6 golf equipment and gear items well worth the investment
The longer I work in golf, the clearer it becomes to me that when it comes to certain categories of golf equipment, price and quality are only sometimes directly correlated.
I'll give you a perfect example: golf towels. In my experience, the more expensive and plush a towel is, the less useful it is. I play in the Florida heat without a golf glove, so I need to keep sweat off my hands by wiping them with the wet half of a towel between shots. The best towels I've found for the purpose are those cheap, coarse-feeling white towels with a blue stripe down the middle that you've probably seen bag drop guys using to clean clubs at all sorts of courses. A 12-pack of the same ultra-cheap golf towels that I love is currently less than $26 on Amazon; the $20 plush single towels you might buy at a golf shop are far inferior at nearly 10 times the price.
So what types of gear should you spend a little extra on in order to enrich your golf life? Here are my top six suggestions:
We get bombarded daily with ads for drivers, touting heavenly speed gains and never-miss-a-fairway forgiveness. But the business end of the game will always be around and especially on the greens. That's why if you're going to devote a little extra resources to one club in your bag, it should be a putter that you will love for years.
Speaking as someone who traded a closet full of uncooperative putters for a custom-fit, beloved flatstick - an Evnroll ER5 - that I've loved for the past five years, I can say that if you have never done it, taking the time to get fitted for a putter and committing to that putter will improve your golf life significantly. Eliminating uncertainty about your putter frees you up to make better strokes and hole more putts. Custom fitting is great for any serious golfer but I would absolutely prioritize investing in a putter that truly fits you before any other club - including a driver.
I can’t tell you how many golfers I’ve played with who have bags full of expensive, custom-fit golf clubs, but will play any old golf ball they find in the woods or nearest pond. That makes zero sense. If anything, these golfers have it backwards. The ball is the only piece of equipment you use on every single shot; it is well worth finding the one that you like best and sticking with it. It doesn't have to be an expensive model; it just has to be the same one.
Golf balls vary enough by brand that you may squander a great shot by making a great swing on an unfamiliar ball that ends up flying over the green or burying in a bunker short of it. Consider the purchasing of every new dozen as motivation to a) get better, and/or b) find a home course where you won’t lose as many golf balls. Any random balls you find on the course, either put them in your shag bag or donate them.
Golf shoes aren’t nearly as well-made as they used to be, but I have found that golf socks are better than ever. Spending $20 per pair on good wool golf socks will keep your feet dry and fresh, and they’ll make even lower-end golf shoes feel luxurious. Altera (specifically their Surino alpaca/Merino wool socks) and Kentwool are the brands I swear by, though Swiftwick and Darn Tough Vermont make nice wool golf socks as well.
I’ve tested several rangefinder brands in recent years, and yet I keep finding myself relying on my dozen-year-old Bushnell v2 model. I spent a little extra on it back in the day, and I’ve been rewarded with years of consistent service in getting the right yardages. Whenever I try it side-by-side with other laser rangefinder brands, my readings with the newer models often varyby five or more yards, which erodes confidence. I just flat-out trust my Bushnell to give me the right yardage each time. Bushnell's ridiculous 98% usage rate among professional caddies should put an exclamation mark on this advice.
A good golf club travel bag is the least expensive form of insurance you can purchase. I have a Sun Mountain ClubGlider Meridian and even though it’s picked up nicks and scratches from rough baggage handlers, it has held together brilliantly for years and I have not once worried about whether all of my clubs would make it to my destination intact. Many other well-traveled golfers love ClubGlove's offering as well. I have seen travel bags for as low as $50 on the internet and while I’m impressed with some of the reviews they receive, there is zero chance I would willingly put my clubs into one ahead of a long-distance trip.
Here's a dirty little secret about rain suits: the vast majority of them are garbage. After a few holes, any kind of moderate to heavier rain gets right through, making you doubly miserable because not only are you getting soaked, you feel foolish for having bought something less than the best. I was sent a middle-of-the-road rain suit before visiting Ireland in 2018, and it failed after six holes of light rain at Killarney Golf Club. Never again.
The rain gear brand I trust most is Galvin Green, which is based in Sweden. KJUS, which is owned by Acushnet (Titleist, FootJoy) has a sterling reputation as well.
Look at the prices for top-of-the-line rain gear and your eyes may water, but your body will stay dry if you wear it on the golf course. Fully GORE-TEX-backed but breathable layers are expensive but practically unimpeachable and could be the difference between you missing out on a bucket-list round or loving battling the elements and going home with a lifelong memory. If that's priceless to you, then even expensive rain suits can be a bargain.