As someone who has taught exclusively, fit exclusively, and done both together, I’ve been asked many times, “When should I get fit? Should I take lessons first or get the clubs first?” Here are my thoughts:
The Short Answer
Clubs first, assuming they are fitted for you.
The Long Answer
If you’re planning to start playing golf seriously or are re-committing to improvement, there’s no reason to play with clubs that are too long or short, too stiff or soft, too upright or too flat, or have the wrong size grips. All of these things will cause you to start building compensations into your swing: things that you will later have to work to remove. For example, someone who is very tall, very short, or just uniquely proportioned might end up with a very odd posture if they played standard length clubs. There’s no reason for that.
On the other hand, does the beginner need to be fit to the highest level? Of course not. Someone who doesn’t know their swing yet probably doesn’t need to be dialing in spin rates with different high end shafts. It is likely that they will be changing a number of things about their impact conditions, so that’s not going to be money well spent. For now, a decent stock shaft should suffice, as long as it’s the right flex.
The toughest question is, “What type of irons should I get?” There are lots of ideas about who should play what type of clubs, so I will address that question on its own at a later time.