Club Care: The Best Way to Clean Your Golf ClubsPublished on 08/12/2023 · 8 min readGolf Expert David Freeston explains how to clean your golf clubs on and off the course to keep them in top-performing condition at all times.
Photo by Daxiao Productions
Cleaning your golf clubs is one of the most overlooked aspects of golf that can actually lead to more solid ball striking and stroke saving. Even the smallest amount of dirt or grime on your golf clubs or clubheads can affect everything from ball contact, to shot shape, to spin, and even distance (which no one likes losing). In this article, I’m going to point out some helpful club care tips—for on and off the course—that will help keep your golf equipment pristine at all times, in top-performing condition and increase the durability of your irons can be.
On the Courses
About 15 minutes before your round, do a quick once-over. If you see any clumps of dirt in the heads of your irons, take a golf tee and slide the sharp end throughout the grooves of the clubface (or use a club brush/wire brush if you have one). You’ll see many golfers—from the amateur to the professional golfer—dip a soft towel in warm water or hot water to scrub and rinse off their clubs (check near the first tee or ask a cart attendant, there is almost always one handy). Take that towel, get it nice and soaked, and do a brief wipe down of the club heads. You’re good to go from there. Using some form of a damp cloth or rag to wipe down your driver, fairway woods, and hybrids is great practice.
When Should I Clean My Clubs?
After Each Shot The absolute most important time to clean your clubs is after every single shot. Keep that wet towel draped over your bag. Right after each shot, take a look at the club and get every speck of dirt off that you can in about a second or two so as not to hold up play. You’ll see every single PGA Tour caddie do this on TV, so since you’re likely carrying or riding with your own clubs, you get to do it now too!
After Bunker Shots If you find yourself in a frustrating bunker, hit the club against the back heel of your shoe so the larger grains of sand fly off. This will help minimize the amount of sand that gets on your towel when you clean the club post-shot. A sandy towel could inadvertently transfer dirt TO your other clubs, and we do not want that. After every couple of shots, take the towel and give the grip and shafts of your club a quick wipe to get off any sweat and moisture that may build up and cause the club to slip, especially on a hot or drizzly day. Us golfers play rain or shine!
While Waiting at the Tee or Between Holes Finally, if you find yourself waiting on a tee box or for the group in front of you, this a great opportunity to clean up some clubs! Use your club-cleaning brush (the soft-bristle brush is a great option), club groove cleaner, some water, and a towel to do some minimal upkeep while you wait. Companies have even started making golf brushes with a retractable zip line or a retractable cord with a carabiner clip that can be clipped onto your bag for easy access. These are useful tools to carry in your golf bag and most manufacturer options for golf bags will offer a pocket made specifically for these types of on-course accessories.
If you can find one, a golf club cleaning kit that has a combination of cleaning tools would be perfect. Look for one containing:
- Golf club cleaning brush with both non-abrasive nylon bristles and wire bristles
- Groove cleaning spike
- Divot tool
- Ball marker on a detachable magnet
A kit like this would be a great gift for a new golfer to get started with. It will equip them with the best golf club cleaners for cleaning irons, cleats, headcovers, or whatever else could use a scrub with lukewarm water after a muddy day on the course.
When Should I Clean My Golf Balls?
When it comes to golf balls, I clean the ball before each shot because ball machines are only on tee boxes. Dirt on the ball can have the same effect as dirt on the clubface, and can affect everything your ball is doing. Cleaning the ball is MOST important before putting. If the ball bounces or deviates because of residue left on it, it surely will miss the hole even on a good putt! You’ll see every PGA Tour player do this as well. Be sure to clean your putter and golf ball before hitting the greens! Some players bring an old towel with them to their round specifically for this purpose.
Off the Course
After your round, the cart attendant will come to ask if you would like a club clean. Always say yes, even if you are in a rush. It is typical that golf club cleaning services are offered after a golf round for a small fee or tipping service. It only takes about 5-10 minutes—and having them help take care of your golf clubs will save you even more time in the long run.
Now when you get home, especially if you are playing a lot of golf, you'll need to give your clubs a proper cleaning. Here is a list of items you will need:
- A golf tee or soft bristle brush (a toothbrush can work if a golf tee or golf brush is not available)
- Big plastic bucket
- Hot water
- Dish soap
With your tools assembled, here are the next steps:
- Take every single club out of your bag
- Run the golf tee or brush thoroughly through the grooves again
- Soak the clubs overnight in a big, plastic bucket of warm soapy water (use a couple of teaspoons of dishwasher liquid) like you would a saute pan. This mixture will loosen any tiny bits of gunk that may have been sticking on to get removed by a quick towel rub. This is good practice to help clean the back of the clubhead which is typically overlooked when thinking about dirty clubs.
- Be sure to check everywhere for grass stains, dirt, mud, and any other impediments to your club: the back of the club head, the sole of the iron, clubface, the crown of the driver, ferrules, and anywhere debris could accumulate.
- Use soft, plastic bristles to clean golf clubs without damaging them—even an old toothbrush (soft bristles) works for this.
- You can also use a groove sharpener on your irons and wedges to help keep the spin rate up as the clubs age.
Golf club cleaners can be purchased if you see a rust spot on your club, but that involves further instructions to re-finish the club with chrome polish after you've wire brushed the rust out with some suds, as it'll inherently remove the finish off the club. Be extra careful, and don't be afraid to ask your Curated Expert for guidance!
For the final step, once a week, I would definitely recommend using any brand of golf solvent or Dremel for extra shine. You don’t want to do this too often, as long-term use of chemicals can affect the clubs’ finish, but once in a while, it’s definitely a great move. It helps remove scratches and other long-term issues that inevitably happen to golf club heads while playing golf. Steel polish can also be applied to your golf clubs' shafts if you want to avoid rust buildup there as well. Again, to keep clubs in good condition, don't use these cleaning solution products too often. Check the ingredients and discuss with an Expert before applying anything new to your clubs. Done properly, however, it can increase the longevity of your clubs.
Use the Right Chemicals
Note that soaking clubs will not cause them to rust or stain. Certain chemicals, however, may have this impact, so if you buy a cleaning chemical for your clubs, be sure the packaging indicates that the product is indeed intended for golf clubs. As we previously stated, having to remove rust can be a pain and lead to other issues with your clubs if not done correctly! You can always find a PGA Professional who can perform this work if the obligation brings you stress and you don't have the comfort level to use chemicals on your clubs yourself.
One final point for golfers in seasonal climates is to make sure that you have temperature-appropriate storage space for your sticks at the end of the season. Things like extended exposure to moisture and extreme temperatures—both hot and cold—can cause damage to the club materials. So don't let them sit in your garage or the trunk of your car or you may come back to find them damaged in the spring!
And there you have it! A quick little guide to making sure your clubs stay in tip-top shape. Implementing a good cleaning process might seem unnecessary and a bit of extra work, but trust me, having a clean set of clubs (especially clean golf irons and wedges) easily saves at least five or more strokes off every round of golf. It also helps provide resale value should you want to sell or trade-in your clubs someday. And hey, if you have a bad shot, it’s one less thing to blame! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to a Golfing Expert here on Curated. See you on the course!