The Grassroots Beginner’s Buying Guide
You don’t have to break the bank to get the ball rolling
By Laz Versalles
In our latest episode of the Grassroots podcast we explore the journey of the beginner. We discussed some of the barriers of entry that people face as they look to get started. Navigating the equipment space can be overwhelming so we’re here to help. Keep in mind, golf isn’t free, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Everyone loves the long ball. A good driver makes a massive difference when you’re getting started. You don’t need to spend $800 for the same model Rory McIlroy uses. The used market is bursting with great deals under $100 dollars like these three drivers I found on eBay. The drivers below are all about 10-12 years old but still plenty good to get started. They’re all 460cc in size (the legal limit) and are far from obsolete. While these are marketed as “men’s clubs” many women use these clubs with little issue. Most drivers are typically 45” long so you may need to choke up a little bit but you’ll be fine. Try and find a model with no less than 10 degrees of loft. A regular or stiff flex shaft is best for 95% of new players.
Your Wedge, Your New Best Friend
As you get started in golf you’ll use the wedge more than any other club. Learn to be friends early. As you peruse the overloaded used market for wedges on eBay it’s best to filter. Browse for a bit, find a model you like and then set a filter for “buy now” and sort by price. Don’t be afraid to test the “Best Offer” market here since many wedges sit on eBay for months.
Because the wedge is so important, we’re going to get a little technical here. There are two critical measurements for wedges: loft and bounce. Loft is the angle of the club face as it relates to the shaft and lie is the measure of how low the sole of the club sits in relation to the leading edge of the club. A great and loft to start with is 56 degrees with a bounce of 10 to 12 degrees. When you see clubs stamped 56/12 that’s what it means. Bounce is a good thing. Look at bounce as a training wheel, of sorts.
The most popular wedges are Titleist Vokey and Cleveland. TaylorMade, Cobra Mizuno and Callaway all make great wedges, as well. I found this Vokey 56/12 for $40 and this Cleveland for $36 on eBay. You can see them below with a guide to loft and bounce.
Putters: Golf’s Most Personal Club
I highly recommend going to a golf shop and trying a few putters before you buy one. Most putters are between 33” and 35” inches. The putter is the club that puts the ball in the hole so this is a special relationship that you need to feel out for yourself. You may find a great putter for $25 in the used barrel at the golf shop but you’ll likely end up in the $100-150 range. There are two basic styles when it comes to putters: blades and mallets. Try both and see what you like.
A Set of Irons
Irons have different lengths and lofts so as to give players different distances with each club. In theory, there should be a 10 yard gap between each iron, so if your 7-iron flies 130 yards your 8-iron should fly 120 yards (yes, as the number of the club increases the distance decreases.) As with drivers, the latest and greatest model isn’t critical. In fact, some professionals still use clubs that are more than 10 years old. Despite prices climbing, irons haven’t changed much. On the podcast we talked about John’s Callaway irons from 2006 still being solid clubs which you can buy from a reputable used-club seller like 2nd Swing for under $400. Alternatively, you could get this set of Ping Eye 2 irons, perhaps the greatest clubs ever designed, for $120. I would play these clubs today without hesitation. For the ladies, I found this set of TaylorMade irons for $150, with free shipping and returns if you don’t like them.
The Callaway clubs John Nichols uses
Time For a Bag
Get a good golf bag once you’re serious. Used bags are hit-or-miss and shipping charges are steep. I’ve been burned before on the used bag market before and would advise you to splurge since you’ll likely keep the same bag for years. In a market full of great options most carry bags come with legs, weigh under 5 pounds, and have a backpack strap carry system. The Datrek Carry Lite is made by Bag Boy, a partner of the Fire Pit Collective, and is my bag of choice. Things to keep in your bag: sunscreen, water bottle, tees, no more than 12 balls, spare change, gloves, bluetooth speaker, lighter.
In summary, getting started doesn’t have to be expensive and searching for clubs online is a great way to save some money. Used clubs are good for your wallet and also the environment. Sites like eBay, Callaway Preowned and Craigslist are all worth a visit. If you do decide to buy new clubs, stay away from full sets that offer you the whole kit and kaboodle. Piece it together and you’ll be much better off.