The advancements in fitting technology have made the act of buying new golf clubs a science experiment. But we’re still talking about an athletic activity, so there will always be a blend of art and science.
If you’re in the market for an equipment upgrade, or will be soon, let these nine tips lead you in the right direction.
1. The Internet is your friend
— There is so much information available online. It’s important to educate yourself on what’s out there. Sites such as GolfWRX and the various equipment blogs at Golf Digest and Golf Magazine will get you started.
2. The Internet is NOT your friend
— With so much information, and so many quasi-reviews, you’ll soon discover that almost everything out there is the best. “Rankings” such as Golf Digest’s Hot List, come under fire for being too beholden to the largest equipment companies, which happen to also be the biggest advertisers. Take everything you read with a grain of salt and look for facts as opposed to opinions.
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3. Self-assess your game
— How often do you play? How much practice time do you have? Are you looking for something that will make the game easier? Do you struggle to get the ball in the air, or does your ball fly too high already? Once you determine these answers, the picture becomes clearer.
4. Zero in on a category
— There are three general buckets for golf clubs, although there are some blurred lined on the edges. Game Improvement (GI) clubs typically build to emphasize forgiveness on off-center hits, and help launch the ball high and far. Super Game Improvement (SGI) clubs go a bit further and employ more technology help to get the ball in the air and have maximum forgiveness. Players irons go the other way, and demand a player to hit the middle of the club face. They are designed to hit the ball lower, and are considered more “workable” by better players who want to curve their shots. Size matters in all categories, as well, with players clubs typically more compact than GI clubs, and SGI heads are typically the biggest.
5. Demo, demo, demo
— Big golf stores, such as PGA Tour Superstore, Golf Galaxy, and Golfsmith, have almost all the current models on display. You don’t need to hit every club, but once you hold a club, waggle it a bit and you’ll start to further narrow down what you like and what you don’t. Stick with a 7 iron, from set to set. You’ll decide if you like a thin top line, or if a really big head inspires confidence.
6. Get professionally fit
— Find a pro shop or golf store with the fitting carts of many companies. By this point, you should have an idea of what you’re looking for. Your fitter should ask you many of the questions discussed here and may actually help point you in another direction. Fittings range from hitting a few balls with a few irons with a few different shafts all the way up to hitting hundreds of balls with dozens of head and shaft combinations. I highly suggest combining an indoor fitting, where you will be measured on a launch monitor, with outdoor range time. It’s one thing to see a golf ball flying 15 feet into a net and then seeing it on a computer screen. But it’s all the more telling to see it flying out onto a driving range.
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7. Buy with confidence
— You should walk away from a fitting feeling good that you’ve really nailed down which clubs fit both your game and your budget. I personally dislike the programs where you buy a set of clubs and then they offer free fitting. Going to an agnostic shop might charge you for a fitting, but they’ll offer a wider range of options, choosing from many more clubs.
8. Buy fairly
— With the rise of the Internet marketplace, more and more golf stores are in a tough spot. They give a golfer their time and expertise, and have laid out thousands of dollars in technology and fitting equipment, only to see the final sale go to the lowest bidder online. If this cycle continues, there won’t be places to demo club and get fit. If you’re going to purchase elsewhere, be honest and offer to pay for your fitting, if they’re open to that. If they’ve got a set price for a fitting, you can often negotiate it off the purchase price, and when it’s time to buy items like apparel or golf balls, remember the service you were provided.
9. Hit, enjoy, and stay aware
— By the time your clubs arrive, you will have done all you can to make a well-informed purchase. But keep in mind the things that came up during your fitting. Over time, watch your ball flight. See how your irons are interacting with the turf (big divots?). You’ve always got the chance to tweak your clubs after the fact by seeking out a club builder. Even better would be if it’s the same person who did your fitting. While major work — like changing shafts — would get very expensive, it’s very possible that you can still tailor your clubs to what you need. Maybe it’s trimming a half inch, or bending the heads to adjust the lie angles or lofts. For adjustable drivers, you’ll have the chance to tinker easily, but a little extra time on a launch monitor might really help hone in on your perfect settings. And especially over time, after a series of lessons or as your game improves (or regresses), remember that you don’t always need a completely new set of clubs, you can modify what you’ve got. But of course, what’s the fun in that?
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