That new golf clubs are expensive isn't exactly a revelation. So why not go used if you're on a bit of budget? Unlike a car, you're not likely to get a lemon, and the drop-off (if at all) usually isn't that significant, unless you opt for clubs that date back a decade or so.
For example, buying a driver for $200 that's a couple of years old is probably just as good as the latest $500 model for most players. In fact, having the right shaft and making sure that it fits you is more important than being able to change the lofts and lies in a brand-new adjustable driver most players can't figure out anyway.
But buying used clubs can be a little tricky. Where do you find them? How much can you save? And what are the risks? Simply put, you have to know where to look and what you're looking at.
Online marketplace can save you money, but beware
North Carolina-based Globalgolf.com, for example, takes trade-ins as well as selling an inventory of more than 50,000 used clubs at discount prices. I found a beautiful set of Mizuno MP 69s, for example, for $370, which represents about a 70-percent savings over new.
As with anything you buy on eBay or any other auction site, look at the sellers' track record. If they've been at it awhile, you want close to a 100-percent satisfaction score with lots of positive reviews.
The no. 1 rule, though, when buying new or used clubs online, is that if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is just that. In other words, there's a good chance the clubs are fake.
"Counterfeiters are about making sales, not quality products, so when a golfer clicks 'buy' it's usually too late," said Joe Nauman, executive vice president for corporate and legal affairs for the Acushnet Co. "Their money is gone, they're stuck with a fake, and a criminal has their credit card information. All the sudden what sounded like a great deal has turned into a disaster."
Nauman, who is also a member of the U.S. Golf Manufacturers Anti-Counterfeiting Working Group (USGMACWG), says "huge discount" or "big sale" attached to listings are red flags. Legitimate individual sellers don't usually advertise that way, and neither do authorized retailers for the most part.
Counterfeit golf equipment is big business
Often, consumers wind up with counterfeit clubs and don't even realize it until it's way too late. And if you think they perform like the real thing, think again. They're always made with much cheaper materials and they're inconsistent to say the least.
According to the USGMACWG, there are an estimated 2 million counterfeit clubs produced every year. To put that in perspective, if you laid down two million counterfeit clubs on the ground end-to-end, they would stretch from Bethpage Black all the way to Pebble Beach, and back again -- more than 5,000 miles.
The anti-counterfeiting group works with law enforcement domestically and abroad to discover counterfeit operations and seize their inventory. The problem is primarily focused in China, with an estimated 90 percent of counterfeits manufactured there. USGMACWG works closely with Chinese law enforcement to stop those manufacturing operations. But while the manufacturing problem is in China, consumers are most impacted by the unauthorized websites that sell these products.
The group is approaching the two million mark in terms of total counterfeit products seized, and they have shut down 1,300 websites dating back to 2011. In 2015, the group seized almost 15,000 counterfeit golf products.
Manufacturers and retailers offer used gear, too
If you really want to be safe when it comes to buying used clubs, there are options other than the general online marketplace, and the club manufacturers, such as TaylorMade and Callaway, also offered "pre-owned" clubs. The advantage is that they're usually guaranteed and often come with a warranty. If you're willing to go for a model that's a few years old, you can save upwards of 70 percent on new.
For example, on the Callaway pre-owned site (callawaygolfpreowned.com), you can find "certified" X-Hot irons starting at around $260 for a set in very good condition. More recent models, of course, will be more expensive. And Callaway's inventory also includes clubs from other manufacturers since the company gets trade-ins from consumers who switched to Callaway.
Other highly reputable sources for used equipment include the brick-and-mortar golf stores such as PGA Tour Superstore, Golf Galaxy and Golfsmith, which also has a large inventory of used clubs in its stores from trade-ins. The discounts don't tend to be as deep as they are online, but it's a much safer transaction than trying your luck on eBay. Plus, at Golfsmith, you can actually see, feel and touch the product as well as demo it in one of their hitting bays. And the fact that you can learn exactly how the clubs perform for you might be worth paying a few extra dollars.