The Golf Equipment Idea That Must Die

outgrown my clubs

“I’ve Outgrown My Clubs”

Many of the lessons I write are prompted by readers.  This is one such lesson, because at least once a week, I receive a comment or email that deals with the idea of “outgrowing” golf clubs.  Most often, the writer has seen their handicap drop and decided they need new clubs.  Sometimes it’s the preemptive concern about not buying clubs while they’re still improving.

I’m not writing this to dump on those readers.  I’m writing this because I think the idea of outgrowing your clubs is unhelpful and potentially damaging.  Additionally, I want to have a long form response to those readers that will, hopefully, help them with their decision.  I hope it helps you, too.

If you want to check out this lesson in podcast form, click HERE.

This Doesn’t Apply To You If…

Before you go running to the comments to tell me why I’m wrong, there are four categories of people who this doesn’t apply to.

Kids

Kids literally outgrow their clubs by getting taller and stronger.  Just like they need new shoes when their feet get bigger, they need new clubs as they grow.

Adults Whose Bodies Change Dramatically

If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight (“significant” can vary depending on height and build, but I’m thinking 30 pounds or more), you may need new clubs.  This can also apply if you’ve gained a lot of weight.  If your body changes a lot, the geometry of your set up position is likely going to be different.  This may require longer or shorter clubs or clubs that are flatter or more upright.

You Need Something Specific From New Clubs

If you’ve gained or lost 5 MPH of club head speed, you probably want to take a fresh look at your clubs and shafts.  Similarly, if you’re seeing a consistent problem in your ball flight over a significant period of time, you might need something new.  Neither of these is the generic “I’ve outgrown my clubs” because you’re going into the fitting with a specific goal: more spin, lower ball flight, more draw bias, etc.

You Just Want New Clubs

Never forget that I am always the guy who encourages golfers to play whatever clubs they want.  If you are simply tired of what’s in the bag, by all means, get new clubs.  If something new and shiny has caught your eye, get it.  Play what makes you happy.

Why This Idea Must Die

Golf Clubs Do Not Have Handicap Limits

Just as there’s nothing stopping a 25 handicap from playing blades, there is no law that says a single-digit golfer needs to give up their forgiving irons.  To prove this, you need look no further than the bags of Tour players.  Some of the best players in the world use blades, but many do not.  They play whatever fits the needs of their swing and their preferences.  You should do the same.

It Only Applies to Irons

I’ve never received a comment that said, “I bought a big mallet putter when I started, but now I’m a good player, so I need a smaller putter.”  Similarly, no one has ever asked me at what handicap level they need to ditch their 460cc driver.  Somehow, this idea of “outgrowing” clubs is applied only to irons.

Let’s apply some logic: if forgiveness is good on the green, and forgiveness is good off the tee, shouldn’t it be good from the fairway, too?

The Clubs You’ve “Outgrown” Made You Good

This is, perhaps, the most compelling point: the clubs you’ve “outgrown” are the ones that got you to this new, lower handicap!  Why are you leaving them behind?

It’s Dishonest Ego

I have no issue with a little flex.  A certain amount of ego is healthy, perhaps even necessary, for playing good golf.  But let’s be honest about it.  If you want new clubs because you’re now a single digit player, just say that.  Don’t offer a phony justification.

Why I Care

The entire purpose of Plugged In Golf is helping people play better and enjoy the game more.  The concept of “outgrowing” your clubs runs counter to those goals.

I could fill several books with the stories golfers have told me about “the clubs that got away.”  These stories always start with, “I thought I needed new clubs…” and end with “…I never played as well as I did with those old clubs.”  I don’t want that for any of you.  And before you say, “Just keep the old ones, too,” understand that’s not feasible for many golfers.  Golf clubs are expensive.

Finally, I want you to be happy when you buy new gear.  If you’re going into the process dishonestly or with a misguided notion of what you need, you’re going to be disappointed.  When your game truly demands something new, work with a fitter and find it.  If you want a shiny new toy, buy it honestly, knowing that it might not be best for your game but that you’re going to enjoy having it in the bag.

