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What To Know Before You Buy New Clubs

Nov. 18, 2009     By     Comments (13)

It's that time of year, when those of us equipment junkies start to get a little restless. So many new choices, so little time. Before you make that big purchase, maybe there are a few things you should think about.

Bag DropNew products are being announced left and right, and they're starting to make their way into stores. Surely, you're tempted by something, whether it's a new driver or a new set of irons. We've seen new clubs from Mizuno, Ping, Titleist, TaylorMade, Tour Edge, and others. Nike and Callaway have their new stuff waiting in the wings. Of course the latest and greatest is going to cost you a pretty penny. If you're going to drop even a single dollar on a new club, it's important to do your research and testing to find what's going to be best for you.

Know YOUR Game
Before considering the first new club, you need to be brutally honest with yourself. If you fight a slice, yet you're hesitant to buy anything with a lot of offset, there are some questions you should be realistically asking yourself. How much time are you seriously going to dedicate to eliminating your slice? How much time did you realistically have to practice this past year? If you can critically evaluate yourself, and you know for a fact you're going to dedicate yourself, then by all means, get those clubs with less offset. Look for a set that you can grow into a little bit.

However, if you came to the realization that you don't have all that much time in your schedule, you'll probably be much better off with a club that offers a little more forgiveness and an extra split second to square the club. Your ego may try and talk you out of it, or you may think that you'll hear a little flak from your buddies, but it will be a different story when your approach shot lands softly a couple yards off the pin, rather than on a sidehill lie off the side of the green.

Handicap aside, you also have to evaluate how well you strike the ball. The size of the sweet spot on the face of an iron can range from the size of a dime to the size of a quarter. Now manufacturers are doing all they can do to stretch that spot wider across the clubface, but regardless if you have hopes of getting better, or getting more enjoyment out of the game, don't go out and buy a club or clubs that you will struggle to hit consistently.

Everything Keeps Changing
We now have clubs with movable weights, adjustable faces, removable faces, and interchangeable shafts. While some may argue the validity of this new technology, those old stalwarts are fighting a losing battle. Technology has undoubtedly improved the way we play the game, and if you have yet to take advantage of it, now may be the time to take a look.

Again, your use of these technologies must first be preceded with a question to yourself. What is your reasoning behind wanting that adjustability? Is it to fix a slice/hook, or is it truly to help you shape your shots? Can you consistently have the same straight ballflight with your driver? The adjustability will not fix a major slice, though it can eliminate a fade or draw if desired. If you're expecting miracles, you'll be disappointed. Fix your swing first, then the club.

Don't Be Fooled
Know what you need, not what the dealer wants to sell you. If you don't go into your favorite retailer knowing what you want, don't buy something on an impulse. Verify what the salesman tells you by all means possible. I've had both good and bad experiences with retailers. Some are just trying to make a sale, while others take customer service seriously.

A friend recently went into a shop and bought a G15 driver. It's a great club, no doubt. The problem was that after they let him hit balls with it, no one paid attention to the numbers on the launch monitor, and they let him walk out the door with the regular flex stock TFC shaft. Though I wasn't there to see the numbers my friend put up, I can assure you stiff flex is a much better fit for him. Sure enough, in his first round with it, everything that used to be straight ended up left. I certainly don't blame my friend, as not everyone is an equipment freak like some of us. Instead, I think the retailer could have done a much better job and given him more attention and more options to hit.

Especially now, with retailers trying to move a lot of product before Christmas on top of trying to sell all of the new clubs that are being released, it is especially important to make sure you're getting the club that's going to help you bring your score down. If the guy at the store tells you 10 grams of weight in a shaft, or a half-inch longer or shorter shaft doesn't make a difference, my advice is to get out of that store as quickly as possible.

Keep An Open Mind
Though I'm not going to tell you to throw brand loyalty out the window, my advice is to keep an open mind. We all have our allegiances to certain clubmakers, but there are times when a competitor's product simply works better for you.

Also keep an open mind about the purchase of a previous model of a club. The funny thing about it is that there is a very good chance, a similar model from a previous year will suit you just fine. As an added bonus, you'll pay much less than what the new lineup costs. One of the only drawbacks is that your fitting may not be included in the cost of the irons, whereas it should be included on a set of current irons. This isn't always the case however, and is another good reason you should shop around.

A great example of this is the current prices of the '08 and '09 drivers. The Nike Sumo 5000 from 2008 can easily be found for only $129 right now. For $10 less, you can find the 2007 Cobra LD-M. No, they're not going to get the same ooohhhs and ahhhhs that they did when they first hit the market, but is it really that important to you? If it is, you might want to reconsider your priorities.

You'll read quite a bit of people posting their driver or their irons are the best, and that's what you should get. Or, maybe you get the same thing from your buddy that you play with every Sunday. While it's great to check out what people recommend, what works for them may not work for you. Because everyone's swing is different, various clubs may produce results you weren't expecting. For example, someone who has been playing for years may recommend a driver that has a face that is two degrees open. It works well for him, but in the hands of someone fighting a slice, it becomes a disaster. And I haven't even touched on loft, weight, or length yet. My point is that you should take all recommendations with a grain of salt, and make sure that what you get is what you need, not what your friend or someone on an internet forum tells you to get.

