How to Buy a New Set of Golf Clubs
If you are just getting into the wonderful game of golf, buying a set of clubs can be a very daunting task. With so many different manufacturers all producing dozens of sets of golf clubs there can be a dizzying array of choices you have to weed through in order to come to a decision, but hopefully this guide can help you narrow down your choices and get the best deal.
Research Golf Clubs Online
One of the best things you can do before ever stepping into a store to buy golf clubs is to scour the internet. There are thousands of reviews online by players of all handicaps that can help you narrow down the clubs you might be interested in. One of the best resources to use is Golf Digest's annual Hot List. Every year, their panel of reviewers handles all of the newest offerings from the major manufacturers (Callaway, Taylormade, Nike, Ping, Cobra, Titlist, etc.) and reviews them based on performance, innovation, look/sound/feel, and demand. They then group the best clubs into gold and silver categories, while pointing out the individual leaders in each of the four review categories. Furthermore, they will often break down the clubs into price ranges or skill levels (super game improvement, game improvement, players clubs). This way you can make sure you are looking at the clubs that are right for your price range or skill level. Golf Digest is one of the most respected golf publications out there (Tiger Woods writes articles for them), so you can trust them when a clubs earns a gold that it is an excellent club.
There are many smaller manufacturers that you may have seen that don't appear on the Golf Digest list. While these brands are often cheaper than the brands that appear on the list, you usually get what you pay for. The manufacturers on the Golf Digest Hot List represent the upper echelon in terms of quality. If you want your clubs to last for several years and still have some resale value when you go to upgrade again, try to stick with the manufacturers on the Golf Digest Host List. If you want some proof about the quality of some of the smaller manufacturers, take a look at their drivers. Quite often you'll be able to find one or two manufacturers that are blatantly copying the styling of a Taylormade or Callaway driver. If they had actually put the time and effort into creating a quality golf club they would have taken the time to come up with unique styling of their own.
Once you've picked out a couple sets of golf clubs, it's time to take a look at them in person.
Where to Buy Golf Clubs
First of all, most importantly,NEVER BUY CLUBS OFF OF EBAY. It doesn't matter how good of a deal or how legit the pictures or store looks. More often then not you will be getting a fake club. Just like you can buy a fake Rolex or Louis Vuitton bag, you can buy a fake set of Callaway FT-Ibrid irons. The problem is that while a Rolex or Louis Vuitton bag might not see very strenuous use, a golf club undergoes a ton of abuse. Fake golf clubs are usually very very close representations of the original clubs, and it is very hard for an untrained eye to spot the differences. You are better off buying your clubs from a reputable golf equipment retailer than taking the risk just to save a few bucks.
Second, do not buy clubs from places that you cannot test them out at. This includes most big box department stores and even many general sports equipment stores. Reviews from the web are a great way to narrow down the clubs you would like to look at, but you should never choose a set of clubs without hitting them a couple dozen times before that. No number of reviews can replace the experience of actually hitting a 7 iron from each of the sets you are looking at. Each club will sound different, weigh different, look different, swing different and play different. Personal preference will play the most significant role in making a decision on which set of golf clubs to buy. Without the ability to try at least a club from each set, how can you be sure that you are going to get on the course and love the clubs you purchased.
Another reason to not buy from big box stores is quality, both in the quality of the products they carry and the quality of the knowledge the staff might be dispensing. For the most part these stores realize that they are catering to the person who golfs 2-3 times a year, is looking for what they consider a great deal on their clubs, and doesn't have a great deal of product knowledge. For this reason they usually stock golf clubs made by lower quality manufacturers so that they can keep their price points under a certain value. Also, some stores will stock old model clubs from quality brands, and mark them up higher than they can be found anywhere else. This is to sucker in people who might have seen or heard of a brand name, so they buy the club thinking they got a good deal, when really they just overpaid for a club that is 3-4 years old. Just in the last year, I have seen a Taylormade R5 Draw driver for $175 at a general sports equipment store, where at Golf Town they could have sold me the club for $50.
The knowledge of the person helping you is also very important for somebody who might not know a great deal about golf clubs. The staff working at golf specialty stores are usually highly trained people who love the game of golf. They know the highest quality brands, which features set each club apart and can help walk you through every step of the buying process. You simply won't get this level of knowledge from a store that doesn't specialize in golf equipment. Many golf specialty stores also offer lots of freebies that a department store cannot match like free club fittings, simulators to test out your clubs, and a workshop to alter your clubs in any way you might need. These golf specialty stores also work directly with the different manufactures to provide deals and specials that you can't receive anywhere else.
Golf specialty stores are easily the best place to purchase your new set of clubs. While you might think a specialty retailer is going to cost you more, they will usually carry clubs for every price range, so there is really no reason to go anywhere else
Purchasing your new Golf Clubs
Golf Manufacturers will usually come out with new clubs just before the start of the season (March, April, May). This is the worst time to buy the latest and greatest new clubs from each manufacturer. Prices on clubs will always drop over time, so there's simply no reason to buy a driver for $450 when it could drop as low as $200 by the end of the season. Fortunately, just before the start of the golf season is the best time to buy last years clubs. The stores want these clubs gone to make room for this year's clubs, so most of the clubs will have seen a dramatic price reduction from where they started. Drivers will often see the largest drops, sometimes close to 50%. Fairway woods and hybrid clubs usually see some pretty steep discounts as well, but not as steep as drivers. Iron sets, depending on the manufacturer, will usually see a price drop around 25%. Some manufacturers will only release 1 or 2 new sets of irons a year, and if those sets aren't meant to replace an older set, you probably won't see a price reduction. Wedges and putters take a long time to see a discount because the technology and designs don't alter much year to year.
One of the great things about golf specialty stores is that you might be able to haggle a deal. While this means you will usually be able to get a bit more for your money, just because a club will cost $150 less in 4 months doesn't mean you can get that price now. The markup on golf clubs is surprisingly low, so be happy if you can haggle $20 off your $500 set. The best thing to do is ask for some free or discounted accessories to go with your new purchase. The sales person will have a much easier time getting you $40 off a matching bag or throwing in a dozen balls then taking a chunk off the price of the actual clubs. The sales people are there to get you to walk out with a set of clubs, and will do what they can to get you to spend your money, but the store needs to make money as well. Be polite and just ask them what they can do to make the deal a little bit sweeter, and more often than not you will get some extra little goodies. Constantly pressuring the sales person to lower the price and throw in more and more discounted stuff will not get you as far as you might think(You catch more flies with honey).
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