There’s no getting around it: Golf can be a complicated game.
That’s certainly true when it comes to buying equipment. So many variables. So many club types and styles. So many technical terms.
Indeed, equipment shopping can be daunting for beginners and long-time golfers alike. So we’ve put together this handy Golf Club Buying Guide to help simplify an often-confusing process.
The below sections are general guidelines for selecting the proper equipment to match your game. Keep in mind, the Rules of Golf allow each player to carry a maximum of 14 clubs during a round.
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Player Factors in Golf Club Choice
First, it’s important to identify your ability level and/or handicap. If you’re unsure, you can contact one of our PGA Professionals at email@example.com or call them at 919-573-8657.
These are the basic factors to consider:
Average score / Skill level
In a nutshell: The more skilled you are, the less help you need from your equipment. Let’s look at what that means for each scoring group.
Average score: Below 80
If you’re skilled enough to consistently break 80, you’ve got sufficient swing speed to use a less-lofted driver – typically between 9° – 10.5° – and still achieve ample height and distance. Additional loft will probably cost you yardage. Another factor is driver MOI (Moment of Inertia). The higher a club’s MOI, the more forgiving it is on off-center strikes… but the harder it will be to work (curve) the ball to the left or right. That’s why highly skilled players often go with lower-MOI drivers.
The same holds true when selecting irons. Today, even the best golfers often opt for cavity-back clubs vs. traditional blades or “musclebacks.” That wasn’t always the case; while cavity backs have always been more forgiving on miss-hits, better players believed they lacked the feel and workability of a blade. These days, though, many clubmakers offer forged irons in cavity-back designs, greatly improving feel and workability over the cast irons of yesteryear.
Lower handicappers, along with pros, are the only golfers who should consider carrying long irons (2 through 4) instead of hybrid clubs. Yet many excellent players opt for hybrids because they’re easier to hit and more versatile than the irons they replace.
Average score: 80 to 90
Shooting in the 80s means you’re pretty skilled, but you probably swing slower than a low-handicapper and suffer more miss-hits. In that case, a driver with higher MOI and more loft (think 10.5° – 12°) will produce better height, carry distance and overall accuracy.
Cavity-back irons with slightly larger heads will deliver similar benefits vs. forged blades. You’ll sacrifice some ability to hit draws and fades, but your misses will travel farther and straighter. And there’s little reason to carry an iron stronger than a 4- or 5-iron; hybrids will produce much more consistent results from the tee, fairway and rough.
Average score: Over 90
Golfers with higher handicaps tend to hit shorter and less accurate from tee to green. Hence, “super game improvement” clubs are recommended. For the driver, that means lots of loft (12° – 14°) and a clubhead that maxes out on size (460cc) and MOI.
Blade-style irons should be out of the question. Instead, look for maximum game improvement in “oversized” cavity backs. Along with a high MOI, these typically feature an extremely low CG (Center of Gravity) to help you get the ball in the air.
Your longest iron should be a 5-iron, or possibly a 6, with hybrids filling the gap between your irons and longest fairway wood.
The next factor to consider is the direction and height of your typical shot. The majority of golfers hit a left-to-right fade or slice; a small percentage usually hit a right-to-left draw or hook. Shot trajectory varies, with higher handicappers often hitting low drives and better players getting more height.
Fortunately, modern clubs – specifically the driver, fairway woods and some hybrids – offer adjustable clubheads. These let you fine-tune your clubs to compensate for your common miss-hit, or to promote a particular trajectory and shot shape. For instance, a golfer who suffers from a slice can adjust his driver to the “draw position,” which moves weight to make it easier to square the face at impact. Another golfer might change the loft or CG settings to create a higher or lower ball flight.
Another key in choosing the right equipment is your swing speed (aka clubhead speed). This is the No. 1 factor in determining which shaft flex will optimize the distance, trajectory and backspin rate you get from each club.
