Golf Clubs: How to Choose the Right Ones for YouPublished on 06/16/2023 · 22 min readWith so many options when it comes to golf clubs, it can be hard to know which clubs are right for you! Golfing Expert Tyler Monroe explains how to choose!
Photo by Adrian Hernandez
Tl;dr: When buying golf clubs, it's important to consider your skill level, approach to the game, and budget for accomplishing your goals. Considering these factors will begin to define the type of clubs and their features and designs that will uniquely fit your personal swing mechanics, posture, and preferences to play your best golf.
Over the last 20 years working in the golf business, I have spent much time helping players of all levels find the best golf clubs for their games. When the ultimate goal as a club fitter is enhancing each player’s success on the golf course, sharing the importance of properly fitting golf clubs through articles like this, hopefully magnifies that passion of mine. From the basics of club fitting and club attributes to the complex, every player has a place to start or advance from, so let's get going.
What Are Golf Clubs?
Golf clubs are the tools golfers use to hit the ball during a round of golf. They come in different sizes, shapes, and materials and are designed to suit different golfers' preferences and playing styles.
A typical set of golf clubs includes a driver, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, and a putter, each designed to perform different tasks on the golf course and comprises the bulk of golf equipment needed to play a round.
Drivers and woods are typically used for long shots from the tee or fairway, while irons and wedges are used for shorter shots and getting out of tricky situations such as bunkers or heavy rough. Finally, putters are used for rolling the ball into the hole on the green or putting surface.
What to Consider When Buying Golf Clubs
What Type of Club Is Best for Your Skill Level and Playing Style?
The type of club that's best for you depends on concepts like your skill level, swing speed and mechanics, height, posture, and body type. Beginners may benefit from game improvement clubs, while more experienced players and professionals may prefer compact, blade-style irons. Playing too tough an iron for your skill level typically leads to poor swing habits and frustration. Also, choose clubs with the right shaft flex and material between steel or graphite for your swing speed and tempo and consider factors such as forgiveness, distance, and feel.
Do the Clubs Fit You Properly?
Optimal golf performance requires properly fit clubs, considering factors like length, lie angle, and taking into account each golfer's height, stance, and posture. Consult professional fitters for static fitting (based on height and wrist-to-floor measurements) or dynamic fitting (based on swing and impact). Both methods help tailor clubs to maximize potential.
How Much Do Golf Clubs Cost?
The cost of golf clubs can vary greatly depending on the brand, model, and type of club. Generally, a complete set of golf clubs for a beginner can cost between $200 to $600, while a set of high-end clubs can cost upwards of $2,000 or more. Individual clubs designed for the average golfer can range from $50 to $500+.
The price differences in golf clubs are often due to the materials used in the club's construction, the technology incorporated into the design, and the brand's reputation. Higher-end clubs typically use premium materials such as titanium or carbon fiber in the clubhead, which can improve performance and durability. They may also feature advanced technologies, such as adjustable weights or face angles, which can help golfers optimize their ball flight and distance.
How Many Golf Clubs Do You Need?
A golfer is allowed to carry up to 14 clubs during a round of golf, according to the Rules of Golf set by the USGA and The R&A. However, the number of clubs a golfer needs can vary depending on their skill level and playing style. Though beginners may start with fewer clubs than 14, every golfer is more successful in having the right club for the shot than adjusting their golf swing to accommodate the wrong club.
As mentioned, a typical golf club set includes various types. However, golfers can mix and match different clubs to suit their needs and preferences. For example, some players I have fit for golf clubs put a greater emphasis on their short game around the greens and play four wedges, while other golfers prefer to use fewer wedges and adjust their golf swing technique for each shot leaving room in the bag for other clubs that are more important to their game.
Professional or low handicap golfers with faster swings may prefer a 3-iron or utility iron they can keep below the wind, and other golfers struggle with the longer irons in their bags and choose to use hybrids as replacements to achieve greater distances.
Ultimately, the number of golf clubs and the set makeup of the golf club options a player carries in their golf bag is a personal choice. However, golfers should choose clubs that will help them play their best from the tee box to iron shots, to the wedge game and putter.
What Are the Different Types of Golf Clubs?
