Buying a Game

A Look at Golfer’s Priorities

October 13, 2006

In a world where golf club manufacturers daydream about things like coefficient of restitution and moment of inertia to make clubs that hit the ball farther and straighter; in a world where golf balls are engineered with two-piece construction and made of mysterious stuff like surlyn so that they fly unimaginable distances; in a world where people spend the equivalent of a college tuition to be properly outfitted for a round of golf; in a world where all this is true and yet the average male golfer shoots almost 100 and the average female shoots over 110—somebody needs to take a look at golfers’ priorities.

While flipping through one of those glossy colorful golf merchandise catalogues, I am amazed at the cost of loading up on top-of-the-line equipment. Along with the Taylor Made driver ($399.99) and the Odyssey putter ($169.99) we might need to pick up a couple Ping fairway woods ($219.99 each), a couple Cobra hybrids (a bargain at $179.99 each), a set of Calloway irons ($699.99, if we settle for steel shafts), and a few Cleveland wedges ($119.99 each). We could easily drop over $2,300. And that is before I have a bag to put them in, some Dry Joys on my feet, a Foot Joy for my hand (a Foot  Joy for my hand?!), a few dozen high-tech balls, some vertigo-inducing designer plaid pants, a straw hat, and of course, a couple of those magnetic or copper bracelets to cure my aching elbows and wrists.

buying1And if I am a typical golfer, I still need to spend a few hundred on instructional books, videos, and training aids; then a few more thousand on a club membership and greens fees. One of those nice three-wheel push carts, or maybe an electric one, and I am ready to play golf. Ready to lose five balls and shoot 98, with a liberal drop on the seventh hole.

This is where I have to admit my bias. I am like a starving artist. I am a teaching professional. You can see where I am going with this: the average golfer drops thousands of dollars to be outfitted with equipment he does not know how to use. Here is what it looks like to me: a new army recruit is loaded down with a heavy pack and all his tools; a rifle, knife, grenades, rocket launcher, rounds of ammo, night vision goggles, and a fancy Bushnell rangefinder to figure out the distance to the target. Face painted and ready to go. A slap on the rear from the drill sergeant, a hearty “Have at ‘em, boy!”, and off goes the recruit to do battle. This is how a lot of people enter the game, with plenty of equipment, but almost no training, which is why so many golfers end up playing army golf. Left, right, left, right.

I remember getting started too. I remember wanting that new driver, and a better putter. I could not afford all those things back then, which is part of the reason I got into the golf business to begin with. Now I really cannot afford those things.

I am kidding. I feel very lucky that I have spent the past decade teaching people to play golf, and I have done well enough to go full-time with instruction starting in 2001. But I do wonder about golfers’ priorities sometimes.

Here is another possible way to disperse the $2,300 mentioned above. Go to Costco, spend the $300 on a complete set of clubs, bag included. Then give the $2,000 to your local teaching pro and tell him or her not to stop until you can play the game.

buying2I teach in a somewhat rural area, and have purposefully kept prices down so that I could work with a high number of people, without pricing golfers out of the market. It would be different in metropolitan and resort areas where golf lessons often cost between $60 and $100 per hour. But $2,000 would buy roughly 60 lessons at my driving range by the time package discounts kicked in, and closer to 80 lessons for junior golfers. That is a lesson a week, through the warmer months, for over two years.

This makes me think of a good science experiment. For this experiment I need identical twins, neither of whom has ever played golf. One gets all the top equipment and just starts playing without instruction, other than the free advice of playing partners, as in “keep your head down” and “your front arm straight”. The second twin gets the Costco set and two seasons of lessons. Then the twins play a match. I know which one I will bet on. And yet most golfers choose the other route.

It really is interesting that handicaps and scoring averages have stagnated for decades while golf equipment has improved drastically. Perhaps golfers ought to reconsider how they spend their golf dollars. Even when they do buy top equipment, how many golfers get properly fitted for their clubs? Why do we pay $400 for a big-headed titanium club that we will only use fourteen times per round (at most), and then replace as soon as the new model comes out in the spring? Even if we seek instruction, why is it from magazines that cannot talk to us, that give us conflicting information, and distract us with drills that have nothing to do with our individual problems?

So, this year at Christmas, maybe the average golfer, instead of paying for more glossy catalogues from the behemoth club retailers, should invest in the future of his game by purchasing a large package of lessons. Like Jerry McGuire said, “Help me to help you.”


  1. Kevin Sullivan says:

    Hey John,

    I have found it helpful reading the articles on your website. They do a nice job reinforcing and complementing what you teach during your lessons. Reading them has helped me to remember and refocus on the fundementals when I am on the range practicing by myself between lessons with you.

    I purposely waited until I had what I thought was enough of your instruction and had made significant enough improvement before I sprung for my new irons. I hope you don’t think I jumped the gun.

    That said, I ordered a 5 and 4 hybrid during ping demo day last week to just about complete my arsenal…..the only thing missing, what I have been holding off on, is that fitted, 2 inch shorter than standard, graphite shafted, oversize gripped, custom built John Rogers driver!

    I am looking forward to a Merry Christmas!

    Keep up the good work.



    • John Rogers says:


      Thanks very much. I am impressed by your dedication and how committed you are to improving at this crazy game of ours. I appreciate the trust you have placed in my coaching (and writing), and we’ll keep going until you have reached your goals–and until we have found that magic driver with the bizarre specs!


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