Golf Equipment Guide for Beginners

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Introduction

Ping carry bag
carry bag

Golf can sometimes seem intimidating when you first start playing. Lots of golf jargon, lots of rules, dress codes and all the equipment that you need to buy!

For those that are new to golf or are thinking about getting into golf this guide should help you navigate your way in terms of what clubs and other equipment to purchase before venturing onto the golf course. 

Budget

Probably the biggest factor determining what you are going to do in golf is your budget. Golf can become a very expensive game if you want to have the latest equipment from the biggest manufacturers. If your financial means are more limited then it is still possible to have a great deal of fun playing golf.

There are many places to source golf clubs:

  • driving range
  • eBay
  • Amazon
  • discount stores (Walmart, Costco)
  • online dealers such as golfbidder
  • pro shops and golf shops

You can buy whole sets of golf clubs including a bag for around $200 at some of the discount stores or online and if you hunt around in the second-hand market I’m sure you can get that under $100. I managed to find some used starter sets on eBay for around $70.

There is nothing in the rules of golf that says you have to spend $500 on a driver, $2000 on a set of irons and have a $400 putter. If you’re starting out and not sure how much of a commitment you want to make there is nothing stopping you from buying one or two second-hand clubs and using them at the driving range or maybe you have a short course or pitch and putt course nearby that you could try them out on.

I myself started by purchasing a second-hand seven iron and driver (that was a mistake) from my local range and practicing my golf swing there. You could even make do with some hand me down clubs till you can afford to get your own.

Once you reach the point where you think you are willing to make more of a commitment to the game you could think about purchasing either half a set or a full set. Again if you are on a budget there is nothing wrong with purchasing second-hand. You can often find great deals on eBay for example. 

What Do You Need to Buy?

Golf does indeed require more equipment than the majority of other sports, the most expensive of which is likely to be the clubs that you use. 

Rent or Buy?

If you’ve never played the game at all you may be better off borrowing some clubs from a friend or relative. That way you can get a feel for the game and whether you want to take it further. Many driving ranges will also have clubs that you can borrow or hire.

If you are on a tight budget then this is definitely the way to go. There’s no point spending any money on your own clubs until you know for sure that you want to play the game on an ongoing basis.

What Clubs Should You Buy?

Scotty Cameron putter
mallet putter (Scotty Cameron)

Putter 

Usually the shortest club in the bag. It is used when you reach the green. I would suggest buying a putter at the start of your journey as you can practice putting at home on your carpet. Putting is a skill that requires no particular physical gifts and anyone of any age can master it given the right type of practice and sufficient time.

Chippers

They are a cross between a putter and a wedge. Designed to give beginners a little more confidence around the green. It allows you to use a putting stroke rather than a more traditional chipping stroke. Not usually found in the hands of professionals with the exception of Mark Crossfield.

Wedges

vo's key wedge head
pitching wedge

Traditionally iron sets came with a sand wedge and a pitching wedge. A sand wedge would usually have 56° of loft and would primarily be used to escape from bunkers. The pitching wedge would probably have 48° of loft and will be used for a variety of shots around the green or from around the 100-yard mark. 

Irons

The remaining irons would be numbered from 9 down to 1. The loft on each club would decrease as the number on its sole decreases so a nine iron would have 44° of loft, an eight iron around 40 et cetera et cetera. Each club would also have an increasingly long shaft as the loft decreased. The combination of the longer shaft and lower loft made the ball go further with a given club. For example, someone might typically hit their nine-iron 110 yards, their eight-iron 120, their seven-iron 130 and their six-iron 140 et cetera. 

Hybrids

Hybrids are a halfway-house between irons and woods. They are generally considered easier to hit than long irons and these days even tour professionals would probably carry hybrids rather than one or two irons. 

Fairway Woods

Today almost all fairway woods are made of metal or possibly some even more obscure materials. It has been 30 years or so since they were actually made of wood. You can still buy fairway woods that are built of wood but they tend to be a niche market made by smaller-scale manufacturers. A fairway wood is designed to hit the ball longer distances either from the fairway or sometimes you might use them from a tee.

Driver

The lowest lofted club in your bag (with the exception of the putter) is designed to hit the ball as far as possible from the tee. It’s sometimes called the big dog!

Drivers can cost $500 or $600 if you are looking at the latest models endorsed by the tour professionals. However, you can easily pick up discontinued models for half that price and if you have a look on sites such as eBay then it’s possible to pick up high-quality second-hand drivers for somewhere in the region of $100 dollars. 

