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How To Buy A Golf Set

how to buy a golf set
how to buy a golf set

I’m not here to sell golf clubs. Nor am I here to sell anything for that matter. My purpose in writing this story is to provide helpful information to golf equipment consumers during buying season.

(And I know for a fact it’s buying season right now, because I’ve personally been in the process of getting my own bag setup for 2023, too. It’s that time of year.)

The equipment buying process is complex, and it can get expensive on you quick, but there’s a step-by-step way you can follow that will, in my opinion, help get you the highest performance value from your purchases this year.

Personally, I support both new and used equipment sellers, as well as big box retailers, boutique fitters, and everyone in between. They all serve a purpose, and there’s heavy demand for the products in each corner of the industry.

Most golf equipment consumers fall somewhere in the middle range of a spending budget – they’re not stealing yellow range balls to use during a round of golf, but they’re not forking over $5,000 for a new set every year, either.

For most golfers, shortly after the Masters is over and their own playing season is underway, the realization hits that it might be time for some upgrades to their set. And look, I know you’re going to spend some money on golf equipment. I know it, you know it, your bank account knows it, your spouse knows it. It’s inevitable. And I’m not blaming you, either. It’s the price of the game, and it can be fun, too.

The initial sticker shock of a new set can be intimidating and overwhelming, but I’m here to help.

I hope so, at least.

My name is Andrew Tursky, and I write about golf equipment on the PGA Tour. Yes, that’s really a job. Please don’t steal it. For this job, I go out to PGA Tour events every week to see what golf equipment the players are using and testing. My goal is to figure out what changes the pros are making, and why.

“Ok, cool,” you may say. “Big deal. What does a PGA Tour player’s equipment have to do with me? I suck at golf! Plus, I can’t afford those custom whatever-you-call-its the pros use.”

Fair point. But here’s the thing. You’re right. Very few people can actually afford to get a completely custom-made iron set. Or a one-off driver prototype. That service is typically reserved for the biggest PGA Tour names. It’d be insanely expensive for a regular person. Like $150,000-type expensive, and even then you probably gotta know somebody and it’ll take months or years.

That’s not what we’re going to talk about here, and that’s not even what you really need to play better golf, either.

Yes, PGA Tour players get their equipment mostly for free, but even they don’t always use brand new equipment, or the most expensive stuff. Sometimes, they keep using old equipment even when new models come out, or they just keep making adjustments to the equipment they already have.

Pros spend enormous amounts of time, every single week, testing out their clubs, making adjustments, and trying new shafts. They work with fitters, every single week, to dial in the loft and lie settings on their driver, tweak their fairway wood setup, test out new fairway woods, try different wedge bounces and grinds to match their swing and course conditions, try new putting grips, test out different shafts. They might even test golf balls, or mess around with different driver weights.

You don’t have to do this stuff every week like those guys. That’d be a full time job. But, it is smart to take inventory of your equipment at least once a season, and test everything out before you make any purchases.

The point is, you can do most of the same exact stuff the pros do – minus the $150,000 custom irons – and it might cost you just $100. Ultimately, after reading this story and following the five steps, you may in fact still want to buy all new equipment. And that’s perfectly fine if it’s within your budget. Buying new stuff is fun, obviously, but you do want that money going to products that will truly help.

If Hideki Matsuyama or Adam Scott had to pay out of pocket for all of the shafts and clubs they test, they would probably use these tactics that I’m going to lay out for you below.

Setting your golf bag up like a Tour pro doesn’t have to require spending an impossible amount of money. There are ways to save money and still get the maximum value from your purchases.

Here’s my 5-part, step-by-step guide for golf equipment buyers to improve their games and save money at the same time.

Happy golf season!

Step 1: Let’s make a deal

Step one is really easy. You don’t have to do anything, you just have to think of a number.

Go through your golf bag (this can just be a mental exercise), and think about what clubs you realistically want to replace. Then come up with a dollar amount of about how much you would spend buying that equipment.

New driver? New iron set? New hybrid? New wedges? Maybe a new putter? Total it all up. Estimations are fine.

All in, how much are you realistically plotting on spending to upgrade your 14-club setup this year?

That’s the number. Write that number down.

So here’s the bet:

I bet, that if you follow steps 2-5, you’ll end up with a better golf equipment setup – one that will actually help you play better golf – and we’ll do it for less than that number you wrote down.

Don’t do anything else now, don’t even move. Just keep reading onto step 2.

