This guide is intended to give you a baseline to buy your next set of clubs whether you are an amateur or a professional. We explain the basic concepts so you are better prepared and know what questions to ask.
But first things first. Let’s level the playing field by getting some basic concepts out of the way. If you already know this, feel free to skip ahead, but we suggest you take a look anyway since a refresher can never hurt and if you are new to the world of golf, this is just what you need.
Let’s first understand the basic components of a golf club. This is useful because when shopping for clubs, you will be faced with these and other terms used in the field that you might not be familiar with.
The shaft is the long segment of the golf club. This component is a skinny stick made of of graphite or metal and its length depends on the club type. This part comes in different flexes, the flex is a feature that gives the club different levels of flexibility/stiffness. The head speed is, in part, what determines how much flexibility you need. The different levels of flexibility are classified as follows: "L" stands for ladies, "A" or "M" stands for amateur or senior, "R" stands for regular, "S" stands for stiff, and "X" is extra stiff.
The grip is the part of the club that you touch and it’s usually made of rubber. It is basically a cover that goes across the top 8 to 10 inches of the shaft and it allows you to hold onto the club more precisely. You can find different thicknesses to better suit your hand size and style. They also come in different colors in case you ever feel like it’s a blue club grip kind of day.
The clubhead is the part of the club that actually hits the ball. It determines the height and distance of the ball once you hit it. The different types of clubheads are used to enhance different attributes a player wants when hitting a golf ball, such as precision and distance.
The hosel is the portion of the club where the shaft connects to the head and it determines the lie angle of the club. The lie angle is a measured angle between the sole of the club head and the shaft. Players sometimes need their lie angles adjusted based on their height, arm length or swing style. If a player needs the shaft bent to increase that angle then he or she has an "upright" lie and if a player has to decrease that angle, then he has a "flat" lie.
There are adjustable hosels, which allow you to change the loft and lie angle of the club.
This feature indicates the specific type of club. For woods and irons, people refer to clubs as a “5-Wood” or “6-Iron”. A higher number means a higher loft, which is the upper inclination given to the ball in a stroke. In general, the higher the number: the higher the loft, the shorter the shaft and the shorter the distance the ball will travel.
The opposite side of the face.
The part of the clubface that sits flat on the ground.
The loft is not necessarily a part, but a feature of the golf club. The loft is the angle of the face of the club with respect to the shaft.
Another attribute, the lie angle is the angle between the center of the hosel and the ground when the ground line is in contact with the center of the sole from heel to toe.
What you need to know before buying
- What is your ability level or handicap? This matters because your skills and weaknesses will determine which clubs are better suited for your style and level of play.
- How many clubs do you want and need in your bag? You are limited to a maximum of 14 clubs, so you can’t carry absolutely every type that is available, thus the importance of choosing wisely.
- How much should you really spend? Things can get expensive quickly if you want the best of the best on every category. Make a couple strategic quality purchases and save or buy used those clubs you won’t use as frequently. Investing in a good driver is probably your best bet to start.
The handicap is a way to measure a player’s ability based on the number of tees played in a game. The United States Golf Association (USGA) uses this metric to calculate how many strokes above or below par a player might be able to play based on previous performance. The handicap is useful, not only to compare your ability with respect to other golfers, but because it is actually used to adjust each player’s final score based on their skill. A golfer’s net score is calculated by subtracting the handicap from the gross score and this is how winners are determined.
To calculate your handicap, you’ll need at least 5 and up to 20 rounds game data and this bad boy. There you’ll find the official rules and method to calculate your handicap yourself. We are working on an automated spreadsheet that will do this for you, to get early access, drop us a line.
Types of golf clubs
Drivers were known as woods for a long time because they used to be made out of wood. Drivers and fairway woods are still referred to as woods, even though they are mostly made of steel and other metals. The driver is also known as the "1-wood", and it has the largest head in the bag and thus the largest hitting surface.
$169 - $499
You will use a driver when you want a long distance shot and it is usually the one you’ll start a game with. Drivers are the exclusive choice for tee shots, where they produce maximum height and distance with minimum side spin for straighter shots. The largest and most popular driver is the 460cc.
Professionals can use a smaller driver (440cc or less), which are less forgiving on off-center shots but have the advantage of being easier to work with and enhanced shot-making ability.
Your best value
Beginner: TaylorMade 2016 AeroBurner Driver
Pro: TaylorMade M1
Again, and not surprisingly, they are not made out of wood. In the woods category, those that aren’t drivers are Fairway Woods and they are also called "Fairway Metals" or "Metal Woods". As we described previously, the number in “# Wood” refers to the loft.
$179 - $299
Fairway woods are designed to hit the ball off the ground and they are better for long fairway shots. Some players use them for their first shot instead of a driver due to the added loft.
Your best value
Beginner: Cobra Golf King F6
Irons cover short, mid-range and long range shots from the tee, so they can be used on every hole. Just like woods, the number of the club refers to the loft and determines how high and fast the ball will travel, a higher loft means the ball will fly higher but for a shorter distance.
Irons tend to be sold in sets, a common set could look like this:
- pitching wedge and/or
- approach wedge (we will get into wedges shortly)
The nomenclature used to identify the contents of an iron set is the following: #- + PW or AW. For example, a 5-PW set is one that contains all the clubs from 5-iron to 9-iron and a pitching wedge (PW). Another example: a 3-PW, AW means the set contains all the irons between 3 and 9 plus both a pitching wedge and an approach wedge.
Special note: Irons vs. woods
Club heads on irons have deeper grooves than woods, which help generate the spin on the golf ball that's necessary to control your shot. Also, the heads on irons are thinner in depth than woods or hybrids and could help you improve accuracy (the closer you get to the hole, the more accurate you want your shots to become, and the thinner, smaller heads of irons help facilitate this accuracy)
Irons are for hitting shots from the fairway to the green. Shots from long and medium irons travel farther, while short-iron shots fly higher for a shorter distance and stop more quickly. You can also use short irons for chip shots from just off the green.
Your best value
Wedges are part of the Irons family. They have the highest lofts and shortest shafts among irons.
Wedges are to be used in special situations, namely, sort and accurate shots when trying to get the ball out of a hazard or a difficult spot (a.k.a, this is what you use when the ball is deep in the sand). There are many different types of wedges, which we’ll describe in detail in a separate post.
$89 - $149
Your best value
Beginner: Hopkins Golf CJ-1 Black Satin Wedge
Hybrids, as the name indicates, share some of the properties from both irons and woods.
$160 - $275
They look like woods, but behave like irons. You can replace some irons with hybrids to increase forgiveness.
Your best value
Beginner: Cobra Golf Max Hybrid
They help you seal the deal. They are also great gifts.
"Easy, easy, easy..." That's what you will likely be telling yourself while holding a putter in your hands. Putters are used for relatively short and low speed strokes aimed to roll the ball into the hole. Putters are a little different that the rest of the family and have distinctive features you can only see in putters because of the level of precision required in the putting green.
$89 - $149
Your best value
If this guide was insufficient, I highly recommend you watch Happy Gilmore, which won't teach you the specifics of golf clubs but will make you laugh and feel that you are not alone in your golf basics incompetence.