New 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.
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.
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!