Golf & Women

Frustration For Sale

What happens when an equipment-savvy editor goes undercover to buy clubs

March 2012

Many women had negative things to say about golf stores in our accompanying survey, with crummy selection and indifferent salespeople as special sore points. To get a firsthand feel for today's club-shopping experience, Golf Digest conducted another undercover operation.

My colleague Peter Finch and I visited three large retail golf stores in Manhattan. At two, we walked in separately and pretended not to know each other, and at one we entered as a couple.

Each time I portrayed an average woman golfer looking for my first "good" set of golf clubs. (In fact, I know a lot about golf gear: I'm one of Golf Digest's four Hot List equipment judges.)

In location No. 1, a chain store, I asked for help and was paired with a nice but clueless salesman who didn't know his 6-irons from his 9-irons and tried to pass off last year's closeouts as new releases. Peter, who walked in after me, was matched with a decent fitter. Location No. 2 was a well-respected, high-volume independent store, where we each got professional treatment that included a short demo session and a very convincing hard sell. The information I got was good but limited, and somewhat intimidating--more of a lecture than a conversation. In the third location, where Peter and I were shopping together, we could have pitched a tent and taken a nap in the time it took to get a clerk to help us.

The most striking offense committed by all three salesmen was their reluctance to even broach the subject of a proper fitting. My clubhead speed is about 20 miles per hour faster than average for a woman. Because women's clubs come in only one shaft flex (though men's clubs come in four), I have no business playing them. All three sales guys saw me swing, but none offered me a fitting. When I suggested it, all three said they could "tell" that I needed L-flex clubs. One told me "only really tall ladies" play with men's clubs; I'm 5-foot-7 but have a short torso and long legs. I know from multiple fittings that A-flex men's shafts at the standard men's length are right for me.

The lesson: Women golfers stand a much better chance of getting the right clubs if they visit a store armed with some knowledge and a strong backbone. Read up on what's new, and bring a list of brands and models you want to try. In all three stores, I was handed the same two brands of clubs; only when I asked to demo others were they even acknowledged. Test as many models as you want--at least five or six--in the hitting bay, then demand a dynamic fitting that includes measurements for set makeup, shaft length and flex, grip size and clubhead lie angle. (Even if it costs $75 to $150 or so, it's worth it.) Don't take no for an answer. If they won't give you a proper fitting, keep your money and move along.

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