Golf Club Buyer's Guide

A Basic Guide To Buying Clubs For The New Golfer

 

Julieta Stack, LPGA Teaching & Club Professional

 

 

Purchasing your first set of golf clubs can be an overwhelming experience, but it doesn’t have to be.  This guide will give you the information and confidence you need to make intelligent decisions.  You will be faced with many, many choices. Ultimately, you will make your decision based on quality, value, style, fit and feel.  

 Manufacturers spend millions of dollars on research and development to assist you in making the game more playable.   This guide does not endorse any particular manufacturer or golf shop.  Its sole purpose is to inform and educate first time buyers.

The guide is divided into five sections: 

 

What Comprises a Set of Clubs? 

A Look At Golf Clubs:  Explanations and Descriptions

Where To Purchase Clubs

What You Can Expect To Spend

Additional Golf Equipment

 


What comprises a set of clubs? 

 

A Set of clubs includes no more than 14 clubs – irons, woods and wedges, plus your putter.

Show Photo of set of clubs-indicating loft and length of clubs 

The longer clubs are less lofted and  are designed to hit longer shots.  The longest club in your set would be the driver, working down to  the 9 iron and wedges, which are the shortest clubs in your set  (with the exception of your putter) and are designed to hit the ball high, but not very far.

 

A Basic set is made up of 8 irons, the 3 iron through pitching wedge plus 3 woods, including a driver.  This is the way clubs are usually marketed.  Selection of the putter and the sand wedge is usually left up to the player.  A Starter's Set includes either the odd or even numbered irons, two woods and a putter.  This is an adequate set if you need to watch your expenses (or spend too much money) or only plan to play the occasional round.  Junior golfers would do well with a Starter's Set as they quickly outgrow their equipment.

 

Many beginner golfers find their woods difficult to use, and experience problems such as topping the ball and excessive slicing.   There are many reasons this may occur.  First of all, understand that the longer clubs are designed to enable the player to create more clubhead speed., or more velocity at impact.  Greater clubhead speed translates into greater distance.  So, any errors a player may be making will be amplified when it comes to the use of the woods, with the greatest amount of error amplification showing up with the driver, because it is designed to hit the ball the longest distance.  To help you understand error amplification, imagine a parked car being struck by a slow moving vehicle.   This is the equivalent of a  player hitting a pitch shot or a 7 iron.   Now imagine the parked car being struck by a vehicle travelling at a high speed,  this being the equivalent to  a   player hitting a 3 wood or a driver.    Most players find it easier to hit good shots with their clubs having more loft.    Therefore,  it may be advantageous for the beginning player to use woods such as the 7 and 9 , which are shorter in length, have a greater amount of loft, and are  easier to control. 

Additional clubs that may be added to your set as your experience and skill level grows might include a lob wedge,   which is similar to a sand wedge but with an even greater amount of loft.  This club is useful when you must hit a very high shot which does you do not want to carry very far.  The skilled player may also favor  a 1 or 2 iron, which they may find easier to control than their  woods.

 

 

 Men's &. Women's Clubs are distinguished by length, weight, shaft stiffness, grip size, and color.  The measurements are based on averages.  Men - you stand somewhere between 5'6"-6'0";  the distance between the tips of your fingers to the ground measures approximately 25 1\2 inches;  you can hit your 5 iron between 145-175 yards; and,  your hand size is roughly 6" from the middle finger to the base of the hand.  Women - you are between 5'4"-5'7";  the tips of your fingers to the ground is ±23-24 1\2 inches;  you can hit your 5 iron between 95-125 yards; and,  your hand size is approximately 4-5".  If you are not within these averages, you would benefit greatly by purchasing fitted or custom clubs.

 

A Look At Golf Clubs:  Explanations and Descriptions

 

What Is A Golf Club?

A golf club is made up of a grip, a shaft and a club head.

The Shaft

Finding the shaft that is best suited to you should be high on yours list of priorities.  There are thousands on the market.  Knowing something about the importance of the shaft will help you in selecting clubs that will fit and feel best for you.

