- The difference between having a good or poor round of golf often comes down to the selection of golf clubs at your disposal – and opting for whatever’s available for rent in the clubhouse is not the way to go.
- When shopping for golf clubs, you want to find a driver that lets you hit the ball far and straight, a set of irons capable of honing your short and approach game, and a putter that keeps your shots on the green to a minimum.
- Our top pick, the Mizuno Golf MP-20 Iron Set, allows experienced players to make a wide range of shots and can help dramatically improve their iron play.
Golf can be both exhilarating and maddening. What might at one moment be a relaxing round of golf quickly becomes anything but as you watch yet another shanked shot fly into a sand trap. Even if you talk yourself into thinking you’re able to save the day by sticking that 6-iron within 3 feet of the pin, you still need to sink a putt.
Despite this inherent frenzy of emotion, golf keeps us coming back for so much more. And once you pick up the sport, it’s inevitable you’ll get hooked and want to immediately figure out how to play better. One of the best places to start is with the clubs you use. Not only does it let you avoid the awful clubhouse rentals but the right set of clubs can help improve your score.
Of course, new clubs aren’t going to turn you into 2000-era Tiger Woods but once you solidify your swing and learn how to properly select your clubs, your game will improve dramatically. Having better equipment once you reach this point is even more important.
Different types of golf clubs
New clubs feature the latest technologies, delivering better accuracy and shot length than older clubs. If you’re confused about what each club can do, here’s a quick primer.
- Driver: The driver carries the largest club head and the shallowest club face angle of any type of golf club (other than the putter). Drivers have long shafts and are designed to strike the ball off the tee, as the first shot of a hole, rather than off the ground. When struck properly, this club drives the ball further than any other. Some holes are even too short to use a driver.
- Fairway woods: Common fairway woods are the 3-wood and 5-wood. Woods with higher numbers have a deeper club face angle and generate more loft. Drivers are also referred to as a 1-wood. A fairway wood is used from a good lie in the fairway when you’re still are at least 175 to 200 yards from the green.
- Hybrid clubs: A hybrid is a newer style of club, designed to be a mixture between a wood and an iron. Many people find hybrids easier to hit solidly than long irons. They have a greater loft than fairway woods and a smaller head but they have a larger sweet spot than irons.
- Irons: An iron is a thin clubface that delivers far more loft than woods. You’ll use an iron on an approach to the green, as the grooves in the flat clubface help generate backspin on the ball. That spin, coupled with the higher loft, gives you a better chance of having the ball stop on the green. Irons run from 1- and 2-irons to 9-irons, with larger numbers representing a greater clubface angle and a higher arcing shot with less distance. Because large irons are difficult to strike successfully, some sets don’t include anything larger than a 3- or 4-iron, substituting hybrids.
- Wedges: Wedges are a subset of irons and have the same shape. However, they have the shortest shafts and the most severe angle on the clubface, giving you more loft and less distance. Sand wedges, pitching wedges, and lob wedges all exist, and the different types of wedges deliver different lofts and clubface angles for tricky shots around the green.
- Putters: The putter is the only club you should use while on the green. Some people also use putters from the fringe area around the green but it’s not like other golf clubs, as the face is flat with no loft.
Here are the best golf clubs you can buy:
- Best golf clubs overall: Mizuno Golf MP-20 Iron Set
- Best complete set for beginners: Callaway Men’s/Women’s Strata Set with Bag
- Best driver: Ping G400 Driver
- Best wedge: Titleist Vokey SM7 Wedge
- Best hybrid club: Ping G Series Hybrid
Updated on 02/27/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the section explaining each type of golf club to include relevant information about how each club is used. Specified shot types for the section on drivers, fairway woods, irons, and wedges to provide more accurate examples. Included links to other Business Insider buying guides on the best irons, the best putters, and the best drivers. Lightly edited the copy and updated the prices, links, and formatting of the entire piece.
The best golf clubs overall
If you have enough skill to play with blade-style irons, the Mizuno MP-20 irons are a good value and accommodating of all handicaps.
Mizuno has long been one of the leading manufacturers of blade-style irons, which give experienced players the feel and control they need from their irons. And the MP-20 irons are the company’s best set of irons yet.
This complete set of irons features a 2-iron through a pitching wedge to give you nine irons in total. It’ll cost you a bit, but there’s a reason why Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo favor the MP line.
These MP-20 irons are not quite your traditional blade style of iron and are instead made with a copper underlay.
In all, these clubs are about feel, and how that changes between chrome and copper plating, which is something of a throwback to the brand’s research and design from decades ago, and something the pros all seem to favor.
Pros: Set includes nine clubs, copper underlay for increased softness upon contact with the ball
Cons: Probably not a great investment for high handicap players, who will struggle with the blade style
The best complete set for beginners
If you’re an occasional golfer or if you’re just picking up the game, the Callaway Strata Set will give you a decent set of clubs for a great price.
There’s no question that golf can be a very expensive game. Not only do you have to pay greens fees (and for the first round at the 19th hole bar for missing your 3-foot putt for birdie on number 18), you also have to buy a lot of expensive equipment.
So if you’re just starting with golf, and you aren’t sure you’ll stick with it, you’ll love the Callaway Strata Set, which delivers all of the basics that you’ll need for a very reasonable price. This set is available in both men’s and women’s sizes, as well as in both left- and right-handed orientations.
