The biggest complaint I hear about golf is that it's "too expensive". I would agree to a point, which is why I started my own club building and repair business to keep costs down for all golfers that I can reach. I don't understand that sentiment though when people follow in the same breath with "What kind of driver is that?" When I answer, they just reply "oh". It's more about name than anything else and people are willing to pay for a name. This is not a post about clone clubs. Clone clubs are meant to look like a particular variety, not perform like it. Most are also illegal, not to mention they perform like crap. This is about off-brand names that do their own research and their own design and create a quality performance product. They don't pay pros millions so there's no need to have drivers that are $500. They rely on competent club builders to grow the name.
Still, I've heard more often than not that getting fully custom clubs are still too expensive. One of the most common statements is "I can get a brand name set for that price". Answer: Yes, yes you can, but it's going to be off the rack and it's going to be what the COMPANY wants you to play, not what you want to play. Example: I went to a popular retailer and bought the cheapest set of clubs that I could. I didn't try to "match" sets, I used different OEMs just whatever was the most recent and cheapest - balanced. I sacrificed a little "new box" factor for some savings. I came up with Driver, 5W, 4-AW, SW, Putter for $854.83. These are all stock shafts, no options, no swingweight options, no new grip options, no length or fitting options. The different OEMs offer different brands of shaft, but I'll assume they're relatively close in flex. So you have a "good set" of big names for less than $900 before tax and buying a bag. Remember also, that these are the CHEAPEST I could find. The ones marked $200 off, and $300 off, on the rack. It does not take into account the up-charges to replace the OEM shaft with say a Dynamic Gold S300 from True Temper and does not allow for length adjustments.
I spec'd out a performance set of clubs using great components and came up with $868.44 after tax (if you're in PA). The head covers put me over, drat. Still, they all have matching grips, the driver and 3 wood have the same shaft profile. Oh wait, there's an extra wedge in there to round out your scoring clubs. Winner! Believe me when I say there's some great components that are even more on the value pricing line as well that I steered clear of just to prove a point. I didn't have to use Golfpride New Decade Plus 4 Grips *new for 2015*. Nor did Superstroke pay me to put their Mid-slim 2.0 on the putter rather than a stock paddle shaft. I certainly didn't have to use Fujikura EXS 6.0 graphite shafts *New for 2015* on the woods either but I did all that. Yes, I also find it somehow ironic that as you're reading this, there's Golfsmith ads on either side of the blog. Thanks, Google. Really.
See, here's the thing - there's money for the big names in "stock" clubs. By making a flashy club and touting some new technology, they are able to release a new club or set of clubs every 6 months. Sometimes even sooner!! It leaves you with the sense that what you have isn't good enough so you'll buy new - even if it's a new to you used club - and it's still stock garbage. Most clubs rely on something called rack appeal. That's when you look at a set of clubs and go "oh that's nice!!" without even hitting it. They look cool, different, shiny, black - you name it - and if it makes you buy the club then it's done it's job. I fell into this in my hay-day. I bought a big brand of clubs and got fit by the fitter. By the time I had them the way I was fit to them, I was well into $1000 JUST FOR IRONS!!!!!! That's no wedges, no woods, no putter! Flash forward, I built a set of irons for myself using less flashy and less expensive components but to the same specs that I was fit for and they outplay my old clubs - no contest. You can read the first tests here and here and I was completely sold after that. The USGA puts limits on clubs. It's what they do. MOI, COR, Size, and Weight are all closely monitored. Clubs have hit a wall. You're talking about differences of 1 or 2 points and flat out lies. You can't increase MOI by 15% every year. You can't, the limits don't allow it. If you DID then that means last year's model was crap or more than likely - you're being lied to.
Long story short, buying big names is stroking your ego. If you're the person who needs to have the name in the bag please go buy them. I have said it before, I want you to be happy and I want you to play what you want. Personally though, I take more satisfaction from absolutely destroying a golf ball down the middle of the fairway past my partners with my custom built "no name" than I do from someone saying "hey, I see you got that new (insert name) driver. Looks awesome". I start conversations with my clubs now because they have Clubcrowns and Shaft wraps on them and they are badass. These days when people ask "what kind of driver is that" they're following it up with "I want one".
I trust what I sell and I play what I sell. Let me help you trust your clubs.