Step 2: Open a new Internet tab and Google “golf equipment fitter near me,” or “professional golf instructor near me,” and book an hour session for an equipment fitting consultation

I already know what you’re going to say: “I’m not good enough to get a fitting! It’s a waste of money for me!”

Don’t say it just yet. Hear me out real quick.

An equipment fitting actually helps MORE for bad golfers. I don’t mean to be harsh when I say “bad golfers,” but let’s seriously talk for a second. Jon Rahm could pick up a junior club that’s 10 inches shorter than his driver, with a shaft that’s way too flexible for his top speed, and he’d probably stripe a golf ball 300 yards, down the middle, with a nice low cut, after trying the club out just a few times to readjust his swing. He doesn’t need an equipment fitting and a brand new custom driver with a high-end shaft to drive the ball well. He just equips himself that way to get the absolute maximum performance out of his swing. To do that, he matches his driver loft, and lie angle, and head design, and head weight, and shaft flex, and shaft weight, and shaft length, and grip, and grip size, all perfectly to his swing.

I know, it’s a lot. But it doesn’t have to COST a lot to get that type of treatment, and you can still match your clubs to your swing just like he does.

Bad golfers, as opposed to PGA Tour players, do not have the skill to adjust their swings to any old equipment they use. They have a hard enough time making consistent contact with the golf ball. And, since bad golfers aren’t nearly as in-tune with their equipment as pros, or in-tune with how all the different variables affect ball flight, it’s more difficult for a bad golfer to identify what equipment is right for them, and what equipment is wrong for them.

Rahm knows to swing smoother when the shaft is too flexible, so the head has more time to catch up and release during the downswing. He knows he has to present the club with more loft at impact if his driver loft is too low for his swing. The bad golfer, however, is in more of a “see ball, hit ball” mentality, so they’re more stuck into their natural swinging motion and they’re less reactionary to the equipment itself.

That’s why the eyes and recommendations of a professional fitter are so important to a bad golfer.

Buying a club blindly online, or off the rack, gives you no hope at finding the perfect fit. You at least need to know your specifications: What driver loft and length is right for you? What shaft weight and flex? What style of iron head? What iron shafts? What wedge bounce? What putter style?

It’s not that bad golfers don’t need a fitting, because they do. More often than not, the anti-fitting mentality comes from the fact that bad golfers are less likely to be able to perceive the differences between minor equipment changes, so they think “it doesn’t matter.” It’s not that the differences aren’t there or it doesn’t matter, it’s that they can’t immediately perceive a difference, let alone adapt to it.

Jon Rahm can tell if a new wedge is one single gram heavier than his old one. Meanwhile, most golfers can’t tell the difference between their 7-iron and 6-iron at address without looking at the number. No offense, I’m just saying PGA Tour players notice things that normal people can’t. But just because the bad golfer can’t tell the difference between lofts, lie angles, shaft flexes or head design, it does not mean there isn’t an impactful difference. A bad golfer can be using a club that’s completely wrong for them and not know that it’s wrong. Their driver could be setup for a high slice, and they wonder why they can’t hit a draw.

The solution, however, does not have to cost much money.

Whether old or brand new, a bad golfer’s equipment must be properly setup for a bad golfer’s swing. Every golfer should have a properly fit equipment setup to maximize their game, but a bad golfer can make drastic improvements very quickly with easy adjustments or smart purchases. A low banana slice can turn into a high draw with a simple shaft and lie angle/loft change.

In all likelihood, if you’ve never gotten an equipment fitting, then the clubs you’re currently using aren’t right for your swing. They’re probably not even close. I don’t mean to disrespect your relationship with your golf clubs, but they’re likely wrong for you.

So, to alleviate the problem most cost effectively, I suggest you book an hour session at any local golf facility that has a launch monitor system. It can be a local golf course, a driving range, a retail store that has a hitting net, or a dedicated golf fitting facility. Really, any place that you can hit golf balls in front of a professional fitter or instructor will work.

Now, what you’ll want to do during this session is to have the professional watch you hit every club that’s currently in your golf bag. That’s it. Just ask them, “I want to dial in my equipment set, but I don’t exactly know where to start. Can we go through my current golf bag and figure out what I may need? Or what I need to adjust?”

You can even tell them in advance, “I’m not sure if I’m going to buy any equipment yet. I need a full bag consultation first.”