In general, the faster you swing, the stiffer your shafts should be. Slower swingers should use more flexible shafts, which can help add distance and height. This chart is a good starting point:
|If You Can Hit 150 Yards with a...
||Then Your Optimal Shaft Flex Is...
|PW or 9-Iron
||Extra Stiff Flex (X)
||Stiff Flex (S)
|6- or 7-Iron
||Regular Flex (R)
|5-Iron/Hybrid or 4-Iron/Hybrid(Male or Female)
||Senior Flex (A/M)
|Any Iron/Hybrid lower than 4 or any Fairway Wood (Females or Juniors)
||Ladies Flex (L)
See our Article on Shaft flex
Distance by Club Type
"Why do I need so many different Clubs?" One of the primary reasons is that they hit different distances.
See the chart below for average distances by club type of PGA and LPGA players.
||PGA Tour Average Distance
||LPGA Tour Average Distance
||289 - 361 yds
||246 - 258 yds
||243 - 304 yds
||195 - 217 yds
||230 - 288 yds
||185 - 205 yds
||255 - 275 yds
||180 - 194 yds
|3 Iron (M) / 7 Wood (F)
||212 - 265 yds
||174 - 185 yds
||203 - 254 yds
||170 - 181 yds
||194 - 243 yds
||161 - 173 yds
||183 - 229 yds
||152 - 163 yds
||172 - 215 yds
||141 - 154 yds
||160 - 200 yds
||130 - 143 yds
||148 - 185 yds
||119 - 132 yds
||136 - 170 yds
||107 - 121 yds
Clubs Set Price Ranges
Cost can be a major factor when shopping for new golf clubs. It’s possible to save money by purchasing a complete set of clubs, including a driver, fairway wood(s), hybrid(s), irons, wedges and a putter. Usually, though, only the irons are sold in a bundle with the others offered as individual clubs.
Of course, buying Used Clubs is another way to cut down on costs.
Let’s look at the three basic pricing tiers and what you can expect to get for your money.
The most affordable clubs fall into this category and appeal to beginners or golfers who play only occasionally. Some companies offer complete sets with less than 14 clubs (the max allowed) and with a golf bag included, upping the value without overloading the novice.
Economy sets typically include a driver, one or two fairway woods, one or two hybrids, four or five irons, a pitching wedge, sand wedge and putter. The clubs are nearly always in the Game Improvement or Super Game Improvement category, with oversized clubheads and perimeter weighting for maximum forgiveness.
Prices for new economy golf club sets are typically less than $400.
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In this range you’ll find higher quality clubs for more experienced golfers, generally middle to high handicappers. While Game Improvement and Super Game Improvement clubs are still the norm, better materials and more advanced technology make mid-tier products a bit more expensive.
It’s also rare to find a complete set – driver through putter – in the mid-tier price range. Why? Because more experienced golfers may prefer one brand of driver or hybrids, but different brands for irons, wedges and putters. The “a la carte” model lets golfers mix and match to put together a suitable set.
For a new, full set of 14 clubs in the middle tier, prices may range from $1,500 – $2,200 if all clubs are bought at one time (which they rarely are in this category).
Clubs for avid, highly experienced and skilled golfers typically cost the most. Again, expect an upgrade in materials, technology and craftsmanship at the high end, where forged irons are common along with adjustable drivers and premium shaft options.
For a full set of 14 pro-grade clubs, prices start around $2,500 and may reach $4,800 and up, assuming all clubs are bought at once (which is uncommon).
Golf Club Components
There are four major club categories: woods, irons, wedges and putters. Each type features several components common to all golf clubs.
Grip - The grip covers the top 10 or so inches of the shaft and prevents the hands from slipping during the swing. Grips are sized (Standard, Midsize and Oversize/Jumbo ) to match the player’s hand size and come in many different designs, textures and colors.
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Shaft - The shaft is a cylindrical piece of graphite or steel connecting the grip to the clubhead. Variables include length, which is based on the club type and loft, and flex; a club's shaft can be stiffer or more flexible depending mostly on the golfer’s swing speed.
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Stiffness levels are signified by letters: "L" stands for Ladies; "A," "M" or “S” stands for Amateur, Men or Senior; "R" stands for Regular, "S" stands for Stiff, and "X" stands for Extra Stiff.