Understand that this Callaway Strata Set has a limited number of clubs. The women’s Strata set ships with a driver, 5-wood, 5-hybrid, 7-iron, 9-iron, sand wedge, putter, and bag. The men’s Strata set includes a 3-wood instead of a 5-wood and adds a 6-iron and an 8-iron.
You easily could spend as much for one high-end putter or golf bag as you’ll spend on this entire set of clubs and bag. That alone tells you this set isn’t aimed at low handicap shooters.
Although the durability and quality of the clubs in the Strata set aren’t perfect, they work nicely for the inexperienced player who doesn’t use them every day.
Pros: Inexpensive option to receive all of the gear you’ll need to start playing, delivers a good level of quality for the price you’ll pay, clubs offer a solid ball strike, great starter set
Cons: Not the most durable clubs, includes only the basic clubs, not made for experienced players
The best driver
Even if we can’t hit them consistently, we golfers love our drivers. The forgiving Ping G400 will help you get consistent while delivering excellent length.
Ping has been at the forefront of recent upgrades to drivers, leading the change from a forward center of gravity club to a rear center of gravity. The idea behind the change was to continue delivering the length that forward weighted drivers have while giving off-center swings a bit more forgiveness.
Ping’s new designs have been popular enough that many driver makers have followed its engineering change.
Ping’s latest driver, the G400, incorporates the new design with just enough engineering tweaks to make this driver a tremendous performer. The sharp-looking Ping G400 is offered in both men’s and women’s styles.
Sometimes in a club design, the little things matter. The Ping G400 includes small raised areas on the top of the club near the face that help to reduce friction with the air and give you a little more club speed. Even a slight improvement in club speed can yield several more yards on your drive.
The G400 isn’t cheap. So if you’re happy with your current driver, you may want to stick with it. But if you’re unhappy with your current driver – and honestly, who isn’t a lot of the time – the Ping G400 is an amazing piece of golf technology.
Pros: Delivers the length you want from the driver with a more forgiving face for mishits, includes all of the latest technological updates, comes from a well-respected driver manufacturer
The best wedge
Even if you consider a wedge a “necessary evil,” having a good one, like the Titleist Vokey SM7 Wedge, can save you strokes.
For most people, the wedge in the golf bag is the equivalent of the placekicker in football. You usually don’t want to use one, because it means you’ve made some sort of mistake previously. But when you’re forced to use it, the wedge had better deliver for you.
When you want the best control around the greens, a great wedge design is a must. And the Titleist Vokey SM7 family of wedges contains the best features and design that you’ll find in this type of golf club, ensuring you can find a wedge – or two or three – that will match your game.
The SM7 gives you great feel on short approach shots. This is an important feature for any wedge, as you’ll be hitting this club with full swings, half swings, and everything in between. You need to be able to trust that you can make a variety of shots with your wedge, and the Titleist Vokey SM7 delivers on that promise.
The design of the clubhead has changed a bit from previous Titleist wedges, including the SM6, which we previously recommended. The back of the club has varying shapes, based on the loft of the wedge, which is available between 46 and 62 degrees. This design affects the center of gravity of the club, ensuring a proper ball strike for the type of loft that’s in use.
When using a wedge with a low loft angle, you’ll naturally strike the ball lower on the face. Along those same lines, ball strikes higher on the clubface are common with higher lofts. The Titleist Vokey SM7’s design adjusts the center of gravity for each different club loft to account for this difference.
There are so many choices and decisions to make that it may overwhelm high handicap golfers. However, if you’re a low handicap golfer, the 23 different options with the SM7 wedges will serve you well, allowing you to make almost any shot you could ever need.
Pros: High-end build quality among wedges, delivers the precise control you want around the greens, center of gravity adjustments at different lofts are impressive, maintains similar great design look from SM6
Cons: Expensive, almost too many choices for average golfers to manage
The best hybrid club
Among the popular hybrid golf clubs available, the Ping G Series Hybrid stands out with its extra length and ability to keep your swing on path.
My first set of golf clubs was an old set, but it had every club in it. It even had a 2-iron. And, for whatever reason, I loved using that club for a lot of different shots. A lot of people struggle with long irons, but my 2-iron was a go-to club for me as I was learning. (Just don’t ask me about the rest of my game.)
As I upgraded my clubs, I never found another iron set with a 2-iron, but I still liked hitting long irons. By sticking with long irons, this meant I was late to the hybrid club party.
What a mistake. For mid- and high-handicappers, the hybrid club is a must-have option in your bag. It looks a bit like a small wood, delivers a better sweet spot than a long iron, and can handle a multitude of lies.
If you don’t have a hybrid club in your bag yet, it’s well past time to add one. And the best option is the Ping G Series Hybrid.
The Ping G hybrid delivers an impressive feel that will give you great feedback on whether you’ve made solid contact. The slight changes in the design of the G hybrid versus previous Ping hybrid clubs give it more length. Some players also may notice a slightly faster club speed with the turbulators.
These clubs allow you to make great shots from all kinds of lies, which is why many people want a hybrid club.
Pros: Another great hybrid club from the top manufacturer, delivers extra length versus other hybrids, design helps you maintain a proper swing path, handles all kinds of lies easily
Cons: On the upper end in cost versus other hybrids, performs more like a wood, which some won’t like