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Fourteen clubs in the bag
Requiring, as the actress is reported to have said to the bishop, every inch I can get, I have acquired three new woods. In fact they're metals not woods at all, but they come with as near to a guarantee as you can get for extra length. Their acquisition, however, poses a dilemma for, never having carried three woods before, I find that I have now 15 clubs in the bag - which means that one has to be jettisoned.

I have been here before. Many years ago I forfeited my old Auchterlonie built 1-iron for a 4-wood. It was a hard thing to do for although the old 1-iron was rarely exercised, in a head wind and a tight lie it could, albeit with some uncertainty, generate a shot that raised the spirit. The then new persimmon 4-wood came to hand well and gave sterling service. Now, it too has gone, its place taken by a brace of a flashy three and five that I am assured will make all the difference.

But something else has to go to make room for the extra club and I suppose it will have to be the jigger [the modern equivalent would be a lofted wedge wedge, Ed]. This grieves me very much. I inherited the jigger from a man who made clubs in Forgan's shop until well into his seventies. He called the jigger his secret weapon and no one was allowed to touch it. He used it to marvellous effect and I have tried very hard to be loyal to this club and his memory. It is the only club in my bag that I have not thrown or cursed and I have religiously wiped it clean after every round. It has raised eyebrows as well as smirks and not infrequently titters when it has appeared for it is certainly a relic. But although I have duffed a few in my time I cannot recollect duffing a jigger. I am loath to part with it for it has been a good and loyal friend for a long time.

Now, why should I be restricted to carrying 14 clubs in my bag? Why not 13 or 15 or even bloody 16 if I feel like it? Well, because the rules of golf say so and that's that!

The 14-club rule has stood since 1939, coincidental with the outbreak of war though not a causal factor of it. To the best of my knowledge, Hitler was unaware of the 14-club rule.

I think that I would be more prepared to jettison my jigger if I could be assured that the 14 club rule had been arrived at after lengthy deliberation, the outcome of the resolution of a complex mathematical equation or the product of a furious debate in which blood had been spilt. But there is no evidence for any of this. The number 14 would appear to have been arrived at with the same intellectual effort put into the selection of a cucumber sandwich.

The apocryphal story goes that at the 1936 Walker Cup, Bobby Jones and Tony Torrance were chatting away about the number of clubs that different players carried. At that time there was no limit to the numbers of clubs carried; 20 clubs and upwards was commonplace as was caddies hernias. Doing something about limiting the number of clubs had been in the pipeline for some time without ever getting anywhere because no one could agree about what was a rational number. So the story goes that Jones remarked that he had carried 16 clubs when he won the Grand Slam in 1930. Torrance chips in with the little known fact that he had only carried 12 clubs when he was a beaten semi-finalist in the Amateur Championship the previous year at Lytham.

Lets split the difference one or other of them says and we'll make it 14. A bit far-fetched you may say remembering that I did say the story was apocryphal. But the story is given some credence when one reflects that Tony Torrance was about to become chairman of the Rules of Golf Committee and that Bobby Jones was after all Bobby Jones and essentially the USGA. It is also noteworthy that the 14 club rule was first introduced by the USGA in 1938 and it was not until 1939 and Torrance was the Rules Committee chairman that the R&A adopted and fixed the number.

Of course these chaps then could never have anticipated the angst that their decision is subjecting me to today. Nevertheless, had the bastards given it a little more thought I could be sleeping properly and not feeling guilty about my jigger.

I would be glad if you noted that I am not at all concerned about the effect of the 14-club rule on my game. Having watched Ballesteros play a par round of golf with only one club and myself enjoyed satisfactory scoring in five club competitions, I have long since been aware that the number of clubs in the bag matters not a jot. Indeed, I think it was the same actress who said to another bishop that the outcome of a good round was never dependent on the number of clubs but rather on how well they were used.

Ed's note: for another version of how we came to settle on 14 clubs, see the ScottishGolf Q&A section, page two of the Rules questions and answers.




©    9 - JANUARY 2002



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