Some places may offer you this service for free. Other places may charge you for a half-hour or an hour fitting session, but it won’t cost more than $100 (and $100 would be on the high end).

It also won’t take more than 3 shots with each club – that’s 39 swings total – for a club fitter or professional to identify the major equipment issues throughout your bag. You should definitely have them check out the putter, too, even if there’s no access to a green.

The reason I suggest hitting golf balls, with all of your clubs, in front of a professional fitter or instructor, is simply because there are a lot of moving parts. You may even KNOW your clubs aren’t right for you, but you may not know exactly why, or how to fix the problem.

Chances are, you’ll probably need to buy some new equipment. If your driver is 20 years old, for example, or the old blade irons from your dad are falling apart, or your wedges no longer have grooves, it’s likely some of that equipment needs to be upgraded.

The chances are also good, however, that some of your equipment is completely fine. It just needs to be fixed up for YOUR swing. Trust me, this will all be significantly cheaper in the end than buying all new everything.

Here are some questions to ask during the fitting consultation that can help:

Question: “Are my lofts and lie angles correct for my swing? Can you check them out?”

PGA Tour players get their lies and lofts checked routinely. They do this to ensure consistency, because even small loft/lie angle adjustments can have a DRASTIC impact on where the ball goes and how it gets there. You can essentially change ball flight from a low slice to a high hook just by bending the club head. Clubs will often get bent by accident overtime through natural wear and tear, so they need to be readjusted – it’s kind of like tuning a guitar.

Now, it’s easily possible that ALL of your irons are multiple degrees off from what’s best for you.

No wonder you’re slicing or hooking it so bad. You’re essentially trying to learn how to play the guitar using strings that are completely out of tune. You have 14 clubs in your bag, and they all need to be tuned.

A professional will be able to quickly identify if an adjustment can be made to improve your current clubs. Just remember to ask the question.

Cost-wise, getting irons or wedges bent to your proper specification will run you about $5 per club, and that’s if you get charged at all. Worst case scenario, it’s a very small cost in the grand scheme of golf equipment, and it can have a VERY positive impact on your scores. You don’t need to buy new equipment for this!

Most modern drivers and fairway woods are even easier because they already have adjustable hosels that do the hard part for you. For any fitter, it’s a no-brainer turn of a wrench, and you could dial in your driver to have more of a high draw, for example. You can change how the golf ball is going to fly just by adjusting the hosel setting properly.

The point is, it’s likely that your driver or 3 wood can be easily adjusted to help improve your typical ball flight and gain both distance and accuracy. You may just need a professional opinion.

Question: “Are my clubs the proper length for me?”

How often do you hear that a PGA Tour player adjusted their driver shaft length, and it changed distance or accuracy? Nearly every week I see players changing up the length of their driver, or fairway wood, or putter. Maybe a shorter driver length would change everything for you.

You could even keep the driver head and shaft you already have, get the shaft trimmed down, put a new grip on it (more on that later), get the driver head properly weighted (the fitter will help you get the proper weight), and be out of there for about $30. If you have to buy a new shaft completely, they can get expensive, but I’m getting to that now…

Question: “Do I have the right type of shafts in my clubs? Do they have the right flex, weight and length?”

Buying new shafts can be quite a rabbit hole to go down if you have no idea what you’re doing. Even some of the top PGA Tour players have no idea when it comes to shafts. That’s why it’s so important to get with a professional fitter or instructor. They can help you identify what shaft flex, weight and length would help you improve, and they’ll likely have some options for you to test out. Then, you can simply buy the proper shaft separately, or adjust the shaft you already have, and save a ton of money while still improving your setup. You don’t have to necessarily buy a new $600 driver. You can get a shaft that fits properly, with the proper grip size, for as cheap as $50-75.

Question: “Do I have the right grip sizes for me?”

I won’t rant too much on this topic, but I do want to encourage all golfers to reassess the grips they use, and get the proper size that will help them. For the most part, most amateur golfers use grips that are way too thin. Nearly all PGA Tour players have wraps (or layers of tape) underneath their grips to build them up. Other PGA Tour players use midsize or even oversize grips. A thicker grip can help alleviate tension, and can even help accuracy/consistency due to better stabilization. I’m not kidding, grip size matters so much in golf.

Question: “Do I have the right wedge grinds and lofts for me?

