You’ve decided to take up golf. Great! Now it’s time to make a decision about clubs.
Yeah, you can use that hand-me-down set Uncle Bob unloaded on you a few years back. Persimmon woods haven’t been cutting edge for, oh, about 20 years, but they might work okay at the practice range. For a while, that is. Or you could find a second- or maybe third-hand set at the flea market. You can’t beat the price, but at least you can beat the ball around. For a while, that is.
Odds are you’re planning to play golf for the long term, so why not get off to the best start possible? That means equipping yourself with clubs that fit you to a tee.
First, a few basics.
A full set consists of 14 clubs. A typical set consists of three or four metal woods, seven or eight irons, a pitching wedge, a sand wedge and a putter. A new golfer like you might prefer a “starter set” of fewer clubs. This might include a 3-wood, the 3-, 5-, 7- and 9-irons and a putter.
Clubs and shafts are made from any number of materials (graphite, boron, steel and titanium, to name a few) and serve a variety of purposes to suit a golfer’s individual needs.
Each club is designed to hit the ball differently and in specific situations. The loft of the clubface and the length of the shaft vary with each club in a set. From the driver, or 1-wood, to the 9-iron, the loft angle increases from about 11 to 50 degrees. As loft increases, shaft length decreases, usually by one-half inch per club backward. A matching set means that all clubs are made by the same manufacturer. Many golfers combine brands, usually dividing up their woods, irons and wedges to suit their needs.
Sets of clubs vary in weight, length, grip size, stiffness and general feel.
Look for clubs with perimeter weighting where the weight is distributed evenly around the outside edge of the clubface. This ensures a larger sweet spot for hitting the ball with consistency.
The length of your clubs should be determined by your height. A taller person usually uses longer clubs, but only if he or she also has long arms. Grip size also can affect your game. A grip that is too thick can restrict wrist movement during the swing and leave the clubface open at impact, creating misguided shots. A grip that is too thin also can have a negative effect.
A golfer’s strength usually determines how much flex or stiffness there should be in the club shaft. Generally, the slower your swing, the more flexible the shaft should be. Golfers with high swing speeds tend to use stiffer shafts. A club professional or teaching pro can help determine your swing speed and suggest what type of club is best for you.
The price range for sets of clubs varies greatly. Generally, more expensive brands, as with cars, are made from better materials. However, a set of irons can cost as little as $150 and produce great shots. Likewise, you can plunk down several hundred dollars for a single high-tech metal wood, and still hook a tee shot out of bounds.
A quality brand-name set can cost over $1,000, but can be a worthwhile investment. Be wary of so-called “knockoff” clubs by using only reputable dealers. These counterfeit clubs may look legitimate, and may even carry a brand-name logo, but they are of inferior design and quality.
You can purchase clubs from catalogs or retailers, such as sporting goods stores and discount outlets. Left-handed clubs may require more of a search, but they are available, or can be ordered.
On-course pro shops stock a wide selection of clubs, and even provide “demo sets” so that you can test the clubs at a driving range or on a course to get a feel for what works and doesn’t work. If money is an issue, good used sets of clubs can be found at bargain prices at tag sales, flea markets or in newspapers. If they don’t feel comfortable, keep looking.
The true test of a club is how it feels in your hands under actual playing conditions, and how it fits your particular game. As your skill level improves, and you understand your game more, consider having your clubs customized to suit your specific needs. It can be costly but can guarantee the best results.
By the way, you don’t necessarily have to own clubs before taking lessons. Some professionals will lend or rent you a set. You can repay the favor by considering their pro shop when you’re ready to purchase your first set of clubs.