I saw an interesting discussion on twitter about how the new Taylormade M5 and M6 drivers are going to clock in at $550, and I, for one, am flummoxed. Go check out my last blog about Justin Rose signing with Honma golf. To me, that represented that a paradigm shift is on the horizon. I assumed that the news would cause manufacturers to perk up their ears and realize that the need to buck their trend of releases that don’t introduce new technology, but still come with higher price tags.
At a minimum, Taylormade could have acknowledged that the way consumers buy clubs are changing and that a gigantic manufacturer can no longer simply offer a one size fits all head/shaft/grip combo, with vague distinctions between shafts, such as regular flex, stiff flex, and senior flex. By acknowledging this trend, I mean they could have offered some sort of coupon to where if you get fit, they’ll cover part of the cost if you buy an M5 or M6, or at least offer an array of shafts, but no. They’re pissing directly on the faces of golfers and essentially saying “don’t ask questions, just take out a second mortgage on your house, and swipe your credit card.” It’s like they think they’re dealing with meth addicts.
I find it especially odd that the golf industry has been in financial decline thanks to models like these, yet golf as a whole, in terms of pro viewership and rounds played by amateurs are actually growing. Golf clubs are catering to younger players and more inclusive leisure golf activities like Top Golf are growing at insane rates.
I primarily target Taylormade because they seem to be the biggest offenders of shoving the same shit with a fresh coat of paint down our throats on the fastest release schedules. Titleist has slowed down its releases a bit, Callaway’s pre-owned service is doing well, and Ping is attacking the market uniquely by going back to offering beautiful players’ clubs and premium junior clubs. So some companies are listening to consumers and understanding how to cater to the new era of readily available information for individuals’ swings.
Maybe Taylormade is simply going the way of old companies like Blockbuster, K-Mart, and Dunder Mifflin. They can refuse to adapt, and it will be fine for some time, but at a certain point, it’s going to bite them in the ass. Listen, I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record as I complain about Taylormade. I’ve hit plenty of their new equipment and I was once a staunch supporter of their clubs back in the RAC iron era. They make a fine golf club, but to offer an increased price jump up to $550, it would have to be justified by the cost of research & development or the cost of production. I don’t believe their new offerings cover any of that. It’s really the same thing as the last two releases, probably even further back than that. It’s a terrible thing for new golfers who want to get into this wonderful game to walk into a golf store and think that it’s far too expensive to start playing.
For these reasons, I’m going to offer a few price points for a golfer to get into the game or for current golfers to upgrade their clubs.
On the Cheap – $160 or less
Driver – Callaway FT-3 ($50)
Irons – Taylormade RAC HT irons ($73)
Putter – Odyssey White Steel #5 ($30)
This is really all you need to start playing golf. You don’t need woods, you don’t need wedges. You can play a full 18 and break 80 with this very setup. It took me less than 5 minutes to find this set on https://www.callawaygolfpreowned.com/ and trust me, I didn’t look hard. The driver has the modern look that isn’t like the old school, over lofted heavy clubs. The irons are pure and come without any gimmicks. The HT delineation stands for “high trajectory,” which means it’s heavier and thicker on the bottom, helping you cut through the turf and get the ball up in the air. They’re a classic take on game improvement irons that almost have a players’ look. The putter is another classic that has a great feel and I know plenty of lower handicappers who play a similar model. For $160, you can start playing golf right away, but I’d recommend taking those savings and investing in some lessons.
A quick note on lessons: I hate the stigma that surrounds getting lessons for some people. They think that they’re athletic enough to figure out on their own or that lessons are just for beginners, but you can’t think of it that way. Professionals take lessons and I definitely take lessons. If you see a club pro with a PGA certification, they’ve spent years studying the game and can play and teach to an extremely high standard. Another great thing you can do is treat yourself to a lesson with a top pro. A lot of top resorts will only let you play if you’re staying there, and even then, the green fees can get up to $300+. If you want to get on the grounds of a course where they hold PGA events, but don’t want to pay to play, take a lesson. I’ve taken lessons at the Broadmoor in Colorado, Streamsong and Innisbrook in Florida, and at Sea Island in Georgia. Often times, they’ll have perks like getting you on a Trackman or full use of practice facilities after your lesson, where they’ll often have premium range balls and great amenities. Every so often, my swing needs a tune up, and forking over $100-$200 for pros who have worked with USGA and PGA champions is more than worth it. It’s a hell of a lot better than getting the shanks and having your drunken accountant buddy tell you to do something with your wrists to fix it. And if you’re trying to get lessons cheaply, you can get the clubs I mentioned above and a couple of lessons for under $200 with a local muni course pro.
