Golf is a game full of technology, expensive gear and sales pitches designed to make people fork over big money to obtain big results; results that often never come.
For experienced golfers who know their swing, limitations and the difference between advice and a sales pitch, understanding when to buy new gear, and what to pay for it is something they will feel comfortable about.
If, however, you are brand-new to the game and looking to grab some clubs to learn with, walking into a golf shop and following the lead of a salesperson can be a daunting experience.
If you aren’t careful, you could end up leaving with thousands of dollars worth of gear that you don’t need, can’t afford and quite possibly won’t even be able to hit (especially if you have just bought blades).
You may have gotten into golf after watching the pros do their thing on the PGA Tour, but make no mistake, you do not need the same gear as them to have a great time playing golf.
So, what golf clubs do you really need as a beginner?
The golf clubs needed for a beginner are a driver or wood, a hybrid, mid-irons and a putter. A driver isn’t always essential as golfers will often benefit from learning to hit off the tee with a wood or hybrid. Irons are needed in the fairways and around the greens, while a putter is always used on the green, or from just off the edge.
I could argue over the exact makeup of someone’s first golf bag until the cows come home, but when first starting out in the game, you do not need several different wedges, and there is absolutely no requirement for clubs such as a 2 or 3-iron, or even a driving iron (despite there being some great options on the market).
I’ve played for years, currently go around off an 11 handicap and I still do not own any irons lower in loft than a 5-iron.
The reason: they are hard for me to hit, and if this is the first golf gear you have ever bought it’s likely they’ll be too hard for you, too.
Ultimately, you could scale down the bag even more drastically, as the below video from YouTuber Golf Sidekick shows.
If you have the ability, swing and decision-making around the course, a 6-iron, pitching wedge and 54-degree wedge – accompanied by a putter – can still see you be the best player in your group (by a mile).
Having said that, if you are a new golfer who struggles with consistency, you’ll most likely need a few more than four clubs (and possibly some lessons) to help you get around the course in a decent score.
Do beginners need a full set of golf clubs?
No, beginner golfers do not need a full set of golf clubs. It is possible to use as little as eight clubs: a 5 hybrid, 6-9 irons, a pitching wedge, a sand wedge and a putter. You can always add more clubs to your bag (the maximum is 14) but starting with these eight clubs will allow you to practice your game and buy based upon what you actually need, not what you think you need before you begin playing.
Undoubtedly, anyone starting off in golf has seen the pros hitting bomb drivers 350 yards and are probably asking where the ‘big stick’ features in my above list.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a driver, but as a beginner golfer: do you need one? The answer is no.
The driver can be an attacking golf club, but if you don’t make great contact, it can be extremely damaging to your game, too.
Since the driver goes farther than all other clubs, imperfect shots travel offline farther too, and if you find your game is quite wayward in its initial stages, the driver could be sending your ball out of bounds more than other clubs off the tee.
I recommend a more forgiving, shorter club, such as a 5-wood down to something even like a 5-hybrid as the longest club in your bag to begin with.
They don’t go as far off the tee, but you may find them easier to hit and keeping you in play more than spraying a driver all over the course.
Many professional golfers are opting to play more woods with higher lofts off the tee anyway, so you could find that adding a driver to the bag isn’t exactly a forgone conclusion as you start to improve.
I play with a high lofted 3-wood and, to be honest, my best strike with this goes as far as my driver anyway, and my poor shots are much, much less damaging.
In fact, my personal best round of 77 came without a single driver off the tee, so if it worked for me, maybe it will work for you, too.
What is the best driver for beginner golfers?
For a beginner golfer, the best driver is going to be something affordable and with high loft. There’s no point paying an extravagant amount for a driver as you are unlikely to get the most out of the pricey technology with a developing, flawed swing. What does count is loft, so a driver that is 12 or 13 degrees (or adjustable up to these numbers) will be far more forgiving and easier to hit.
It is also quite likely that your swing speed won’t be off the charts, so the stiffness of your driver shaft needs consideration too.
