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Clubs or Lessons First?

The uncertainty implied in this question arises from the fallacy that equipment can be separated from technique. The problem is exacerbated by playing mass assembled off-the-rack clubs manufactured with shafts and club heads of questionable quality and inefficient design. Unstable shafts and inefficient club head weight distribution are common problems.

Golfers usually approach the performance dilemma by attempting swing changes without understanding their swing tendencies or determining whether the clubs adequately fit their swing mechanics. The frequent results are increased tendencies at address towards closed grip, closed stance, and forward shaft lean that limit any hope of achieving an effective swing. Swing mythology further complicates achieving performance goals.

Fortunately improvements in materials and design together with modern analytics can help resolve the dilemma. The importance of stable shafts without excessive weight cannot be over-emphasized. Substantial improvements in graphite materials and manufacturing together with an understanding of how they affect EI stiffness distribution have major impacts on performance. 

Similarly, club head materials and engineering design are more important than marketing claims to club performance. Physics matters -- e.g., the only way to make your 6-iron perform like a 5-iron is to produce or bend it to a stronger loft. And, it's difficult to adjust the lie angles of you irons and wedges if they are cast from hard brittle alloys.

Here is our bottom line recommendation. Start with premium upgrade-quality shafts properly fit to your swing. Forged irons and wedges give you the best options for fine tuning adjustments that meet your needs. Subtle refinements in driver and fairway wood design and materials can result in substantial performance enhancements.

Allow sufficient time for professional club fitting -- a couple of hours minimum -- with a radar launch monitor. Golfers have unique swing tendencies that affect club performance in subtle ways that are only revealed by launch monitor technology and high speed video. Rely on direct measurements. Charts and tables can be useful as guides but they are not a substitute for hands-on testing and evaluation. Fitting and swing expertise matter more than a wall of colorful shafts.

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