As more and more top-end golf clubs enter the market, Joel Tadman debates whether they represent a shrewd investment or if manufacturers are pricing club golfers out of the game
Are Golf Clubs Becoming Too Expensive?
Let me start by acknowledging that, given my privileged position, I am by no means the ideal person to be penning a column on golf equipment being too expensive. Yet I felt compelled to write this piece following some recent launches that have really got me questioning whether manufacturers are demanding too much money for new gear.
These thoughts were spurred on by, but not limited to, the unveiling of the Callaway Epic irons, which retail at £1,749 for a set. Many of you will turn your noses up in disgrace at the thought of parting with that kind of money for a set of irons, especially since prices of clubs seem to be going up faster than wages and inflation.
But this is not a new concept. What Callaway is doing with Epic, and Titleist with its C16 irons, is simply taking a leaf out of PXG’s book – designing clubs with no constraints on cost or materials to produce the best feeling and performing equipment on the market, then selling them at a premium price.
They’ve almost certainly had the capability to do this for decades, but perhaps only now is there strong enough demand to justify their existence. The only difference with the more established brands is that they sell clubs at lower price points, too. Does this mean the other irons they make aren’t as good as the super-premium ones? In truth, there’s probably not much in it, but it’s not all about performance. Here’s why…
Anything we buy, be it clothes or a car, serves a function. Whether we buy an old banger or a Ferrari, it will still get us from point A to point B. If we choose a Casio or a Tag Heuer watch, both will tell the time perfectly well. The difference is that one will provide a more pleasurable user experience than the other and carry more prestige. And, let’s be honest, it’s nice to own expensive items if we can afford them. It makes us feel good and gives us something to aspire to in life.
So how much is too much? I once heard someone say that price is only an obstacle in the absence of value. If you hit the Callaway Epic irons and they do things for you that no club has ever done before, they immediately become more valuable. Golf is a difficult sport based on fine margins, which is why we’ll do whatever it takes to get better. Manufacturers know that.
But exercise some caution here. Your desire to own the most expensive gear could cloud your judgement. If money were no object, and you were told by a reputable custom fitter that a model half the price was better for you from a performance and playability perspective than the Epic iron, what would you do?
Trade-in values are another reason people tend to opt for the more expensive gear. The thinking is that premium clubs hold their value better down the line than others, and while that might be true to a degree, choosing the right clubs for your game, in my opinion, should always be the deciding factor. It’s another reason golfers tend to shy away from mixed sets, which is a real shame as they can really benefit the average player.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. We all work hard to be able to spend our money on luxuries as we see fit, and if that’s on Epic irons or a Scotty Cameron putter, then fair play to you. Just don’t tell the other half!
Joel Tadman is Golf Monthly technical editor. You can follow him on twitter @joeltadman.