A regular-flex shaft – as opposed to a stiff or extra stiff shaft – might be the best option while you find your rhythm in the early days of your golfing journey.
As mentioned earlier, loft is your friend when picking your very first golf driver.
High-lofted drivers make it harder for you to curve the ball, and hooks and slices are probably going to feature heavily in the early days of your game.
Higher lofts will also lead to higher ball flights, so if you do carve a slice, it will at least be a high slice, landing softer and not running too far into the rough, trees or penalty area.
Another thing to consider is adjustable weights, although any driver with adjustable features is likely to start climbing in price.
If you can get a driver which has adjustable weight that can be added to the back, this will again aid a higher and more forgiving flight.
Many drivers have weights that can be moved to mitigate slices or hooks as well, although the jury is perhaps still out on just how effective these can be.
Best driver option for high loft: Wilson Launch Pad in 13 degrees
This driver doesn’t come with adjustability, but it does come with a beautifully high lofted 13-degree option.
A few months ago, I was having a torrid time hitting the ball too low off the tee, and I trialled this driver in an effort to let the loft do the work for me.
While I didn’t end up sticking with it long term (I actually hit it too high) it was as straight as an arrow and gave me regular, consistent distances off the tee.
It does have a built-in draw bias so might not be right for you if you have already developed a hook, but you won’t find many drivers out there that will help a beginner find fairways more regularly.
Best driver for weight adjustability: Cobra SpeedZone
Gamed until recently by Bryson DeChambeau (mind you, his version has an incredibly low loft), the Cobra Speedzone is on the cheaper end of high calibre drivers that are gamed by tour pros.
It comes with two levels of adjustability: loft that can go up to 12 degrees, adding forgiveness, and a pair of weights that can move between the front and back.
If you want to create the ultimate driver for forgiveness, dial up the loft and put the weights back to create a high-flying, high-spinning fairway finder.
The beauty here is that as your golf game improves, there’s no reason to upgrade: simply lower the loft and adjust the weights to get extra distance once your swing gets better.
Best drivers for value
If the number one factor for you is price when purchasing a driver, check out another article we have written on the best drivers for under $400 for beginners and high handicappers – we reveal some great choices that will help your game, without breaking the bank.
Are fairway woods and hybrids the same?
Fairway woods and hybrids are different golf clubs, but can be used in similar ways around the golf course, depending on preference. Fairway woods, such as a 3 or 5 wood, will generally perform better and be easier to hit off the tee, but hybrids provide options all over the course, including off the tee, out of the rough and in the fairway. Fairway woods have a larger head than hybrids, which can provide more confidence for higher handicap golfers.
I did mention earlier that a beginner golfer may find that driver just does not work for them, or possibly isn’t even necessary.
The number one feature of a forgiving driver is loft, so if you’re cranking your driver up so high it has the same loft as a 3-wood, it might just be worth buying a 3-wood, maybe even a hybrid.
As a beginner golfer, it’s quite likely you won’t want to fork out huge quantities of money given the outside chance you’ll get frustrated with the sport and sell all your gear after months of going it alone or some terrible performances with mates, so I’d recommend going for one or the other here.
Considering 5-woods have a loft high enough to rival many hybrids, it would be silly to have both in your bag, as they will essentially travel the same distance.
What I would suggest is getting a 3 or 4-wood with adjustable loft. This way, you can crank it right up for that extra forgiveness, then reduce it if you are feeling more confident in your game.
We recommend: Callaway Epic Max Fairway Wood
Available in a range of lofts, the Callaway Epic Max Fairway Wood will instil great confidence off the tee with its oversized head.
The shallow face also makes it easier to launch, perfect for beginning golfers who often swing slower – something that may help the direction of shot but hinder the ability to lift the ball into the air.
What is the easiest iron to hit for beginner golfers?
The easiest irons for beginners to hit are cavity back irons – irons with a hollow cavity which helps to distribute weight more broadly through the club. Some companies also produce super game improvement irons with a thick sole – a mixture between an iron and a hybrid – that are incredibly easy to hit.
