What are the best Golf Clubs for the Money in early 2018?
Golf has gotten into your blood. In fact, you're not even sure you could quit at this point, even if you wanted to. The problem, of course, is that your love for the game and its impact on your wallet don't get along very well. With many balls now costing in the double digits and the latest drivers covering roughly half a mortgage payment, your passion for golf can quickly become a significant factor in your monthly budget. Fortunately, many manufacturers recognize this and design sets that are not only technologically advanced and functionally outstanding but, perhaps most importantly, easy on your checking account. By personally testing and analyzing these five choices, the best golf clubs for the money according to playing level and purpose, ranging from beginner to mid handicapper, drivers to hybrids, I hope to provide some insight and guidance for your next club purchase:
Get the Most Bang For Your BuckLike anything that's technologically driven, a term that absolutely fits modern golf clubs, the newest, fanciest models are usually marvels of design and function, but rarely budget friendly. Whether it's a laptop, smartphone or titanium driver, you will always pay for that new technology. However, by being smart, choosy, doing some research and being faithful to that tight budget, your golf game doesn't have to suffer just because of your cash constraints.
Yesterday's ModelAlthough every major club manufacturer is releasing new, cutting-edge sets each year, that doesn't negate the function, efficiency and form of their previous models. Once again using smartphones as an analogy, the release of this year's newest iPhone doesn't make last year's a technological disaster. It simply means Apple has released something just a bit faster with a few additional bells and whistles while still making their older models, just now at a significant discounts. Using this same thought process for your golf game can save heartache in your bank statements while still providing the benefits of new club technology. A driver from a couple season's ago is still going to have incredible distance, a variety of flex shafts to fit your swing and a head size that provides confidence and reliability at the tee. Similarly, yesterday's irons will feature excellent centers of gravity, perimeter weighting for control and a forgiving face to help you when your ball striking is just a bit off. However, by choosing that driver or iron set from a few years ago rather than the newest, shiniest models, you could be saving yourself up to 50% without sacrificing much in performance. This video does an excellent job summarizing the benefits of choosing clubs that are a few years older but still of extremely high quality. In other words, the buying choices discussed will fit within your budget while allowing your game to evolve and improve. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9GP4SYRN9g
A Baby Benz is still a MercedesWhile golf certainly has a fair amount of brand snobbery among the different club manufacturers, at least from the consuming public's perspective, what matters most is to find clubs that suit you, your game, your goals and your budget. Even the biggest names in the sport offer different models for those that are looking for performance from a leading designer and manufacturer but not necessarily at the cutting-edge price points. While not every company might make beginner sets that include everything from the driver to the carrying strap on the bag, most offer woods, irons, hybrids and specialty clubs for every budget, just holding back a bit on the thrills, frills and Ironman-like technologies included within. There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to stick with a club manufacturer that you trust, have had success with in the past and feel confident in the clubs they make. However, if you're working within a tight budget, check out all of the models that company has to offer. There's a pretty good chance they're going to make a line of clubs that might lack variable head weighting and adjustable loft control but still be technologically advanced in design, manufactured with cutting-edge materials and extremely comfortable in your stance.
Not All Used Car Lots are Created EquallyThis next budget friendly technique needs to be handled with a bit of caution. The market for used golf clubs is absolutely massive. After all, for those that want to upgrade to the newest models every year or two, they usually have no need to keep those older clubs and choose to sell them through some secondary market channel. Thus, there will always be untold numbers of used sets, ranging from gently used to mercilessly punished, available at great prices. However, as tempting as those prices might be, please remember there’s basically no way of finding how much life those clubs have left in them until you’ve played with them a few times. Much like cars, golf clubs don’t have an infinite life span. Grooves get worn, making feel and control nearly impossible, and drivers lose their distance, the materials just wearing out from too many trips to the range.
A Few Final Words of CautionFinally, when looking to upgrade your clubs, be sure to buy from reputable companies with good track records and customer satisfaction. Once again harkening back to the smartphone analogy, industries with a constant influx of new technologies are also prone to counterfeit products. To use a well-worn but still pertinent cliche, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Just like buying a new iPhone from a small, unknown and foreign vendor is rife with potential fraud, so is purchasing your new set of “brand name” woods or irons. Unfortunately, the market is filled with clubs that look nearly identical to their namesake but lack the design, materials and quality of the original. Be cautious and use common sense when researching your new clubs. Both your money and your game are worth the extra bit of research.
If you’ve just started the game or are looking for your first “real” set of clubs, the Callaway Strata Complete Golf Club Set is a wonderful, well-rounded set of clubs that contains everything you need to dive into golf with both feet.
With a 460 cc forged titanium driver, 3 Wood, hybrid club, full set of irons to Pitching Wedge, putter and even a roomy but light and durable bag, Callaway gives the beginner literally everything they need to start the game in one box.
The driver feels powerful with a big enough face to afford some forgiveness from the tee while the irons are well-balanced and gapped nicely to give the player some options from the fairway.
The bag has ample storage for golf balls, tees, a rain jacket and even includes a cooler pouch for drinks. The backpack-style harness is also a nice addition for the player that prefers to walk the course.
All in all, for a beginning golfer that wants a simple, affordable but highly functional complete set to begin their golfer’s journey, the Callaway Strata is extremely tough to beat.
What we like
- All necessary clubs for a novice golfer are included
- High quality and well-made
- Woods have nice a nice feel with decent length
- Irons also have nice feel
- Very good price for what you get
What we dislike
- Potential bag wear and tear
- Lightweight can lead to breaks
Obviously one of the biggest names in golf, TaylorMade is one of those companies that releases a new technological marvel of a club every year.
