Packaged Set Vs. Build Your Bag: How to Decide

Published on 08/19/2023 · 9 min readChoosing between packaged golf club sets and building a customized bag? Learn the pros and cons to make the best decision for your game!
By (Golf) Matt Stevens

Photo by Mr.Somchai Sukkasem

In my three decades on the course, I’ve acquired an abundance of golf clubs and bags to suit my swing. I recently needed to put myself in someone else's shoes and help my brother decide on a conveniently packaged set versus build-your-bag options. We opted for the packaged set's convenience, forgiveness, and affordability.

From this article, you’ll understand why a packaged set is suitable for beginners on a budget. You’ll also learn that mid and low-handicappers are better off building a bag a la carte because of the ability to tailor the set to your swing specification.

How to Choose a Packaged Set Vs. Build Your Bag

Photo by Arimag

I employed the guidance of four categories to help me find the ideal golf clubs for my brother. I drafted a budget and assessed his skill level, club performance, and wedges. By determining his needs, I made a better-informed decision on the best clubs for his swing.

Consider the following when choosing between a packaged set versus building your bag:

1. Budget

If your budget is the driving factor behind your decision, consider a packaged set of clubs.

For example, I assessed the prices of packaged sets compared to individual clubs to weigh up which option would deliver fairer value for money. The affordability of the Callaway Strata 12-piece set immediately caught my eye, and I thought it was perfect for what my brother needed.

The set includes a driver, 3-wood, 5-hybrid, a 6-iron to pitching wedge, a putter, and a lightweight stand bag for approximately $400. After looking at the cost of building a bag, I discovered that even affordable irons, like the Callaway Mavriks, would cost more than an entire packaged set.

2. Skill Level

Beginners require easy launching and oversized, forgiving golf clubs, typical characteristics of sticks in a packaged set. They’re simple models that reduce workability and aren’t the longest golf clubs you’ll swing. However, they cover the needs of a newly minted golfer.

As your handicap reduces, you can look for specific lofts, shafts, and offset to boost distance and control spin without relinquishing forgiveness. Building your bag makes sense at this stage because you’ve played long enough to know what you like and what works.

The flexibility to choose your desired metal woods, irons, wedges, and putter specifications goes a long way to enhance your performance.

3. Club Performance

Packaged sets contain lighter-weight clubs with a lower center of gravity to increase velocity and launch. The Cobra FLY-XL set is a prime example of a suitable beginner's set that prompts a high launch and straighter ball flight for consistency from tee to green. Although I appreciate the club's forgiveness and hassle-free launch, I prefer a medium apex and workable flight as a mid-handicapper.

If you’re comfortable with stock standard, reliable, lenient clubs, it’s worth saving money and turning to a packaged set. However, once you become a mid or low-handicapper, you’ll likely prefer clubs that offer a subtle feel and workable flight. You’ll also seek rapid ball speed, low spin in your long game, and maximum wedge control around the green. Packaged sets lack these features, so you must build your bag to enjoy these benefits.

4. Wedges

Package sets are often light on wedges. Entry-level sets only feature a pitching wedge which reduces your control out of the bunker and on elevated greenside shots. However, it’s a great club to play bump and runs and get a feel for greenside shots when starting.

Consider building your bag if you’re searching for more wedge options. This allows you to select the wedges, lofts, and sole grinds best suited to your short game.

However, while I appreciate the versatility of the a la carte approach, the abundance of options can overwhelm beginners. That’s why I still suggest a package set. Ensure it includes a sand wedge to give you an additional club to chip with, like the Cobra Strata 16-piece set.

Cost to Build Your Bag a La Carte Vs. Packaged Sets

Building your bag a la carte is more costly than purchasing a packaged set. Besides holding more clubs, the packaged set includes a cart or lightweight stand bag.

The cost of the Cobra LTDx driver compared to the 12-piece Callaway Strata set highlights the affordability of packaged sets. The Strata set is about $100 more than the Cobra LTDx driver. That means if you spend a little extra, you receive nine clubs and a bag compared to a single driver.

Another example of the affordability of packaged sets versus an a la carte approach lies in the TaylorMade M4 irons. A 5-iron to approach wedge set is priced around $600, which is approximately $200 more than the 9-club Callaway Strata set costs.

Please refer to the table below for a detailed breakdown of the estimated costs of different packaged sets compared to building your bag.

Convenience of Buying a Packaged Set

A packaged set is the most convenient approach to buying golf clubs. You don’t need to search for a stock of individual clubs or ensure they match your swing. A packaged set is sold course-ready. Once it arrives, you can start swinging them.

