Making New Gear Fun & Free
It’s the end of February and almost every major OEM has filled your local golf store with new clubs. For the gear-obsessed golfers, this is the best and worst time of the year. The excitement is enjoyable, but the inability to try everything and test every bold promise can be maddening.
In this lesson, I’m going to try to tilt that balance toward fun. I’m going to give you four ways to scratch your equipment itches and try loads of new gear, all without breaking the bank. If you prefer listening to reading, this lesson exists as a podcast HERE.
This Lesson Is For You If:
You want to try a lot of new clubs
You don’t want to spend a ton of money
#1 – Visit Your Local Golf Store
The place to start scratching those equipment itches is in your local golf store. In 2023, there’s almost no way that your shop doesn’t have a hitting bay with a launch monitor. This is perfect place to bring your current gear and test it against the latest and greatest. If you have a good shop, this alone should give you access to most of the major OEM releases.
As a veteran of golf retail, I can tell you that the employees (in the main) have no issue with you using the hitting bays. That is what they are there for. The only thing that’s expected is that you act like a human. Don’t take over the bay for huge stretches of time, particularly if there are other people waiting. Don’t make a mess. Ask for help if you need it.
I’ll add that if you’re going to use the store’s resources, you should support the store. If you test new drivers, and you find one that you want to buy, purchase it there. Don’t use the store, then go online to save $10. If you don’t buy a club this year, go to the store to buy some gloves or balls. Don’t be a leech. If everyone uses the store’s hitting bays then buys online, there won’t be a store for very long.
#2 – Use (Don’t Abuse) Money Back Guarantees
There are numerous smaller brands that you can’t find at your local big box. That’s where step two comes in. Many newer or smaller companies offer the ability to buy their clubs online with a money back guarantee. Edison Golf, for example, gives you 30 days to try their wedges on your home course before deciding if they’re for you. Take them up on that offer.
Once again, the key to doing this correctly is not abusing the system. If you have no intention of keeping new wedges, don’t order new wedges. Don’t order things you can’t afford to keep. If you order a new club, it performs as promised, and you still send it back, you’re abusing the system, hurting the company, and potentially ruining the opportunity for other golfers. Don’t do that.
#3 – Get a Fitting
If your tastes run toward high end clubs, these last two options are for you. First is getting a high quality fitting. This will cost money, but it’s easily the best value when it comes to trying new, high end gear.
For the player that’s interested in boutique irons, a visit to Club Champion can scratch nearly every itch. In one visit, you can try Epon, Miura, PXG, and more. That iron fitting will cost $175. Compare that to $1,500 or more for each model you would have to buy to test. Even if you resold those sets, you’re guaranteed to lose much more than $175 on each transaction. The value is undeniable.
The math is similar if you’re interested in high end shafts. You can test Fujikura, Mitsubishi, Oban…the list goes on. Again, the cost of a driver fitting is $175. You’ll lose at least that on each shaft that you buy to try. Moreover, in a fitting, you can test the shafts head to head. In the buy to try scenario, you only get to hit one at a time, unless you have the cash to buy multiple shafts at once.
Finally, it shouldn’t be overlooked that there’s value in spending time with a fitter. I’ve been fitting and writing about equipment for over a decade, but I still learn something new every time I get fit.
#4 – Create a Co-op
Finally, we get to the hard-to-find, boutique gear – the stuff you won’t see at a big box or a club fitter. To try these brands without emptying your wallet, I suggest you form an equipment cooperative. This will take work, but it’s going to be worth it on multiple levels.
First, seek out other gear-obsessed golfers in your area. You’re already reading a golf equipment website, so use your computer skills to find these like-minded folk. Get a group of four or five together and make the pitch: let’s work together to try some cool gear.
If, for example, the group decides to demo a Swag putter, here’s how it could work. Take the cost of the putter and divide it equally among the group. One person orders it and takes their turn testing it. Then it gets passed to the next guy until everyone has had their turn. If you want to be more social, get together on a putting green and roll it. After everyone has tried it, the group can sell it to recoup their costs. Alternately, if one member loves it, they can buy it from the group. Either way, dividing the cost of buy-to-try lessens the financial sting and makes it possible to try more gear.
Bonus: you’ve just made some golf friends who you can talk gear with!
A Final Word
To paraphrase something I recently heard about life in general: you can’t opt out of being in the golf community, you can only choose to be a sh*tty member of the golf community. Choose to be a good member.