The most common flex for men is "R" and for women is "L."
Hosel - The hosel connects the shaft to the clubhead and determines the club’s lie angle (the angle between the clubhead’s sole and the shaft). Some drivers, woods and hybrids feature an adjustable hosel, which allows players to adjust the club’s loft and lie angle.
Clubhead - The part of the club that strikes the ball, the clubhead controls the height and distance the ball will travel.
As the main feature of any club, the clubhead is typically the first thing to consider when choosing clubs. Clubheads are designed with each manufacturer's specific technology attributes and geared towards different player skill levels.
Lie angle - The angle (measured in degrees) formed between the shaft and the ground when the club is placed in its intended address position. Lie angles can be adjusted by a clubfitter (or by a player using adjustable clubs) to accommodate a player’s swing characteristics.
All of these components relate directly to your success on the golf course.
The "1-wood," universally known as the driver, has the largest clubhead, longest shaft and lowest loft (aside from the putter) of any club. Drivers are long-distance clubs typically used off the tee box for your first shot on a par 4 or par 5. Nearly every driver today features a graphite shaft while clubheads are made of steel, titanium and carbon composites. The driver’s face also has the largest hitting area of any club.
By rule, a driver clubhead can be up to 460cc (cubic centimeters) in size, which makes the 460cc head the most popular available. You can find drivers in smaller sizes, such as 440cc or less, which tend to be used by more skilled players.
A general rule, the larger the head, the more forgiving the club will be on off-center contact. A smaller clubhead gives advanced golfers the ability to purposely curve the ball left (draw) or right (fade).
Club manufacturers have made numerous technological advances in recent years. Most notable is outfitting some drivers with adjustable features, which allow the golfer to alter the club’s loft and move weight to optimize launch angles, trajectory and shot shape. For example, a golfer who wants to hit the ball higher can add loft and position the center of gravity farther back in the clubhead. The golfer who fights a slice may adjust the club to a “draw bias” setting with more weight in the club’s heel section.
Clubface technology has advanced as well. Seeking to max out ball speed – which translates directly to distance – manufacturers have experimented with various materials and thickness across the clubface. To the golfer, this means longer drives on both center and off-center strikes.
Fairway Woods (aka Fairway Metals, Fairway Metal Woods)
While their clubheads are now made of steel, titanium or composite materials, these clubs were made of wood throughout most of golf history; hence, they’re still regularly referred to as woods, although some prefer the more technically accurate “fairway metal.”
The most common fairway woods are the 3- and 5-woods, though many golfers use woods numbered 7, 9 and even higher. The higher the number, the greater the loft of the clubhead and the higher and shorter the shot will travel.
Most fairway woods feature graphite shafts, although some have steel shafts. The clubheads are similar to a driver in shape and materials, but considerably smaller.
The fairway woods are mainly used on longer fairway shots as well as tee shots on par 4s and par 5s where accuracy is more important than distance.
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As the name suggests, hybrids combine elements of two different clubs – the clubheads are shaped like woods, while the lengths and lofts are similar to irons. The majority of amateur golfers, and many pros, use hybrids in place of traditional 2-, 3- and 4-irons as hybrids are easier to hit solidly from a variety of lies. Like fairway woods, hybrids are often used from the tee.
What makes hybrids easier to hit than long irons? A number of factors, including their extremely low center of gravity, which helps get the ball up in the air, and wide sole, which resists digging into the turf. Hybrids are lighter than long irons, too, so golfers can generate more clubhead speed, distance and height.
Hybrid numbers begin with the 2-hybrid (16° – 18°) and go up to the 7-hybrid (31° - 32°) and higher.
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Irons are used on most every hole and cover everything from chip shots near the green, short and mid-range shots from fairway, rough or sand, and long shots from the tee on par 3s.
Irons generally come in sets that include 6-8 individual clubs. The typical iron set consists of (but is not limited to) the 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, and 9-irons, along with a pitching wedge and possibly a gap wedge (aka approach wedge).