Shaft Composition - A Comparison

The majority of shafts are made of steel or graphite.  We could compare shafts to automobiles and say that graphite gives you more of a luxury ride, like a Cadillac.  Steel, however, has more of a “feel the road beneath you” characteristic, similar to a sportscar.  For years, graphite shafts were lighter and more capable of lessening or “dampening” the vibration of the golfer’s shot.   Manufacturers are now making lightweight steel shafts, as well as building devices directly into the shafts that help dampen the vibration of your shots.  Graphite still holds the edge when it comes to the dampening effect as you will feel in your hands. Because of the composition of graphite, it is more expensive than steel.  Be aware that, unless it is a high quality graphite, consistency from one shaft to the next will not be the same as steel.   Remember, feel and performance will vary from one type of shaft to the next.  Your best bet is to be sure to swing a variety of clubs before buying.

Shaft Flex - A Comparison

To help you understand shaft flex, imagine a length of rope at one end of the flexibility spectrum and a telephone pole at the other end.  Now, imagine swinging a club with one or the other as your shaft.  (Naturally, these examples are an exaggeration.)  However, shafts do come in a broad range of flexes, with the stiffest shaft being in a category of the telephone pole (X or eXtra strong) and the lightest in a category of the rope (L or ladies).

Code                                  Flex                                             Meaning

X                                         Stiffest                                       Extra Stiff or Extra Firm

S                                         Stiff or Firm                               Stiff or Firm

R                                         Regular                                      Average Flex                                                                                   

A                            Senior or Strong Ladies        

L                                          Ladies                                        Very Flexible

               

To determine what shaft might be best for you, it is important to know your club head speed.  This can be determined with a device, available at most pro shops, that measures how fast your clubhead is moving through the hitting area.  This, in turn, gives an idea of how far your shot will travel.  The greater the clubhead speed, the greater the potential for distance.  So, if you swing  a 5 iron less than 55 mph, you would probably want an L flex; whereas, if you swing at 85 mph, you would want an X shaft. 

Here is a standard guide for a 5 iron:

Slow Club Head Speed (CHS)   (55mph or less)=L

Average CHS   (55-65mph)=A or R

Strong CHS   (65-75mph)=R or S*            

Stronger CHS   (75-85 mph)= S or X

 

 

The Clubhead

Remember, golf is a game of misses.  You will miss hit far more shots than you will hit solid.  No club can make up for a bad swing, therefore, you will want equipment that is as forgiving as possible.

Clubhead Design

Almost every clubhead made today is a perimeter-weighted, cast club.  Casting allows for greater consistency and reduced cost to the player, and perimeter-weighting creates an effectively larger sweet spot, providing more forgiveness on off center shots.so that off center shots will be hit Clubhead size ranges from standard to mid-size to oversize.  Larger clubheads give some players more confidence.  The larger clubhead will also provide more forgiveness on off center shots.  The big advantage in the oversize clubhead comes with the driver.  The fact that you will be hitting your driver off a tee and have a perfect lie makes the oversize clubhead a plus.  However, oversize irons and fairway woods are not for everyone.  If you are playing out of thick rough, the larger clubhead will encounter more drag and some players find that burdensome.  Before buying oversize clubs, be sure to try them from the rough as well as from the fairway. 

Clubhead Composition

Stainless steel is the most commonly used material in clubheads.  It is the least expensive as well.  Be sure the steel is 486 or it may not withstand the beatings a golf club will sustain.  Titanium clubheads and titanium inserts are the latest trend in clubheads.  Titanium is lighter and stronger than stainless steel, thereby allowing for a larger clubhead.  Beryllium copper, nickel, graphite and aluminum irons are also available and usually at great expense. 

The Grip

The grip of the club is like the steering wheel of a car.  The grip must feel good in your hands.  Grips are available in numerous sizes, composites and colors.  Some companies measure hand size to see which grip you should use.  Just be sure that the last three fingers of the left hand (for right-handed players) barely touch your palm when holding the club.  If your fingers dig into your palm, the grip is too small.  If they do not touch at all, the grip is too large.  You might consider oversize or arthritic grips if you have arthritis or some other physical ailment.   The composite of the grip is very important in that this is what you will be touching.  Grips are made of  composite rubber, sometimes leather,  some with a cord fiber to create a differrent feel.  Pick up several different type grips and see which one feels best in your hands.  They can be built up or slimmed down according to your hand size.    Grips last about one season if you play weekly and practice.  Be sure you keep your grips clean by scrubbing them with a mild soap and water solution and be sure to rinse them well. 