Several golf clubs are designed for specific shots or situations on the golf course. Though some clubs are considered staples in most golfers’ bags, I have seen countless variations of clubs in golfers' sets (though all include a putter and wedges). The main types of golf clubs are:
These are typically the longest clubs in a golfer's bag and are designed to hit the ball as far as possible. They have a low loft angle (8-13°) and a large clubhead, generating a high ball speed and distance. They are used for hitting long shots from the tee or fairway, though with the loft of contemporary drivers starting halfway up the face, hitting shots from the fairway like Rickie Fowler, isn't recommended.
- Benefits: Drivers are designed to hit the ball as far as possible, making them ideal for long holes or when distance is crucial. The large clubhead size and low center of gravity make them easier for golfers to hit.
- Keep in Mind: Drivers can be difficult to control, especially for golfers with slower swing speeds. The low loft angle can also make them more challenging to hit straight or high, and they are not ideal for short or accuracy-focused shots. It is not uncommon for some golfers to play fairway woods from the tee and not carry a driver, often sacrificing distance for more control.
These clubs are similar to drivers in shape but have a higher loft angle (14-22°), shorter shaft length, and a smaller clubhead size. They are designed for hitting long shots from the fairway or rough and are easier to control than drivers.
- Benefits: Fairway woods are more forgiving and easier to hit than drivers, making them ideal for golfers who struggle with consistency off the tee. They are also versatile, suitable for long and medium-length shots, and can be used from the short grass in the fairway or possibly from thicker rough.
- Keep in Mind: Fairway woods, with their lower lofts, can be difficult for some golfers to get the ball into the air to produce distance, so adding a degree or two of loft to a fairway wood would benefit many players. Also, their smaller clubhead size can make them less forgiving on mishits.
These are a cross between a fairway wood and an iron, designed to combine a wood's distance with an iron's accuracy. They have a larger clubhead and a lower center of gravity than traditional irons. As a result, hybrids are easier to launch from swept or shallow swings or when golfers have difficulty producing consistent impact. Loft options between 16-30° overlap both fairway wood and long iron lofts, hybrids have shorter shaft lengths than fairway woods and longer than irons and are possible replacements for either club.
- Benefits: Hybrids offer the best of both worlds, combining the distance of a fairway wood with the accuracy and control of an iron. They are designed to be easy to hit from the rough or uneven ball positions and can replace long irons in a player's bag for those that hit long irons poorly. .
- Keep in Mind: Hybrids can have a different feel and trajectory than traditional irons, which can take some getting used to. They also may not be suitable for players who prefer the feel at impact and shot-making capabilities of long irons.
Irons are used to hit shots from the fairway or rough and approach shots into the green. Irons are numbered from 3 to 9, with lower numbers having a lower loft angle and longer shafts designed for longer shots. Higher-numbered irons have a higher loft angle and shorter shafts designed for shorter shots.
Irons typically make up the bulk of most golfers' sets and contain several attributes aimed to assist golfers in making an impact with the ground and the golf ball. Having the correct shaft length and lie angle in these clubs is perhaps the most critical of any club in the bag, as irons are intended to impact the ground along with the golf ball.
- Benefits: Irons are the most versatile clubs in a golfer's bag, with a wide range of lofts and uses. They are suitable for hitting shots from the fairway or rough and can be used to create various distances and shot shapes.
- Keep in Mind: Irons require a higher level of skill and deliver more precision than woods or hybrids and are not ideal for long-distance shots or when distance is crucial. Some iron sets offer wedges that look, perform, and feel the same as the irons depending on the golfer's preferences on how the wedges fit within the set.
These clubs are designed for shots close to the green, such as pitching, chipping, or bunker shots. There are several types of wedges, including pitching wedges (typically 44-48° of loft), gap wedges (50-54°), sand wedges (54-58°), and lob wedges (58-64°).
Each wedge type is designed for a specific type of shot, with higher lofted wedges providing more height and spin and therefore offer different attack angles to the pin. Wedges are also designed with different bounce angles in their soles to assist with impact and be helpful in different turf types and conditions.
Lower bounce wedges will sit tighter to the playing surface, enabling some golfers to sweep the ball with little or no divot, while higher bounce options work to prevent overly steep angles of attack from losing distance from deep divots before the golf ball.