When shopping for an iron set, you’ll see them listed per their set make-up (i.e., "3-PW", "4-PW, GW" or "5-PW, AW"). This shorthand indicates that all clubs in between are included, so a 3-PW set would include the 3- through 9-irons as well as a pitching wedge.
Irons usually feature steel shafts, though graphite shafts are often offered as an option.
Clubheads on irons have deeper grooves extending across the face from toe to heel and running parallel from top to bottom. These grooves help generate backspin that's necessary to control your shot.
There are a few basic types of irons, each designed to fit a particular skill level:
Super or Max Game Improvement Irons – This iron type is a Cavity Back, so-called because of the large "cavity" or hollow portion in the back of the clubhead. This design distributes more of the club’s weight around the perimeter, which creates a higher MOI and greater forgiveness on miss-hit shots.
The sole is typically wider on on Max Game Improvement Irons to prevent the club from digging into the turf. The clubface is larger to give the golfer more confidence in hitting a solid shot. Beginning golfers or those with higher handicaps (20+) can benefit from this iron type.
Game Improvement Irons – Similar in design to Max Game Improvement Irons but with smaller clubheads and thinner soles, these clubs fit a wide range of skill levels (5-20 handicap) and are the most popular sets.
Players Irons – Players Irons are generally a cavity muscle back (CMB) or muscle back (MB) construction. These irons are used by professionals and other highly-skilled golfers. Most Players Irons are made from forged steel, rather than metal cast in a mold like Game Improvement irons, and boast a pleasing, classic appearance.
“Blades,” as muscle back irons are often called, have a flat back with no cavity, making them less forgiving. On the plus side, pure blades let the golfer shape shots more easily than cavity back clubs, which makes them attractive to better players.
Players Distance Irons – A fairly recent addition to the family of irons, Players Distance Irons feature the look and feel of Players Irons, but with larger clubheads for an added measure of forgiveness. Their clubfaces also “flex” more at impact to deliver longer shots.
Wedges are an extension of the irons, but are usually sold separately (except the pitching wedge, which is included with most iron sets). Wedges have more loft and are designed for very high accuracy and more spin than regular irons.
Most golfers carry a gap wedge (aka an approach wedge) and a sand wedge, while the lob wedge is also a popular choice.
The gap wedge (48° – 52°) bridges the gap of distance between the pitching wedge (43° – 47° loft) and the sand wedge (54° – 56°). The gap wedge is used for full and partial shots from fairway or rough, as well as chips and pitch shots from near the green.
The sand wedge is used for most greenside bunker shots as well as many chips and pitches. What sets the sand wedge apart is a feature called “bounce” – additional material on the club’s sole which displaces sand and also prevents digging on shots from the turf.
With its ultra-high loft (58° – 64°), the lob wedge is used for very short shots that fly very high with extra spin. It’s extremely useful when you need the ball to stop very quickly in the green.
Used to roll the ball into the hole when on the green (or very near it), the putter is arguably the most important club in your bag. It’s typically fitted with a steel shaft, and usually with a flat or squared grip to place the hands in the correct positions. The clubface on a putter is flat, with 3° – 4° loft.
There are two main types of putter head styles:
Blade Putter – The most commonly used putter style among amateurs and pros, blade putters feature compact clubheads with a more traditional look. Today’s blade putters are usually built with cavity-back construction and an “offset” hosel, which places the clubface behind the golfer’s hands at address.
Mallet Putter – These feature a much larger head, which may extend several inches behind the clubface. Because they’re heavier than most blades, mallet putters promote an “arms and shoulders” or “pendulum-style” stroke to limit wrist movement. Engineers have pushed the boundaries with mallet putters, enhancing forgiveness and improving alignment features with creative designs. While still less widely used than blade models, mallets have gained popularity among both pros and amateurs.
There are other factors to consider when shopping for a putter, including alignment technology. Clubmakers have extensively studied how the eyes visualize the line between the ball and the cup, and implemented numerous innovative features to help golfers see the line better at setup.
