XII. Purchasing Clubs
1. Things to consider before you buy
Start by sitting down and reading through this document. By honestly judging your abilities, you may be able to decide if you need peripherally weighted or blade-type clubs. The next logical step is deciding on how much money you want to or are willing to spend for new clubs. Keep this number in mind when your shopping for new clubs, if you don't you could wind up spending much more than you planned on.
Once you have an idea of what type of clubs you want and how much you plan on spending, go down to your local golf shop or club and try to hit a few clubs. If you are allowed, try to play a round or two with demo sets. By actually using the clubs in a golf round situation, you may be able to decide if the clubs look, feel, and play the way you would like them to. If you feel uncomfortable with the clubs don't buy them – just because your golfing buddy swears by XYZ, doesn't mean you should too. The main point is that only you can decide what clubs are best for you.
If after doing the above, you still can't decide for yourself, go see a local professional or clubmaker and ask for some help. Either should be more than willing to help you make a well informed decision.
2. Name brand (OEM) or custom clubs?
That is a choice left up to the reader. Keep in mind these factors when making a decision:
- Custom clubs are built according to your swing characteristics.
- OEM clubs are built based on an “average” golfer.
- Custom built clubs are generally less expensive than OEM clubs.
- OEM clubs generally have higher resale value than custom clubs.
The most compelling reason to buy custom fit or custom-built clubs is the fact that they are built for you. Although price may be a consideration, don't make it top priority. If it is you may not have enough confidence in your clubs, which could result in more harm than good. You should also note that most OEMs will now make a set to your custom specifications. You could order a set of Titleist 990's, for instance, with a nonstandard length and lie angle. The “customization' may involve an increase in the purchase price and may also add several weeks to delivery.
3. Finding a clubmaker
There are several ways to find a custom clubmaker. Keep in mind that you will want to shop around and possibly talk to several clubmakers. There are a number of referral services that can help. The PCS, Professional Clubmakers Society, can be reached at 1-800-548-6094 in the USA and Canada. Their recommendations indicate whether the clubmaker is qualified as a Class A Clubmaker (based on competence certification administered by the PCS). You can also call up the major component vendors (Golfsmith, Golfworks, Dynacraft) and ask for a referral. They generally keep a list of clubmakers, and should be more than happy to give you names, numbers and possibly even references.
You could also ask your local pro, or a golf shop. However, your pro is almost certainly also a salesman for the course or pro shop he works out of. Keep in mind that he may be more inclined to guide you towards the OEM clubs he sells (and gets a commission for) than to send you to a custom clubmaker. Also, many people are prejudiced against custom or component clubs.
You may be able to get a few names and phone numbers by talking to other golfers you meet at the range or course. This is also a good way to see what kind of work the clubmaker does and how satisfied some of his/her customers are. Always remember that the reason you want to buy custom built clubs is the fact that they are built for you. This should give some pointers in picking out a clubbuilder.
One of the first things you should do when talking to a custom clubmaker is to inquire about his/her knowledge. If the clubmaker is not also trained as a clubfitter, he/she will not do a very good job fitting clubs for your game.
Don't be afraid to ask questions like how long they've been custom building clubs. Did they have any formal training. How many happy/unhappy customers have they had? These are just a few questions to help you get to know your clubmaker.
One of the first things the clubmaker should do, even before discussing what it is that you want, is to assess your skills. This can be done by taking a trip to a range, so the clubmaker can analyze you swing. Taking a look at your current set, and noting any problems you may have with them, would probably be an indication of a knowledgeable clubmaker as well.
A good clubmaker should tell you what characteristics your swing calls for. Examples of this are shaft flex, torque, and kickpoint; head characteristics such as weight and COG location. With this is mind he/she will most probably have a few demo clubs for you to try. Don't be afraid to say you don't like any of the clubs you try, it's the clubmakers job to fit you with clubs that you will be happy with.
As with anything else in life, if you talk to a clubmaker and don't feel totally comfortable with him/her, don't buy a set of clubs from him/her. Also keep in mind that if you start telling the clubmaker what style and model of club you want before he has had an opportunity to make some suggestions, he may assume that you have already decided what you want.
4. How do I build my own clubs?
Many component supply companies offer how-to instructions and beginner kits. Since you are thinking about building your own clubs, order some catalogs. Many catalogs include basic club assembly instructions along with all the components and supplies you will need. Several component companies also publish complete club making manuals and even offer training classes at the factories. A partial list of component companies is appended to this document. While you are waiting for the catalogs to arrive, read some articles regarding club design and assembly. Visit the following sites for more information:
- Clubmaker on-line at http://clubmaker-online.com/
- Dave Tutelman's design notes at http://clubmaker-online.com/resource.html
You'll probably want to start off slowly. Start by building yourself a putter. This will give you a chance to build a club, without having to have too much concern regarding shaft length and flex. If you're happy with your putter, move on to an iron. This will give you a chance to try different shaft lengths and flexes to see which suits you best. Once you feel comfortable, you may want to try your hand at an entire set of irons, or possibly a metal wood.
Don't forget to let us know how your clubs turn out!
This FAQ is Copyright 1999-2002 by Daniel J. Driscoll, all rights reserved. Product and company names used in this document may be trademarked or copyrighted by the respective owners. This document may be replicated in whole or in part, without alteration. All replications must include this copyright notice.