 

Where To Purchase Clubs

Pro shops, retail golf shops, golf discounters, sporting goods stores, custom club makers, catalogues, the Internet, classified ads, yard sales.

Pro Shops - .  A majority of golf professionals are also fitters and most golf courses have pro shops where you can get expert advice.  These shops usually have fitting carts that will allow you to test hit the clubs either on the range or on the course.  (Fitting carts are designed by club manufacturers.  The cart allows you to test the various shafts and clubheads of that particular manufacturer.)  Purchasing your clubs at the course where you are taking lessons makes sense since you can take advantage of the fact that your teaching pro knows your swing and ability level.  Because pro shops do not buy in bulk, the prices may be a bit  higher than other sources.  However, the expert advice may be worth the expense.  Because the pro hopes to build a lasting relationship with you, your best interests will be put first when buying at a pro shop. 

Golf Stores/Discounters - You will find the largest selection of clubs at these locations.  The prices should be most competitive.  Many of the salespeople are very knowledgeable and you can ask lots of questions.  You can also compare the numerous brands and styles of clubs.

 Sporting Goods Stores - Unless the store has a golf expert on staff plus a hitting area, you will be making your purchase based on price and looks alone.  Remember, club manufacturers are like car manufacturers; they make high end performance models and they make low end models.   If you are not within the “norm" as explained earlier, you may find clubs that do not fit or that you may quickly outgrow due to your increasing skill level.   However, if you are within the "norm" and you are looking for a basic set so that you can get out and play, then the sporting goods store may have just the set you are looking for.

Custom Clubs - Custom clubs are constructed from component parts and assembled just for you.  The components are not necessarily name-brand clubs but they reflect the technology of the larger manufacturers.  On the whole, they can cost less than the name brands because there is no real marketing expense or huge overhead.  If you should decide to purchase custom clubs, be sure that the fitting and assembling of your clubs is performed by a qualified individual.   There are several professional golfer’s organizations as well as club builders  organizations.  You can be relatively certain that if  the person you are dealing with is a member of one of the professional golf organizations, they

will  be qualified to meet your needs.  Nothing beats a good reputation, and that is often a professional’s greatest asset.  Ask around, word of mouth is  one good way to determine whether the professional or the product you are about to purchase is reputable.  

Catalogues, Internet, Classified Ads, Yard Sales - Think of buying clubs as you would buying shoes.  If you know the exact size and model you are looking for, then a mail-order, Internet, classified ad or garage sale set of clubs may save you money and  time.  However, if trying the shoes on, or trying out the clubs, is important to you, then you might think twice before going this route.  Should you decide to buy a set of used clubs, be aware of several common used club problems: always count the clubs to be sure one hasn't inadvertently been forgotten; the grips may be worn and need replacing (cost - ±$4.00-$8.00 per club); and, the original shafts may have been replaced.  If they have, check to see that the shafts match up well with the clubhead.  Graphite shafts do not always go well with clubheads made originally for steel shafts and vice versa.  

 

What You Can Expect To Spend 

Golf clubs are like any consumer good,- you should always shop and call around to compare prices to confirm that you are getting a fair deal.  Remember, you may pay a bit more for clubs where you are soliciting the advice and help of an expert, but the added cost should be viewed as an investment. Remember the saying, "You get what you pay for."

Here is a very general price list, with the graphite price in italics:

Starter's Set: - $150.00 and up

Basic, off the shelf 8 irons, 3 woods, not of highest quality: - $200.00 and up

 Custom Clubs: - $40.00 per iron, $75.00 per wood;

Good Quality, Name Brand Irons (3 through pitching wedge): - $400.00 - $1200.00;

Good Quality   Name Brand Fairway woods (#’s 3,5,7): - $125.00-$250.00 per single club

Good Quality Hybrids or Utility clubs  $85-200

Good Quality Driver   $200-500

Putters  $30-350 

 

ADDITIONAL GOLF EQUIPMENT - Balls, Bags, Shoes, Gloves, Etc.

