There’s no doubt that golf is one of the more expensive sports on the planet to participate in, with gear, clothing and memberships often coming in at an extremely high entry point (especially if purchasing top of the range clubs or playing the best courses).
Like most things, golf gear does range from cheaper to more expensive options, but a new, lower end set of clubs – the bare minimum requirement to get started – will probably still clock in at around $400-500 dollars.
You can always go down the second-hand route too, but if you’re uneducated when it comes to the game of golf, you’re probably going to have a fair amount of apprehension about whether you are getting value for money with used clubs.
Unfortunately, even if you are cashed up and happy to walk into your local golf store and buy the best and most expensive thing on the market, this may actually be a worse decision than purchasing a cheaper option, especially if you’re a beginner or higher handicap golfer.
Golf clubs are designed to provide different things for different people, and confusingly, price doesn’t always equate to quality or a better product for each and every golfer.
This brings us to the key question: do expensive golf clubs really make a difference?
Expensive golf clubs do make a difference, but just because a set of clubs costs more, it doesn’t mean they will help your game. The more expensive clubs on the market are usually blades due to their forging process, and while this adds greater consistency or feedback, the lack of help with distance and forgiveness means they may actually damage the game of many golfers.
So, while it goes without saying that a set of golf clubs worth several hundred dollars is going to perform better than a rusted $50 set bought from your neighbour, more expensive clubs aren’t necessarily going to be better for you, depending on where your game is at.
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Are expensive golf clubs worth the money?
Expensive golf clubs are worth the money, so long as you play golf regularly and understand which are the right ones to purchase to suit your game. If you are a higher handicapper, splurging on top of the range blades will probably hurt your golf game, whereas a mid-priced set of forgiving cavity backs will offer better forgiveness and last for years if well maintained.
The more expensive clubs out there, as far as irons are concerned, are usually blades, such as the Titleist 620 MB irons.
While they may look sleek and boast a big price tag, for most average golfers they will be incredibly difficult to hit (so much so that less and less PGA Tour players are using blades in competition).
So, in this scenario, paying more assuming that you’re getting ‘top of the range’ gear may just mean you end up with clubs that are too hard for you to use. In a similar price bracket are ‘players irons’ like the Callaway Apex Pro.
Players irons are designed for golfers of a good standard (moving down towards single figure handicaps) who want a bit more feel and performance from their clubs.
However, you are still sacrificing some of the forgiveness seen in other options, so take note if you’re a beginner or someone who plays off of a higher handicap (and you may be better off trying some of the clubs on our Best Game Improvement Irons list).
The main thing to note about blades and players irons when it comes to price is the design and production of these types of clubs: something called the forged method.
Forging golf clubs requires heating and shaping steel into the desired form, and this is more expensive than casting golf clubs using moulds.
As irons like blades and players irons are forged, they attract a higher price tag.
Cheaper clubs, such as the Callaway Apex DCB, are created differently and possess cavities in the back of the club to help add forgiveness for players of a lower standard.
If you are a person new to the game of golf who really wants a shiny new set or somebody who plays off of a handicap of 20 or higher, the cheaper, cavity back versions of clubs will actually be better for your game than more expensive clubs that are forged or bladed that offer less help to the average golfer.
It is important to note, though, that going too low in price, even if an average golfer, is probably not something I would recommend either.
If looking to purchase a cheap set to get started with, something second hand from a major, trusted brand – like Callaway, Taylormade or Titleist – will be a better option than buying one of those cheap, all-inclusive sets online from a brand like Lazrus that you’ve probably never heard of.
While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with these cheaper sets, I have no doubt that once you properly catch the golf bug, you’ll start looking at them with an element of disgust and inevitably end up forking out for something brand name in the not-too-distant future anyway.
Do golf club brands make a difference?
Golf club brands definitely make a difference as the ‘top end’ manufacturers invest huge amounts of money into research and development, yielding more reliable, better performing clubs. Additionally, some brands, such as Cleveland and their wedges, are better known for certain types of clubs, so mixing and matching the brands in your bag could help you build the optimum set.
In all honesty, once you get to the big names – I’m talking Titleist, Callaway, Taylormade etc – the difference reduces quite a lot and anything from these suppliers will usually be of good quality.
There are cheaper brands on the market – such as Wilson (pictured below) – that will be perfectly suitable for beginner sets, but they will ultimately lack the quality and technology of those brands that are more well-known and come in at higher price points.
