Congratulations! you have been bitten by the golf bug. Now all you need is some equipment to call your own. A quick browse around your local store and then an hour or two on the internet probably leaves you more confused than ever! Can buying golf clubs for beginners really be so complicated? Relax, here are a few tips that should help.
The first thing to remember is that golf is a sport for all sorts of budgets. There are hand-crafted, gold-plated (yes, really) irons sets from high end Japanese companies in particular that will cost more than your family car. If you can afford this, go for it. It won’t help you play any better, but sure will look good in the bag!
For the rest of us, it is a better idea to plan a little before investing.Choosing golf clubs is confusing if you just rush in. First things first. Which clubs do you need as a beginner?
You can have up to 14 clubs in your bag. This is a limit, not an obligation. It really makes no sense to do this from the start. Far better to use a half-set and get comfortable with it before upgrading. The chances are that you will will change at least part of your set up over time and many people change putters more often than they change their underwear (I kid,just)
So what makes the ideal half set? Well, there are a few possibilities. Here is one:
Driver (high lofted)
This would give a nice 9 club set that will cover pretty much all the possibilities. Of course, it isn’t the only option. Many golfers start out with alternating clubs. Something like:
7 clubs, no problems. When you are starting out (and the truth be told, even when you have been playing for a while) distances aren’t constant. You might hit your 8 iron further than your 6 iron sometimes. So having a club that covers every distance is not only pointless, it adds unnecessary confusion.
So you know you need a half set or a short set. The next question is to buy new or used. Both are fine, really. There are obvious advantages in buying used. Generally, prices will be lower. Ebay, for example, has a big selection of used stuff. Many golf shops will have clubs that have been traded in too.
The disadvantage is that often you won’t get something that really suits you. You can choose the grip or shaft that you want. If you aren’t average height and build, it probably won’t really fit. Given that it is easy enough to find cheap new equipment for the beginner that is adapted, why get something that isn’t right and will make the game harder? Of course, if you do find a bargain that suits, go for it!
So what next? How do you find the right specifications for you? you can always do a custom fitting. However (and some people will disagree) it just doesn’t make sense to try to fit clubs to a constantly changing beginner’s swing. I think custom-fitting is a useful tool, even for non-experts (perhaps especially for non-experts) but not for the guy or girl just starting out. Or even for an occasional golfer or someone in their first year or two.
This doesn’t mean that you should just get anything. Let’s start with finding something that will fit your physique. Golf clubs are made in various lengths and the ‘standard’ actually differs from one manufacturer to another. However, if you are taller or shorter than the norm, you could look at longer or shorter clubs. For example, I am 6 feet 6 inches tall (1m98 if you prefer metric)-certainly taller than average. I find that generally I like my irons one inch overlength. However, I also play regularly with a set that is just standard without any real issues.
How to tell if your clubs are too short or too long? There are basically two ways. See how you are hitting the ball. If you are tall and you top it or hit it thin, perhaps longer clubs might make sense. If you hit the ground behind the ball, the opposite is true. Unfortunately, many of us top or fat the ball because we are bad golfers, so this isn’t a reliable test!
The other method is using static measurements, especially your wrist to floor measurement when standing straight. There are lots of tables that should give you an approximate idea of your ideal length from this.Here is one:
Finally, just see how you feel standing over the ball. Do you feel hunched over? Too far away? Comfort is key really and there are many golfers of all levels who play with shafts longer or shorter than their measurements might suppose.
Perhaps a little more important is the flex of the shaft you choose. This is one of the endless debates on internet forums and the importance of flex is usually the start of an internet flaming war somewhere! I tend to believe that as a beginner, a roughly correct guess will be fine. Most beginner sets are made with light steel or graphite shafts, but it is easy enough to find senior, lady or stiff flexes as well. Think about your comfort. You might be fine with a heavy steel shaft for a swing or two, but your back will thank you when you choose a graphite or lightweight shaft over a round, a week or a year.
Regardless or what you choose in your irons, all woods and almost all hybrids are shafted with graphite. It makes it easier to get the ball up and out there.
Putting all this together can be a challenge. It is definitely possible to buy clubs individually and put your set together. However, in 2015 it is just easier to buy a complete half set. You can find something that has everything from clubs to bag and balls in one package. It is easy to knock these package sets and they certainly don’t have the same prestige as a bag full of shiny pings or mizunos. Nor do they have the same cost!
For someone starting out, in my opinion this cost just isn’t worth it. If you get a boxed set from a reputable source, you will have something that will last, will be fun to play with and which is suited to your physique and, just as importantly, to your wallet. If you are still not convinced, here is an example from my own playing experience.
A couple of years ago while on holiday (without my clubs) I had a free half day while wife and kids were shopping. I went to a nine hole course down the road from where I was staying and booked a quick nine holes. They lent me this half set. All standard length, graphite regular shafts. Given that in my bag at home I had a few pretty expensive sticks with overlength, stiff steel shafts, I wasn’t convinced. In fact, I almost thought I wouldn’t bother. Stupid me!
Long story short, I played nine holes in what was for me at the time, my best ever score! The shafts meant I didn’t have to swing hard (and consequently, I hit the ball much better) and the big, over sized heads really helped my ball striking. When I checked out the price of the set online later, I was embarrassed to see how much I had spent on some of my own clubs.
I believe that golf should be fun. A big part of that, at least for me, is equipment. whether you are 16 or 60, buying golf clubs for beginners should be a pleasure, should be easy and should make the game fun. You don’t need to get caught up in all the different options. Sure, a year or two down the line you might want to upgrade (or not). For now, a solid, game-improvement half set that fits will be perfect without breaking the bank.