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View from the red tee: Going clubbing
I am an optimist. A firm believer in the planets aligning in such a way it makes my life easier. You know, when Pluto meets Venus which is traversing the rings of Saturn whilst rotating around the sun. I am not surprised when this all conspires to help me find a fiver hidden away in the back pocket of my jeans. I know what you’re thinking… you’re talking out of Uranus.
However, I think you’ll agree the planets joined forces when a few weeks after mentioning to my Dad that I was thinking of taking up golf, he walked past a full set of clubs on display outside a charity shop. Curious, he wandered over and read the tag upon which was written ‘left-handed, £9.99’. This beautiful, extremely old, men’s Wilson 1200 Gear Effect set became my Christmas present last year. My sporting future was written in the stars
I’m a leftie but was advised that as a complete beginner I should consider learning right handed. This is often recommended due to the greater choice of equipment out there for right handers. I wasn’t against doing so, but when my Dad returned with his astonishing bargain that was that.
Learning left-handed won’t affect my participation or enjoyment. However, there are apparently no left-handed players currently on the LPGA Tour (although there have been in the past), which may suggest it can be a hindrance if looking to progress to a professional level.
Plenty of golfers play with their non-dominant hand. So how do you pick which way to play? In a golf shop or at the driving range, try out both types of clubs. How does it feel facing in each direction? Which side does the swing feel more natural for you? Which hand position feels more comfortable? How does it feel turning your neck as if to follow the ball in flight? Sounds strange, but you will notice a difference from side to side.
For me, visiting golf shops looking for womens’ clubs was disappointing. One major golf chain had only two sets in the showroom and not one left handed club on site at all. And attitudes vary. I have spoken with sales assistants who clearly had little interest in me as a customer but, in contrast, others have spent considerable time discussing the weight of clubs, different brands and giving advice on what I needed to get started.
You can’t beat speaking to someone directly but ultimately clubs can be expensive, so you might end up buying online – as I did – at a more competitive price. Our course tutor helped us look, pointing out better brands or when sets were potentially fake. Although my antique Wilsons had got me started, I wanted to find some modern ladies’ clubs to continue with.
It took a few weeks but one day I received an urgent email saying ‘buy these now!” and a link to Ebay. There was a beautiful second hand set of Ping Rhapsody irons and two woods for £165, considerably cheaper than new. I paid up and a week later had the clubs, which looked barely used, in hand. The first thing I noticed was the weight. Compared to my first set, the Pings were as light as a feather! My swing felt far more comfortable and my consistency definitely improved.
What clubs do you need starting out?
It’s always down to personal preference, but the clubs I bought included 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 irons, sand wedge, pitching wedge, and a 5 and 7-wood. With the putter from my first set I had all I needed. You can carry 14 clubs in a bag, so I was under the impression I needed all 14 to get round the course. Really, getting the basics under your belt is best and I can play just fine as a beginner with my 10 clubs.
Golf is an expensive sport to kit yourself out for, however, the flip side is that equipment is built to last. The woman from whom I bought the clubs was upgrading, hence the sale, so it really is worth checking auction sites for decent second hand sets. I have also seen sales advertised on noticeboards at courses and ranges, so ask around and you could find a good deal.
In store or online I have seen brand new ladies’ sets from under £100 to over £500. I think you do get what you pay for, all the more reason to take your time choosing your first purchase. Buying a set is cheaper than buying clubs individually, but you may prefer clubs from different brands for different shots. Don’t feel everything has to match! The more you play, the better an idea you will have about which clubs suit you and your individual game.
Where did you buy your first clubs? How much did they cost or were you given some great advice? Feel free to tweet me @NeonGolfer to share your knowledge!
My beginners’ course was run at a driving range so it was fantastic to hear from @AdrienneGolf , a PGA Professional who runs Cambridge Golf Academy . With beginners’ classes starting soon, her students are on the golf course from the very first lesson.
Being out on a course straightaway is a fantastic opportunity to understand which club is best for which shot, how your stance and swing changes depending on where your ball ends up, as well as learning all important course etiquette. And, it is just excellent fun.
Next time I will be writing more on clubs, what I learnt on my first course, and what options are out there for you after.
Bobbie Lakhera, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine