O.K., thanks to all of those who have contributed here - I sincerely appreciate and value the pointers and the feedback.
I'd like to say a couple of things right up front to help clarify my hopes or aspirations regarding my interest-level in the game and also in terms of purchasing clubs. Some of what I'll say might aggravate the more experienced players here, because it'll invariably seem to them like I'm proposing too large of an expenditure or purchasing a level of quality far beyond what's needed for a beginning player, but I too have my views on this topic, including some directly relevant and comparable experiences with other equipment purchases over my lifetime.
First off, I know with great certainty that I will in-fact continue to play the game of golf on a long-term basis. I'm simply at that particular point in life now (age 61) where I need the regular physical activity, yet some of the more physical sports like surfing, tennis and hockey are beginning to tax me, big-time! Plus, I have the wife's inherent and long-term love of the game of golf as an additional motivation. So, the issue about buying 'cheap' or 'used' clubs (vs. new), simply because I might soon quit the game of golf, is a non-issue - its not gonna happen.
Secondly, regarding the issue of 'beginners' gear vs. 'players' gear or the overall cost likely to be incurred . . . here again, I don't have any reservations. I would much prefer to purchase 'new' over used and stick with something of a higher (non-beginner) variety or quality, so that I'm forced to learn the game (including proper stance, swing, ball strike, etc.) over time, rather than floundering for months or years with sub-standard gear, and slowly or never improving my game. There are many parallels of this concept in my life from guitars to ice skates to tennis racquets to surfboards. In my experience, if you start-off with junk, your skill level will eventually top-off at 'junk'. Conversely, if you start-off with reasonably high-grade equipment, you may suck and suck big-time for a while, but eventually, in order to take full advantage of that higher-grade gear, you're forced to improve your skills to be in-line with the quality of that gear, whether its turn-arounds on skates, fingerpicking on a guitar or swinging a racquet. Throughout my life, this has been my experience.
And so, I am inclined to apply these principles to the purchase of golf clubs, by slowly assembling a mixed (or custom) set of 'new' (A-/B+ level) clubs of different makes and models, and then making any changes that are necessary from there, after using them for a few months. To that end, I'm going to continue hitting the local golf shops and seeing what I can learn including getting fitted, having my swing speed confirmed, and any other unique or personal traits/characteristics that I can determine. However, many if not most brands of 'new' clubs are in very short supply locally, and for this reason, many new or returning local players, even some veteran golfers, will readily make purchases on-line without hesitation. And then, if need be, they'll have changes to those clubs made at a local shop.
So, here's my central question . . . what is the general consensus among the membership here on this approach for a beginning player like me? Would it be wise for me to do that? In other words, I know that I have a reasonably powerful swing (which presumably calls for a 'stiff' shaft), and I know that I'm of average club length (i.e., 38.0"-38.5" measurement from wrist crease to floor). Plus, I don't necessarily consider a $1500-$2000 purchase price for a complete set of 12-14 decent clubs to be unreasonable. So, that said, would it be considered reckless or imprudent of me to simply buy a full set of well-recognized, brand name irons on-line (right-hand, steel shaft, stiff flex), and begin using them for a few months, making whatever changes are necessary (if any) in shaft type or lie at a later date? I say this because I'm leaning heavily towards doing just that. Specifically, I'm leaning towards the purchase of a moderately priced but good-quality, adjustable driver, a decent Hybrid or two (maybe 3H/4H), and a full set of decent irons (3-PW), plus an added wedge or two (AW/SW).
Your thoughts on this approach? And please, feel free to rage away - I don't offend too easily. Am I stupid-crazy to go this way?