Putters are also balanced differently, which can work with or against an individual’s stroke. Some putters are weighted in a “toe hang” manner, which means the club’s toe (end of the head) points downward at an angle when the shaft is balanced on a single point. Toe-hang putters work best for golfers with an arc-style stroke, meaning the putter follows a noticeable arc on the backswing and forward swing.
Other putters are “face-balanced,” which finds the clubface pointing directly upward when the shaft is balanced on a point. Face-balanced putters are recommended for golfers whose strokes are more straight back and through, with minimal arc.
One more recent innovation is adjustable weighting, which allows the golfer to add or subtract weight to the putter’s head based on their feel preference.
Buying used golf clubs is a great idea for the budget-conscious golfer, or the novice who’s reluctant to spend much money on a game they may only play occasionally.
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GlobalGolf’s Certified Preowned program removes the uncertainty and risk often associated with buying used products. Among other benefits, purchasers receive a 12-month replacement warranty protecting clubs against all manufacturing defects in materials and workmanship. If a club has a factory defect, our commitment is to promptly repair the club, replace it, or issue a credit for the full purchase amount.
To earn the Certified Preowned label, clubs must pass our rigorous six-point inspection. All clubs are in excellent condition and show minimal, if any, signs of use. You may find normal ball markings on the clubface and a small amount of shop wear or scratches elsewhere.
All GlobalGolf Certified Preowned Clubs are cleaned thoroughly before shipping. Drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and putters come with a complimentary, like-new, generic headcover.
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We also offer regripping service on all used clubs, allowing you to pick a new grip that we’ll install for a $4 service charge. Just click the regrip button on the cart page.
For more information on condition see our Club Condition Ratings Guide
Golf is not a “one-size-fits-all” kind of game. Studies show that golfers who use clubs fitted to their personal dimensions (such as height) and swing characteristics (e.g., clubhead speed) play better than those using “off-the-rack” equipment.
At GlobalGolf, we offer a wide range of custom options. For example, if you’re shopping for a new driver, you can choose your personal preference for shaft brand, weight and flex, as well as clubface loft.
Most iron sets allow you to pick which clubs you want, such as 4-iron through pitching wedge or 5-iron through gap wedge. If you’re purchasing a single wedge, you can select the correct loft and bounce to suit your needs. Putters, fairway woods and hybrids can be customized as well.
If you ever need to replace an individual iron from a set – a 6-iron, for instance – you can order it here rather than buy a whole new set.
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GlobalGolf’s Exclusive Utry® Program
Buying golf equipment can be a fairly large investment. You want to be sure you’re making the right decision before purchasing – and that’s exactly what we want, too.
That’s why GlobalGolf offers the Utry® program, which lets you try out new products from top brands for 14 days – at a cost of just $25 for up to two individual clubs, GPS devices or rangefinders, or $50 for a set of irons.
In those 14 days, you can play or practice with the equipment as much as you like, whenever and wherever you want. If you decide the item isn’t for you, simply send it back in its original packaging. (We also provide a prepaid return label.) If you love your new equipment, just keep it and we’ll bill you for the final cost minus the $25 or $50 trial fee.
Pay Over Time with GlobalGolf and Affirm
If you’re thinking about purchasing equipment but prefer to pay over time, you can do that through GlobalGolf’s partnership with Affirm. It’s as simple as selecting “Affirm” at checkout, answering some basic questions, then reviewing and confirming your financing offer.
Options include three-, six- and 12-month payoff terms with interest rates of 0 – 30% depending on your qualifications.
For more information on this program, See Our Article on Affirm
Helpful Golf Terminology
Albatross (aka Double Eagle) – A score of three under par on a single hole. (Example: scoring 2 on a par 5.)
Birdie – A score of one under on a single hole. (Example: scoring 3 on a par 4.)
Bogey – A score of one over on a single hole. (Example: scoring 4 on a par 3.)
Bogey Golfer – A player who typically averages a score of bogey on every hole.
Bounce – The angle from the leading edge of the club to the lowest point of the sole of the club. The more bounce on a club’s sole, the more it will resist digging into the turf; bounce also helps displace sand on bunker shots. The sand wedge typically features the most bounce of any club.
