There is an inevitable link between half sets of golf clubs and beginners. I would guess that every seasoned golfer out there at one point had either a boxed half set or something cobbled together from hand-me-downs or pro shop left overs. Mismatched irons, wooden woods and rusty putters were the norm in most junior bags when I started playing. This probably explains why so many golfers upgrade to a shiny full set as soon as the golf bug has well and truly bitten and never look back.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this at all. I remember the absolute joy of getting my first new irons, even it wasn’t a complete set. I went from a mix and match collection to having irons that actually all looked the same and I felt like a proper golfer! This might not have made an immediate difference to my scores of course, but it did keep me going to the course, practicing and getting a lot of pleasure out of golf as a youngster which certainly helped me improve over time.
Back to Beginner’s Golf
Funnily enough, I am perhaps one of the rare golfers who has been through this whole process more than once. I played a lot of golf until my mid to late teens and then essentially didn’t touch a club again for twenty years. I only started again when I accompanied a sports-mad friend to the course for a lesson which we had purchased for his birthday, golf being just about the only sport he had never tried!
Of course, he never went back to the course again, whereas I immediately fell back into the arms of the golfing sirens who had being lying dormant for a couple of decades. I borrowed a few bits and pieces from the local club but I obviously wanted to get my own equipment as soon as possible. And like the first time round, it was a mix of second hand bits and pieces that I picked up.
Looking back now, not much of it was particularly adapted for me, but as when I was a youngster, it didn’t matter. I enjoyed my golf with this set up. Of course, like my younger self, this was only in my bag while I waited to get my first full set of clubs.
I invested in a shiny new set of Wilson di11 irons that were a little bit more suited to my specs and, in all fairness, I still believe that these are some of the best clubs that a higher handicapper could have. They looked good, were easier to hit and I am still not sure that I have hit many iron sets further, although who knows, that might just be my memory playing tricks on me.
Not long after, my own personal golf journey headed more towards the equipment side of things and I have been through more clubs than I can remember since then. This isn’t because I am always looking for something better. I simply enjoy testing and trying all sorts of things from blades to hybrid irons to single length.
Back to Half Sets of Golf clubs
This has brought me inexorably back to the idea of the half set, or perhaps more accurately, half sets because there are so many ways of putting this all together. I could happily have a settled “full” set or two in my bags right now. I could be doing what most semi-serious golfers do and simply making those decisions between maybe a driving iron and a five wood or weighing off a lob wedge against an extra hybrid. Truth be told, I do still do this, because it is, at least to me, fun. However, I spend far more of my time putting together half bags or clubs.
The Ben Hogan Half Set
As an example, I came across a half set of Ben Hogan Edge irons while on holiday a few years ago. If you don’t know the various iterations of the Hogan Edge’s they are generally lovely irons. A small cavity and a lovely soft forging, they are a joy to hit. I think I payed (in the UK) something like £2 a club for the 4,6,8,9 and pitch that were available. The pitch was actually from a different version than the others but not hugely different.
For some people, this would be a waste of time. By any measure, I had no need to get these clubs. I had, at the time, probably 7 or 8 irons sets at home. I wasn’t intending to buy these to flip them on eBay because that isn’t really my thing. All I did was put them in an old bag with a putter and a spare sand wedge I had sitting around. I still have them now and I can’t tell you how maybe enjoyable rounds I have had teeing off with that four iron and finding a way to make this seven club set work for me. They aren’t to my specs, they are old bordering on vintage but there is a lot of joy to be had from playing with them. I have, like virtually every set I have ever owned, also used them in competitive rounds.
The Rental Half Sets of Golf Clubs
Another example of the joys that half sets of clubs can provide came to me a few years ago, again while I was on holiday. I was back in the UK visiting family and I didn’t have any of my clubs with me. I had a free afternoon and decided to play on a nine hole public course. They lent me a half package set (from Masters Golf, I think). These were exactly as you might imagine. A very basic half set of big cavity backs, regular flex steel in the irons, regular flex graphite in the hybrid and woods. Nothing to my specs, no fancy shafts, grips a bit tatty. And I played some fantastic golf with them! I actually missed my first hole in one by a couple of inches (and I’m still waiting!)
So what is the lesson here? Actually, I am not sure there is really one at all. Maybe the key thing is that there are many good ways to play golf. Sometimes we can be so caught up on the path of newest and best that we miss out on some of the simple pleasures. Getting a full set of clubs custom fit to your specs, built by a clubmaker and dialed in on a launch monitor is an absolute pleasure. Putting a mix of a few different clubs in an old bag and enjoying the course can be just as great a source of enjoyment too. Even if you have a shiny set of Mizunos, Pings or whatever in the bag, sometimes taking a trip back to where it all started can b the perfect way to play too.