The Basics on Golf Club Sets

Golf can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn't have to be

Golf stand bag full of a set of golf clubs
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Golf club sets come in different shapes and sizes, but they adhere to basic structures. Here is some basic information on golf club sets for those just starting out in the game.

Number of Clubs

According to the Rules of Golf, golfers may carry a maximum of 14 golf clubs in their bags during a round of golf played under those rules. You aren't required to carry 14 clubs, but you shouldn't carry more than that. You can put as many clubs as you wish in your bag for practice sessions.

Choice of Clubs

Golf clubs fall into several categories: woods (driver and fairway woods), hybrids, irons, wedges, and putters. Any golfer's bag usually will include these clubs, but it is up to the individual golfer to determine the various combinations.

Some golf manufacturers make complete golf sets, all-inclusive boxed sets that contain a driver, a combination of woods/hybrids/irons, a wedge or two, and a putter. In addition to a full set of clubs, the package sometimes will include a golf bag and a few accessories, such as a glove, tees, and balls.

These boxed sets are mostly aimed at beginners. They are usually cheap compared with buying clubs separately, and they can be a good choice for beginners who don't want to spend a lot.

Most golfers, however, assemble their sets by buying the different types of clubs separately. A golfer might purchase a driver, then add a couple of fairway woods or hybrids. Irons are typically sold in eight-club subsets that run from a 3-iron through a pitching wedge or a 4-iron through a sand wedge. "Blended" or "combo" sets include a mixture of hybrids and traditional irons. An additional wedge or two and a putter are purchased separately.

Cost of a Set

Golf isn't a cheap hobby; a golfer can spend thousands of dollars putting together a name-brand, 14-club set. The most expensive drivers on the market reach $800 to $1,000, and the most expensive iron sets are around $3,000. But all-inclusive boxed sets can be found for less than $200 at big-box retail stores and general sporting goods stores.

Golfers who assemble the different components into one set should shop according to their budgets. Golfers buying name-brand clubs from major manufacturers are likely to spend from $500 to $1,500 on a complete set, assuming they aren't buying the absolute cheapest or the most expensive clubs available. What a golfer spends will depend on his needs, skill level, and budget.

Best Sets for Beginners

When shopping for your first golf set, ask yourself about your expectations and goals. If you want clubs to play twice a year with your father-in-law, there's no need to spend much money. Buy a cheap boxed set or a set of used clubs.

Spending more money on a higher-quality set of clubs is fine if it fits your budget and you're dedicated to the sport. Becoming a good golfer requires practice. If you can see yourself spending lots of time practicing and playing and you have the money to spend, knock yourself out.

Another good middle-of-the-road approach when starting out is to buy a short set, about half the clubs of a normal set. It gets you started and gives you a chance to discover how into golf you'll be. If it turns out you're not as interested in the game as you imagined you'd be, you haven't wasted a lot of money. If you love the game and can't get enough, it will be easy to upgrade.

Choice of Clubs vs. Skill Level

The components of a set will change depending on skill level. The set of a great golfer will include a driver, while beginners are better off using another club off the tee because the driver is one of the more difficult clubs to master. A great golfer will have few if any hybrids, while mid- and high-handicappers should replace long irons (especially 3- and 4-irons) with corresponding hybrids.

Better golfers also might add additional wedges for attacking the flagstick in the short game, including a gap wedge and sometimes a lob wedge.

All golfers benefit from game-improvement technology, but the higher a golfer's handicap, the better off that golfer is moving to game-improvement and super-game improvement sets. The technology of these sets is focused on helping the golfer get the ball into the air—improving launch conditions, in golf parlance—and on providing maximum forgiveness on mis-hits.