Building your bag requires more thought, ensuring the specifications and set composition are tailored to your game. Buying the clubs separately puts you at risk of the equipment arriving at different times, which could delay your plans to take the clubs out on the golf course.

Benefits of an a La Carte Set

An a la carte golf set provides the freedom to tailor your set to your optimal swing specifications. It’s a pricier route to take compared to a packaged set. However, I find it ideal for mid and low-handicappers seeking a specific launch profile, flight bias, and forgiveness.


I like the freedom that an a la carte set offers regarding lofts. I can pick clubs with weaker lofts at the top of my bag to produce a higher launch. However, packaged sets have no flexibility as you take what you’re handed. For example, the Strata 12-piece set has a 10.5° loft setting without an adjustable hosel.

A 10.5° loft setting suits the average golfer, but you will want a weaker loft if you have a more moderate swing. If I opt for an a la carte driver, I’m typically afforded three loft settings, 9°, 10.5°, and 12° driver to suit all launch profiles. In addition, drivers like the Callaway Mavrik are adjustable and allow you to increase or decrease the standard setup.

Shafts and Grips

Building your bag allows you to pick clubs fitted with the optimal shafts and grips for your swing. If you swing a driver under 83mph, you’re considered a slow swinger and are best equipped to handle a senior or ladies’ flex shaft. Conversely, a driver swing registering 84 to 96mph is moderate and tends to thrive with a regular flex.

Packaged sets tend to add standard-size grips to the golf clubs, which perform well for most players. However, golfers who have arthritis may consider the tension-reducing oversized grips.


You aren’t forced to take clubs you may not use like a packaged set. For example, my brother hits his 7-iron as far as his 6-iron. This means he doesn’t need a 6-iron in his bag and can save the space for other clubs if he opts for the a la carte approach.

What Additional Clubs Can I Get by Going a La Carte?

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The freedom offered by an a la carte bag helps choose higher-lofted woods, driving irons, longer irons, and a gap and lob wedge. Ultimately you enjoy more selection with long and short-game clubs.

High Lofted Metal Woods

Going a la carte allows you to select high-lofted metal woods like a 7 or a 9-wood. Although less common, I find these golf clubs incredibly easy to launch, and they’re forgiving.

Utility Irons

Golf club manufacturers include hybrids in many packaged sets but not utility irons which more advanced players may prefer. I use a 2-driving iron off the tee for its low launch and consistency, but you’ll never see a club of this nature in a standard beginner set. Building your bag frees you up to add versatile irons.

Long Irons

Long irons are less popular than hybrids for beginners due to their easier launch. However, you may prefer the lower flight, reduced offset, and feel of long irons over hybrid clubs. If you’re like me and prefer long irons, I suggest considering building your bag yourself.

Gap and Lob Wedges

When you build your bag, you can structure your set to contain more wedges for increased greenside control. Packaged sets are capped at a pitching wedge for entry-level models and a sand wedge for higher-priced options. An a la carte approach equips you with all the tools to optimize your short game.

Consider How Long a Packaged Vs. a La Carte Set Will Suit Your Game

My first-ever packaged set is still in my storage room, 20 years after I acquired it. I also have an a la carte set that my father concocted that is 30 years old and still playable. You should ask, “How long will a packaged or a la carte set suit my game?”

I stopped using a packaged set after two years of playing. However, more advanced golfers may find that they outgrow a packaged set in six months to a year. It boils down to how much golf you play and how quickly you improve. A packaged set is fine for beginners, but it limits your ability as you reach the ranks of mid-handicappers. At this stage, you need more workable clubs without eradicating forgiveness.

After relegating my packaged set to the storage room, I built my bag and continued playing with my first a la carte set for 16 years. Eventually, the launch, flight, and distance weren’t working for me. Still, I kept playing these clubs because I was comfortable and confident with them. However, you may consider changing your a la carte set more frequently if your handicap drops rapidly.

Will You Build Your Own Set or Buy a Packaged Set?

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After weighing up the features and benefits of a packaged set versus building your bag, I recognize the value in both approaches. I like the freedom to choose my clubs, lofts, shafts, and grips, which is why I endorse building your bag. However, it’s a procedure I feel is best for mid and lower-handicappers who know what they’re looking for.

As a beginner, I suggest saving yourself the stress of building your bag and buying a packaged set instead. They’re more affordable and are specifically designed to forgive the inconsistencies of new golfers. If you need help picking out the set or gear to build your own, feel free to chat with a Curated Golf Expert to help you get ready to play!

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