Advice on buying second hand Golf Clubs

The second-hand golf club market is ever-growing, with technology moving so fast in the sport and specs changing & manufacturers pumping new product regularly there is a considerable amount of second hand, preowned, hardly used equipment out there ready to be bought at a bargain price.

This blog will aim to talk about the pros and cons of buying second-hand clubs so you can be armed with some of the information you will need when deciding if second hand is right for you.

So let us start with the cons.

The first con is they aren’t new, sounds like an obvious statement, and it is, but they have been used, and this can vary drastically between a club that’s only played one round to a club that’s been used twice a week for three years.

They may be damaged, scratched, marked etc. and you need to be expecting this. Clubs can mark very quickly as soon as you unwrap them but what you need to be happy with is that this damage is only superficial, cosmetic and doesn’t affect the performance of the club in any way. A good seller will be open and upfront about any marks on the club, so no nasty surprises crop up after you’ve bought them and they are delivered.

No warranty is another issue to consider when buying second hand, when you buy new you are protected by the manufacturer’s warranty through the shop you purchased it from. If your buying clubs from Facebook, Gumtree, from a guy at your club, eBay etc. you are only protected as much as that website will protect you and usually this will only go as far as if the club is as described. If the club has a hairline crack that breaks after three rounds which might easily be two months after you bought them you’re left with the cost of repairing that.

Having said that numerous second-hand retailers offer a piece of mind warranty on the structural integrity of the clubs so this can be negated somewhat if you buy from a recognised second-hand retailer.

There is no custom-fit element to second hand. You get what you get, so make sure you do your research correctly and make sure what your buying is not wildly away from the standard. Make sure it’s not overly long because the first owner was 7ft tall or hugely short or has some extreme lie and loft angles going on. Check the shaft is going to be right for your game & that the grips are not hugely oversized although this can be easily rectified.

There are a few sharks around unfortunately who are selling replica and ‘cut and shut’ clubs where they have made a ‘good club’ up from parts from other damaged clubs. Be aware of a set that has some with one shaft and a couple with other shafts fitted etc.

The two manufacturers we have come across where ‘fake’ clubs are being offered is Ping & Scotty Cameron. This is nothing against either of these manufacturers, and we know that both work very hard to shut down these type of counterfeit operations as it does no one in the golf industry any good that these are out there.

Ping’s have serial numbers printed on the hosel which can be checked with the manufacturer before purchase & Scotty Camerons carry a serial number on the shaft. You have to be careful with this as we have seen them on the shaft under the grip which makes them hard to verify.

You can’t always see them in the flesh first is another con. If it’s online and 300 miles from your house, you are not going to get the chance to touch and feel them before committing to them. Make sure there are lots of pictures. The person selling them, private or trade, should have taken the time to clean them and lay them out properly and taken as many photos as possible from all angles, so you have an excellent idea of precisely what you’re buying.

With iron sets, you want pictures of all the faces of the clubs to reassure that there are no chips or scuffs the buyer is not mentioning in the write-up.

If you’re not sure and want more pics, then ask for them. The seller’s reaction to this will only help or hurt your confidence in what you are buying.

They should be showing pics of the defects as well as the nice bits. If a sand wedge has a small stone chip on the bottom of the club where it caught some debris in the bunker, it’s still fully functional, but the buyer should be expecting this when it arrives.

The last thing you want to do is see these lovely pics and when it arrives you’re disappointed. The opposite is preferable, know everything about them and be expecting marks etc. and lots of times they aren’t as bad or noticeable in the flesh and so this becomes a positive buying experience instead of a negative one.

These are the main things I think we all need to look out for when considering second-hand clubs.

So the Pros.

The first one is the most obvious and its cost. Golf equipment is as expensive now as it has ever been. If you don’t have any equipment at all and you decide to go for premium brand clubs, you will be spending around £2000 before you buy a bag, trolley, balls, rangefinders, clothes and other apparel. This doesn’t include the cost of lessons & joining a club so it can quickly climb to more than £4000 to go from a standing start to having all the gear.

Hardly anyone does this and like lots of things in life you accumulate stuff over time and lots of people will mix and match so perhaps have some used clubs with a new trolley or new clubs with a second-hand bag etc.

If your new to golf and not sure if you’re going to like it, then second-hand clubs can be a brilliant idea because you can buy a premium brand of clubs, so you know you’ve got proper equipment, at a fraction of the cost of new.

This is in comparison to a new golfer I know who bought new clubs from a ‘secondary’ brand, thinking he was doing the right thing.

By his admission, he could have bought a set of 2-year-old premium brand clubs, but he felt he wanted to buy the new ones as he didn’t know what to look for in the second-hand market. Two of the irons broke within the first year & the driver broke after 18 months.

From speaking to him now, he feels the quality of the ‘secondary’ brand clubs, although new, couldn’t live up to the quality he currently has in a set of one-year-old premium brand irons and woods & in hindsight this is what he should have bought first.