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Matt Saternus

Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Plugged In Golf. He's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Matt lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

42 Comments

  1. “Golf Clubs Do Not Have Handicap Limits”

    I never understood this one either. Annika used Big Bertha irons most of her career and she’s the female golfing goat. Monty also used Big Bertha irons when he was on top of the Euro tour.
    From what I see, most golfers need the most forgiving irons they can get their hands on.

  2. I had a 4 hdcp friend who used R flex graphite Titleist DTRs and “outgrew” them into a set of blades with S300s… disaster ensued

  3. I used that reasoning several years ago, and still regret it. The clubs that I had I bought, had fit, and played for many years. I had the ego I could do better with an upgraded set. Big Wrong. I was successful because what I was playing with I trusted. Now several years later, three different sets, and a learning curve I don’t have the patience for. All caused by an I’ll conceived ego.
    You’re spot on with your painful comments.

  4. I have worked on my swing everyday for the past 2 years.
    So I bought a used set of Titleist Tmb 716 had them professionally build them.
    This time I went with a light weight steal shaft, each club weight D2 1/2.
    Now I have to say these are the best irons I have ever played.
    Just so happy something actually turned out for me.

    • Ralph Cooper

      Would it be good to be fitted to some clubs. I haven’t played for about for fourteen years. And I have lost a lot of grip in my hands. The reason I haven’t played for so long is that I was detained for several years, and was unable to play. I am now in a position we’re I could start playing again. I am 64 years old.

      • Matt Saternus

        Ralph,

        Yes, it’s always a good idea to be fit for your clubs. Even if you don’t end up changing clubs/buying clubs, you will learn a lot from your time with a good fitter.

        -Matt

  5. I totally understand those who want to change clubs just because their new. I play a set is 10 year old JPX’s and they are fine. All I did was change to graphite shafts as I got older. Make a small adjustment to your clubs make a huge difference.

  6. Michael Dahler

    I am 70 years and in my 3rd golf life having abandoned it once for lack of time due to my career constraints and then again after a medical event. When I began the 3rd iteration after I retired, I was fitted for a new set of Pings focused on game improvement with soft flex shafts throughout. An old guy setup that works amazingly well for this old guy. My best money spent on golf is spent on a monthly hour long session with our club’s PGA professional. Whenever I think about some type of new equipment, I remind myself of the Bobby Jones’ quote (paraphrasing now) – golf is played on the 5 1/2 inch course between the ears. I can’t buy a new between-the-ears course, but my sessions with my PGA instructor and regular time on the range are the next best thing.

  7. This happens every season,

    You have the players that get frustrated at the end of the season with their 12/13 handicap…. so they go out and spend another $1,200 on the new Taylor/Calloway (pick a name) and take on 10 more lessons, with the new $200 golf shoes and spend another $500 on changing grips and shafts…. and come spring, they can’t even get close to a 18 handicap.

    In the meantime…. those Tour Edge (pick a name) clubs that got him to that 12/13 handicap are just collecting dust in the garage —- along with his ego..!

  8. Sometimes a little experimentation with a different club type or shaft flex can be helpful. However, it’s not necessary to buy a full set of new clubs to try something out. When I want to try something different I just buy one used club to see how it works for me.

  9. Very true. I am seeing a couple of well known golf experts starting to proclaim the benefit of cavity back and game improvement clubs over blades for all handicaps. I think this is largely because of launch monitor and associated real data that does not lie. My analogy would be why would you choose to play a blade instead of a more forgiving club, if you would not choose an old 240cc driver clubhead over the modern day 460cc driver. It’s the same concept of more forgiveness, whether driver or iron!

  10. Wow. Honesty and frank talk from a golf site. Refreshing.

  11. I got my handicap down to where it hovered around 3, playing with a CB/MB combo set. I did the opposite of what most golfers would do. I kept the same shafts and went into CB’s 6-P with a couple hollow bodies at the top end to get forgiveness some forgiveness back in the bag. That extra little bit helped me get to scratch in just a handful of months, and even a SMIDGE into plus territory for a few weeks by the end of the season. It’s now been two full seasons and I’m still hovering around 0-1, and my only regret is not doing it sooner.

  12. Daney Diperron

    Would you please explain the pic of the little girl with the man behind her using what looks like and ADULT DRIVER.
    What is the point this pic is trying to get across.
    If it’s real it’s a joke.
    I’m a golf instructor and too often I see kids and people using clubs to long for them.
    Using clubs like this and growing into them is a joke.
    Why are we trying to make golf harder than it can be.
    Also people like to have fun.
    What a way to get bad habits that you can out grow.
    Also get hurt.

