So you have decided to start playing golf. That’s awesome!
The challenge now is to find the right set of golf clubs for your skill level.
In this article I set out the key characteristics to look for when choosing a set of beginner clubs.
To kick off lets start at the tee with the driver and work towards the green.
Golf drivers are a minefield! There are literally hundreds of different shapes and sizes! The main things to consider if you are just starting out are: club head size, loft, adjustability and shaft flex.
In terms of head size I recommend going for the maximum size, which is 460cc (this is a volume measurement in cubic centimetres). A larger head size will be more forgiving on miss-hits, have a larger sweet spot and provide more consistency and distance.
Driver lofts vary from as low as 7 degrees to as high as 12 degrees. As a beginner go for a 10 or 11 degree loft as this will make it easier to launch the ball off the tee. If possible, also try to get a driver that has an adjustable hosel that allows you to increase or decrease the loft by 1 or 2 degrees.
Driver adjustability systems are probably one of the biggest game changers in the past decade. Nowadays many drivers come with adjustable weight and loft systems. These systems allow you to setup the driver to help control shape of the ball. For example, if you struggle with a hook or slice you can easier adjust the weight to the toe or heel to correct for these shape shots.
Finally, the shaft flex is a really important factor to consider. The faster your swing the more stiff you would want your shaft flex to be. It is worth measuring your swing speed to get a sense of what shaft flex would suit your swing well, but as a quick rule of thumb you can use the table below.
Fairway woods are an important club in the beginner’s bag. The two fairway woods that are most common are the 3-wood and 5-wood. Both have a potential role to play, however with the advent of hybrid clubs (discussed below), the 5-wood has become less of a priority.
Fairway woods, as the name suggests, are designed to be hit directly off the turf. Because of this they tend to have a shallower face and lower sweet spot than a driver. They also have more loft, typically ranging from 13 degrees up to 16 degrees for 3-woods and 17-22 degrees for 5-woods.
Fairway woods can have relatively small heads, as small as 180cc, so the trick as a beginner is to select one that is not too small. Ideally for a 3-wood you should try to make sure the head size is greater than 200cc. A larger head size will increase the sweet spot and make it easier to hit. You should also go with fairway woods that have graphite shafts that match your swing speed.
Hybrids are a brilliant addition to the beginner’s golf back as they merge together the low centre of gravity potential of a fairway wood with the flatter sole of a long iron. This makes them a lot easier to hit than standard long irons (1-5 irons).
As you probably already know, long irons are not easy to hit as they have low lofts with very small and narrow faces. Hybrids in effect solve this problem by swallowing out the face; broadening the sweet spot and bulging the club slightly back so that it can easily glide through turf. However, like an iron, the lie, length, loft and weight are similar.
If you are just starting out I would literally bin all your long irons or select a beginners set that does not include them. To replace these irons I would go for two hybrids - a 4H (which typically replaces the 4-iron and has a loft of 24 degrees) and a 5H (which replaces the 5-iron and has a loft of 27 degrees).
Like drivers, irons come in many different shapes and sizes too. The better players prefer irons with a muscle back or blade like design as these types of irons tighten the sweet spot. However, as a beginner you want your sweet spot to be as broad as possible. To do this the iron needs to have a cavity back with the weight distributed outward.
Moreover, an offset clubface (i.e. the club head is set back from the shaft) is also desirable as this allows one to get under and through the ball better than irons that have little offset.
Finally, if you have heeded my advice and decided to bin your long irons, then the only irons you will need in your bag are the 6-9 irons (excluding wedges of course, as we discuss these below).
Wedges are used around the green to finesse the ball close to the pin. They range from pitching wedges and gap wedges to sand wedges and lob wedges. As the names suggest, each wedge has a different purpose and design, with lofts varying from as low as 50 degrees up to 64 degrees.
As a beginner I recommend getting two types of wedges – a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. The key thing to consider when selecting these wedges is your angle of attack. This is the angle at which your club strikes the ground. You can determine this by looking at your divot. If you find you take deep divots then you most likely have a steep angle of attack. If however, your divots are shallow then your angle of attack is probably also shallow.
As a rule of thumb if your angle of attack is steep, a common feature for beginners, then you will benefit from getting wedges with wide soles and high bounce angles (a measure of the angle of the trailing edge of the sole to the leading edge). If your attack is shallow though you should opt for a narrower sole and lower bounce angle.
Now that we have reached the green we get to probably the most important club, the putter. As the saying goes, you drive for show but you putt for doe. Undoubtedly one of the most important areas in golf is putting. The good news is that choosing a putter pretty much comes down to personal preference and general feel. The bad news is even the best putters in the world will not make you a good putter.
That being said it is worthwhile paying attention to a few features.
First, the weight of a putter is important. Generally the more weight the easier it is to stay sturdy over putts and give a consistent roll to the ball. This makes mallet putters a good option for beginners, as they tend to have a little more weight.
Second, some putters have alignment features. These are proven to help align putts and are worthwhile having.
And finally, a thicker grip is significantly better than standard size putter grips as they provide more stability in ones hands, and therefore the putter is less likely to twist in the stroke.
I hope this article has helped clarify what you should look for in your beginners set. If you are serious about improving your game it is always worthwhile to get custom fitted by a professional.