Fully Equipped mailbag: Are you better off spending money on new clubs or lessons?

When should you spring for new gear? It's an important question every golfer must answer.

Jonathan Wall/GOLF

Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive GOLF.com series in which our resident dimplehead (a.k.a., GOLF’s managing editor of equipment, Jonathan Wall) fields your hard-hitting gear questions. 

How good should you be before it’s worth spending money on clubs over lessons?

Working on your game and putting new equipment aside until things start to improve seems like the logical way to go about bettering your game. Assuming you’re a beginner, that means committing more money to key fundamentals and getting familiar with the sticks in your bag.

It seems like a prudent path to take. But I’ll let my Fully Equipped podcast co-host, True Spec’s Kris McCormack, offer a contrarian view for those who think that buying new gear from the get-go is a poor decision.

“If you come to see me as a brand-new beginning player, the angles you create as a player are more consistent than you might think,” McCormack said. “Hypothetically, let’s say you’re a player with a 100-yard slice, and I’m able to take the swing you walk through the door with, no lessons whatsoever, and build a golf club for you that produces a 30-yard slice. Angles you create are still going to produce a slice. But if I can build a golf club that helps you produce a 30- or 40-yard slice instead of a 100-yard slice, are you going to play better golf? Most people would say yes.

“Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish as a player, so long as you can get the ball airborne and going forward, we can find golf clubs for you. More often than not, that higher handicap amateur is going to see more of an improvement in consistency and performance if they get a set of custom-built clubs than a tour player. That high-level player is so in tune with their body, they can make an improperly fit golf club work a majority of the time. But if you’re somebody who’s just learning, the angles you create, building a set of clubs that complements what you naturally do will reward that player exponentially more.”

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It’s a thought-provoking answer, to be sure.

Assuming you haven’t played much golf and are currently weighing lessons versus clubs, springing for a custom fit set likely isn’t at the top of the priority list. But if your clubs have the wrong loft and lie angles and you’re presently playing a driver with a fade bias when you desperately need something to hook it back the other direction to keep it somewhat in play, it’s easy to see how new clubs might be a good first step.

Possessing clubs built for your common misses could fast-track your game with some lessons. I’ll point out this plan might not work for everyone, but it seems silly to smack it around the course and get frustrated when a simple club adjustment or two could make the game more enjoyable.

For better players, the question really boils down to your current game. If your game is stuck in neutral and lessons don’t seem to be making a dent in that 8 handicap, it might be time to look into a head-to-head session to see if something new bests your current gamer.

If anything, get a certified club-fitter to look at your clubs so they can establish a gear baseline. There’s no one better to highlight those gear blindspots.

An instructor is no doubt necessary to take your game to the next level, but a club-fitter also plays a vital role in crafting a set of clubs that accentuate the best parts of your game and keep the “big miss” at bay.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2021? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.

jonathan wall

Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Photographer

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour.