The Ultimate Guide to Golf Essentials

The Ultimate Guide To Golf Essentials

There’s a lot of golf gear out there, not all of which is essential.

Instead of trying to peddle a bunch of unnecessary items to you, like you’ve probably found on other golf sites before you found us, I’m going to break it down into different categories.

Essentials, add-ons, and extras—that’s how you should categorize your golf gear, which is exactly what I’ve done with this list. Some things are necessities while others are nice to have.

It depends on how dedicated you are to the game, and how hard you plan on playing.

As a golfer, I own all of the essentials on this list, as well as some add-on and extra items. I don’t carry every club type, and I sometimes mismatch my golf gear.

I’m not a golf elitist, so let’s talk about what you actually need, what to look for in individual items, and get you the best golf gear without going overboard.

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of golf essentials, we got you covered:

Golf Essentials

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Must-Have Golf Items

Golfer with Full gear set

These are the items that you just can’t go without.

We’re starting straight from the top and working our way down. Some of these essentials will be obvious, others not so much. It isn’t until your tenth-or-so game that you realize, “Man, I wish I had X with me.”

As someone who has had plenty of those moments, you don’t want to kick yourself for it. Instead, be prepared with the items below.

Clubs

Golfing Club

Well, what are you going to do without clubs?

They come in a variety of lengths, sizes and grip materials, and you need to be aware of each and every one.

Understand the difference between graphite and steel shafts, what a full cast/forged club is, and why the length of your clubs matter so much. There’s a lot to consider.

If you try out some golf clubs and they just don’t feel right, play around with different sizes.

Everyone responds to golf clubs differently, so custom ones may be in order if you have the chance to test a bunch out, and they just don’t feel right.

Golf club quality is hard to gauge, but when you get into the shopping spirit, always aim for something that’s going to stand the test of time over what’s cheap.

Golf Bag

Golfing Bag

You can’t just carry your clubs around individually like an insane person—you need a golf club bag to store them in.

More than that, you actually have to store additional items in your golf bag as well. Everything else in the essentials category will be able to fit in or attach to your golf club bag in one capacity or another. It’s your compass while you’re out on the course, taking care of business.

Golf club bags usually come in leather or canvas, and sometimes other lesser quality materials.

Since they’re carrying around heavy metal clubs all day, it’s one essential that you can’t skimp out on when it comes to quality.

Go with something that you can have for ten to twenty years, and if you’re lucky and maintain it well, you might even have it forever.

If you’re wondering how to clean and maintain it, we have a full guide on keeping your golf bags nice and tidy. It’s an equipment piece that you’re investing in, not simply purchasing.

Golf Balls

Golf Balls

There’s more that goes into golf balls than you think.

You have two different types: dual layers and multi layers.

Dual layers generally have a compression rating that’s under 90, meaning that it’s useful for high handicap players.

Anything 100+ is better for low handicap players with less than a 4.

When you’re shopping for golf balls, keep in mind that they can last for twenty or more years if you take care of them.

They’re compressed in the center to allow for greater bounce, and can have different dimple designs for better spin while in the air. Always brings spares.

Ball Marker

Ball Markers

There are two types of ball markers. There are the items you put behind your ball to mark it when you remove it from the green, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

You only usually use those in competitive environments. Golf balls are expensive, so I’m saying that you need a Sharpie to quickly tag your initials or a certain number of dots on the bottom of the ball, so that when it comes time to retrieve it, you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes.

If your buddy decided to use the same brand that you use, because you recommended it, marking them prevents you from getting your wires crossed when you caddy over and see where they landed.

Golf Towels

Golf Towel

It gets sweaty out there. I’ve soaked up a towel just going from hole four to hole five.

Towels are a necessity to dot the sweat off of yourself and keep your hands dry, but they’re also important if you’re actually overheating.

You can soak them with cold water from your tumbler or thermos and place them around your neck to cool yourself off.

They’re versatile to help you out while golfing, and sometimes, you know, clean up that spilled cup of coffee in the car that tipped over just as you parked at the course (as a totally random example, of course).

Tees

Golf Tee

How can you expect to drive the ball if you don’t have a tee for it to stand on? You can usually get a box of white plastic tees for very cheap, but some people get finicky.

Either go with those, or slightly more expensive wooden tees. The benefit here is that they stick in the ground better, and don’t go flying (as often) if you hit a little low.

That, and they just have this professional feel about them instead of using the plastic ones. It’s totally up to you, but some form of tee is required.