I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a driver straight away as this will be the most difficult club to hit due to its lack of loft and the fact that it has the longest shaft.

Most beginner golfers find it difficult to get the ball in the air when they are first learning to play, trying to hit a driver before learning to hit short irons would in my opinion be counter-productive.

What you buy ultimately depends on the amount of time and money you have to commit to golf. Certainly when starting out your budget would be better spent having lessons rather than buying expensive equipment. I have always recommended that new players try to have lessons even if it is only to master the basics such as grip, aim, stance and posture. If you don’t get the fundamentals correct then it probably won’t matter what equipment you buy.

If you do decide to buy a driver right away then go for more loft rather than less loft.

The simplest option would be to purchase one of the package sets which includes everything you will need. One of these sets is likely to be sufficient for most players for quite a while. If your game improves to the point where those clubs no longer suit you, then you can always replace them. 

Are you Average?

One issue to consider when purchasing golf clubs off the shelf is that they are designed for an ‘average’ golfer. For a man that would mean someone around 5 feet 11 tall with a medium/large hand size. If you are significantly taller or shorter than 5 foot 11 then you will probably find that you would need the clubs lengthened/shortened and possibly the lie angle would need to be changed. 

In addition, if you have particularly large or small hands you would need a different size of grip. 

Your swing speed also has an effect on which clubs would be most appropriate for you. The shafts in golf clubs come in a variety of flexes and weights. Ladies, seniors and juniors would be better off with lighter, more flexible shafts for example.

All of these options will be covered if you visit your local pro shop or a specific golf retailer. 

They would take you through a number of static measurements and suggest which clubs would be the best fit for you. 

Ping for example offers a number of fitting options and uses a color code system to identify the different variations. Ping clubs are probably too expensive for the majority of beginners though.

Accessories

Golf Balls

The most obvious accessory you will need to play golf as a beginner is golf balls. I go into greater depth in my golf ball buying guide but as a beginner, you are probably best sticking with lower-cost balls since you are likely to lose several balls every time you play. There is nothing wrong with using lake balls. These are balls that have been found (usually in lakes) cleaned up, sometimes completely refurbished before being resold at a significant discount.

Until your game improves it’s probably not worth splashing out on the most expensive golf balls.

Tees

While there are a number of more technical models available you are best sticking with good old-fashioned wooden tees in my opinion. This also has the added benefit of being a bit more environmentally sound. You will find that golf tees are available in a number of heights. These are designed to be used with different clubs so the shortest ones would be used with irons and the longer ones with drivers. In fact, the increasing size of modern drivers has led manufacturers to produce extremely large tees over the last 20 years.

Towel

As Ford Prefect used to say “you’ve really got to know where your towel is.” The towel is an often overlooked but usually very important piece of equipment. In order to achieve the best flight with your shots you need to keep your golf ball and club heads clear of dirt and water. I would advise you to try to clean off the clubhead after every shot before you put it back into your bag. This is a good habit to get into. Once you reach the green you are allowed to mark your ball and this is a great opportunity to clean the golf ball before you attempt to putt.

Fancy pitch mark repairers
pitch repairers from Carnoustie & St Andrews

Pitch Mark Repairer

Another often overlooked but very important piece of equipment. Every time a golf ball lands on the green it can cause a varying degree of damage depending upon the softness of the green and the angle of descent of the golf ball. The pitch mark repairer is a device that you can use to repair the damage to the green. This is an important thing to do as studies have shown that unrepaired pitch marks can take many weeks to recover compared with 48 hours if they are repaired correctly. It means that the greens remain in good condition for everyone.

Glove

A golfer will wear a glove on their non-dominant hand to improve their grip on the club. There are one or two high-profile examples of professionals who don’t use a glove for example Fred Couples. When purchasing a glove it is important to get one that fits correctly. If it is too loose then it will have exactly the opposite effect that you want. It needs to feel like a second skin don’t forget that over time the glove will stretch somewhat anyway. 

Ball Marker

Selection of ball markers
selection of ball markers

Always useful to have a ball marker handy in case your ball is blocking the route to the hole for someone else. Most people tend to use a coin or a specific ball marker. 

Pencil & Sharpie

If you want to keep score then you’ll need something to write with so a pencil will do the trick. The Sharpie is for marking your golf ball so that you will be able to identify it. This would be important in a competition.