Break – The curve in a ball’s roll on the green due to slope. Putts are said to break either left or right.
Cavity Back – An iron design featuring a hollowed-out cavity behind the clubface, which places more weight around the edges of the clubhead for higher Moment of Inertia (MOI) and forgiveness. Many putters are built in the same style.
Center of Gravity (CG) – The exact point in the clubhead where the head is perfectly balanced. The placement of a club’s CG plays a key role in performance. In general, the lower the CG, the higher the ball will launch off the clubface.
Cut (aka Fade) – A shot that curves gently to the right when struck by a right-handed golfer. (For lefties, a cut or fade curves to the left.)
Double Bogey – A score of two over on a single hole. (Example: scoring 7 on a par 5.)
Draw – A shot that curves gently to the left when struck by a right-handed golfer. (For lefties, a draw curves to the right.)
Eagle – A score of two under par on a single hole. (Example: scoring 3 on a par 5.)
Fat Shot – When the club contacts the ground behind the ball, usually causing a loss of yardage compared to a solid strike.
Fade – See Cut.
Forgiveness / Forgiving – A club is said to be forgiving if it produces relatively good distance and accuracy when the player misses the sweet spot. While less-skilled golfers need clubs with maximum forgiveness, better players often prefer less forgiving clubs (which make it easier to intentionally curve the ball).
Grooves – A series of straight, parallel lines cut into the clubface, typically horizontal to the ground. Grooves grab the golf ball’s surface and impart backspin.
Handicap (aka Handicap Index) – A number that represents the skill level of a golfer. (The lower the handicap, the better the golfer.) According to the United States Golf Association (USGA), the USGA Handicap System™ allows golfers of all abilities to compete on an equitable basis. The weaker player may deduct strokes based on the stronger player's handicap. Your actual handicap is based on a complex calculation taking into account your golf scores and the relative difficulty of the course.
Hook – A shot that curves hard to the left when struck by a right-handed golfer. (For lefties, a hook curves to the right.)
Loft – The number of the club indicates how high and far the shot will travel. The higher the number, the greater the angle of loft is. When the loft is very high, the ball will fly higher but for a shorter distance.
Long Iron – An iron with minimal loft used to hit the ball a long distance. The 2 – 4 irons are considered long irons.
Mid-Iron – An iron with medium loft used to hit the ball a medium distance. The 5 – 7 irons are considered mid-irons.
Moment of Inertia (MOI) – A measurement (in grams per centimeters-squared) of how much a clubhead resists twisting on impact with the ball. A higher MOI means the club is more resistant to twisting (more “forgiving”), so shots struck off-center will generally fly farther and straighter than a similar shot with a club of lower MOI.
Muscle Back – An iron design with no cavity in the back of the clubhead. This classic club style features more weight behind the sweet spot and is less forgiving than a cavity back model, but is often favored by top players due to its feel and ball flight.
Par – The score a scratch golfer is expected to make on a hole, assuming two strokes on the putting green.
Perimeter Weighting – Club design in which weight is distributed around the head’s perimeter rather than its center. Featured in drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons and putters, this design creates a higher Moment of Inertia and enhanced forgiveness.
Scratch Golfer – A player with a handicap of 0 who typically averages an 18-hole score around even-par.
Shank – A shot, struck on the club’s hosel, which shoots almost directly to the right when struck by a right-handed golfer. (For lefties, a shank shoots to the left.)
Short Iron – An iron with high loft used to hit the ball a short distance. The 8 – 9 irons are considered mid-irons.
Slice – A shot that curves hard to the right when struck by a right-handed golfer. (For lefties, a slice curves to the left.) A slice is considered the most common mistake among amateur golfers.
Sole – The bottom of the clubhead (i.e., the part that rests on the ground when addressing the ball). The soles of fairway woods, hybrids, irons and wedges play an integral role in each club’s performance.
Thin Shot – When the bottom part of the clubface strikes the ball at or just below its equator, causing the ball to fly very low and often past the target.
Topped Shot – When the club’s sole strikes the top part of the ball, causing it to bounce or roll rather than launch into the air.
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