Club shopping -- a tougher exercise than one might think
As those readers of this blog are aware, I'm a bit of a golf info junkie. I lost count of the number of email newsletters, bulletins, e-blasts and press releases I signed up for when I created this site, and it usually takes me about 30 minutes to go through them all on a daily basis.
Occasionally, one jumps out at me (usually trying to get me to give them my email address in exchange for entry into a contest I can't win simply based on my address), and that's what brings me back to the keyboard today. Normally, I love the guys over at My Golf Spy because I find their treatment of golf news refreshingly unbiased ... but this one left me a bit perplexed.
The headline said it all: Best Full Bag Under $1500. So, being that I'm Canadian I had to swap a few figures here and there to make it make sense to me & those of you reading this north of the border. According to XE.com, I'd be looking at just north of $1800 to use that figure, so we'll revisit that in a moment.
I love the premise of their article: in order to combat the relatively high cost of golf equipment when you purchase something new (the current model for that season), MGS took a look at some of their past 'Most Wanted' lists to put together a full bag for the set price of $1500 USD.
Why did this grab my attention and shake me so much? Simple -- if you consider two key factors that come into play for someone like myself and approximately 30 per cent of other Canuck floggers who are lefties, that list of available previous-generation models becomes somewhat scarce.
I'm not saying you can't put some effort into your shopping and find some real bargains, simply because that's exactly what I did when I went driver shopping this most recent time: I went with an older model (PING G400 LST) rather than opt for something newer and more expensive. But in order to do that, I had to shop off an American website and pay shipping and duty on my club when it arrived. Even taking those costs into consideration, I still paid far less for a driver I'm wildly happy with than something I could've found at GolfTown.
And before any of my fellow Canadians jump down my throat for not spending my money in my homeland's big tee-box box store, I refer back to something I said earlier: being a lefty and shopping prior season models, I couldn't find what I wanted.
There is always the option of going with used gear, and if you're willing to put the time into hunting it all out then I bet you're going to find some real gems out there. I know I've been silly and traded in clubs that I wish I still had in my bag over the years, but that's a lament for another time.
So, to play along with this little experiment I'm going to compare what I have in my bag to a little bargain shopping. I will be quoting everything in CAD and I'll give myself a little bit of extra room with a $2,000 overall budget. And to further prove my point, I'll do everything I can to stick to shopping from Canadian retailers to see how far I can stretch my dollar.
That said, I'm going to stick with my PING at the top. I'm going to wear that puppy out before I give it up. I even swapped out the shaft I had in another driver that I privately sold because I loved it more than the shaft that came with my G400. So, fire up your calculators; I paid $395 total for the PING and was able to sell my other driver for $200, so I'm at $195 to begin.
The fairway metal swap-out is going to be a tough choice for me, given that I turn to that club to bail me out of a lot of issues I have all over the course. Right now, I game a PXG 0341 X Gen2 2-wood that I love, and I got for $250 off when they had a sale. With the exchange, it still cost me about $350. So I want to be under that figure by a lot if I can help it, but I don't want to sacrifice too much in terms of playability if I can help it. After doing a little digging, I'd probably go with the Cobra King F9 Speedback ($200) from www.golfvault.ca. That said, if I could find a TaylorMade M6 fairway metal in pristine condition for that much or less that has been previously enjoyed, I'd likely go that route. So we're at $395 and I'm only two clubs in ... ouch.
This is where I have to start getting creative. Normally I'd be looking for a hybrid to slot in here (or some sort of rescue club), but given that I only have $1605 left to spend for this exercise, I'm going to forego that option. Instead, I'll look into an iron set that has more clubs to it. But this is also where being a bit of a club snob comes back to haunt me, since I'm not really liking a lot of my options here. Everything trends towards the game improvement/super game improvement models, and that's just not great for my game. This is going to take a huge chunk out of the remaining budget, but I'll have to opt for the Wilson D7 forged set (4-PW) over the PING G410 sticks (5-PW,UW) only because I'm passing on a hybrid/rescue club and I need something in the higher end of the range. Coming in at just about $1,100, that pushes the tally up to a whopping $1,495, leaving me just over $500 to get some additional wedges and a putter.
This is going to be an easy choice for me and I can get something I want without having to make too big of a sacrifice: I'll snag a 52° and a 58° Cleveland RTX 4.0 Tour Satin set of wedges from Golf Town since I can get them for $130 each if I buy two. You can't go wrong with a company that has possibly the best wedges out there, and that still gives me $240 to pick up a putter (at this point, I've resigned myself to going extreme bargain hunting for a bag to put all this in, but I'm sure I can find something out there.)
So, here is where I am going to bend my own rules just a bit. I did my best to stay within the True North's borders for this shopping spree but to get something I would feel comfortable using was a HUGE stretch to the budget. I would've kept my current gamer (the T-Squared Putters Ts-713i mid-mallet), but I already pulled that trick with my driver so I will play fair and select the TaylorMade Spider Tour Black (small slant) from Carl's Golfland in Michigan ($200 USD = $243 CAD).
All told, I would spend $2,003 to re-outfit myself with clubs that don't exactly measure up to what I currently have. I'm sure there are plenty of other corners I could cut (mostly with the irons, I'm sure), but I can tell you it would take a lot of getting used to with the proposed new set. Then again, if I were new to the game I wouldn't have any pre-existing snobbery about what clubs work best for me.
The axiom that golf is for rich people only could be believed if you were to enter it with that mindset and believe that you have to spend thousands of dollars to outfit yourself properly. My best advice, and this comes from years of playing and tinkering with my gear, is to find a set of irons you like and build from there. Once you have those picked out, add things gradually until you find your comfort zone in terms of both price and playability. I'll never be the guy that's okay with forking over nearly $1,000 for the newest driver (and yes, I believe it's headed that way) no matter how much my wife says I drool over it. But will I be the guy that keeps an eye out for something that I like, have tried in a small sample size, and wait for that to go on sale at more than 50 per cent off?
You better believe it. I just have to hope that those other Canadian lefties aren't shopping for the same thing at the same time as I am ... because then it could get ugly.