Get Fitted
Remember that shaft selection is just as important as the clubhead can be. I am thoroughly convinced everyone should go through a full fitting. Even if the stock length and lie are perfect for you, shaft weight and stiffness can play a large part in your experience and how you play with a certain combination. There is a sweet spot for everyone in terms of the weight of the club and how it affects your tempo and balance. If it's too light, and you run the risk of taking the club back too fast and losing control. If the club is too heavy, you run the risk of the club dragging you off-plane.

As I mentioned before, an half-inch longer or shorter is important, especially considering that the sweet spot on the face of an iron ranges form the size of a dime to the size of a quarter. Lie angle also plays a big role in whether you're straight, left, or right of your target. Sure, compensations can be made for both length and lie angle, but you then quickly begin to fall into bad habits because of that compensation.

Get fitted for what you're buying. Just do it. If you're spending a few hundred dollars on a new club(s), it only makes sense. Even if you fit perfectly into one manufacturers standard spec, that doesn't mean you fit perfectly for others.

Final Thoughts
Above all else, have fun. Trying and choosing new equipment should be fun. Making the right decision shouldn't stress you out. Don't be in too big of a rush to make a choice on a new club, as most of us only get that opportunity once every few years. With that said, what new equipment do you have your eyes on this year? Let us know in the comments!

Posted in: Bag Drop Comments (13)

Discussion

  1. Kevin says:

    After going through this a couple of times recently, I had an additional suggestion.

    Make more than one trip to the store. I often spend the first trip trying lots of different clubs trying to narrow my selection. By the end, I'm usually pretty worn out and not hitting as well as I did earlier. At this point, I like to leave and come back another day. One, it give me a chance to think about my selection and do some further research. Two, it allows me to come back fresh. I want to be fitter when I'm at the top of my game, not when I'm exhausted.

  2. Frank says:

    I think the maturity of your swing matters too. What I mean by that is, how ingrained and set is your swing? I was fitted for irons with a 2* adjustment to the lie, that was with my three knuckle strong grip that had my arms in line with the club lie angle. Now I have had lessons and am using a neutral grip with a hanging arm position; I seriously doubt my 2* is correct now. And on the fun side of the new club season, lots of 6 iron demos are in the used club barrels right now and are fun to collect.

  3. Francisco says:

    Im currently thinking about getting a new set of irons, on December, and have been finding myself with some doubts. I used to play when I was kid, up to about 15 yeras of age and stopped, and picked up again about a year and a half ago (Im 29 at the time). I started out pretty rusty,playing along a 110, and have been dropping down to about a 95 or 94.Ii started with my dad's ping rapture irons, but changed them quickly because they were to light for me, and forced me into hitting hooks. Know im playing an old tommy armour hot scot set with sort of regular play.
    What I would like to know is, if it would be throwing away my money if I got a mid handicapper irons, like the cleveland red irons, which I can get for a really good prize.
    What could be a good game improvement/ great feel clubs to try out on a fitting.
    Any recomendations would be great, as well as some locations to get a nice fitting in miami or orlando.

    Thanks

  4. Golden says:

    I always wanted to get fitted.. my problem is (and for as long as I'm playing golf...5years) in the spring a slice, in te summer I usually hit straigth and just after that I'm fighting a hook.. does getting fit really is an option for me...

    great article.

  5. Matt M says:

    Great article, I hope the readers who are in the market for new clubs read this and take it to heart. I don't understand players that have a slice that refuse to put offset clubs in their bag. It is interesting that golf is played by more successful people than any other sport, yet these highly intellectual people play and purchase golf clubs with only their egos in charge. I'm sure this isn't how they go about their professional lives. Great article

  6. thegolfstudent says:

    I love the article, I could not agree more about getting fitted for your clubs. Think it is also important to get another person's opinion as to where you game is at and how you can work to improve yourself with the next set. Could be something as simple as consistency or advanced clubs to help you progress.

  7. Im currently thinking about getting a new set of irons, on December, and have been finding myself with some doubts. I used to play when I was kid, up to about 15 yeras of age and stopped, and picked up again about a year and a half ago (Im 29 at the time). I started out pretty rusty,playing along a 110, and have been dropping down to about a 95 or 94.Ii started with my dad's ping rapture irons, but changed them quickly because they were to light for me, and forced me into hitting hooks. Know im playing an old tommy armour hot scot set with sort of regular play.
    What I would like to know is, if it would be throwing away my money if I got a mid handicapper irons, like the cleveland red irons, which I can get for a really good prize.
    What could be a good game improvement/ great feel clubs to try out on a fitting.
    Any recomendations would be great, as well as some locations to get a nice fitting in miami or orlando.

    Thanks

    Without a doubt, there is a comfort zone in terms of the weight of the club, though it's something a lot of people overlook.

