Understanding the different golf clubs in a set is essential to learning the game. A golfer can carry up to 14 clubs while playing, each with a unique length, loft and purpose.

thomas woods

Woods are the larger clubs that hit the ball the farthest. Because they are longer and have low loft angles, they are generally harder to hit directly off the ground, so woods are typically hit off a tee.

Though they are called woods, they are usually made of metal, such as titanium or steel. (The term is a carryover from the days when these clubs were actually made of wood.) A driver, or the 1-wood, is the biggest of all woods, and carried by nearly all golfers. Because drivers go so far, it makes them a lot of fun to hit. Conversely, when you mishit it, the mistake will be exaggerated.

thomas irons

Irons are used to hit shorter and more accurate shots. They usually range from a 3-iron, which travels the farthest of the irons, to wedges such as a pitching wedge or sand wedge. Here's a good rule of thumb for remembering what a particular iron does: The higher the number, the higher the ball will fly and the shorter it will travel. For example, a ball hit with a 3-iron will travel lower and farther than one hit with a 9-iron.

thomas hybrids

Hybrid clubs are exactly what the name suggests, a mix between woods and irons, offering the best of both. Hybrids make it easier to hit the ball off the ground than with a wood or long iron (3 or 4), while providing more distance than a shorter iron delivers. Hybrids have gained mass popularity over the last decade, replacing long irons in many golfers' bags. Some older players have also started replacing their entire sets of irons with hybrids because they are so much easier to hit and offer a bit more distance.

thomas putterOf course, the club every golfer needs is a putter. Used on the green to get the ball into the hole, the putter may be the most important club in golf. Putters come in many different varieties of head shapes including smaller blade type styles and larger mallet type heads. There are also options for using a longer length putter and anchoring it against your body. These are referred to as belly mid-length and long putters and many players find these options make the often suggested pendulum motion easier to accomplish.

There are also two general schools of thought in regards to the stroke that can help you decide on the correct putter for you. Some players tend to prefer a stroke where the putter moves straight back and through while others prefer the putter head to be swung along an arc. Players that prefer a more straight back and through stroke generally prefer putters that are center shafted while those that prefer the arc style often prefer heel shafted options.

Beginner Tips – What's in a Full Set of Clubs and Why?

Beginner Tips – What's in a Full Set of Clubs and Why?

When getting started in golf, you have a lot to learn. That statement is not meant to intimidate you – it's just a fact. Golf is a great game, and you should absolutely work through the learning process in order to become an experienced, confident player. You can have a lot of fun on the course, and make a lot of great friends, but you've got some work to do first. You need to understand the basics of the game in a number of different areas before you can play this game without having to think about the details.

One of those details is the clubs that you place in your bag when you head out for a round of golf. How many clubs are you allowed under the rules of golf, anyway? That's an easy one – 14. You are allowed to start a round of golf with 14 clubs, and you can't replace any of those clubs during the round, unless one is broken during the course of play. So, before your round begins, it is your task to decide which clubs are going to go along with you for the day. Most golfers have a standard set that they use during each round, but some experienced players will actually have 15 or 16 clubs that they consider before settling on 14 for a given round.

In this article, we are going to talk about what is in a full set of golf clubs. Additionally, we are going to discuss the roles those clubs play, and how you can use each of them to your benefit on the course. 14 clubs might sound like a lot to a beginning golfer, but it is actually a limiting number. Once you get farther into this game, you'll find that it would be easier to shoot low scores if you were allowed an unlimited number of clubs. Unless the rules change, however, you are restricted to 14 – so let's find a way to make each of them as useful as possible.

Golf has a reputation as an expensive game, so you might be thinking that you'll need to spend thousands of dollars in order to build your set. While it is true that golf can be costly, you don't have to invest a small fortune just to fill your bag with clubs. Plenty of golf companies make quality clubs for you to consider, many of which sell for less than the models offered by top name brands. Also, you can find plenty of used club options online and in some golf shops, which is another way to lower the cost of entry into this great game. You can always spend more money later if you would like to move up into higher-end models – for now, keep things affordable and fill your set with the right selection of sticks.

All of the content below is written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Easy Choices

The Easy Choices

As you may already know, there are more than 14 clubs available to pick from on the market today. That is what makes assembling your set such a potentially tricky task – you have to narrow down the options to a point where you are left with 14 clubs that you feel will get the job done. In this section, we are going to start by talking about the clubs that are automatically going to have a home in your set.

Following is a list of clubs which are not up for debate – these are types of golf clubs that every player will want to carry, with few exceptions.