- Benefits: They have high loft angles, which help to generate spin and height on shots, making them ideal for getting out of bunkers or hitting a high, soft landing shot.
- Keep in Mind: Wedges, unfit for longer shots, can be challenging to choose for specific lies. Including a pitching and sand wedge in the set offers diverse loft options while adding a gap and lob wedge further refines swing variations, enhancing effectiveness around the greens.
These clubs are used on the green to roll the ball into the hole. Putters come in various shapes and sizes, but all have a flat clubface and low loft angle to keep the ball rolling smoothly along the green. They are the most important club for scoring, used more often than any other club in the bag, and can make all the difference between scoring low scores or having a bad round.
With the two main attributes of a successful putt being control of the speed and direction, how the putter feels is as important as how it performs and is worthy of a solid investment. Built-in various lengths from 30-35” for most golfers. They must fit the golfer's height, stance, and posture to put them in a better position to make a repeatable and successful putting stroke.
- Benefits: They come in various shapes and sizes, allowing players to find one that feels comfortable and fits their stroke type.
- Keep in Mind: Putters require a high level of skill and practice to use effectively and can be affected by changes in green speed and slope. Golfers may also struggle to find a putter that suits their strokes and preferences.
Features to Look for in Golf Clubs
There are many features and technologies to consider that can affect a club’s performance. Here are some of the basic features and technologies to look for: 1. Length and loft and lie angles: The loft angle determines the height and distance of the shot, while the lie angle affects the direction and accuracy of the shot. The correct shaft length can affect distance and direction and prevent improper swing mechanics. Choosing the right shaft length and loft and lie angles for your swing, especially in the irons, can help optimize your impact performance. 2. Shaft material and flex: The shaft material and flex can affect the feel and distance of the shot. Graphite shafts are typically lighter and more flexible, while steel shafts are heavier and stiffer. Choosing the right shaft material and flex for your swing speed can help maximize your distance and positively affect your accuracy. 3. Clubhead design: The clubhead design can affect the ball's distance, direction and spin of the shot. Different designs are available for different types of shots, such as drivers for distance and fairway woods for accuracy. Be sure to use clubs that benefit your swing mechanics, level of ability, and approach to each golf shot. 4. Adjustable features: Many modern clubs feature adjustable weights, lofts, and face angles that can be customized to suit your swing and preferences. Whether needing adjustments to correct errant ball flight tendencies, adjust to conquer various course conditions, or simply allow the club to adapt to your changing golf swing, having this adjustability is a huge benefit to many players. 5. Forgiveness and distance: Look for clubs with larger clubheads, perimeter weighting, and other features that can help improve forgiveness and distance on mishits.
Ultimately, the specific features and technologies to look for will depend on your needs and preferences and what you want to look down at as you address the golf ball. Confidence in each shot and what your swinging is key, and often what fits our eye, may not be ideal for other golfers.
Features to Avoid in Golf Clubs
When buying golf clubs, there are a few features that golfers may want to avoid that could limit their potential, including:
- Non-conforming clubs: Clubs that do not conform to the Rules of Golf set by the USGA and The R&A should be avoided, as they are not allowed in tournament play and may not perform as well as conforming clubs. Often these gimmick clubs can produce bad habits and limit the availability of clubs in the bag that can be more versatile.
- Counterfeit clubs: Counterfeit clubs can be found online or through unauthorized dealers and can be of poor quality and performance. It's important to buy clubs from reputable sources to avoid purchasing counterfeit products and gambling on dissatisfaction with the inferior quality whether real or perceived. .
- Clubs with incorrect specs: Golfers should ensure the clubs they purchase have the correct specifications, such as the right shaft length and lie angle. As much as correct specs can be a benefit, incorrect specs can affect the club's performance and may lead to adopting bad habits that are tough to fix.
- Overpriced clubs: Expensive clubs may not perform better than less expensive ones. Setting a budget and choosing clubs that provide the best value for your money is important.
- Clubs with outdated technology: Older clubs may not have the latest technologies and features that can help improve performance. From the heads of each club to the shafts and grips, it's important to consider clubs with modern designs and technologies to ensure you get the most out of them.
