You’re new to golf and gearing up to go out on the course. The purchase of your first set of golf clubs can be an overwhelming process, but understanding the basic differences in club materials and construction will help demystify the shopping experience. Purchasing a complete set of clubs that can be customized as you gain experience is a simple, low-stress way to get started.
Standard Golf Set
A standard set of golf clubs includes three woods (1, 3 and 5), nine irons (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, pitching wedge and sand wedge) and a putter. The numbers on the clubs refer to the loft, or how high the ball will travel. In general, a club with a lower number will have a longer shaft, it will hit the ball lower into the air, but the ball will travel farther. The lower numbered clubs are more challenging to hit with accuracy. The sand wedge has the highest loft to hit balls out of the sand. Newer sets often include one or more hybrid clubs, which blend the distance and forgiveness of woods with the increased accuracy of irons. While you don’t have to carry all of the standard clubs, U.S. Golf Association rules limit players to carrying a maximum of 14 clubs.
Shaft Flexibility and Length
Flex and length will impact your ability to hit with accuracy. Flex refers to how much the shaft bends on the downswing. This bend is where much of the power in your shot comes from; however, if the shaft bends too much, it becomes difficult to control your shot. While a regular flex will meet the needs of most beginners, a ladies or senior flex will offer more distance and power to those with slower swings. A slightly shorter shaft can also improve your accuracy. Because golf clubs are made for players of average height, a woman shorter than 5 feet 5 inches or a man under 5 feet 10 might consider looking for clubs with a short shaft length or gripping down on the club.
Face Size and Lie
New golfers are a little less consistent with their swing. That means you don’t always hit the ball square on with the “sweet spot.” Oversized drivers give the new golfer a larger surface area to hit with and increase the likelihood of getting the sweet spot. After about 400 cubic centimeters, though, the driver can difficult to handle. The lie angle or how the iron lies on the ground also impacts the accuracy of your shots. As you become a stronger player, having your iron clubheads adjusted to fit you better and improve the lie should increase your accuracy. According to Frank J. Peter on LearnAboutGolf.com, when starting out, Super Game Improvement irons offer the beginner a combination of weighting and size that produce more consistent shots.
Material Choice and Budget
Titanium drivers are strong, lightweight and expensive. Does a beginner need such high-end materials? That depends on your budget. Zinc, aluminum and titanium alloys are common materials used in beginner irons and woods. Titanium alloy is simply aluminum with trace amounts of titanium to leverage the idea that titanium clubs are higher quality. Better quality irons and woods are made with stainless steel, and titanium is reserved for the highest-end woods. According to the pros at Pine Meadow Golf, shaft materials can be as important to performance as head material. Shafts are made from either graphite or stainless steel. Graphite shafts yield a lighter overall club, making it worth considering for women, seniors and anyone with joint concerns. At the time of publication, there are many complete starter sets on the market in the $200 to $300 range. If you would like to go with more expensive materials than your budget allows, used clubs offer a lower-priced alternative. But remember to get a set of clubs that you hit well now rather than hoping to grow into your set.