Pro tip: bring a couple dozen, it’s not like they take up that much room.

Golfing Shoes

Golf Shoe

You wouldn’t recommend that a runner used tap shoes when they go out for exercise, would you?

In my opinion, that’s like asking a golfer to use normal sneakers to go golfing.

Golfing shoes serve more roles than just being designed for the sport and looking like the rest of your gear.

They partially dictate your stance, which in turn affects every single swing that you make with your club. That’s a pretty big deal, no matter which way you look at it.

Golf shoes have cleats, specialized support for your feet, and are generally made of durable materials that aren’t too hard to clean. You always want your golf shoes to look good when you walk onto the course.

Do You Really Need All Club Types?

Types of Golf Clubs

There are six different club types, though you may find some people carrying up to twenty different clubs at a time, they will each fall into one of six categories.

You have your driver, your fairway, your hybrids, irons, wedges, and your putter. Depending on the course, you will need different types of clubs.

The benefit to owning all the club types is having a tool for every situation. You can get your ball out of the sand trap with a 9 iron, but… wouldn’t you rather have a sand wedge for the task? There are just some instances where it’s better.

Now, if you’re just playing for fun or to spend time with your friend, then you don’t need an entire set. You can get by with a single driver, single putter, one iron and one fairwood. That’s four of the six types, four separate clubs in total.

The benefits come from the way that they are angled. The different degrees on the end of each golf club matter. They can help you out quite a bit when the going gets tough.

Can Any of These be Substituted?

No. You need clubs, shoes, tees, a golf bag, towels, and a marker.

At the bare minimum, you can get clubs, a bag, balls and a tee and leave it at that, but those shoes and towels matter for comfort and support as well.

I rank golf shoes as a critical piece of equipment because of the major boost that it gives to your stance, especially when you’re using your driver.

If you were going to try and hit a hole in one from the first tee, you need to have rigid control, and that’s what golf shoes with cleats do for you.

Add-On Golf Items

From clothing choices to gloves and a ton of other stuff in between, these are highly recommended, but not necessarily a requirement to play golf.

I would argue that if you only get the items from the essential column on this list, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Just because you can play golf without the following items does not mean that you’re making it any easier on yourself, just more budget-friendly.

Golf Shirts

Shirt Golf

Another necessary piece of equipment would be your golf shirt.

Grabbing any blue Polo off the rack isn’t going to cut it—you need something that’s not only soft, but able to wick away sweat and provide cooling throughout the day.

It’s inevitable that at some point, you will sweat through the material at your underarms, but a good quality shirt will at least prolong that for as long as possible.

The main reason that you need a golf shirt is for mobility.

I mentioned softness, and that’s because I don’t know anybody who’s put on a rigid, stiff-feeling shirt and said, “My backswing is going to be amazing in this.”

Mobility. You basically need to feel like you’re wearing thin, soft fabrics so there’s no restriction or pull on your skin when you go to do a dynamic movement, such as swinging a club.

Golfing Gloves

Golfing Glove

Golf gloves are ridiculously important.

In case you missed it, I did a whole post on golf grips explaining why. You don’t have to have these, but if you watch any golf game, what do you see? Everyone is wearing gloves, because they know the benefits behind it.

You wear your golf glove on your leading hand, which is the one that sits on top when you’re holding onto the golf club. That means if you’re right-handed, you need a left-hand glove, and vice versa.

The point is to provide better traction. Since golf club handles themselves are usually stick straight, the club end on the bottom can jerk to the side and you end up spinning it in your hands. This is bad. This is basically like it’s-time-to-go-home-right-now level bad. You look like a rookie when you make this mistake.

But the golf grip that comes on your new clubs isn’t always the best, which is why I recommend switching it out on your driver and preferred iron, at the very least.

The grip on your glove helps you keep the club steady, but it also prevents mishaps. If you’re not using any gloves at all, and the grip on your club is starting to wear off, you could end up letting that thing go and sending it flying onto the green.

Golf gloves also help with circulation. If you’ve ever slipped one on before, then you know that it always feels like a quarter size too small. That’s by design. It adds a slight bit of compression to your hand, which keeps the blood flow going, which in turn helps you with control.

Golf Shorts

Golf Short

Golf shorts may seem like a gimmick, but they’re designed to be comfortable and cooling, while also having tons of mobility.

Traditional shorts tend to feel a bit tight along the inner seam, so when you go to swing, you feel resistance against the top of your thighs, and what lies between them.