  13. Putter: Still using 1974 PING ANSER. Tried TM Kia Ma Daytona6. ANSER back in bag. Irons: I am still using Spalding Tour Edition Red-Lines. Circa 1989. On fourth shaft iteration. I’ve tried Callaways , Pings and TaylorMades. They were expensive and did not perform any better. I was looking for significant improvement in the irons. Nothing, my shaft changes gave me what I was looking for. Wedges: Cleveland CG12s Black Pearls. Love em. Haven’t tried anything new, I don’t see the point. Driver had Adams 9032 went and demoed TM M2. No statistical difference that I could see making a $500 investment. I did put in a Harrison Shaft which really rocks for me. Hate to say it, I don’t see investing $1000 for a couple yards, when the issues are probably more with my mechanics that equipment.

  14. Nathan Jaworski

    I’ve wanted a new set of irons because I’m just tired of looking at my old irons. I play Ping G15s circa 2008 and they are super forgiving but I just prefer a sleeker look at address these days. I don’t think new clubs will take strokes off but I may have more confidence. Am I right to think the technology in irons has made modern player irons similar forgiveness to older player improvement irons?

    • Matt Saternus

      Nathan,

      I have been saying for the last several years that no one is benefitting from technology more than “better” players as irons like the PING i-Series have grown extremely forgiving. That said, I don’t think they’re an apples-to-apples comparison with real GI or SGI irons because of things like offset, CG placement, and the comfort players may get from the larger look at address.

      Best,

      Matt

    • Im afraid of getting rid of my g10,s got fitted 2006. But now I’m old. 2 iron may be best club ever.

  15. I love this article. That is exactly what I did when I got into golf and was working on getting better and learning how to play started to see improvements then started hopping from this set to that set in my mind justifying it as outgrowing them. Good points you’ve made which I found to be true the hard way

  16. It’s not the arrow it’s the indian

  17. Chris Jackson

    I actually went the other way with tge driver. Started playing the TaylorMade Mini driver and absolutely love them. I took the shaft out of the mini and put it in the Sim…not the same results.

  18. I love my Callaway x22’s….Never want other irons… and I’m a 20 handicap…

  19. Scott Steffen

    new clubs are almost always better than older clubs, but the results are almost always worse after making the switch.. when you have played the same clubs for years and have improved, part of that improvement is you subconsciously adjusting your swing to the club.. getting new clubs throws that off and mistakenly reinforces the belief that you need even newer clubs and in one or two years the player has once again convinced himself to upgrade his set.. I am of the opinion that a newer or younger player should invest in the best clubs they can buy and stick with them.. the exception to that is putters.. you need 10 or 12 of those and never marry one.. don’t even propose.. it’s never your fault, it’s the putters.. sometimes you can have another fling with an ex putters and the make up golf can be amazing, for awhile, until the old problems set in and you remember why you broke up the first time..

  20. I remember years ago moving from a cheap set of irons to a really good set of irons. My good shots went higher, farther, and stopped more quickly. But it was never my good shots that got me in trouble. I still hit the same number of bad shots.

  21. Super game improvement irons tend to help with slicing as well as forgiveness. What if you’re striking the ball well and want to be able to fade and draw at will? Would switching make sense then?

    • Matt Saternus

      See #3 under “This Doesn’t Apply to You”. If you can’t do anything but hit draws or hooks with your current irons, and that’s a problem, you have a specific need (want) that you can address with your equipment.

      As an aside: if you want to shoot your lowest scores, working it both ways is not the path you want to go down. Hitting a bunch of shot shapes is more fun (to me, anyway), but trying to maintain “two swings” isn’t going to drop your handicap.

      -Matt

  22. Tyler Schommer

    When I started, I used a package set from Walmart. They did the job but I knew they weren’t the best made so I got a used set of Big Bertha x-12 irons. After using those for a year, and I think switching to a graphite shaft version at one point, I got a more modern set and I got the more modern set because they were more modern. Sometimes I miss those x-12 irons. My woods and my wedges have also shifted dramatically and don’t get me started on my putter.