Without seeing your equipment, I can tell you now that your wedge grinds probably aren’t right for you. The chances of that are slim. Without a professional opinion from a fitter, or a deep understanding of how wedge bounce works, it’s unlikely your wedge grind is matched up perfectly for your chipping motion. This makes consistent chipping so much more difficult, and having the wrong grind for your swing or typical playing conditions can absolutely lead to skulls, chunks, poor distance control, and all around poor chipping.

You don’t have to suffer any longer!

Just simply ask the fitter for help identifying the right bounce and grind for you. Typically, a steeper swing will be best served by a high bounce wedge, whereas a shallow swinger matches best with a lower bounce. There are so many different types of soles available these days, though, that you truly need to try several out before making a decision. If the fitter doesn’t have any to try out, at least ask for their opinion on whether you need more bounce or less bounce, and they’d surely be glad to help.

And, the last question to ask your fitter…

Question: “Do I have the right style of golf clubs for me? Or do I need clubs with more forgiveness?”

Honesty time. If you struggle to break 80 consistently, it’s unlikely that blade-style irons are right for you. Jon Rahm himself probably hasn’t missed the center of the face in years, and he uses cavity-back style clubs.

For every blade-using Justin Thomas or Adam Scott out on Tour, there’s a cavity-back using Xander Schauffele or Matt Fitzpatrick.

And here’s the thing. You don’t need to buy the newest irons, or newest driver. Sets from a couple years ago can work just fine. The trick is to get the right TYPE of iron, or driver, or fairway wood, that’s right for you. A fitter will be able to help point you in the right direction, and they’ll show you some options to try out, too. Ask about whether “game improvement” or “draw biased” clubs may be right for you – this question alone will help lead you to getting a better set.

For now, that’s a good start for questions to ask the fitter.

Step 3: Go deal shopping

Hopefully, by now, you’ve made some initial adjustments to your current set with the help of your fitter. You’ve regripped what you’ve needed to, and the fitter/club builder has bent your irons and dialed in your driver and fairway wood settings.

And, by now, you hopefully have a list of essential products to buy. Maybe you need a new high-lofted fairway wood, your irons need to be replaced completely, and you need a different lob wedge that has way more bounce. You could probably use a different driver shaft, too, but the driver head itself has another couple years in it.

Hopefully the list of new items to purchase has fewer items on it than what you originally thought.

Either way, now you have the fitting assessment from the fitter or instructor, and some buying recommendations. Ask the fitter to be as specific as possible with things like shaft flex, weight, loft, etc., and write everything down. This is your grocery shopping list!

A quick warning: Obviously, the fitter or local store will push you to buy as much new equipment from their store as possible. They’re being good salespeople, but if you ask the questions I listed above, they will also offer you great advice.

They’d surely be more than happy to get paid commission on some new grips and maybe a shaft or two anyway after a brief fitting assessment. You don’t need to feel pressured into buying a whole brand new set, this is purely a fitting assessment.

Just listen to what they say carefully, and write things down.

They may tell you something like, “The shaft you have in your driver is too long and heavy, and the head needs a bit more loft on it.”

Ask follow-up questions like, “What length, flex and weight would be better? How can I add loft to my driver? What loft would be best?”

Then, you’ll likely be presented with some options from there. You can buy a whole new driver, yes, but you can also just buy a new shaft that fits the specifications of what they recommend. Once you buy the shaft separately, they will build the club up for you (likely for a small building fee).

During the initial fitting session, please make sure you ask the fitter to write down the specific recommendations. For example, they may recommend new irons that are game improvement style, bent 2 degrees upright, with an S-flex, 115-gram graphite shaft that’s 0.5 inches below standard, and a midsize grip. Those recommendations now become YOUR clubs specs, and your buying guide, too. With that information, you can Google those parameters and try to find the clubs that are right for you, and for the price you’re comfortable paying.

Any local retailer, or pro shop, or fitter, will put new shafts onto your current clubs for a small fee. Say you spend $75 on a new driver shaft that the fitter recommended, and you bought it through a third party website. Add in the initial $100 fitting session fee, and the $10 building fee, and you just essentially got a new driver that fits your swing perfectly for $185 total. We just saved $415, and your new driver probably fits your swing better than the random new driver off the rack would have.

You also have the “used” club option. Let’s say your fitter recommends you upgrade your driver, but they suggest you need something higher-lofted, more forgiving, and with a shorter, lighter, and more flexible shaft. Now you at least know your buying parameters, so when you’re searching online, or you go to a used equipment retailer, you know exactly what you’re looking for. You can tell them exactly what your fitter said, and they’ll give you options.