    As far as the Cleveland Red irons, I dont have experience, but Erik wrote up a great review that can be found here - http://thesandtrap.com/clubs/cleveland_cg_red_irons_review. Other GI irons I'd suggest would be the Titleist AP1, the Nike Victory Red full cavity, and the Mizuno MX-200/300. I've heard quite a few people who like the TaylorMade Burners and R7s as well.

    The only person that can say whether or not you'd be throwing money away is you :-). If you end up buying something new and then quit playing, the answer is yes. However if you demo a number of models and go through a proper fitting, I have no doubts that you'll get your money's worth and more out of a new set.

    I'm not familiar with any individual stores in Orlando, BUT that entire area is kinda the golf capital of the US, and I know there are a number of reputable dealers down there. I'd say just ask around at the places where you normally play, and if you can, check out each different response you get.

    Good luck with your purchase!

  8. After going through this a couple of times recently, I had an additional suggestion.

    Make more than one trip to the store. I often spend the first trip trying lots of different clubs trying to narrow my selection. By the end, I'm usually pretty worn out and not hitting as well as I did earlier. At this point, I like to leave and come back another day. One, it give me a chance to think about my selection and do some further research. Two, it allows me to come back fresh. I want to be fitter when I'm at the top of my game, not when I'm exhausted.

    I totally agree, very good point!

  9. scott says:

    Do you have any recommendations on finding a good club fitter?
    Even if I don't buy new irons this winter, I'd like to get my current clubs checked.

  10. Francisco says:

    THANKS FOR THE COMMENTING GUYS, IT WAS VERY HELPFUL. GOOD LUCK TO YOU TOO.

  11. John says:

    Francisco, right now you are where I was this spring.

    That's when I got Callaway X20 irons and some Hyper X Tour woods. Callaway had newer models already out, but I had tracked these clubs for months and tested them in shootouts against other lines. They were big improvements over the Eye-2 clones from 1994 and some circa 2001 metal woods I was using.

    If it's been a few years since you refitted, it's easier to see what improvements have been made - and those that actually matter.

    Francisco, not all new 2010 versions of established club models are that much of an improvement over, say, the 2008 version. You can get good clearance deals if you find the previous version of a club that fits your swing and body build.

    I must say, there are a lot of really good iron models out there the last couple of years. That said, I will probably keep my current set until my swing stabilizes enough different clubs would make a (positive) difference.

    Welcome back to golf, and good luck!

  12. bobby_14hc says:

    My comments for buying new clubs:

    Been playing this game for 47 years. Amazingly right now
    I am playing my best golf ever! Is this a great game or what!!

    A lot of that has to do with equipment. For buying any club,
    my most important consideration is how consistently I can hit
    it near the sweet spot. As Justin points out that spot is not much bigger than a dime. To find out I must hit the exact club I am going to buy. I prefer taping up the actual new club rather than one from the demo rack. Then I observe the ball marks.

    To give one example, the fitter told me based on my swing speed I needed M-speed Cobra driver. But I was hitting the sweet spot of the F-speed driver much more consistently. So I bought the F-speed and am very happy with it. By hitting near the sweet spot I have fewer balls ending off the fairway. I rarely have a bad drive! On tight fairways I prefer my Callaway X-Hot 3 wood.

    Same applies to all clubs except for irons I have learned to pay attention to another factor, the Lie Angle. I have longer arms compared to my height so I need a flatter lie. With standard lie my ball tends to draw more than I want. So on to the emery board and taped iron to measure my need. I do this for every iron in the set, not just one club. Many times I had to have the irons bent to different Lie angles for different irons.

    Another thing most buyers neglect is to check how your new clubs feel for chipping. Let's face it, unless your handicap is 5 or below, you are going to miss many greens in regulation. If you can't chip within 6-8 feet most often you will remain a high handicapper. A good chip will lower your score better than anything else except putting. So hit as many short chips as you can in the test hitting area and make sure you are feeling it.

    I just bought a new putter today. I tried every putter at Golf Smith. They had everything from $299 Scotty Cameron's to some putters under $50. My selection was based on only one criterion. How consistently was it at 20 & 30 feet for distance.
    Most mid & high handicappers are hung up on line for putts over 10 feet. Instead focus on how good you can control the distance with the putter. If you 3 putt only 2 greens, and can hit the green in 1 over regulation on all holes, you score will break 90 every round. My drives go barely 200 yards yet my worst score is under 86.

    Good luck with your new clubs!

  13. Dylan Barrons says:

    With that said, what new equipment do you have your eyes on this year?

    First off, really good advice, I am becoming a professional golfer this year, and although I've never actually done a fitting myself (only had men clubs last year, from Ebay, before then I played ladies that my grandma gave me free), I believe everyone should get fitted to help their game. You can't really like something you don't enjoy, and you won't enjoy it if you can't play to your full potential.

    Anyways, to answer your question, I'm getting some '06 or '07 Taylormade TP MB rac blades, also just picked up some Z TP wedges for the last time, the price tag on the new ones didn't justify me buying them yet. Also thinking about switching to the new Penta ball.

    Hope everyone finds what they need this year!

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