I have asked the question, and now I am going to tell you it is impossible to answer! Or to be more exact, the only reply is: ‘it depends.’ Factors we need to consider are:
- How often do you play?
- What is your type of clubs?
- What is your playing style?
There is a lot to unpack here. We are going to look at two main areas. How often you need to change your clubs because of wear and tear. And when you need to change your clubs because your playing style has altered.
So, let’s get going!
Wear and tear: modern clubs are hardy
Back at the birth of golf, clubs were made of wood and balls were much more substantial (they were made of wood as well). The life of the clubs was very short. One of the reasons why golf at that time was a preserve of the rich was that clubs broke all the time and were super-expensive to replace.
These days things are much better. Now balls are lighter than before, and clubs are also stronger. You can expect your clubs to last a long time. When your needs change, for example, as your game improves, there is a lively second-hand market. The size and success of the second-hand golf market is an indication of how heard-wearing golf clubs are today.
Care for your clubs
If you care for your clubs, they will last much longer. Wipe them down after every use and keep them in moderate dry conditions. Freezing or boiling does not do golf clubs any good!
Different clubs wear out at different speeds
The life of your golf clubs varies from club to club. So be prepared to replace individual clubs rather than the whole set.
Golf clubs will wear out at different rates. The chances of a club just breaking are rare with modern clubs. Unless you lose your temper and slam it against a tree, that is.
It is usually the wedge clubs which go first because the grooves wear out. Every time you hit out of the sand, for example, you are creating abrasion. And eventually, this will wear the wedge club smooth. If you find you can’t get the backspin on the ball which you used to, it is worth checking those wedge clubs. If the grooves look too smooth is might be time for a trip to the golf store.
It is the part which is most likely to wear out. Professionals playing on the tour will change their grips at least once a month. If you are an enthusiastic amateur, playing two or three times a week; then you can get away with changing less often. But you will still probably need new grips every six months or so. Keep a close eye on those grips. If you notice indentations from your fingers, or that they are getting worn or smooth, then it is time for a new set.
They will last longer if you look after them. And I know lots of you do not like changing your grips too often due to the time it takes to get familiar with them.
You can clean them every time after use with a little clean water and a toothbrush. Make sure you dry the grips well with a towel after use. It will give it a bit of roughness and extend life. If you are playing in the rain, make sure you dry your grips after you have made a shot, not just before. You don’t want to give the water a chance to soak through. Here is a short video about changing your golf grips.
The shaft of the club
Modern golf club shafts consist of very hard-wearing material, steel titanium graphite or composites of these. Because of this, they are unlikely to wear out. They will probably last until you choose to change them because of your skill level.
Golf club heads
It is a part of your club which can get damaged. You may hit a stone, for example, and dent or scratch the club. General use can take its toll as well.
However, the materials of modern club heads are sturdy, so you should have years of wear unless you have an accident.
Some golfers and experts will tell you that drivers wear out. It is a matter of controversy. Here is someone who argues that he has been using the same drivers for years
Some golfers believe you can get metal fatigue in the driver. It is doubtful to be happening to your golf clubs.
Here is some good old-fashioned southern wisdom from Doc Griffin.
He describes how the golf club manufacturers test their clubs by firing golf balls at the metal at speeds not even the top professionals could match. And they survive. We do not hit the ball hard enough or often enough, however good we are, and however often we play, to make metal fatigue a real issue.
Should you repair or replace your golf clubs?
It is very much a matter of personal choice. Many players have a favorite club; it may even be a club you inherited. You may enjoy playing with it. But you know that it is more than that. A club can have psychological importance to you. If you have a club like that, I would say, repair that club. It brings you pleasure and confidence over and above, just how well it plays.
If you are not sure if you need to repair or replace, visit a good golf club fitter. They will tell you how much wear your club has left and what it would cost to fix.
They will look at the club loft, for example, a lot of play can alter this, and it is worth checking it is still at the angle you like.
Another potential problem area is the angle of the sole of the club. It can get knocked out through damage. Again, a golf fitter can check this.
Another useful check is on the hosel. Get your golf fitter to make sure it is correctly fitted and stable.
Changing your golf clubs to keep up with technology
If you read the advertisements, you will be led to believe that there are significant technological breakthroughs in golf at least once a year. The cynical amongst us might think that this is just a way of getting us enthusiasts to spend more money.
Golf equipment does develop, but the stories are often not entirely accurate. The big golf equipment manufacturers employ the most brilliant technicians and engineers and pay them a lot of money to make improvements. They also invest fortunes in precision machinery to hone the product to its best. They do not do this for fun! Golf equipment technology is improving all the time.
But that does not mean you need to change your clubs all the time. Many of the changes are incremental.
It is the most common story: the difference between this year’s club and last year’s club is there, but it is tiny. Over a decade, or even more time, there will develop a noticeable difference in quality. But it will take those years to notice it.