Overall, golfers should look for conforming clubs with the correct specifications and good value for their money. Avoiding counterfeit or overpriced clubs and those with outdated technology can help ensure you are purchasing clubs that will help improve your game for a while to come. .
How to Choose the Best Golf Clubs for You
Helping golfers find the best gear for their game, whether affirming what they came in looking for or working with them to stretch their preconceived ideas for the best-fitting golf clubs, is as fun now as it was when I began fitting golfers in 2005. Of course, everyone has a different take on what they need or what fits best, though some generalizations do exist. Below are examples of players I have chatted with, concepts we discussed, and golf club options we agreed would work best to maximize their fun on the golf course.
Tom: Beginning to Play Golf and Needs a New Complete Set
Tom is starting to get into playing golf with his friends and co-workers and doesn't want to keep renting clubs or borrowing what he needs to play a round. He plans to play golf at least once a month and get out of the office when he can, but doesn't see himself having much time to devote to the sport. Tom wants a quality, complete set that will get him to the golf course, learning and hitting the shots he needs, as soon as he unwraps it. His budget is roughly $600-$800 for the set and bag.
When asked, Tom suggested he plays other sports, is pretty active, and prefers to swing with a smooth tempo and moderate speed as he learns how to improve his golf swing. The clubs he has rented before have all had regular flex shafts with steel shafts in the irons. Tom is 5'9" tall and plays right-handed.
Features Tom Should Look For:
- Forgiving club designs with wider hitting areas that prevent mishits from losing distance and so he is getting good accuracy as he starts. .
- A driver loft above 10° to launch the ball high enough and improve carry distance for greater overall distance
- One or two fairway woods and hybrids that will provide versatility in shots from deeper distances, whether off the tee box, short fairway grass, or rough
- Irons that start at the 5 or 6 to 9-iron, providing various approach shots into the greens.
- A pitching wedge and sand wedge with different lofts enabling different heights of shots to be created around the putting surface to learn the wedge or short game..
- A forgiving putter, that is face-balanced with a high MOI (Moment of Inertia) and stability so that off-center strikes still are accurate with the appropriate speed.
- Regular flex shafts throughout the set with graphite shafts in the woods and hybrids to gain more distance and steel shafts in the irons and wedges to maximize control
- Standard length clubs that fit a 5'9” golfer.
Golf Clubs to Consider:
- Monroe SURGE Complete Set: This 11-club set is an ideal choice with steel shafted, cavity-backed irons that will deliver the forgiveness Tom needs in a set. The driver is built with an expansive hitting area to provide deeper distances despite mishits on the face. A hot-faced 3-wood and mid-profile hybrid will instill confidence from the difficult shots from distance, while two wedges of different lofts will allow Tom to choose the correct club instead of changing his swing approach. Also included is a fang-shaped putter made to improve alignment and deliver high stability at impact, enhancing success to sink more putts.
- Cobra FLY-XL Complete Set: An ideal set for newer golfers with 12 clubs that include a higher lofted driver, two fairway woods and hybrids to produce accurate shots from deeper distances, six to nine short irons along with two wedges for approach and greenside shots along with a versatile blade-shaped putter. The lightweight design and regular flex graphite shafts in the woods and hybrids will enable a smooth, relaxed golf swing to produce adequate distance. Additionally, the steel shafts in the irons will maintain accuracy and control in the short irons.
- Tour Edge Bazooka 370 Complete Set: This Tour Edge set with steel shafted irons and graphite shafted woods and hybrids provides a good combination of shaft materials for control and distance, while the set makeup provides a good mix of hybrids, woods, and irons from the 5 to 9-iron so the golfer can learn iron shots from medium to long distances using the 5-iron. Two wedge loft options will improve height control from shots around the greens to get closer to the pin for shorter putts and lower scores.
Jackson: An Advanced Player Looking to Upgrade His Irons
Jackson, an experienced golfer with a rising handicap, seeks more forgiving irons without sacrificing feel or workability. He maintains a good amount of clubhead speed and prefers a stiff flex, medium-weight shaft to maximize both distance and control. Jackson also wants a 4-iron through a pitching wedge set as he currently plays an approach wedge, sand wedge, and lob wedge he is comfortable with. His height and preferences suggest standard men's length fits well and he prefers to adjust the loft/lie angles using a machine at his local club to dial in the ball flight to his needs specifically. Performance is prioritized over cost so that he gets the best-fit irons for his game.