  23. Iman old fart, have always hit stiff shaft blades but when I try a friend’s cavity back forgiving club I’m impressed. I played on the Hogan tour and was only outclassed by equipment, never liked the look of calloways , but now hit a calloway driver and 3 wood , wouldn’t want anything else . But I’m ready for cavity back irons still gotta be stiff shaft , I can’t control whippy shafts . Calloways seem great !

  24. I got fit for everything, driver to putter 9 yrs ago. I play several drivers and switch up long irons for a hybrid depending on weather or course conditions. I’ve no plans to outgrow my clubs and don’t understand why fellow golfers feel the need too. ( Not withstanding) afformentioned reasons in the article. My advice is get fit, play them always. Familiarity brings out your best

  25. You are spot on with your analysis and advise.

  26. Esteban griego

    I need more distance.

  27. A good carpenter never blames their tools. That’s a bit loaded because maybe they are a good carpenter because they have good tools? The best money I spent is lessons from a PGA pro. It took some time to get to the point of reaching out for lessons because I used to be a 4 handicap, but I knew my mechanics were not right due to the compensations. That was a 4 h/c on a 140 slope course.
    I go into my first lesson thinking I would work on my short game. More spin and control, etc. Boy was I wrong! The Pro had to rebuild from scratch, and I’m glad he did. A lot less stress on some areas and a swing I can take to the grave.
    Other best golf investment? A Tempo Trainer. I use it about every other time while practicing.
    For clubs, I got a neutral set that suited my clubhead speed – TaylorMade M2, PW-4. The real beauty are the Cleavland wedges. That’s where someone should put their money. Work on your game from 100 or 150 yds out. Work backwards and your tee shots will improve because you know can recover if they get off line. If this part of your game is off, then think about different clubs or shafts.
    Putter is an old Ping Anser I bought used from a custom club maker. One stroke and it felt perfect. I may have to take that to the grave too!
    Finally, it’s about feel. I put more money into grips. I can feel my smash factor, and when it’s on it feels oh so good – even with range balls. And how windy is it where you play? I have to play ball height a lot, and approach spin into the wind, so I don’t want to hit it like Rory, more like Trevino.
    Course is in British Columbia btw. Ask Louie O ;-)

  28. Great article with wonderful responses. I am one of those idiots who purchased different irons to get more distance and accuracy. I was fitted for Ping g410 irons but they did not work out for me. I am 73 years old losing some distance and I refused to admit it. I have owned Mizuno 919HM, HM Pro’s combo and Ping g425 irons. I remain with the Ping irons with a Recoil 780 F3 shaft gripped with Golf Pride mid-grips CP2wraps. I have played a full year with these clubs which is a miracle for me. I have come to terms losing distance, approximately 10 yards per club. My 7 gets out there near 150yds. Some days 145 yds. Accuracy is very good with the Pings. Working now getting better putting. That is another story. I am a senior shooting at an 11 handicap.

  29. It’s not the arrows, it’s the Indian!
    Think about it when you out grow your clubs

  30. Honestly, unless you are a single digit player, my opinion is that replacing any stick in your bag is going to open you up to some form of internal conflict(s). It’s only natural. While single digit players are not exempt from this. Its my experience that single digit players tend to have a developed routine and a certain level of confidence in their swing that minimizes internal dialog. My point is, that 99% of golfers should expect some sort of adjustment period regardless of how well or how poorly the actual club fits you. I’ll pretend someone cares about my opinion for a moment. My advice to any player, if you don’t have a timely routine you can depend on to limit mental dialog. Get one. if you are having a hard time deciding which club is best for you. I’d lean towards the one you can control the flight with most. Consistency breeds confidence.

  31. I pretty much only buy used clubs (irons & putters) anymore. So I guess I am buying the clubs some players out grow. That’s fine by me. My first real set of clubs that I bought new, were Ben Hogan forged blades. I only sold them (longtime ago), because I didn’t play as much and felt that cavity back irons would be easier to hit. I feel that if you are playing to improve your game and playing (practicing) alot, but not improving…. possibly a new set (fitted) would help along with some lessons.

  32. If your game changes, your irons may need changing as well. Club offset, weight distribution and perhaps loft all can dictate a change is needed. If you change irons because you believe club company marketing, you’re destined to always struggle.

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