  • Driver. Even a beginning golfer knows that the driver is one of the most important clubs in the bag. If you want to send the ball down the fairway with enough distance to set up easy approach shots, you need to carry a driver. Not only should you have this club in your bag, you should work on learning how to use it as effectively as possible. Simply put, it is hard to play good golf when you don't trust your driver. You are going to hit your driver on nearly every par four and par five hole when getting started in golf, so don't waste any time in learning how to use this important club.
  • Putter. Obviously, you aren't going to be able to make your way around the course without a putter. The putter is a club which goes in the same category as the driver – it is essential to your success. You'll use it on almost every hole you every play – unless you happen to knock the ball in from off the green – so having a putter that you trust is crucial. Unlike longer clubs such as the driver, where technical specs are important, the putter is about feel and trust more than anything else. Try out a few different models and choose the one that gives you the greatest feeling of confidence. You don't have to spend a fortune to wind up with a good putter, either – plenty of quality putters are on the market for affordable prices.
  • Wedges. You are going to need some wedges in order to complete a round of golf. The exact wedges that you choose to carry is a matter of personal preference, and we will get into that discussion later in this article. For now, it is simply important to note that at least a couple wedges will be required in your set. Wedges are highly-lofted clubs, which means they can help you get out of difficult situations around the greens. For example, having a sand wedge not only enables you to hit shots from bunkers, but also from deep rough when chipping. The choices you make in this area of your set will go a long way toward determining what kinds of shots are possible on the course.
  • A few irons. It would be hard to play golf without having at least a few irons in your bag. Modern sets have moved away from using as many irons as were common in years gone by, but you are still going to want to use at least a few. Just like with the wedges we mentioned above, the exact design of your iron set will be up to you in the end. Later in the article, we will talk about how you can decide how many irons to carry, and what the other options would be if you decide to limit how many of these you put in the bag.

The clubs that land firmly in the 'must-have' category are a driver, a putter, and at least a couple wedges. Some irons are pretty much must-haves as well, however there are other alternatives on the market today if you struggle to hit iron shots successfully. As you can see, while there are a couple of necessary clubs to include in your set, there is plenty of room for individual preferences as you assemble your 14-club collection.

The Long Clubs

The Long Clubs

In days gone by, the construction of a set of golf clubs was pretty predictable. The player would carry a driver, a three wood, maybe a five wood, and a long list of irons. Nearly every golfer would have an iron set that included at least a three iron at the long end of the range, and many players would even have a two iron. These days, two irons are practically unheard of, and even the three iron is an endangered species. The driver remains a constant at the top of the list, of course, but there is plenty of variety to be found as you move down the set.

For a beginning golfer, it is strongly recommended to carry a three wood as the next club down from the driver. A three wood is useful for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it can be used off the tee if you aren't having a good day with your driver. Also, it can be used on holes where the fairway is narrow and you might have trouble hitting the target with your longest club. Once off of the tee, a three wood is relatively easy to hit from the fairway, working well for second shots on par fives and long par fours. There isn't much point in deliberating on this choice – place a three wood in your bag and you'll be glad you did.

Once you pass the three wood is when you start needing to make some decisions. You could continue on with fairway woods – like a five wood and maybe a seven wood – or you could transition to hybrids. For a beginning golfer, we would recommend favoring hybrids over fairway woods. The following list highlights some of the many benefits of hybrid clubs.

  • Versatility. While it is true that you can use fairway woods from a couple of different places on the course, hybrids are more versatile overall. You can hit hybrid clubs off of the tee, from the fairway, and even out of the light rough. Since you are limited to 14 clubs when you put together your set, it is best to get as much performance as you can out of each slot. You will be maximizing the usefulness of your long clubs when you opt for hybrids.
  • Ease of use. As a beginner, you want to make this difficult game as easy as possible. Adding to the challenge of playing golf is not something you need to do – golf is already one of the hardest games in the world. Hybrids tend to be easier to hit than fairway woods, especially for those who are new to the game. You'll still need to practice in order to improve, but the forgiveness offered by hybrids will be appreciated when you are out on the course.
  • Go well down the list. Another nice thing about hybrid clubs is having the option to go well down your set with matching hybrids of various lofts. For instance, if you struggle to hit your mid-irons, you could build a set which includes several hybrids, only transitioning to regular irons when you get to the seven or eight. This is an increasingly popular type of set construction for senior golfers, and it is a good idea for many beginners as well. As you game improves and you get more comfortable with your irons, you can start to phase out some of the shorter hybrids for irons, if you so choose.

Beyond a three wood, it is typically going to be best for beginning golfers to opt for hybrids over fairway woods. However, if you happen to hit your three wood particularly well and would like to carry on with that style of club, there is nothing wrong with honoring tradition and carrying more fairway woods.