Is it worth buying better golf clubs?
Yes, it is worth buying better golf clubs if you have improved and your current clubs no longer suit your level of ability, or you need an upgrade. It is important that you don’t just buy more expensive clubs, but ones that are matched to your skill level to get you the best results on the course.
If you were new to golf not that long ago then it is likely you purchased a cheaper ‘beginner’ set or even something second hand.
While these are great options to get started, there will likely come a time where you decide that golf is for you (everyone I know catches the bug eventually) and you want to upgrade to a shiny new set.
I think, in this scenario, buying a new set is perfectly reasonable and a sensible purchase.
Additionally, if you bought a cheap set of a lesser-known brand name or a second hand set that is 20 years old, you are likely missing out on great technological advancements made in golf club design or the research and development the big brands can afford to do.
You could well find that the extra forgiveness of a set of cavity back clubs from Titleist or a Callaway does wonders for your game when compared to your previous, cheaper set.
As mentioned earlier, though, don’t use price as the only guide here, as some of the more expensive blade or players irons aren’t actually going to help your game if you are a mid to high handicapper.
The extra price comes from the cost associated with making forged clubs like blades, so price won’t necessarily translate to assistance for your game and may actually hurt your ball-striking consistency even though they are of a high quality.
This is why it is important to be fitted for your clubs, so book a time at a local golf shop or with a pro to test some clubs and see what the best option is for you.
Are more expensive drivers better?
More expensive drivers are generally better, given the price tag usually reflects the large amount of research and development that has gone into creating these clubs. However, there are still plenty of fantastic, cheaper drivers on the market, so paying more for one isn’t necessarily vital for every golfer.
Having said this, if you do have the funds to fork out for an expensive driver, I would recommend prioritising this part of the bag over any other.
The reason for this is driver technology seems to make the most advances of any club year on year, so buying something three or four years old may be quite outdated, more so than a set of irons of the same age.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of drivers on the market that will perform to a high level at a cheaper price tag, some even under $300.
A driver like the Cleveland Launcher XL Lite (pictured below) comes in at around $400AUD and would be more than adequate for a high to mid handicap golfer.
At the higher end of the spectrum are drivers like the Callaway Epic Max and TaylorMade SIM 2, both of which come from huge manufacturers who boast massive amounts of research and technology embedded within all of their clubs.
If you can afford to lash out for one of these, after being fitted for one and confident it suits your swing, then it would be a purchase impossible to regret.
Like irons, though, expensive doesn’t necessarily equate to better unless you are purchasing the model that suits your golf game and will complement, rather than impede, your swing.
For example, many drivers like the Ping g425 range have multiple versions, some suited to golfers of different standards.
The LST (Low Spin Technology) model is designed for better golfers who want to reduce spin and hit the ball farther.
To some degree, this will come at the expense of forgiveness.
Alternatively, their Max model is built to be more forgiving, and many people will find this driver, with loft increased to the maximum 12 degrees, will be a gem for finding fairways (if you really struggle off the tee, you should definitely consider adding a driving iron to your bag for better accuracy).
In essence, more expensive drivers will usually perform better than cheaper ones, but it is vital you are informed about what you are buying to ensure it suits your game and ability level.
Be sure to check out our list of affordable drivers here.
Should you buy expensive golf clubs as a beginner?
No, you shouldn’t buy expensive clubs as a beginner. When starting out, expensive clubs are far less important than working on the fundamentals of the golf swing, something you can learn with a cheap or second-hand set. It would also be a waste to pay large sums of money for clubs you might not even use long term if you end up quitting the game.
There are many great options for beginner golfers to get started in the game, such as buying a second hand set off eBay or purchasing a complete set like this one from a well-known brand.
Over time, most people who fall in love with the game will add and upgrade clubs gradually, transitioning to more expensive options as they further develop their game.
Overall, expensive golf clubs do make a difference, but this depends on a number of factors.
If you are brand new to the game and don’t even know if you’ll stick with it, then it is important to start off with a cheap set.
If in time you want to upgrade to more expensive gear from the big-name brands, always be fitted for new clubs and make sure you do your research, as an expensive club that is designed for a scratch golfer – when you yourself play off 25 – is just going to hurt your game, no matter how high the purchase price.