How to choose golf clubs

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Buying a good set of golf clubs is exciting but it can also be a little overwhelming. Golf shops are packed to the brim with merchandise, and since every single item seems to come with a big price tag understanding what clubs are right for you is important.

If you are considering picking up some new clubs, or even your first set ever we can help. Below you will find a guide to understanding every club in the bag so you know what to look for as you make your buying decisions.

Before we begin

In the proceeding paragraphs, we will be taking a look at considerations you should make for specific clubs i.e loft, shaft, adjustability, etc. Before that, however, it will be to your benefit to go over a few standard things that you should think about before making any purchase in golf.

Things to consider before you buy

Look

I’m sure that you are aware of the phrase, “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” For most areas of life I think it applies pretty well, but golf is certainly an exception to that rule.

While you certainly should not buy a club strictly on the grounds that you like the way it looks, appearance is nevertheless still a much bigger factor than you probably realize.

Bobby Jones (founder of the Master’s tournament, and one of the most accomplished golfers in the history of the game) once said that golf is a game played in the space between your ears. I and many others will tell you that golf is much more a mental game than it is a physical one. You need a club that inspires confidence at address so never settle for equipment that you don’t find visually pleasing.

Brand

I am not a brand recognition snob by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some things that you should consider before picking up a club that you have never heard of. For one thing, brands establish themselves by producing quality equipment. A brand name club is going to feature innovative technology, and you can count on it performing well for years.

It is absolutely possible to get that from lesser known brands as well, but the problem is you won’t really know until you have it in your hands and by then it will be too late.

The other thing to consider is the standards that apply towards ensuring their club specifications stay within the confines of the USGA’s rules.

With off brand clubs (especially the ones with gimmicky promises such as “add thirty yards to your drives”) you can’t know for sure if they are paying as close attention to the rules regarding club specifications that the big brands do.

In tournament play, using non-conforming equipment will result in a disqualification. Personally, I don’t find the risk to be worth it but you will, of course, need to make that decision for yourself.

Skill level

When we take a look at the considerations you should make for specific clubs, we will discuss this a little more in depth but for now just remember that not all clubs are made for everyone. When it comes to how equipment is advertised you will generally see the phrase “game improvement” next to clubs made for higher handicap players. Game improvement clubs are going to have larger sweet spots that help you hit the ball farther, higher and straighter even when you aren’t making great contact.

If you consistently hit the ball well you may want to take a look at clubs described as “players,” equipment. Players equipment will generally have a smaller sweet spot but they will also be better for crafting shots. If you want more control over your trajectory, or you would like to start working on working the ball from right to left or left to right, you will want to consider players clubs.

Game improvement equipment is going to be more suitable for most people.

Price

Obviously any time you are making a purchase price is going to be a consideration, but in golf, a sport known to be expensive working around a budget is all the more important.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get good gear – especially if you are willing to make simple compromises.

New clubs are pretty much always going to cost a lot. Picking up a new driver alone will often times cost $500 or more, but I have found in the past that buying used is a good alternative. Of course, in the instance of buying a used club you are definitely going to take extra time to make sure it is in good shape.

Another good alternative is to look at models from a year or two earlier. The technology is going to be very similar, if not the same as that of which you will find in the newer stuff, but it will be available at a much better price.

Try before you buy

Unless it is absolutely impossible to do so, I always recommend that people considering new equipment try it out before making their purchase. New gear is too expensive not to and golf is so much a game of feel anyway.

For the same reason that it is important to buy a club that looks good, it is also important to make sure you like the way it feels when you hit it flush. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to try a club before you buy it.

Most places that sell clubs will have a mat and net so that you can hit some shots. Many will even have a launch monitor that shows what your ball would have done if you were at the course. Take advantage of that. It’s a good time, and it will help you make the best possible buying decision.

How to pick golf clubs

Disclaimer

For all of the clubs that we are about to look at you are going to need to figure out your ideal specifications yourself. That will include loft, shaft length and flexibility, and in the case of wedges, bounce. You may also decide to get specialized grips.

When it comes to golf equipment there a lot of customization options and you can go as far as you want with them. Speaking with a pro, or salesperson can go a long way in helping you to determine your ideal specifications.