Features Jackson Should Look For:
- Compact, minimally offset, narrow sole irons that deliver on each club's look and his workability needs.
- Forged irons that provide a consistently nice feel and spin control throughout the iron set
- A set makeup of 4 to 9-iron and pitching wedge to match his set composition preferences
- Stiff flex, steel shafts with mid-launch and spin characteristics to maximize distance and launch control.
- Standard specs in length, loft, and lie angle so Jackson can manipulate those angles as he sees fit.
Golf Clubs to Consider:
- Mizuno JPX923 Tour Irons: These compact, meticulously forged irons will deliver the combination of feel and workability sought in the next iron set. The slight cavity in the back of the irons will provide another layer of forgiveness, and the set makeup fits within the loft parameters needed from the new irons.
- Titleist 2021 T100 Irons: Merging forgiveness with exceptional feel, workability, and low launch control in these irons is an ideal option to achieve the capabilities wanted. This reputable iron-producing optimal spin control in the proper set composition and with a stiff flex shaft would be a great choice for Jackson’s golf game.
- Srixon ZX7 MKII Irons: The design goals of these compact, workable, yet forgiving irons would fit the needs and preferences of added forgiveness without sacrificing good feel. The shaft setup, set makeup or composition, and design features all add up to a solid option coming from muscle back irons and seeking an easier time producing consistent accuracy and distance.
Shoni: A Senior Golfer Who Wants to Replace Her Iron Set
Shoni, a seasoned golfer with a 20 handicap, came to look for a new iron set that would help her maintain the height of shots she likes with her short irons but also get her more distance from the long irons she has. The set she is currently playing is a bit old, and after trying hybrids and hitting them well, she would like to have a few hybrid options to use in her next ladies' member-guest golf tournament in a few months.
In addition, Shoni prefers ladies' flex shafts as she feels she doesn't swing very fast, has been struggling with losing shots to the right or slicing the ball, and wants forgiving irons that she can feel better about playing.
Features Shoni Should Look For:
- A forgiving iron and hybrid design with a lower center of gravity position, large hitting areas, and large overall size to prevent mishits off the center of the clubface from losing distance
- An offset and draw biased construction in the irons and hybrids to delay impact and prevent side spin from losing accuracy and distance.
- Contemporary, lightweight ladies' flex shafts that will return losses in distance and maintain clubhead and ball speeds for years to come.
- Two hybrids in the set to replace the long irons and provide an extra level of launch and accuracy control so she can get the height she wants from the long clubs in the set
Golf Clubs to Consider:
- Callaway Big Bertha REVA Iron Combo Set: The deep center of gravity position, offset design, and lightweight shaft will provide a higher launch angle and straighter ball flight to enhance forgiveness.
- Callaway Womens Rogue ST Max OS Lite Combo Set: The wider soles and large offset would be ideal to launch the ball and prevent slice spin from sending balls right of the target. The lightweight design and 40 grams of weight in the ladies’ shafts will also ensure the clubhead speed needed to generate deeper distance, whether with an iron or hybrid.
- TaylorMade Stealth 2 HD Combo Set: These clubs' high-launching, draw-bias design elements will help straighten out the ball flight while maximizing launch from even the longer clubs in the set. The speed pocket technology in the soles enhances flexibility low in the clubface, improving the shot heights she would normally hit too low.
Wrapping this up, having the right golf equipment to fit your swing and where and how you play the game is easily half the battle to reaching your goals and expectations on the golf course. Fair, the golf swing has a ton to do with all of our success but considering being good at this game is partially between the ears, having golf clubs that fit your skill level and instill confidence when addressing the golf ball will make a huge difference in making those shots that keep you coming back for another round.
Chat with me or one of my fellow Golf Experts here on Curated for free, personalized recommendations on the best clubs for your needs. We're happy to help you uncover the right golf club options that will help take your game to a new level of excellence.