Premium brand clubs can last and perform for 10+ years if you’re so inclined, though I would suggest looking at changing every five years minimum due to movement in technology and natural wear and tear from playing which is all covered in another Golf Geeks Blog called ‘How often should you change Golf Clubs?’

If done correctly and through a proper retailer, you can get a lot of the same benefits and guarantees as you can when new. The best retailers will offer you a trial period and a warranty with all sales. You get 7-14 days to try them out to make sure they are right and as long as the condition is as it was when you bought them you can return them for a credit or refund. They will also offer a warranty to cover against product failure though as with all warranties the devil is in the detail so read the small print.

An excellent second-hand retailer will also be happy to give you advice on the product either they have for sale or don’t. It makes no sense for a new golfer who has only been playing for 12 months to go and buy a set of blade irons online because they will struggle to hit them and this risks them leaving the game forever. So if you’re going to use a retailer for second hand then talk to them, ask their advice, these people work every day in the industry and will be able to give you at least a second opinion for you to consider before you buy.

Buying second hand at a reasonable price will leave budget for other things. If you buy a full set of 2-year-old clubs, you are perhaps spending half of its original price. If you had the budget for new but decided to buy second hand you now have some money left to invest in lessons & a membership so you can get out a play a lot. Membership is great for practising, as you can play 6-9 holes in a summers evening after work which is excellent practice and not feel gutted that you had to pay a full green fee. Electric trolleys, bags, shoes, clothes etc. all cost money, and by being smart on the clubs, you have left some funds to cover this as well.

Another great pro of buying second hand is choice, almost every club from the last decade is available to buy if you’re prepared to look for it. No matter how big your local pro-shop is they only stock new and selected lines so buying online is a massive market place. If you know exactly what you want, you should be able to find it and if you don’t, then finding something shouldn’t be difficult either.

You can get into new tech quicker with second-hand. What this means is if you buy new you will need to keep them longer to justify the expense. If you buy a 12-month-old set, these will be more developed than your 5year old set, but it has done a lot of its depreciating already.

This is a chain reaction then because in another 2yrs you may be ready to change again to the newer tech and so you buy second hand again, meaning the cost incurred is lower by keeping to buying used vs new. If you like your tech and you like to change relatively often, then this is a great area of the market for you to do your buying.

Second hand also gives you a lot of options. The reduced cost means you can afford to have more clubs than the allowed 14. I, for example, have two putters that over the season, I will change between the two as one goes cold on me I will change for the other and vice versa.

Now I know a lot of this is phycological, but If I hole more putts, or feel like I am, then I’m happy with that. Buying second hand has also enabled me to have a driving iron, so when my driving is struggling, or I play at a links type course with lots of wind I will often put that in the bag at the expense of something else. I also have a 4th wedge (60″) that will go in the bag if I’m playing a short course or a dry course where I need more loft to approach the greens to get my ball to stop so by buying second hand it enabled me to add flexibility to my bag depending on where my game is at and what courses I am playing.

Second hand allows you to budget and prioritise. Many golfers will have a mix of new and second hand in their bag. Lots of golfers buy second-hand irons, but they want the latest driver every 12-18 months etc. because that’s what they feel works for them. Some golfers never buy new putters as they tend to wear slower and can be purchased second hand for a great price. Some buy new irons because they keep them longer and purchase second-hand woods as they change these more often. There are lots of combos, and none of them is right or wrong; it’s what works for you that counts.

If you’ve never bought second hand before it might be worth looking at it next time you’re in the market for something. If you have always bought new, that’s not a problem either, who doesn’t like shiny and new but what I would encourage you to do it make sure you trade your existing clubs in to help with the cost. If your pro-shop doesn’t take trade in’s a lot of the second-hand retailers will buy them from you directly to give you cash to take to the purchase of your new clubs, so this shows the second-hand market can offer something for everyone.

As you work on your game the equipment you need can move more quickly than for a golfer who has ‘plateaued’ and so it’s important to be on top of this. As your handicap comes down the quality of your play increases so you may move into different shaft territory for example so again the cost will mean this can be more financially viable to keep your equipment updated with your progress.

One last point whether you are going to buy second-hand clubs in the future or not is you should look to take advantage of trading in your current set when the time comes for something new. A couple of things to bear in mind while you’re using your current clubs is to take care of them to help preserve their value. Clean them regularly, get them re-gripped when they need it & if they have headcovers please use them to stop them getting ‘bag damage’ and don’t lose the headcovers as this will negatively affect the value moving forward.

Whether you buy new or used next time having to pay less for the next set of clubs is always a good thing & means your current set doesn’t just sit and rust in the garage.

Thanks for reading, I hope this Blog has been helpful.

There are lots of other blogs and other content on the Golf Geeks Website aimed at helping fellow amateur golfers.

Matt @ Golf Geeks