, and more, inside their golf bag when they start a round. Of course, those players also have huge bags and caddies to carry them. Assuming you have a smaller bag than the average Tour pro, you need to be a little smarter about what you pack. For example, be sure to take your heavy jacket out of the side pouch of the bag if you are playing on a day with 80*+ temperatures. Be smart, take a moment to review your supplies, and only head out when you are sure you have everything you need.
How Many Golf Balls?
One of the questions that many beginning golfers have before their first round is how many golf balls they should take with them onto the course. While it would seem like a smart move to take plenty just in case you start to lose them, you don't want to have to deal with the weight of too many extras. A dozen golf balls weighs more than a pound, which makes a surprising difference when your bag is hanging from your shoulders.
To decide how many golf balls you need to take, there are two factors to consider – your skill level, and the course you are playing. If you are a beginning golfer, you may want to take a full dozen just so you can feel good about having plenty to make it through all 18 holes. Even a beginner will usually lose far less than a dozen balls during a round, but it will give you a boost of confidence knowing that you don't have to worry about losing one or two along the way. For the more experienced player, somewhere in the range of six - nine golf balls should be good. Unless you have a terrible day on the course, you shouldn't lose more than six balls during an 18-hole round as a player with some experience.
The other factor in this equation, the course, can change your thinking a bit, however. If you are playing a golf course that is covered with water hazards, out of bounds, thick forests, or other obstacles that can 'eat' golf balls, you may need to pad your supplies a bit. On the other hand, if the course you have chosen for the day is wide open with very little in the way of hazards, just a handful of golf balls should be enough. Some courses will rob you of a golf ball even when you hit a decent shot, while other courses will allow you to find your ball even after a terrible swing.
Again, professional golfers can afford to take a lot of golf balls onto the course because they aren't the ones carrying their bag. Also, they get the balls for free, and they will likely use a new ball every few holes even if they don't lose one. Most likely, you are paying for your golf balls, and you want to make them last as long as possible. In that case, think about both the level of skill that you possess and the course you are playing, and carry just enough golf balls to make you comfortable.
Practice Aids for Warm Up
Most professional golfers have some kind of practice aid within their golf bag that is specifically used for their warm up session before the round. If you usually hit range balls before starting a round, and if you like to use a practice tool during those sessions, feel free to carry it along in your bag (if it isn't too heavy, and if it isn't another golf club). Having this practice aid in your bag will just add convenience above all else, as you won't have to worry about moving it in and out of your golf bag on a regular basis.
Alignment sticks are one of the tools that you will commonly see in the bag of a professional golfer. These are simply sticks that can be laid on the ground to assist the playing in making a proper stance. Considering how important the stance is to the overall success or failure of the golf swing, adding some sticks to your bag is an idea worth considering. They are generally rather affordable, and they weigh almost nothing. Once you learn how to add them to your practice and warm up sessions, they could quickly become an important part of your gear.
The content above has highlighted some of the various things that you should consider putting into your golf bag before starting a round. It should be pointed out, however, that you don't want to fall so in love with all of your gear that you forget about playing the game itself. At the core, this is a game about being outside and challenging yourself against the course. Some golfers get so wound up in the equipment that they own and the various tools that they use, that they forget about what caused them to start playing golf in the first place. It is certainly a good idea to be prepared with the right equipment in your bag – just don't let that become the most important part of the day.
Professional golfers have access to all of the best gear in the game, and they take advantage of that access when assembling bags that include everything they could possibly need. You can take some of your cues from the world's top players, as long as you remember that your circumstances are somewhat different. You don't have a caddy, and you probably don't have a massive Tour bag either. Be realistic about what you can carry around for 18 holes, and make sure everything in your bag has a purpose. When you are done creating your set of clubs and the various supplies that go with it, you should have a bag which holds everything you need for a fun and successful day on the links.