There is another crucial factor. That is your skill level. If changes are small and incremental, the chances are that an amateur golfer, even if you are a low handicapper, will not notice a significant difference. Some people would also argue that the disruption to your game is not worth the tiny improvement from a new set of clubs.
There will occasionally be exceptions to this.
For example, there is a real change taking place in golf ball technology at the moment. But you can be sure when there is a ground-breaking change there will be a real buzz around it. You will hear about it!
Staying within the rules slows down innovation
Something else worth mentioning is that golf club manufacturers cannot just innovate and invent whatever they want.
The manufacturers have to obey the rules of the USGA in the United States and the Royal and Ancient elsewhere. So, for example, they do manufacture huge club heads with a great big sweet spot. If you use a club like this, you will rarely hit a duff shot. But, if you want to stay within the rules, you cannot use a club like this. The rules are strict on the size of club heads. If you break the rules, it is cheating.
Another example, I just mentioned that there is a revolution in golf ball manufacture happening right now. It is to do with the use of the miracle material graphene in the ball. But there is also a big debate going on and the rules are being carefully looked at to determine what is legal in a golf ball.
Changing your clubs because your game has changed
We have seen that your wedges will need replacing as they will wear out. And you will need new grips from time to time. But apart from that your golf set should last you for many years.
It doesn’t, however, mean that you should never change your clubs.
As you develop and grow, then your needs will change. Remember, it is unlikely that you will need to change your whole golf set as your game improves. It will be one club at a time mostly.
Changing from my junior set
It is an exception to the ‘change on a club at a time’ rule. Junior golf clubs come in various sizes as you grow in height. If you are a young golfer or looking after a young golfer, then keep a close eye on this. A couple of inches growth means it is worth a visit to a golf fitter to see if you need to upgrade. It might seem expensive, but you might want to keep your skills developing. Remember, you can always sell your old clubs.
Your beginners set
I usually advise new golfers to start with a second-hand set. Or, if you want to buy new to start at the less expensive end of the market.
Firstly, you want to be sure that you love the game before you start shelling out hundreds of dollars. Secondly, if you do enjoy the game and start playing regularly, then you will almost certainly want to buy better clubs at some stage.
There are some markers in a golf career when you might want to consider new clubs.
If you decide to go for a handicap is a good time to get new clubs. But make sure you discuss your needs with a trusted golf professional. You may not want to change your whole set at once.
Going from beginner to low handicapper
If you are in the prime of life and you are playing a lot of golf, then you will be getting stronger. You will also be improving your skills so you will not need so much forgiveness in your clubs. You will be making fewer mistakes. You can take advantage of the higher power and precision of the club for the more expert golfer.
The flex on your golf club
Most golfers go for a soft or regular flex when they start playing. It is perfect when you are building strength in your core and developing the arm and back muscles necessary for a fantastic swing. When you improve, and your swing is faster, you might consider changing the shaft for a stiffer flex.
A good guideline is if your swing is between ninety-five and one hundred and ten miles an hour you should go for an S flex, (a stiff shaft). If you are even faster, one hundred and ten to one hundred and twenty miles an hour, then you may be best with an X flex, (an extra stiff shaft). As with all changes of equipment, try it out and see.
Wedges replace as your skill increases
As we have seen, your wedge clubs will wear out. So, you will need to change them from time to time just because of this. When that time comes, it is worth checking that they still suit your game. One thing to watch out for is how well your backspin on the ball is developing. You may need to change the loft on your wedges as you become better at the game.
Needs change with age
You can still enjoy your golf. But you might find you do not have quite as much power as when you were younger. If for example, you notice that you are getting a backache after a round of golf it might be time to change your clubs. Try out a senior flex and see if that helps you stay pain-free and flexible.
Golf clubs are only a part of your whole game
If you are serious about your golf, you might consider having regular coaching sessions.
I often advise golfers to see a professional coach at least once every six months. It gives you the chance to show what you can do and get any faults in your game corrected before they become a real problem. A good coach will also advise you where you need to put in the practice if you are to improve. This process can help you stay focused and keep you improving year on year.
Once you have found that trusted golf coach, discussing your equipment needs becomes part of a more extensive process, for example, if you are determined to improve your backspin, then it may be time to look at some new wedge clubs. Or if you decide to spend some time every week in the gym to improve your strength, that may mean that you can handle a stiffer flex on your clubs.
Change when necessary
What I am saying is do not change your golf clubs just because there is something new on the market. Change as your game develops. And the developments will not be linear. You will find that sometimes, your driving is improving. Another month it is your short game. As you leap forward in a specific area of the game, you can think about whether you have the correct equipment. You need to allow time to get used to that new club and fit it into your overall game.
How often should you change golf clubs? Set an overall golf budget
I also advise players at any level to look at their total golf budget, rather than just at buying new clubs. You may decide to invest in more lessons, for example. Or perhaps you are thinking of a home golf simulator so you can practice through the seasons. You may even decide on some trips to warmer climes so you can play through the winter.
All of these will improve your game as much if not more than new equipment. So, look at hardware as part of an overall strategy of growing your game.