Do You Need a Full Set of Clubs to Start Playing Golf?

Beginner FAQ: A 'short set' can get you started in the game

Golf clubs and headcovers in a golf bag
Harry How/Getty Images

You want to start playing golf. But you don't own any golf clubs. How many do you need? Do you have to buy a full set of clubs? Do you need to be "fully equipped," in other words, to pick up the game of golf?

No. Some teaching pros even recommend starting with a so-called "short set." You certainly can begin in golf with a full set of clubs, but you don't have to.

Short Sets Are Fine for Beginners

The Rules of Golf state that golfers can carry a maximum of 14 clubs in a golf bag.

A "short set" is a set of golf clubs that has about half as many clubs as a full set. Short sets are often packaged together in a boxed set and sold directly to beginning golfers - such boxed sets often include 5-7 clubs, plus a golf bag. You can sometimes find them in big-box retail stores or sports equipment retailers, or online.

The fact is that until you start getting better, start learning your yardages - until you've gotten to the point where you will actually see some difference in ball flight and distance between, say, hitting a 4-iron and hitting a 5-iron -- there is really no need for a full set of clubs.

If you want to start out with a full set, there's nothing wrong with that, and most people who decide to become golfers pick up a full set of clubs, either new or used. But if you want to save a little money in the early going, give yourself some time to learn the game before investing in a full set, then a short set is a great option.

The Clubs in a Short Set

What clubs should you include in a short set? Look for a 3-wood, 3- and 5-hybrids, a 7-iron and 9-iron, and a putter. That's six clubs. Or simply survey the options available at big box retailers or sporting goods stores. Stay away from long irons (3, 4 and 5 irons), but look for hybrid clubs.

You can buy short sets brand new and fill them in later by purchasing the missing clubs individually. Or you can find individual clubs or partial sets at second-hand shops, garage sales, etc., then trade up to a full set when you are ready to purchase new clubs.

Golf can be an expensive hobby, but you're not required to make it more expensive than it has to be. Again, it's perfectly OK to go all-out on golf clubs from the very start, or at least to begin with a full set. Just don't feel like you have to. If you enjoy yourself and decide to become a committed golfer, you can upgrade to a better, fuller set of clubs later.

Return to​ the Golf Beginners FAQ index for more.