Pro tip: Clubs made back in 2018, or sometimes even earlier, can still hold up against modern technology, and you can save a ton of money. If you go with used clubs, however, it’s especially important that the shafts, lengths, and grips are right for you. Things like loft and lie angle also need to be tweaked to your swing. Even if you buy the used club somewhere else, a fitter or builder will help you get your purchase adjusted properly. You may have to pay another small fee, or even buy a new shaft altogether after getting the shipment in, but we’re already working with so much savings that it’s worth it.

Step 4: Try different grips!

I’m adding this step in as its own additional section, even though it’s optional. I think it’s that important.

Every single golfer should try different grip sizes to see what’s comfortable for them.

This may require an additional half hour on top of your initial fitting session, or it’s something you do separately, but at some point during this process, please ask your fitter if you can try out a few different grip sizes.

I can’t even think of a PGA Tour player who doesn’t use any wraps underneath their grips, or have some type of midsize/oversize setup.

Tony Finau uses 16 wraps on all of his clubs! John Daly does about the same. So does Bubba Watson, and Bryson DeChambeau uses oversized grips. Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth use two wraps. Most amateurs, however, struggle away with their ultra-thin grips and they have zero control over the club. A bigger grip can change everything, and it can even relieve pain, yet grip size still remains one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated aspects of club fitting.

Remember, the grip is your body’s only connection to the club. It absolutely cannot hurt to try out a few different grip sizes during the buying process. The most this will cost you is around $140 if you have to replace every single grip.

I’m hoping we beat the original number you wrote down, anyway, so we have some walking around money to get super dialed in.

Step 5: Test everything out, and then go in for one last fitting consultation

This entire buying process will likely take about two weeks, realistically speaking. The initial fitting will only take an hour or so, but by the time you’ve ordered some new products, adjusted what you’ve needed to, gone back and forth on a few decisions, and everything is shipped, built, and ready for the course, I’d say to prepare for a two-week process. Then you’ll have your own Tour-ready setup.

This final step I suppose is optional, but I hope you at least consider doing a final check up with the club builder or fitter to make sure what you ordered is what you got.

To complete step 5, simply take your new 14 club set and go the driving range by yourself. Hit every single club. You can even play a full round or two.

Then, setup one last fitting consultation with the fitter you went to originally. The fitter, or professional, will likely remember what he recommended to you, and why. You’ll simply want that person to take a last look at each of the clubs. During this process, communicate with the fitter what you saw from your driving range session, or first round.

Is the driver still going too low? Is it still slicing? Do the irons feel too light? Are you still chunking the lob wedge?

There are some small tweaks that fitters can make to your clubs to adjust performance and ensure your set is perfect. Lead tape, for example, can be applied for small changes to weight and ball flight. This won’t cost you much at all; the fitter will either apply lead tape for free, or you can purchase an entire roll of lead tape for about $10. Or they’ll bend a few clubs, make a hosel adjustment or two, and then you’re done.

If you buy a new driver or fairway wood, it’s particularly important that the hosel setting is set to the right position for you. It seriously matters, so don’t forget to ask.

And if you bought new wedges, it’s very important they are the right bounce, loft, lie angle, and they have the right shaft.

You can obviously look at these things yourself, but a professional eye would help immensely, and ensure you get what you need to improve. It wouldn’t take much time or money. We already saved so much money, there’s no need to cut corners now.

Then, once you get your set back and everything is good to go, you don’t have to think about it anymore. At least, not until next year.

Now, you just have to play golf. Your set will be perfectly setup for your swing, no matter what it looks like or how old the clubs are, and you probably saved a bunch of money.

Yes, it all took a bit of effort to shop around and have conversations with a club fitter, but I promise you’ll be better for it, both financially and on the scorecard. You probably have already spent a week reading reviews on the clubs you want to buy anyway during this buying season. With my 5-step solution, you’ll make real improvements and get what you actually need, and it might even save time overall.

When the process is completely over, look back at the number you wrote down in step 1. I bet we beat it, and I bet you’re happy with your club setup, too. All you have to do is be willing to pay for a fitting session or two, and pay a few club building fees. I realize you’ll probably also buy some new equipment as a result of the process, and you should enjoy it, because now you’ll know those purchases are actually going to help.

Play what works for you, not necessarily what’s newest or most expensive.

This is how the pros do it, and it’s how you can do it, too.