Buying Guide to Golf Clubs

Over the past two decades, the golf equipment industry has exploded into a $4 billion dollar business. A wide array of manufacturers use advanced physics, space-age materials, and rigorous testing to develop golf clubs that claim to lengthen your drives, eliminate your slice, and hone your putting. With an endless number of golf clubs on the market, a consumer must navigate through a sea of options to find the golf clubs best suited to his or her needs.

Where to Buy Golf Clubs

There are a number of options. Clubs can be purchased, obviously, at any number of retailers, including national sporting chains such as Dick’s Sporting Goods or Modell’s, or more golf-focused stores such as TGW (The Golf Warehouse) and others. Pro shops at golf courses around the country offer not only golf clubs for purchase but additional services such as swing analysis and custom-fitting.

The Internet also provides a number of opportunities for purchase; a simple Google search for “golf clubs” or similar terms will result in hundreds of results, ranging from small Mom-and-pop sites to brand-focused retailers that offer high-end, new and pre-owned drivers, putters, and irons.

eBay is a fantastic resource for bargain hunters; nearly 2,000 complete sets were available as of this writing, for men and women, left-handed and right-handed players. Though shipping is an issue (shipping costs for a full set of golf clubs, including golf bag, runs around $30 to $50), the price of new store-bought sets makes eBay an essential stop for bargain hunters or for golfers who don’t play often enough – or well enough – to justify spending several hundred dollars on a new set of clubs. Sellers on eBay offer both new and used clubs, often discounted several hundred dollars off the retail price offered in many retailers.

What You Need to Know

As every golfer who’s had to borrow clubs knows, golf clubs vary greatly, even within the same brand and same model. Length is an important facet of club selection; perhaps, the most important. Playing with golf clubs that are too long or too short can ruin a game already referred to as “a nice walk ruined”. Clubs are generally manufactured with a standard length (which is estimated to fit about 80% of players, according to Pine Meadow Golf), and then can be custom-fitted by a manufacturer or a pro shop for specific players who may need changes.

Another key component of club selection is “flex”. Flex refers to the flexibility of the clubs’ shafts and is defined as one of the following: Regular, Stiff, Extra Stiff, Senior, and Ladies. Generally speaking, clubs with more “flex” provide greater control at a cost to distance. Expert players will want to use Extra Stiff shafts (for reasons unknown, graphite shafts are referred to in the golf club industry as Firm, instead of Stiff). Casual players should use regular flex clubs, to provide some forgiveness for the inevitable mishits we face.

Golf clubs are now available in graphite and steel shafts. Graphite shafts are geared more toward the casual and inexperienced players; graphite is lighter and has more “give” than steel. Expert players, for the most part, use steel shafted clubs.

As far as the “head” of a golf club goes, manufacturers now produce clubs with a variety of materials. As a rule of thumb, softer metals such as aluminum or alloys are more suited for beginners; they provide more control, at a cost of distance. Advanced and expert players should use club heads manufactured from titanium, steel, or tungsten. These harder materials increase distance and ‘feel’, allowing for better distance and pinpoint accuracy.

Advanced or expert players – or, simply consumers with the cash to spend – can consider getting their clubs custom-fitted at a sporting goods store or the pro shop of a local golf course. A trained professional can analyze your build, your size, and your swing to create the perfect set of clubs for you – based not only on the factors above, but additional adjustments to the club head and grip.

Much of the boom in the golf manufacturing industry has been related to the advanced technology used in developing modern golf clubs, and the benefits that newer clubs can provide to golfers. Most of these advancements are tailored to the inexperienced golfer – the so-called “weekend duffer.” Perimeter weighting puts force AROUND the golf ball, increasing control when a swing is not absolutely perfect. Clubs with enlarged sweet spots allow golfers to make quality shots even if the ball is slightly mishit. LCG (low center of gravity) clubs allow golfers to more easily get the ball in the air. All of these technologies can be of use to you, and can make your golfing experience more enjoyable, and maybe a shot or two shorter.

Buying the Perfect Set

For expert golfers, custom-fitting and attention to detail is key to purchasing a new set of golf clubs. For the rest of us, following simple rules is the best way to go:

1. Stick with softer metals, usually aluminum, zinc, or graphite (and related alloys), in shaft and head construction.
2. Look for Regular or Stiff flex clubs, which allow the inexperienced golfer some relief from mishits.
3. Most of the “advances” and trends in golf club manufacturing are aimed at average and below golfers. When possible, take advantage of them.

In short, when purchasing golf clubs, a consumer should look for the materials best suited to them, with the best technology available in their price range. If your passion for your golf, and/or your wallet, allow you to try for custom-fitted clubs geared to you, you should take advantage. For those of you who are less committed to the game, are or more budget-conscious, the information above can help you make an informed decision.

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