The golf equipment section of the forum gets lots of posts from beginners on whether they should buy cavity-backed clubs or blades for their starter sets. Or, what kind of driver works best for newbies?
In the responses, hard-core golfers compare the benefits of Titleist AP2 vs. Mizuno MP-57 irons to people who don't know the difference between a 5-iron and a pitching wedge. This often ends up with suggested club mixes that could easily cost $1,500 if bought new.
"My gosh," says the beginner. "What should I get? Will I ever make it to the golf course?"
What's in the Box?
Occasionally veteran golfers suggest that beginners get boxed sets - irons, woods, a putter and a bag - as a way to get started in the game. I followed up this idea with the golfing community in the greater St. Louis area. They suggest lots of good reasons for beginners to buy the box and start swinging.
Andy Robinson, a four handicapper and sales rep at The Golf Centre in Fairview Heights, IL, sells lots of boxed sets. Lower-end ones go for $200 to $300. "It'll get you started, and then you'll have to upgrade later if you really like the game," says Andy.
His lower-end models at the Fairview Heights, Ill., shop include the Wilson Anti-Slice (men) and Hope (women). The TopFlite XL5000 is popular with men. In the $500 range, the Adams Tight Lies for men and the Tour Edge Moda for women sell well.
Steve Anderson, sales manager across the highway at Golf Galaxy, says the boxed sets are ideal for the weekend golfer and the beginner. "You can get everything you need for $200 on up," says the 12 handicapper.
Two of his biggest boxed sellers for men are the Slazenger Wrath and the Maxfli Black Max sets. Steve finds that for women - who buy about 70 percent of the boxed sets he sells - the Adams Idea S30S and Square 2 Bliss and Callaway Solaire are popular models.
Moving into the Golf Zone
An Adams Pro Launch Platinum boxed set provided the pathway into regular golf for Jim Brasfield, a management professor at Webster University. Jim had been a "less than occasional" golfer for many years, playing a few times a decade with borrowed clubs.
A longtime tennis player, Jim switched to golf last year following a leg injury. Jim discovered boxed sets while taking golf lessons.
"I was taking lessons from the pro at Golf Galaxy, and asked him to help me select clubs. He had me get the feel of several different sets of clubs in our practice sessions at their virtual range. This was a good set but not excessively expensive. And since I am 6-foot-1 he fitted them for me, and we added another inch or so to the shaft," said Jim.
The clubs are working fine, with the exception of the hybrids.
"In retrospect I wish I had gotten something different than the hybrid irons (4, 5, 6). The shape of the club head and the angle of the shaft results in my frequently not hitting the ball square and as a result either topping the ball or hitting a bad slice. My 7, 8, 9 are more traditional irons and I have had less trouble with them," he said.
Skill Level Issues
PGA-certified teaching pro Sabrina Tate sees lots of beginners using boxed sets at the famous Tower Tee golf range in the St. Louis suburb of Marlborough. She finds that about nine out of 10 beginners use boxed sets. And, men are just as likely as women to use them; they're popular with children too.
"It's mainly because of the price," notes Sabrina. Also, basic clubs work well with a beginner's rapidly changing swing. "They aren't ready to be fitted because they don't really have a swing to fit."
Besides her teaching at Tower Tee, Sabrina has several years experience coaching the Cor Jesu High School women's golf team, plus competition experience in the LPGA Sectionals. She says players upgrade from the boxed sets based upon skill level, not how long they have had them. "After they develop an average skill level - in one to four years - they upgrade to brand name."
Benefits of Boxed
So, from talks with Andy, Steve, Jim, and Sabrina, these appear to be the benefits of boxed sets:
Cost of Entry
The boxed sets allow you to start playing for $200 to $400. Buying new name brand Callaway irons and Titleist woods could run you close to $2,000. Some people try to buy used clubs, but this adds up. A $70 used driver, a $40 fairway wood, and $150 for irons 10 years old… get'em regripped, add in a wedge or two… find a bag… suddenly, it costs quite a bit more for used equipment than for a box of new, matching clubs.
You don't have to be an expert in golf to get your first set. Andy says that to match irons, woods, and hybrids from different companies and club models requires familiarity with golf. The boxed clubs come with common design themes and fit together well. Women buy a majority of the boxed sets which Steve sells.
The clubs are generally designed as Super Game Improvement clubs or better. The clubheads and shafts work together to help beginners get the ball up in the air, and to keep it fairly straight if you swing halfway-decent. The clubs which the 8 handicappers play would be pure pain for beginners.
"As long as you watch for a few things, you'll get a decent set of clubs," Steve added. These things include:
- Drivers with titanium heads - or at least a titanium face.
- Irons with stainless steel heads for durability, and thicker soles to help get the ball up.
- For seniors and women, graphite shafts on all clubs.
- A bag that's reasonably sturdy.
Boxed Not Best for All
Both Andy and Steve caution that boxed set might not work for someone who plans to do heavy golfing from the start. Lower-cost sets are designed for someone who will play occasionally, and clubs and bag could wear out quickly if you play golf twice a week.
Also, Andy says that boxed sets don't always fit tall men or petite women. Steve noted that boxed clubs can be adjusted somewhat to fit players for maybe $50 to $70. Also, some higher end boxed sets can be custom ordered to fit the player.
Finally, Steve notes that men are more brand-conscious than women. "Some guys would rather have a used set of Callaways or Pings in the bag than new boxed clubs," he said.
Give It a Try!
So, if you're a beginner who wants to get started playing, go hit some clubs from the boxed sets. It gives you low-cost entry into golf. If you really like the sport you can always upgrade. Or, if you only play a couple of times a month, they might suit you for several years.
Combine the boxed set clubs with some early lessons, and you're on your way to a fun sport which you can play for a long time.
This article was written by John P. Orr (or WUTiger in the forum). If you'd like to write a guest article, send us an email.