These are strange times for the golf equipment industry. As Mike Stachura and Shane Ryan have both reported for Golf Digest, demand for new clubs has rarely been higher, but because of the downstream effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, supply has become unreliable at best. Customers are waiting months for their purchases to arrive, and prices are steadily climbing in response to rising manufacturing and shipping costs.
Say you decide to buy a new driver this winter. If you get custom-fit (as you should, if you’re making the investment in the first place), you’ll probably end up paying $800 or more. And you might not see the thing until June.
In other words, it’s a convenient time to take an interest in used golf equipment.
As TXG’s Ryan Barath and I discuss on the latest episode of The Fried Egg Podcast, filling out a set of clubs doesn’t have to take forever or cost a fortune. There are lots of great options on the second-hand market. Whether you’re buying from the used rack at your local shop, an online retailer like 2nd Swing or Global Golf, or a random seller on eBay, you can find high-quality, affordable equipment that will suit you well. It will just be a few years—or perhaps a few decades—old.
Now, Ryan and I agree that you’re more likely to end up with optimal gear if you go to a qualified fitter and bite the financial bullet. But golf doesn’t always need to be about finding every available edge and saving every possible stroke. Sometimes it can just be about hitting shots with clubs that you like the look and feel of, or that you coveted when you were a kid. Plus, it’s far less of a tragedy to put a sky mark on a $60 driver than a $600 one.
Listen to my full interview with Ryan Barath:
In the second half of the episode (starting at 28:52), Ryan and I talk about some of our favorite equipment from the past 25 years. We do this by giving our picks for two sets of clubs: one that can be scavenged on eBay for less than $750, and another that, just for the hell of it, consists entirely of products that came out before 2005.
Here’s what we came up with:
Bag 1—as close to optimal as possible for less than $750*
*Ryan and I researched eBay prices on our own, so your deal-hunting mileage may vary depending on what’s available right now and how deep you’re willing to dig
Ryan’s pick: Titleist 910D3 (release year: 2011)—$100
Garrett’s pick: Srixon Z 785 (2018)—$200
Honorable mentions: TaylorMade JetSpeed (2013), Cleveland Launcher DST (2010)
Ryan’s notes: The JetSpeed line, specifically the driver, was dead in the water from the start, maybe because of the terrible ads, which starred puppets. No, seriously: puppets.
But the JetSpeed driver offers an adjustable hosel, a 460cc head, a speed pocket on the sole, and an affordable “TP” (Tour Preferred) version with an aftermarket shaft.
The Cleveland Launcher DST line had three head designs targeted at different types of players, came with high-quality stock shafts, and were very forgiving.
Ryan: TaylorMade SLDR 3-wood and 5-wood (2013)—$90 per club
Garrett: Ping G10 3-wood (2007)—$70
Honorable mentions: Adams XTD Ti (2014), Titleist 913F (2012), Tour Edge CB2 (2007)
Ryan’s notes: XTD Ti was the last true line of Adams fairway woods before TaylorMade, which bought Adams in 2012, stopped production of Adams clubs altogether. The XTD Ti fairway features a titanium head with slot technology and has the adjustable sleeve that TaylorMade still uses in its woods today. It also comes with an excellent Matrix shaft that works very well with the head design.
Ryan: N/A—opted for two fairway woods and no hybrid
Garrett: Adams Idea Super XTD 19° (2012)—$30 in rugged condition
Adams Idea Super XTD hybrid
Honorable mentions: Adams Super 9031 (2013), TaylorMade Rescue TP (2011), Adams Idea Black Super (2010)
Ryan’s notes: My if-I-had-to-pick-one would be the Adams Super 9031. But the TaylorMade Rescue TP from 2011—with the white head—offers great value for a better player. It has an adjustable hosel and very high-quality shafts.
The other option would be the Adams Idea Black Super Hybrid, which is basically the original version of the current Callaway Apex Utility Wood: half-hybrid, half-fairway wood, and easy to find under $50.
Ryan: Nike Forged Pro Combo 3-PW (2003)—$200
Garrett: Ping G15 4-UW (2009)—$255
Honorable mentions: Nike CCi Forged (2007), Cleveland CG Red (2007)
Ryan’s notes: The trick to getting value in the iron category is either looking for an older set or going off the beaten path to find underrated models from defunct or smaller brands like Nike, Adams, Cleveland, and Wilson.
Ryan: Nike Engage 52°, 56°, 60° (2015)—$45 per club
Garrett: Mizuno MP-T5 54° and 58° (2014)—$70 per club in mint condition
Honorable mentions: Kirkland Signature (current), Mizuno T11 (2010)
Ryan: Odyssey White Hot Tour line (2008)—$60
Garrett: Cleveland Classic line (2008)—$55
Honorable mentions: Ping G2 and G2i lines (2002 and 2004), Ping Karsten 1959 line (2011)
Ryan’s notes: Almost any older Ping could work in this spot, depending on condition. The G2 and G2i (insert) putters offer classic shapes at a very good price point. One forgotten fact is that Martin Kaymer won the PGA Championship with a Ping Karsten 1959 Anser putter, which at the time retailed for only $119.
Bag 2—clubs manufactured before 2005 that haven’t become collectibles*
*That means no Titleist-logo Scotty Camerons or Maxfli Tad Moore blades from the mid-90s, you sicko
Ryan: Cleveland Launcher 400 (2002)—$45
Garrett: Ping G2 (2004)—$55
Honorable mentions: Titleist 983K (2003), TaylorMade r580XD (2003), Cobra 440 SZ (2004)
Ryan: TaylorMade V-Steel 3-wood and 5-wood (2003)—$25 per club
Garrett: Sonartec NP-99 4-wood (2004)—$30
Honorable mentions: Orlimar TriMetal (1999), Titleist 975F and 980F (2002 and 2003), Callaway Big Bertha Steelhead Plus (2000)
Garrett: Nickent Genex 3DX Ironwood 20° (2004)—$20
Honorable mention: TaylorMade Rescue Mid (2003)
Ryan’s notes: The TaylorMade Rescue and the Nickent Ironwood were the standouts of this era and difficult to beat.
Ryan: Ping i3 Blade 3-PW (2000)—$150
Garrett: TaylorMade RAC LT 4-PW (2003)—$215
Honorable mentions: Titleist DCI 990 (1990), Cleveland TA5 (1999), Cleveland TA3 Form Forged (2000)
Ryan’s notes: The TA5s are awesome and can fit a variety of players, and anything Titleist DCI from this era will have clean looks and forgiveness.
Ryan: Cleveland 588 RTG 52° and 58° (2004)—$30 per club
Garrett: Cleveland CG10 52° and 58° (2004)—$27 per club
Honorable mention: Ping Eye2 (1982)
Ryan’s notes: Eye2 wedges—in stainless, as BeCu can be expensive—are a perennial favorite, and their design characteristics can still be be found in many of today’s wedges.
Ryan: Ping My Day (1967)—$30
Garrett: TaylorMade Rossa Monza (2004)—$25
Honorable mention: Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball (2001)