Mid Range Upgrades – $300 or less
Driver Shaft – Handcrafted Project X HZRDS with Fitting ($300)
Wedges – Titleist SM6 Vokey Set ($300)
Putter – Black Lab Golf Putter ($300)
So I’m kind of cheating on this one. Mostly because I rethought how I wanted to write this out and I decided that if I go with the same route as the starter picks, I’d just be picking slightly newer equipment that may not even fit your game personally. So instead, I’m going to tell you what I would do with $300 if I’m an intermediate golfer who wants to upgrade their game.
The driver shaft is arguably the most important part of a driver. Sure it looks great to pull off your cover to reveal a shiny new head, but serious golfers are going to take a look at the shaft (insert smiling emoji with sunglasses). If you think I complain a lot about the golf industry now, I have a whole other rabbit hole I could go down about shafts. For one thing, manufacturers can effectively buy the rights to shaft logos. So maybe you look up a pro and see they’re playing a Project X HZRDS Black and you want to buy the same one. Well you meander down to Dick’s Sporting goods and see that the M2 is on sale and it has the same shaft. What luck, right!? Wrong… Wrong as can be. The tour shafts can get insanely expensive, like over half the cost of the entire driver because the shaft is so important. A shaft has a specific flex and kick point which affect the flight and consistency of your tee shot. Because of this, they need to have strict tolerances in terms of how they are made. The shaft you buy off the rack was most likely made in another country by machine. This doesn’t necessarily make it bad, but tour shafts are generally hand rolled in the United States and made to insanely high standards.
Most driver heads are removable and interchangeable with other shafts so long as you have the right tip for the driver. So with $300, go to a club fitter, pay the $150, get fit for an optimal shaft, then go buy it second hand. If you play a Titleist head and can only find a Taylormade tipped shaft, new tips are about $12.
As for wedges, golfers will generally start out with whatever wedges they’re given. Or perhaps they’ll go on a recommendation from a buddy, or just play a gapping setup that makes logical sense. That may be fine, but considering the majority of golf shots are hit from 100 yards and in, you need to get a set that really works for you. As strong of a proponent as I am for fitting, I kind of don’t believe in going to an indoor simulator for this one. There are a million grind and loft combinations out there and you really need to feel out the wedges in different scenarios, like fairway, bunkers, thick rough, light rough, and maybe even fescue. I recommend going to demo days where manufacturers bring their clubs for people to try. Wedges also tend to wear out the fastest, so keep an eye out for wearing down the grooves.
When buying a premium putter, people tend to gravitate towards Bettinardi, Scotty Cameron, and higher end Taylormade/ Odysseys. I don’t think there’s a problem with that, but you can get totally custom milled putters for about the same cost. Check out Chip Usher at Black Lab golf. He hand crafts putters to your specs for a completely reasonable price.
High End – Unlimited Budget
Obviously the sky is the limit when it comes to golf clubs. For fun, let’s add up what it would be.
Full bag fitting – $350
Driver – PXG Driver with Tour Shaft ($1100)
Woods – PXG Woods with Tour Shafts ($1400 for 3&5)
Irons – Custom National Works by Don White (Idk, a fuckin’ lot, maybe $4,000)
Wedges – Titleist Vokey SM7 with custom grinds and effects by Wedgewizard ($1,500)
Putter – Custom Lambcrafted Putter by Tyson Lamb ($5000-$6000)
Lawyer – For my inevitable divorce for spending $14,000 on golf clubs
So this is just my dumb what-if scenario if I ever really get rich. For the most part, it would be sending my club fitting specs to golf club retailers and they would build to my set to my numbers.
If you haven’t come up with a new year’s resolution yet, make it to play more golf. If your old clubs that don’t really work for you are holding you back, there are plenty of ways to freshen up your golf bag with some new equipment for pretty cheap. So get out and start playing… Right after it warms up… And fuck Taylormade.