How to choose putters

Your putter is going to be the most important club in your bag, so it seems to me like a good place to start. The nice thing about the putter is that technology really does not change very much over the years so once you find one you like, you can more or less keep it in the bag for as long as you want. I have had mine for over a decade now.

We talked earlier about how feel and appearance are two of the most important things to look for in golf equipment. It’s true of all clubs, but none more so than the putter. Tiger Woods has used the same putter for most of his career, including for every single major that he ever one, and Jim Furyk once took home the Fed Ex Cup with a thirty-dollar putter he found at a used equipment store.

If a putter looks and feels good to you that’s all that matters.

Let’s go over a few things you should know before you buy a putter.

Head style

If you were to line up twenty different putters you would most likely find twenty different head styles. That said there are two basic configurations that you can count on encountering each time.

Mallet putters

You will know it when you see it. The mallet is generally heavier and bulkier. With heavy putters, you can generally count on taking shorter strokes. The mass of the clubhead will get the ball rolling longer and faster.

People also favor the mallet because many find that the larger head style makes it easier to line up putts. While the mallet isn’t necessarily the classic look for a putter, it has nevertheless enjoyed much success both with amateurs and professionals.

Blade putters

About one hundred years ago the putter was barely thicker than a butter knife. Things have changed a great deal since then. Blade putters aren’t as compact as they used to be, but they are certainly smaller than the mallet and they generally play lighter which means they will require a longer, more fluid stroke to achieve the speed and distance from a mallet putter.

Shaft

The shaft will enter the club in one of several ways. Which works best will depend entirely on your personal preference, as well as your stroke.

Heel shafted

The heel shafted putter is the more classic design but you don’t see it nearly as much anymore. Phil Mickelson is well known for playing heel shafted putters, and while he has enjoyed great success with them over the years they have for the most part declined in popularity.

That said they definitely are not inferior products, and in my personal opinion, they look great. If you open and close the face a lot in your putting stroke, this model may favor you.

Center shafted

As the name suggests, the shaft with this model is going to go in the center of the putter’s head. Anyone that likes the look of a center shafted putter will have no problem playing one, but it does favor a stroke that goes straight back and through.

Hosel offset

The third and final option is the hosel offset. For this model, the clubhead will feature a hosel with a notch that extends just in front of the face of the putter, in which the shaft will be located

Hosel offset putters are very popular, and you will see a wide variety of options with this feature both from blade putters and mallets. They favor a more moderate stroke, but really any player should have no trouble with them.

Face

One final thing to consider is the face of the putter. You’ll find that they either have an insert or a milled steel face. Putters with an insert are generally going to have a much softer feel, while milled putters are going to have a more solid, classic feel.

Which putter is right for me?

The nice thing about putters is that regardless of your handicap or skill level, you can pretty much play whichever one suits your eye. Which putter is right for you is entirely dependent on your preferences but hopefully the information above will help inform your decision.

Just choose carefully. The right putter can stay in your bag for a long time, and save you many strokes on the greens.

How to choose irons

Irons are probably the most finicky component of your bag because the skill level required to play some sets can vary pretty wildly. Earlier in this guide, we talked about the difference between players and game improvement clubs. While these are terms that can apply to almost any club they definitely pertain to irons more so than anything else.

Of course, each set that you encounter is going to be different (a good reason to try before you buy) but for the most part you are going to see two distinct models, which we will look at now.

Cavity back irons

Most irons are cavity backs. They are made for higher handicap golfers. They typically feature oversized faces and very large sweet spots to help you achieve distance even when you aren’t hitting the ball well.

Generally speaking cavity back clubs are going to fall into the “game improvement,” category that we talked about earlier, but do pay attention. Even amongst cavity back irons, some clubs are more forgiving than others. Speaking with the pro or salesperson present will help prevent you from purchasing a set beyond your skill level.

Muscle back irons

Muscle back irons are thin and compact and characterized by their dime sized sweet spots. While they are beautiful to look at, only the game’s best should consider them an option.

Which irons are right for me?

Well, I don’t want to make assumptions, but unless you are a scratch golfer you are almost definitely going to benefit more from the game improvement cavity back irons.

