OEM Golf Clubs

A display of OEM golf clubs by Titleist, an original equipment manufacturer
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

"OEM" is an acronym that stands for "original equipment manufacturer."

Tom Wishon, a golf equipment expert and researcher whose company makes custom golf clubs, explains:

"In the golf industry, the term OEM is used to describe any golf club that has been built by a company to sell as a standard-made, finished golf club, bought off-the-rack in a retail golf store, pro shop or internet golf retail company."

All those golf clubs you see displayed in the pro shop? Those are OEM golf clubs. All the most famous golf equipment companies - Titleist, TaylorMade, Callaway, Ping, Cobra, Nike, Cleveland and so on - are "OEM manufacturers."

The truth is that most golfers never play anything other than, or even see anything other than, OEM golf clubs. If that's true - and it is - why then was the "OEM" term ever needed?

OEM Clubs Vs. Component Clubs

OEM golf clubs and OEM golf manufacturers can be contrasted with component clubs and component companies. A "component" is an individual piece of a golf club: The clubhead is a component, the shaft and grip are components.

OEM manufacturers assemble those components into a finished product, which you buy as-is (although custom ordering options - letting the golfer specify a different shaft, for example - are often available).

"Component clubs" refers to golf clubs for which the individual pieces are purchased separately, then assembled into a golf club by the golfer (or assembled for the golfer by a clubfitter).

The OEM Label Is Less Important Today

Back in the "old days," as the expression goes, golfers who wanted to customize an OEM golf club had far fewer options than they do today.

But as noted, today OEM golf manufacturers usually do offer custom (aka bespoke) ordering options - in some cases, many, many options. That's a change that accelerated at the end of the 20th century.

And that change means that the term "OEM" is less commonly used in golf today than it was in the past. However, there are still plenty of golfers who enjoy assembling their own clubs by purchasing components, and plenty of clubmakers and clubfitters who offer such a service.

Are OEM Clubs Better Than Component Clubs?

No. One category of clubs is not better or worse than the other. But OEM clubs are the choice for the vast majority of golfers simply because they are assembled and readily available for inspection and demo'ing. They are far more convenient. Golfers who are really into equipment - thinking about it, testing it, tinkering with it, golfers with a real DIY interest - enjoy the options afforded by shopping for individual components.