Should You Buy New Clubs, or Take Lessons?
I recently posted this poll on Twitter asking golfers where they would invest $1000 in their game – towards lessons or equipment?
If you had $1000 to invest in your golf game would you…
— Jon Sherman (@practicalgolf) January 10, 2017
While the results are hardly scientific, I was hoping that the majority of golfers would answer the way they did, which was to invest in lessons.
As you know already, golf can be an expensive game. Greens fees, apparel, accessories, clubs, balls, travel, hot dogs at the turn, and all other kinds of miscellaneous expenses add up over time.
Many of you reading this might not even have the $1000 to spend on your golf game, but the number is mostly hypothetical. The reason I asked is because I often see golfers chasing results in the wrong places with the money that they do have to invest. I want to talk about how I believe you can spend it more efficiently.
Overall, I believe for most golfers who are looking to improve their performance significantly on the golf course, that your money is best spent working with a qualified teaching professional rather than buying new equipment.
The fundamental difference between equipment and your swing
I’ve written a lot on this site about what new golf clubs can and can’t do for your game. While I encourage all golfers to get fit for their clubs, I would describe getting the right clubs as a refinement, not a breakthrough.
I can’t speak for all golfers’ situations, but I don’t believe that you will experience major breakthroughs in your scoring ability by upgrading your equipment. It could certainly shave some strokes off your score by making your errant shots not so errant, and enhancing your better swings a bit.
The reason why is because no golf club can fix fundamental flaws in a player’s swing. The equipment companies might tell you otherwise because their business model is built on golfers constantly changing their clubs.
While I write about all of the other ways to improve your scores (strategy, mental game, practice routines) on this site, you can’t escape the fact that the golf swing is the main vehicle driving your scoring ability during your round.
I have had the good fortune of learning from some of the best club fitters in the industry since I started this site, and I believe I have a firm grasp on what are reasonable expectations when it comes to club upgrades.
Here is a brief (and true) story about a golfer that I think illustrates a valid point about fixing your swing vs. changing your equipment…
A golfer walks Into a fitting session
A golfer walked into a fitting session because he couldn’t understand why he was only hitting the ball 180-190 yards with his driver, despite having a swing speed over 100mph.
After having him hit several balls on a launch monitor the fitter quickly realized what was happening. His swing path was so drastically out-to-in, and his club was so open at impact, that he kept hitting high slices that did not travel very far despite having a fairly powerful swing. The fitter told him that until he fixed that swing flaw and corrected the path of his club, there was no driver on the planet that could get him hitting the ball straighter in the 230-240 yard range that he was capable of doing.
This golfer could have purchased the hottest driver on the market and had it fit perfectly for him, but his swing flaw would still persist. Perhaps the fitter could have put a band-aid on his swing, but if this golfer wanted to find more fairways and hit the ball farther, he would need to put serious work on his swing.
Simply put, golf clubs cannot fix major, or even moderate flaws in your golf swing. You have to do that work yourself.
Most golfers don’t want to believe that though.
Lessons first, equipment later
If you are a golfer who mightily struggles to get the ball heading in the direction you are aimed (after all that is the point of golf), I would highly recommend not spending your money on equipment to solve this problem.
If you want to fix your golf swing, and you have the time and money to do so, then I believe your efforts will be more efficient under the watchful eye of a teaching professional that is right for you.
Any fitter who is honest and knowledgeable would most likely tell you the following:
Do not attempt to buy new equipment or get fit for equipment if you are planning on making changes to your swing.
The reason being is that if you do make serious changes to your swing through working by yourself or with a teacher, then the specifications of the clubs you need might drastically change.
I went through this issue myself.
Years ago I had a vertical, out-to-in swing path that mostly produced a fade ball flight. I couldn’t move the ball in a draw pattern to save my life.
Then I got a few lessons with a great coach who completely changed the path of my swing, and had me moving more in an in-to-out path, which changed my shot shape to a draw.
A few years later I discovered through a fitting session that the lie angle of my irons were now completely wrong for me (I wrote about it in this article). My irons were now too upright, and without me knowing it, I was altering my swing to accommodate this issue.
When I got new clubs with a much flatter lie angle that suited my swing path, my ball flight straightened out considerably. This was a great refinement, but certainly not a breakthrough. The work I had put on my swing was mostly driving the results.
The point I want to make is that if you are potentially going to fix your own golf swing, then your needs for equipment might change. It would make sense to invest in the right equipment when those changes are mostly finished.
Obviously your golf swing will always be a work in progress, but for the most part you can get things fine tuned to accommodate your newer swing that should last a while.
If you really want improved performance
Let’s get back to our hypothetical $1000 that you had to invest in your golf game.
You could potentially use that money for equipment. You could buy the new Callaway Epic driver that everyone is buzzing over (read our full review here), and maybe a new set of wedges.
Is that really going to shave 5, maybe 10 strokes off your scores though?
I don’t believe so.
But if you took that $1000 and decided to work with a teaching pro, it potentially could. Depending on who you are going to and what they charge, that could get you anywhere between 10-20 lessons.
If you can find a great teacher who suits your learning style, and are willing to put in the work that they prescribe, you can make huge strides in your game with that many lessons.
If your budget is much lower, and you are willing to work by yourself you can get access to our library of teaching info by becoming an Insider member of Practical Golf (more info on there here).
The golf ball gets its marching orders from the club at impact. The type of equipment you are using does play a role in what the golf ball will do, but make no mistake, the quality of your swing is the main driving force.
Lessons > Equipment
There are obviously more options for where to spend your money, but for the purpose of this article I wanted to offer the binary decision between investing money in a new golf club(s), or working with a teaching pro.
To wrap things up for you, I believe that if your true intent is to make a breakthrough in your scoring ability, then your money is better spent on lessons.
It’s more work, and certainly more time, but how can you expect to get better at anything by not learning from someone who has the knowledge, and then putting into practice what they are prescribing?
There will always be a new golf club with more technology baked into it, and if you put off that purchase for a year or two, and use your budget on improving your golf game I think you’ll be happier with the overall results.
These thoughts are certainly just my two cents, but I would love to hear from anyone who has gone through equipment changes versus working with a teaching pro. Feel free to post your experience down in the comment section below.
As always, you can poke through our archives for ideas on how to improve your golf game that are not just limited to the swing.