Play the Golf Equipment You Want to Play
Playing the golf equipment you want to play versus the equipment you should play can be very different. Whether you're a single-digit handicap who enjoys playing budget golf balls or a mid-handicap who loves the look of a blade iron, finding enjoyment in the game should always be a priority.
The Risk of Custom Fitting
Long-term readers of this site will know that I am a sucker for blades. This doesn't make me unique in the least; who among us doesn't love the clean look of a forged, thin iron? There's a certain ego-boost that comes with owning a bag full of butter knives that you cannot replicate with cavity back irons.
That ego is immediately squashed, of course, as soon as you thin a 5-iron because your blades are as forgiving as a letter-opener. But if you're the type of player who takes a few seconds before every round to marvel at how "nice" your golf bag looks, chances are you're not losing those blades any time soon.
The question becomes whether your goal is to score better or to continuously annoy your friends with how "great these blades feel." Handicaps are not lowered based on how cool your golf bag looks. A proper custom fit will place you in clubs appropriate for your skill level and swing tendencies. Sadly, many golfers forgo a custom fitting session in favor of the immediate gratification that comes with an ill-advised impulse buy.
But is that such a bad thing? Equipment companies want you to get fit into their equipment... but I have yet to hear of any company turning away a customer who just wants to buy clubs off the rack. After all, there is a moderate risk that their golf clubs aren't the best for your game, especially when compared to other clubs presented in a typical fitting process. Companies don't want to take that risk.
It's All About Give and Take
If you are in the market for a new set of golf clubs, chances are you already have a few brands in mind. The largest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) make clubs for all skill levels while boutique brands can be more specialized. Walking in to a fitting with a preferred brand isn't a bad idea per say, but it can limit the scope of options that can greatly improve your game.
Remain open to the possibility that all major OEM brands make excellent equipment. Even the most die-hard fans of a brand can find positive qualities in a competitor's offering, especially if your goal is lower scores and more enjoyment during your weekend round. If looking at a logo you've never played before helps you finally break 80 with your regular foursome, you might want to consider a switch.
However, we must not forget the large number of players who simply want to play clubs that make them happy independent of score.
Golf Is Still A Recreational Activity
If you truly play the game for the sole reason of enjoying yourself, getting exercise, and escaping the house for an afternoon, play any clubs you damn well please.
These golfers play a game where the final score is simply another part of the experience, not the ultimate goal. Blading a bunker shot over the green or never lining up a putt accurately may not be enjoyable, but they're included in the price of admission. Handicaps shmandicaps; you're perfectly content hitting that blade 5-iron 165 yards and that's all there is to it.
I respect these players more than anything, because they know what they like and nobody is going to tell them otherwise. Remember those old Miller High Life commercials where Average Joe mechanic comes home, grease still on his hands, chomping on white powdered donuts while cracking open an ice cold beer? Vanity golfers are no different... and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Regardless of your golf goals, enjoying the game will always be the ultimate outcome. A thorough and proper custom fit will place you in the clubs that will give you the best chance of lowering your score. However, playing the game how you want to play it can be just as valuable.