Golf Balls -  The sheer number of balls on the market can make it difficult to choose.  Depending on your skill level and the difficulty of the course you are on, you will use an average of between 1 and 12 balls per round of golf.  An average player will use 2-4 balls per round.  A ball may be used as long as it retains its shape (roundness) and  aerodynamics.  Cart path scuffs, tree shots, and miss hits all shorten the life of a ball.  As you will likely lose quite a few of them in the beginning, price is usually the first consideration.  There are always sales on balls.  Prices range from $10.00-50.00 per dozen.  Trial and error will help you find the brand and model you prefer.  You may consider purchasing used balls, or experienced balls as some people call them.

Compression - Usually, the higher clubhead speed benefits from a higher compression ball.  You will notice that 100 compression balls have black numbers, while 90 compression balls have red numbers.  Briefly, two-piece balls are known for their durability, while three piece balls are noted for their playability. (They feel softer to many players, and some say add to a players feel, especially around the greens.)  Always play with clean, round balls, whatever the brand.  DO NOT play with range balls.  They are the property of the golf course, and it is considered in poor taste to play with a range ball.  If you cannot afford new golf balls, buy X-outs, (manufacturer seconds), or used balls.

Golf Bags - Considerations in this area depend upon whether you will be more likely to walk or ride during your round of golf.  Should you be walking, be sure you buy a lightweight durable bag with a stand.  The shoulder strap is very important.  You may want to consider the back pack type of strap.  If you will be using a pull cart or riding in a golf cart, you may want a heavier, sturdier bag .  It should have at least three dividers to protect your clubs from the jostling around they will receive.  If you have graphite shafts, a padded lining is necessary to protect your shafts, as are clubhead covers with longer socks for your woods.  Size is important if you tend to carry a lot of stuff with you.  For travel purposes, you will want a bag with a solid stay for support.  Additionally, a travel cover is recommended. 

Golf Shoes. Golf shoes should feel stable and supportive, yet comfortable enough that you could walk five miles in them. Be sure your shoes are waterproof.  Even if you do not plan to play in the rain, morning dew is inevitable at some point.  Clean them off after each round, and allow them to dry out after play to ensure longer wear time.

Gloves - Right-handed players often wear a glove on their left hand to ensure better traction and to help prevent callous build-up.  (Note-if you find you are wearing a hole in your glove, there is friction and you may  want to check your grip and your grip pressure.)

Towel - You should always have a towel with you to clean off your clubs, your ball and your hands.  Carry a few extras when playing in the rain.

Tees - The least expensive golf item, always have plenty on hand.

Umbrella - Certainly useful if you are playing in the rain.

Rain Suit - Gore-Tex™ is expensive but, if you can afford it, worth every penny.

Water Bottle - Certainly useful if you are playing in the hot sun.

Divot Repair Tool - You use these to repair indentations on the putting green.  You can use a tee, but a repair tool works better. 

Golf Lessons - You should consider a series of lessons, including an on the course primer, so you can effectively use your investment.  You may want to consider lessons before buying clubs so you have a better idea of the clubs and equipment you really need.

 

 

Good luck to you in your search for clubs. 

With a bit of effort, they will become like friends to you as you embark upon one of the most enchanting experiences known to man, playing the game of golf.

 

 

 

 

 


Personalized Club Fitting Chart

 

This is a basic personalized chart.  There is just enough information to insure you won't be buying the wrong clubs (ex.5'10" Women with 63mph clubhead speed will not buy ladies clubs).  If you are currently taking lessons, ask your professional to help you fill this out during your next lesson. If you are not taking lessons, than you might consider paying a professional to help you ascertain the following specifications.  Keep this chart.  As a beginner, you can expect there to be changes in the area of clubhead speed and possibly lie angle.  This will be an indication that you are ready to move into a different set of clubs.  Many people's specs never change, however.

 

 

 

NAME

 

Right-Handed Clubs             ¨

Left-Handed Clubs             ¨

HEIGHT:

 

Grip Size:

Type of Grip

Wrist to ground:

 

                (If measuring fingertip to ground as some fitters do, please note)

Clubhead Speed 5 iron:

 

Clubhead Speed Driver:

 

Lie Angle:

 

                (Should be determined with clubs you will be buying)

Preference for Graphite: (circle)         Irons

Woods

Preference for Steel: (circle)                Irons

Woods

Irons (Specify which ones):

 

Woods (Specify which ones):

 

Putter:

 

Starter Set:

 

Set Preference:(If you know make and model)

 

Price Range:

 

Professional's Name:

Phone:

Fitter's Name:

Phone: