How to Buy Golf Clubs
With so many club types, brands, features, designs, and specifications, it can be hard to know where to start when buying golf clubs. Start here with this explainer.
Not much in life beats opening that new golf club box, unwrapping the grip packaging, seeing the clubs glisten in the golf bag, and getting them out on the course for the first time. How they feel, how they look, and how they compliment your golf swing and skill level - are all critical criteria to a successful investment in your game. The options are almost endless and the fun in buying new clubs has never been as great! Though the myriad of brands - Callaway, Titleist, Taylormade, Cobra, Mizuno, Ping to name a few, components, club types, designs, and specifications can be intense, all the benefits of having the right clubs to your enjoyment on the golf course can’t be overstated.
Golf is a game of feet despite always being thought of in yards. Reputable teaching programs, such as Operation 36, instruct players to first become proficient around the green complexes and work back to the tee box as having great imagination, instincts, and feel in the short game has the largest impact on successful golf scores. Balancing the investment in your golf equipment between the long game and the short is the first fundamental to buying golf clubs, exploring the rest is a lengthy discussion.
Beginner Golf Clubs - We Were All There Once!
Players new to the game have many great options to get out and have the clubs needed to play 18 holes on a regulation golf course. Packaged sets contain all the basic clubs - Putter, Wedges, Irons, Hybrids, Metalwoods, and Driver - that you will need to get out playing as soon as they arrive. Under the rules of golf, the total number of clubs you’re allowed to play is 14, limiting you to cover all the shots needed within this parameter.
Callaway Strata sets and brands like Tour Edge have been building incredible men’s and ladies’ complete sets with concepts of forgiveness and easier launch as their paramount aim to get players out and enjoying the game right away. These package sets are offered at different prices based on the number of clubs they include, typically between eight and 12, and lower-priced sets eliminate clubs that are less critical as you start.
When you’re looking for a packaged set, the key components you’ll need include a putter that rolls golf balls with more control, two wedges to start to learn greenside shots, larger hitting areas on iron faces for better accuracy, hybrids and metal woods that get longer distance, driver lofts of 10 to 14 degrees to carry the golf ball farther, and softer shafts for improved ball flight trajectories.
Beyond The Starter Set
As a player’s golf swing and game develops, the need for custom options to build the perfect set increases. More commitment leads to improved consistency and using the right clubs with the proper specifications and shaft flex pushes your game forward. Everything from putter size to the right iron lie angle, to graphite weight and driver loft needs to be addressed for the proper fitting of each club vying for a shot to be in your golf bag. I’m not here to claim that any one brand is better than another, but rather to discuss what you should know about the different clubs and what specific design concepts you need to perform your best.
Putters - Complex Feel
Used more than any other club in your bag, putters are a necessity. Mere inches off with the putter is the difference between sinking birdies and struggling not to three-putt!
Never mind all the golf cliches, having the right putter for your stroke type, grip, posture, and alignment are critical for success. How the putter is shafted, how much balance there is built into the face to create a higher MOI (Moment of Inertia, or making the putter more stable when striking a ball), the putter size - mallet, mid-mallet, or blade, the level of alignment aids - these are all design options that can be manipulated to fit your stroke. Discussing your strengths and weaknesses with speed and accuracy control gives us a good indication of what type of putter would work best.
Wedges - Which Ones? How Many?
Working from around the green, back to the tee means putting a bigger emphasis on how you approach greenside shots to control the ball and attack any pin.
Different lofts (angle of the clubface in relation to the shaft) create varying trajectories to be used from a multitude of shot situations encountered around the green complexes. Labeled Pitching, Gap, Sand, and Lob Wedges, these tools of the short game need to be given space in your advancing golf bag to allow proper management of this aspect of your golf game. Pitching wedges lofted between 44 and 48 degrees are common in most iron sets and should be followed by wedges spaced 4-6 degrees apart. The sand wedge with 54 to 56 degrees is typically the next wedge option to get a higher ball flight and it’s designed characteristics make bunker shots more manageable.
My article on Wedge Lofts discusses this in much more detail, for now understanding that having more than two wedges and adding the gap wedge, lofted between 50-52 degrees, and a lob between 58-64 degrees, for more control of greenside shots can be a larger benefit to your scoring than having another long club to hit from distance.
Though shaping and weighting can play a factor in wedge performance, bounce (the angle from the leading edge to the bottom of the sole) and grind (ground out points on the sole) have a significant impact on you manipulating the wedges ability to get through heavy sand or grass, or pick the golf ball off tight lie surfaces. Working with your swing tendencies, preferences, and performance we can match the appropriate and number of wedges that will fit your game.
Golf Irons - The Crux of the Golf Set
You’re in the fairway, staring down the pin from distance and need a club that encourages a descending attack on the ball to compress it off the big ball (Earth), launching the ball on the proper trajectory with enough backspin needed to land on the putting surface to make birdie.