The Short Clubs

The Short Clubs

At this point, we are going to discuss how you can settle on the right assortment of wedges for your game. When you start to shop for golf clubs, you are going to find that there are an incredible number of wedges on the market. You can pick from wedges in just about every loft from 48* on up to 60*, and even beyond. So how do you know which lofts are going to work for you? The process is pretty easy once you get started.

First, you are going to need to look up some information on your pitching wedge. Assuming you already have a set of irons, find the specs on that set and check the pitching wedge specifically – how much loft does it have? This is your starting point. Most pitching wedges will come somewhere between 45*-48*. From there, you are going to want to move up a few degrees with each wedge, in order to avoid any big gaps in distance.

So, let's say that your pitching wedge has 48* of loft. From that starting point, you will want to move up four degrees to a 52* gap wedge. This is a club which is useful for hitting basic chip and pitch shots, as well as hitting approach shots from the fairway. Next, you will include a 56* sand wedge. This just might be the most important short game club in your set, other than your putter. Despite the name 'sand wedge', you are going to use this club in many different positions around the course. Many golfers love it for chipping purposes, it is often used for short approach shots, and obviously, it is the go-to club when you need to get out of a sand trap.

The final wedge you will want to consider is a lob wedge. This one is optional, depending on your personal style of play and the kinds of courses you encounter. Courses with plenty of steep slopes and elevation changes often demand the use of a lob wedge to deal with various short game challenges. If you play on flat courses, however, you might decide to take a pass on a 60* wedge. As you gain more and more experience in this game, you should be able to determine whether or not a lob wedge would be a valuable inclusion in your set.

You should feel free to experiment with different short game clubs until you are able to settle on a collection that works for you. Everyone has their own way of playing the ball toward the hole in the short game, so you don't want to stick too tightly to any 'rules'. As long as you avoid major distance gaps between wedges, you should be in good shape. Pay attention to your performance on the course and make adjustments as you move forward.

Our Ideal Set

Our Ideal Set

As has been mentioned throughout this article, there are a number of ways in which you can construct a set of golf clubs. However, for most amateur golfers, the ideal set is going to look the same. In this last section, we are going to lay out a set which we feel will serve most beginning golfers perfectly. You shouldn't feel tied to matching this set construction exactly, but it is a great starting point. Use this as your outline, and then adjust as needed.

  • Driver. This is where we start, of course. You'll want a quality driver in your set, as this club is going to be frequently used 10 or more times per round. Most likely, you will only use your putter – and maybe one of your wedges – more often than you will use your driver.
  • Three wood. As we discussed earlier, we believe that this is an important club for amateur golfers. Think of it as a smaller version of your driver – it can serve you well from the tee and from the fairway.
  • Four hybrid clubs. That's right – four. This might seem like a lot of spots to dedicate to the hybrid category, but you'll likely fall in love with these clubs once you get comfortable with them. If your three wood has 15* of loft, it would be smart to start with a 18* or 19* hybrid and go from there. As always, you want to gap your lofts evenly so you don't have any big holes in the distances that you achieve from one hybrid to the next.
  • 6-iron through pitching wedge. This is what is going to make up your iron 'set'. Golfers used to carry sets of irons which included eight or even nine irons, but we are suggesting just five. Your six, seven, eight, nine, and pitching wedge will make up your iron set, and they will be responsible for most of the approach shots you hit during a given round. Why only five irons? Simple – longer irons are too difficult for most beginning golfers to handle. If you wish, you can add some long irons later as your skills improve.
  • Gap wedge and sand wedge. These are the two most important wedges, and you will want to have them both in your bag. We are omitting a lob wedge here for the same reason that we left out long irons – they are difficult to hit. You might work your way into wanting a lob wedge at some point down the line, but don't worry about it when you are just getting started. You can hit plenty of good short game shots with a 56* wedge, as long as you spend plenty of time developing your skills.
  • Putter. Of course, this is where we finish the list. It would be easy to argue that the putter is the most important club in the bag, since it is the one which is responsible for the greatest number of strokes. It would be ideal to keep the same putter in your bag for years and years, as you will develop a great feel for the club as you gain experience. You don't have to have the 'nicest' putter on the market in order to roll the ball into the cup – you just have to have one that you trust.

The task of building a good set of clubs is one of many important tasks you need to complete as a beginning golfer. Remember, it isn't about spending a ton of money right at the start – you should look to get going in this game without breaking the bank. High-end golf clubs are going to be available later if you decide that you'd like to spend more money. For now, keep your costs reasonable and build a set that is going to allow you to develop your skills one day at a time. There is no doubt that golf is a hard game for beginners, but it is an enjoyable game as well. There is great satisfaction to be had when you manage to teach yourself how to play quality shots out on the course. Good luck!