Choosing a Set of Golf Clubs

By Brad Murrow , last updated November 27, 2011

With all the different features, materials and brands of golf clubs available, choosing a set of clubs can be a daunting task. Picking the wrong clubs for your game can make a big investment a waste of money and leave you with clubs you don’t enjoy using for many years. Understanding a few basics about golf clubs will make your buying decision much easier and will help you choose the right set of clubs the first time.

Assess Your Game
Before you start looking at clubs, evaluate your game and make a list of your playing skills. Don’t write down how you want to play, but instead focus on how you currently hit the ball.
Visit a golf pro shop and have your swing speed analyzed. If you have a fast swing, you’ll need a club that provides less power and more control. If you have a medium or slow swing speed, you may need a longer, more flexible shaft. Measuring your swing speed lets you see how you really hit the ball, rather than how you think you hit it.
Measure Yourself
Get yourself measured before you buy your clubs to make sure you get the right length for your game. Once you know the basic club length for your height, you can add length if you need power, or go with your recommended length if you can generate your own power.
To measure yourself for golf clubs, hand your arm at your side and measure the distance from your wrist to the floor. Use this measurement, along with your height in inches, to use a golf sizing chart.
Choose Your Set
You’re allowed to carry 14 clubs in your bag at most courses. Most recreational players don’t need this many clubs. Beginners should skip specialty and power clubs and start with a basic set. This would include 3, 5 and 7 woods, 5 through 9 irons, a pitching wedge and a putter. Intermediate players with more power and control can add a driver, 3 and 4 irons and sand or lob wedge. Advanced players may add another wood, iron or wedge.
Choose Your Club Components
If you need distance on your long shots, choose a more flexible club with a bigger head and longer shaft. A flexible club offers more power but less control than a stiffer shaft, but you’ll get more control from the larger head. Longer shafts create more acceleration into the shot, giving you more distance. You will lose some control, but again, the head you choose can help you get more control. The heavier the shaft, the more mass it has and more power it will give you. Stronger players with good control use heavier clubs, while less muscular and less skilled players benefit from lighter clubs, which increase swing speed.
Beginners, women, juniors and seniors should look for heads on their woods that are larger, have a lower center of gravity and have a wider sole. The sole is the part of the clubhead that touches the ground. A wider sole gives you more stability if you hit the ground before you make contact with the ball. Your irons should have perimeter weighted heads to provide more stability. If you have trouble getting the ball into the air, buy clubheads with more loft, or angled face.
If you have more power, look for features that give you more control on your long shots. Choose stiffer clubs with a shorter shaft length than a beginner would use. You will still benefit from larger, perimeter weighted heads.
Steel shafts are stiffer and more durable than graphite shafts, which are more flexible. Intermediates and advanced players use more steel shafts, while beginners, women, seniors and juniors benefit from graphite. Titanium offers a combination of stiffness for control and lightness for power, but is the most expensive material for shafts.
Putters
Belly putters are longer, coming up to your chest. You play your putt standing straight up, with your hands spread apart on the club. Players who use this club feel they get more control on putts. Both traditional and belly putters offer control, and your choice is simply a matter of preference.
Some putters have wider, or thicker, heads. These are known as mallet putters and offer more mass and stability. Putters with thinner heads, known as blade putters, have less material in contact with the ground and may give you a faster swing.
Custom Fitting
A club maker can meet with you, evaluate your style of play, determine your swing speed and measure you to create the best set for you. A club maker can fit different components together so you don’t have to sacrifice the benefit of one feature because a pre made club doesn’t have all the features you want.
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