Other Things to Consider

Bag

If you haven’t bought a package set then you will need to purchase a golf bag of some description. Bags can range in price from affordable to very, very expensive. Take a look at my golf bag guide for a more in-depth look.

Cart/Trolley

If you don’t want to carry your golf bag then you need to purchase some form of cart either a pull cart or an electric cart. Pull carts can start from as little as $30 while electric carts start at several hundred dollars. If you end up playing an awful lot of golf, especially 36 holes in a day you would find an electric cart and absolute delight.

Golf Shoes

Depending upon the type of courses you are going to play you may be able to get away with wearing training shoes/running shoes. However, I would strongly advise you to purchase some proper golf shoes. Particularly if you live in an area that gets its share of rain. You need to get some form of waterproof golf shoe, even if it is only at the budget end of the spectrum. Your feet and your scores will thank you. In fact, my experience would suggest that golf shoes are an area that you really can’t afford to skimp on. Uncomfortable shoes are not going to improve your performance during a round of golf.

Sunglasses

Prior to needing glasses for distance vision, I’d never really given much thought to wearing sunglasses on the course. Living in the UK meant there wasn’t that much sunshine to contend with! However, having started wearing glasses in order just to be able to see the ball I realized how useful they were on those rare sunny days. Greatly reducing the amount of discomfort when playing in bright sunshine.

Sunscreen

Again less of an issue if you don’t live in a hot climate but you should still take heed on sunny days. If you play golf you could be out for five hours in the sun and it is recommended by most healthcare professionals that in that scenario you should be using sunscreen on any exposed skin.

Umbrella

Those of us living in the UK would rarely venture out onto the course without an umbrella. If you live in the southwest United States then this is going to be less of an issue for you. I’ll have to admit that the older I get the more of a fair-weather golfer I become!

Training Aids

Golf is a game that you need to practice in order to get better (well most people have to). There is a massive array of training aids from putting mats to swing plane trainers.

Attire

If you are playing at a private club you will find that the club will have some form of dress code. If you are unsure then it is best to check their website or failing that, check with the pro shop before you arrive. My advice is to turn up wearing a polo shirt (collared shirt) tucked into tailored trousers (not denim).

You can probably get away with almost anything at pay-and-play or municipal golf courses although even there a simple t-shirt might be better than a replica football jersey for example.

Take proper golf shoes with you and only change in the locker rooms unless you have been reliably informed that changing in the car park is acceptable.

If you are wearing a hat then it should be worn the correct way round. In many places, it is also considered good manners to remove your hat when indoors. Many, if not most, clubs also expect you to remove waterproof jackets or trousers if you are using the clubhouse facilities. 

A lot of clubs are now relaxing or even removing their dress code rules for juniors.

Golf Equipment Guide for Beginners: Summary

That lot probably seems like it will cost you a fortune! Don’t forget that a lot of that equipment could last you years and many hundreds of rounds which eases the pain a lot!

Don’t overspend on equipment when first starting out. If it’s a choice between lessons and equipment then you are probably better off paying for some lessons and getting cheaper equipment. You will see the benefit in the long run. Try to enjoy yourself. If you’re not enjoying it then what’s the point!

Don’t worry you’ll soon be ready for tournament golf!

Related:

Beginners Guide to Golf Etiquette

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

What are the components of a golf club?

Clubs have a head, shaft and a grip.

Golf equipment guide for beginners
Shaft of a golf club

Minimum golf clubs I can carry?

There is no minimum number of clubs specified in the rules of golf. However to have an enjoyable game you are probably going to need a minimum of a fairway wood, a medium/long iron, a short iron and a putter.

Some clubs will occasionally run competitions specifying a maximum number of clubs at either 4 or 5. The entrants can then decide which clubs best suit their game and the course they are playing.

What is the maximum number of clubs?

The rules of golf state you can have no more than 14 clubs in your bag. Obviously, if you are just practicing or trying out clubs then there’s nothing stopping you from taking as many as you can carry! If you’re playing in competitions or against your friends you should stick to the 14 club rule.

Is it worth getting custom-fit golf clubs?

I would say an emphatic yes. There are two reasons to get custom fit:

1. Off-the-shelf clubs will often be the wrong length or lie angle. The shafts may not be suitable for your swing. The grips could be too thick or too thin for your hands.
2. Poor or ill-fitting equipment will hinder your progress.

What is Lie Angle?

This is merely the angle between the shaft and the ground when the club is placed flat on the ground. In general taller players will require a greater lie angle while shorter players are likely to need a lower or flatter lie angle.

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