Ultimately, any cavity back iron that feels good and gives you confidence as a beginner will be appropriate for someone starting out in golf.
Heck, even the pros are turning to cavity back irons more and more, as blades – as much as they look cool – just don’t give the same support when you make a bad strike (we delve deeper into this in another article).
A new form of ‘super game improvement’ iron has started to get traction in golfing circles, with technology making them easier to hit than just about anything out there, earning the title of our top pick for beginner irons.
Best irons for beginners: Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo Irons
It has to be said that gaming irons like this may turn some heads, but the results will be well worth any sideways looks.
The hollow head provides a smooth transition between hybrids and irons/wedges, meaning you’ll feel super comfortable with these in your hands.
The turbo-charged face helps launch the ball with speed, perfect for those swinging the club slower as they groove their game for the first time.
What wedges should a beginner golfer carry?
Beginners should carry wedges that have high ‘bounce’, a term used to describe the camber of the club’s sole and how raised the leading edge is off of the ground. Clubs with lower bounce tend to dig into the turf more if struck at the wrong angle, so beginner golfers with inconsistent swings will benefit from wedges with a higher bounce.
Now, there is a slight caveat to this, as less bounce can sometimes be helpful when in the bunker.
But if you are new to the game, you probably only want to buy one wedge to save money (pros sometimes carry as many as three!) and a high-bounce sand wedge will give you the greatest versatility. Something around 56 degrees in loft with 12 degrees of bounce is perfect.
Best golf wedge for beginners: Cleveland CBX2
This wedge is one that I personally gamed when new to golf.
I have now moved on to some different wedges as my game has improved, but this was by far the most consistent club in my bag at getting in and out of the turf – very rarely digging in too deep and creating a fat shot.
The cavity-back design adds to forgiveness and the rote face grooves will help you grip and spin the ball around the greens, avoiding running through the back with thinner strikes.
What is the best putter for a high handicapper?
The best putter for a high handicapper or beginner golfer is a mallet putter with a thick, SuperStroke grip. Mallet-style putters like the Taylormade Spider Black give great confidence due to their large head size, while a thick grip helps to reduce hand tension and a jerking putter motion.
Of any club in your new bag, the putter will make the least difference when first starting out, and isn’t worth spending too much money on until you refine your stroke.
If you have disposable cash or just like using the best gear, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t fork out for a better-quality putter, but it just isn’t necessary to create good results.
Putting comes down to technique, reading greens and confidence, far more than equipment.
The only two things I would recommend are:
- Consider a mallet putter, such as the Taylormade Spider Black. These putters, as opposed to a ‘blade’ putter, have large, bulky heads which will give any golfer, not just a beginner, confidence as they stand over a putt.
- Use a thick grip, such as a SuperStroke grip. Thicker grips make it harder to hold the club tightly, leading to a more fluent putting stroke.
Best beginner golf set
If all the different brands, suggestions and descriptions from above make your head spin then you are probably the perfect candidate to begin your golfing journey with a golf set, rather than individual purchases.
Many of the big brands in golf offer full sets with everything from driver to putter all packaged up in a bag that will send you straight to the first tee ready to roll.
There are a range of different price points and options, but you should be able to pick up a quality, affordable brand-name set for as little as $500.
We recommend: Wilson SGI Package
This packaged set from Wilson includes a driver, 5-wood, 5-hybrid, 6-iron through to sand wedge and a putter – everything you need to get started.
The large-faced driver offers a huge sweet spot and the cavity back irons provide great forgiveness.
You can’t go wrong with this as your first set of clubs.
Entering golf for the first time can be hugely daunting, with the expense and variety of gear incredibly confusing for those new to the game.
Be wary of sales pitches that promise the world, and remember that it is perfectly fine to start off with an incomplete set and build as you go.
If you don’t wish to break the bank and just want to avoid confusion, consider a cheap, full set, and your dream of a late dash onto the PGA Tour may only be a drive, chip and putt away.