However, as thrilling as those new clubs tend to be, they aren’t exactly easy on the wallet. For that reason, TaylorMade also produces their AeroBurner set of woods and irons.
While the AeroBurner driver might lack adjustable head weighting and loft, it is still an absolutely fantastic driver with distance and feel to spare. TaylorMade still uses lightweight, cutting-edge materials and aerodynamics to form and shape the muscular club head.
When coupled with their Speed Pocket technology to maximize the sweet spot, the AeroBurner is smooth, powerful and incredibly responsive at the point of impact. The loft and hosel design also allowed me to get ample height off the tee as well put a subtle draw on the ball after just a handful of swings.
Whether you’re a low or middle handicapper, the TaylorMade AeroBurner is the best driver for a budget on the market today and would be a welcome addition to any golfer’s bag.
What we like
- Much easier to swing than a regular driver.
- Shorter shaft makes hitting consistent shots from the center of the club head a breeze.
- Speed Pocket on the sole guarantees high ball speeds and increased forgiveness.
- Can be a replacement for 3-woods, with excellent performance on the fairway as well.
- Essentially two clubs (a driver and wood replacement) at a very competent price point.
What we dislike
- Not equal to a full-sized driver on long distance shots.
- Not a good choice for firm turf conditions and windy courses, when compared to high lofted woods.
- Might require some loft gap restructuring in your club set if you add this club.
Filling the exact space in the market as the AeroBurner driver, the Callaway X Series 416 Irons are fantastic irons at a very reasonable price compared to the higher level Callaway’s.
With excellent feel and distance, I felt comfortable with the mid range irons while aiming for pins in the 150 to 190 yard range but still having feel and touch with the lower range irons.
The club faces are well-balanced, always providing a sense of control and were more than adequate chipping towards the pin within 60 yards.
The Callaway X Series 416 irons are a great, well-rounded set of irons that provide a nice combination of distance and feel. I would be hard-pressed to find another set of irons that offered comparable performance at their great price.
What we like
- Lowered center of gravity for more straight hits
- Offer a uniform punt across its face
- Well balanced to feel comfortable on user’s hands and offer accuracy
- Good price quality ratio
What we dislike
- Relatively high ball flight for long irons
- Relatively lower forgiveness than newer releases
- Balls may balloon slightly at very high speeds
Although fairway woods don’t get near the attention or publicity they deserve, squeezed between the glamour of the driver, uniqueness of the hybrids and utilitarian needs of irons, fairway woods are a vital part of any golfer’s bag that wants to hit par 5s in two or simply have a more consistent, predictable option off the tee.
With the Fly Z woods, Cobra offers the mid handicap player an excellent set of technologically driven, superior performing woods at a significantly lower price point than its big brothers.
With a large sweet spot, plenty of loft for elevation off the deck and a nice shape & center of gravity for cutting through the short rough when needed, the Cobras felt very well-balanced on the range with a nice, explosive feel at contact.
What we like
- One of the best performers in all kinds of lies, even divots and bunkers, thanks to that compact clubhead.
- Just about enough forgiveness to cover marginal mishits, perfect for mid handicappers looking to improve their game.
- Plenty of distance on shots, enough to make you smile on shorter par-4s from the tee.
- Sturdy feel and feedback, with impressive sound on impact.
- Black and orange finish with the innovative “space-port” at the sole make this a killer looking club.
What we dislike
- The trajectory on shots is a bit too flat for some golfers.
- Despite the excellent performance on the fairway, some might find this as more of a driver substitute.
With long irons quickly going the way of the dinosaurs in the average high to mid handicapper’s bag, the relatively new hybrid clubs have rapidly become an important, potent part of the typical golfer’s game.
Although every major manufacturer has at least one and sometimes several different models to choose from, the Wilson Staff D200 hybrid sticks out from the crowd with its performance and fair price.
While hybrids come in a few different varieties, primarily the low iron substitute and rescue club, the Wilson definitely lends itself towards the iron replacement side.
Granted, I hit the 19 degree club, not the 22, so the lower loft is more representative of a traditional low iron game, but I honestly don’t think my opinion would have changed much, no matter the loft I hit.
In fact, getting significant elevation from the 19 degree version is not a problem at all, a pleasant surprise given the head is still lofty enough to elevate out of the tall rough.
Also, considering its relatively normal sized club head and face, the Wilson packs a surprising punch, proving to be a more than adequate replacement for the 2 and 3 irons likely missing from your bag.
In short, the Wilson Staff D200 hybrid is an outstanding club at any price but, given what you can find it for at major retailers, it’s an absolutely outstanding value.
What we like
- With Reactive Face Technology, the D200 offers excellent accuracy and forgiveness.
- Easy to swing thanks to its lightweight and flexible shaft.
- Adjustable loft angles can be changed to 9, 10.5 and 13 degrees.
- Excellent value for money at a very affordable price point.
What we dislike
- Some golfers might find the lightweight nature of the club bothersome.
- The matte black and chrome design isn’t too bad but doesn’t look premium.
- Not a great distance driver.
All five picks were of varied use and different skill levels. Still, when looking for which club or set holds the most value for the buyer, the TaylorMade AeroBurner driver is the clear favorite and well-deserving of a 5 star rating.
With excellent performance and an extremely competitive price, the AeroBurner provides a high to mid handicap player plenty of distance off the tee yet still maintaining the forgiveness and feel of a driver twice its price. It is clearly the best of its class and should be a welcome addition to any bag.