Irons, the bulwark of anyone’s golf bag, numbered 3-iron to 9-iron and lofted from 19 degrees to 42 degrees, are the golf industry standard club, designed to be used to hit approach shots to the green. Whether forged from one piece of metal or molded from multiple pieces, irons are built with a grip on steel shafts or graphite shafts set into the hosel, which extends into the iron head itself. Using shaping, changing center of gravity (CG) through weight movement behind the face, and different materials, iron designs can manipulate concepts such as MOI and COR (Coefficient of Restitution - energy retention when two objects collide) to increase the club’s forgiveness, and ball speeds produced. Wider soles and increasing offset (how the iron lies relative to the hosel) can also impact the forgiveness of the iron and help delay slice-spin which causes off-center shots.
As irons are built with the grip and therefore the hands ahead of the ball or towards the target, and are designed to impact the ball and turf at a descending angle, how the club enters the hitting zone is affected by you, the shaft flex, and the length and lie angle of the iron. Lie Angle is how the toe (the far end of the iron head from the shaft) and the heel (the part of the iron next to the hosel) lie on the ground at address. If the toe is too flat or upright without being manipulated by your hands or posture, it can have a detrimental effect on the direction of your ball flight. The length of the golf club influences center ball contact on the face which can create huge discrepancies of ball speeds and thus distance. Through static fitting - using your wrist to floor and height measurements, coupled with dynamic fitting - testing the static results against your posture, swing tendencies, impact tape, and ball flight issues can determine these specifications for your next set.
One major component of any golf club, transferring your swing’s energy to the clubhead, is the shaft. Depending on your swing speed, how quickly you transfer from backswing to the ball, or how aggressively you swing, all play into how much flex, and what type of shaft you need. Shaft weight, bend point, torque, and length all factor into the right shaft for your iron set.
Hybrids, Utility Irons, and the 3-Iron
Slower swing speeds, U-shaped swings that sweep the ball off the ground, and difficulty hitting the 3-Iron and the fairway wood, have all given rise to hybrid clubs and utility irons. Shorter irons with more loft and shorter shafts are easier to control than longer shafts and clubs with lower loft angles, therefore different options have been developed to help you play these long-distance shots well.
There is no general rule of thumb as to what the longest iron in a golf set is, whether a 4-iron, 5-iron, or 6-iron, and 3-irons are only built now in tougher, player’s iron designs. Feeling confident with the long iron game is important and fitting you into a hybrid or utility iron for the proper set makeup is another key aspect in buying the right golf club set.
Metalwoods - Sweeping the Turf
Metalwoods are the second-longest clubs in the bag. They need sweeping swings to get the ball airborne, are numbered 3-7, and cover lofts between 14 and 28 degrees. Manipulating center of gravity, COR, and MOI, fairway woods can be built to get straight accurate distance or work the ball left to right and with varying trajectories. Possibly the toughest shot in golf, metalwoods hit off the fairway require level posture and impeccable impact to achieve good launch. Having the right metalwood for your game can be a great asset in your bag.
Drivers - Tee it High and Let it Fly
The largest club head in the bag with the least amount of loft and the longest shafts at 45.5 inches, drivers are certainly fun to hit well and typically represent the second biggest investment in the bag, next to the irons. Drivers are built in a variety of ways to achieve easier distance and straight ball flights, enable more advanced golfers to shape shots, and are constantly pushing the boundaries of high MOI, COR, and creating sheer speed. Lofts of drivers are between 7 and 14 degrees, and though most are adjustable +/- 2 degrees the right starting point can give you better options for the courses and swing adaptations you encounter for years to come.
Another significant component to the driver, as it has the longest shaft, is ensuring that you are playing the appropriate shaft length and type. Graphite shafts with varying weights of 40 to 80 grams, shaft flexes from ladies to extra stiff, and bend points from low to high all work to create different ball flight characteristics.
Depending on your angle of attack, swing speed, skill level, course conditions, and ball flight preferences determine which driver, loft, and shaft would work best for your drives.
Buying Your New Clubs
Whether buying your first set, building a new set, or upgrading a part of your bag, purchasing new clubs can be the best investment for your time out on the golf course. Sure, better technique through PGA Golf lessons, perfecting practice, improving fitness, and thinking more confidently all play a part, but playing incorrect clubs can diminish all those efforts.
Every aspect of your golf set can be made custom and built specifically for you. Length of shafts to fit your height and posture, lofts to get you the proper ball flights, shafts to square the clubface and get distance, lie angles to maximize accuracy, and many more specifics to fit your every need and nuance.
Let’s talk about set composition and trajectory preference, how you play your short game shots, and roll your golf ball with your putter. Contact me and we can discuss the necessary aspects of your game to dial in the right club model and specifications to have you playing your best golf.