Even if you are good enough to hit the muscle back clubs flush on your best days, you should still strongly consider picking up something with a little more forgiveness. Some days you’re going to show up to the course with a swing that isn’t cooperating, and when that happens, you will appreciate the extra help.

Hybrids

Hybrids are a relatively recent addition to the game of golf. They are essentially a combination of a wood and an iron designed as a substitution for the hard to hit long irons. They are easy to hit from the fairway, tee, rough, and even fairway bunker, which is why many players refer to them as “rescue” clubs.

Unlike the last two types of clubs that we looked at there isn’t much variety in the world of hybrids. When considering buying one you will simply want to make sure that the hybrids loft coordinates with that of the club you are replacing, so the distance gap in your set remains consistent.

Are hybrids right for me?

I definitely think so. Anything that makes the game of golf easier is a plus in my book, and hybrids certainly rise to that task beautifully. When I picked mine up I was able to pull the three iron and five wood from my bag, which made room for a new wedge.

Hybrids are long, versatile, and straight which make them great options for players of all skill levels.

Fairway woods

Like hybrids, there is very little variation in the world of fairway woods. While fairway woods are an important club you will probably use them significantly less than any other stick in your bag.

If you consistently find yourself more than two hundred yards from the hole, yours might get a lot of action, but generally speaking what you are looking for in a fairway wood is something that you can hit straight from the tee, and confidently into par 5s.

Fairway woods aren’t nearly as finicky as irons, but they also aren’t as forgiving as hybrids. You should feel free to look at any fairway wood that catches your eye, but be sure to hit some shots with it in the shop to make sure it will be playable on your best and worst days

Which fairway woods are for me?

I would venture to say that most are going to work fine for most people. One thing you should consider is what sort of head shape you prefer. Fairway woods seem to be trending bulky right now but that is by no means your only option.

Personally, bulky clubs of any kind are a big turn off to me (although I will sometimes play around with a mallet putter). I favor a fairway wood with a nice compact head, but if the bulkier models inspire confidence for you, then, by all means, go for them. They tend to be more forgiving anyway.

How to choose a driver

The final club that we will be looking at is most people’s favorite in the bag. Everyone loves to let the big dog eat but before you can do that you are going to need to make sure that the one in your hands is right for you.

Fortunately, most clubs on the market these days are made with forgiveness and distance in mind. Some clubs have bigger sweet spots than others, but in general, most people won’t have any trouble playing any model of driver, provided the specifications are correct.

One thing that you will need to pay close attention to is loft, and shaft weight and flexibility. Usually, slower club head speeds will benefit from a lighter club with more loft and flexibility, while faster swing speeds will be better off with heavier, stiffer shafts, and slightly less loft.

While a lot of amateurs seem to think it’s cool to play a lower loft club (why, I’m really not sure) it is worth noting that Tiger Woods, the player who normalized the three hundred yard drives on tour, often plays one with 10.5 degrees loft.

Golf is all about playing the specifications that suit your swing so be sure to do that. There is nothing wrong with a high loft or a flexible shaft, but there is definitely something wrong with hitting drives that dribble off to the right and left.

Another thing to consider is head shape. Drivers come in all shapes and sizes now but you can expect to see rounded heads, pear shaped heads, and boxier clubs. Personally, I prefer smaller pear shaped models, but to each their own.

Which driver is right for me?

Like I said, it’s not so much about the head here as it is the specifications. Pick a driver that looks visually appealing to you, and then go from there. If you like how the club feels as well, you can then go about working with the pro or salesperson to determine what loft and shaft flex is best for you.

Conclusion

I know that it is a lot to take in all at once, but if there is one take away here, it is comfort. You want to get clubs that you will be comfortable with on your good days as well as your bad.

Never be embarrassed for needing cavity back irons, or ultra-forgiving woods. Just focus on getting quality stuff. Will good sticks make you the next Tiger Woods? No, definitely not, but playing with clubs that aren’t suitable for you can be discouraging enough to make one consider taking up a new hobby.

Golf is hard enough as it is, so be sure to choose the clubs that are best for your game!

Good luck on the course!