If you have a wide swing, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Golf shorts are more optimized for mobility and flexibility, so you may see some blends with 1-10% spandex or similar elastic components.

Visor or Sun Protection

UV Sun Cream With UV Light

Sunburns are bad, but what’s worse is the long-term damage to your skin caused by UV rays.

Having a visor or some form of sun protection, such as SPF-50 sunscreen or higher, will ensure that your skin is fully protected throughout your entire golfing experience.

On average, we only need to get around ten minutes of sunlight every day for the full vitamin D effects to take place.

Outside of that, we can start doing damage to our skin. Sun protection is not only a smart idea, it’s a way to lower your risk for skin cancer in the long haul. If you enjoy golf and you try to play 2-3 rounds per month, then exposure time can stack up against you and cause problems. It’s easily preventable.

UV-400 Sunglasses

UV 400 Sunglasses

UV rays are insanely bad for you.

You don’t just need sunglasses to help repel them—if you play nine holes once a week, that’s at least twelve straight hours of direct sun exposure every single month.

144 hours a year.

That’s enough time to do some serious damage. UV rays hurt your skin, but they’re also killer on your eyes due to the intense blue light.

You’ve probably heard about blue light from smartphones, televisions and monitors in the last couple of years. Well, they’re also found in natural light, and they are far more damaging.

UV-400 sunglasses offer 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays.

For golf, I would recommend finding a pair of transition sunglasses, so you can have a bit more clarity when you’re looking down to putt, but still have excellent levels of protection when you drive the ball in the first place.

Rangefinder

Golf Rangefinders

Laser rangefinders are basically tactical pieces of gear that help you quickly and accurately find the distance between where you’re standing, and the target or point of interest.

This can be a flag, or the distance to the hole from the top of the sand trap you got your ball stuck in. Either way, they’re helpful to determine where you are, and how far you need to go.

If you’re someone who only likes to play by PGA and USGA rulings, then don’t worry—since 2014, laser rangefinders have been allowed in almost all capacities.

While they will not swing the club for you and guarantee that you hit the ball, they can help you understand how hard you have to hit it. Laser rangefinders actually come in handy for those who use contact lenses of glasses because they have difficulty with depth perception.

Double Wall Water Tumbler

golfers tumbler

It gets hot out there. Having a double wall water tumbler keeps your water cold for four to five hours on average, and if it ends up being a cold day, you could always fill it with hot coffee from the drive-thru on your way to the course on a Sunday morning.

The thing is, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the course if you play a full eighteen.

That’s a couple of hours with a cart, but upwards of five or six if you’re walking the full length.

You’re going to be parched. Double wall tumblers come in half-gallon and sometimes full gallon sizes (with an obvious price spike), but they’re a worthy investment if you’re going to be regularly spending time on the course.

Extras

You know what you need, and what you should have, but these extras come in handy in niche situations, or they’re just nice to have on-hand for the sake of being prepared.

For extras, these are the things that are convenient to have on-hand when the time comes, but aren’t necessary to actually play the sport whatsoever.

You’re in an open field with minimal risk of a serious injury, and you have golf carts to get you back to the club if you need. Even if you don’t get these extras, then you’ll be okay.

First-Aid Kit

Golf First Aid Kits

While it’s not something everyone wants to carry around, it comes in handy more often than you think.

You’ll have bandages and antiseptic spray and all that, but one of the real reasons you need a first-aid kit in your golf bag is for cold packs.

If someone catches a golf ball to the stomach, a club slips, or you pull out your back, having some ice packs to cool it down can help alleviate pain while you seek out medical attention. Apart from that, aspiring are a good idea.

Most of us are playing golf on hot days, and with dehydration, headaches usually aren’t far behind.

Golf Rule Book

Golf Guides

Any edition that’s backed by an accredited source, like the PGA or USGA, is a solid choice.

While most people don’t assume it, golf can be a very competitive sport where you have to get into the nitty gritty of the rules when you dispute a move by your opponent (and sometimes, you just have to tell your friend how it is and that you knew the proper rule from the start).

It’s good for reference, but it’s also something you should just pick up every now and again to review.

Nothing is worse than spending hundreds of hours on a sport, and then having a brainfart when you’re trying to pull up one specific piece of information. Eventually, retire it as a coffee table book when you get a new one.

Ball Retriever

Lost a Titleist in the water?

You’re not going to leave that, are you? If you’ve got a ball retriever in your bag,  you won’t have to.

These are like extendable grabby sticks that you always see marketed to the elderly, except these ones actually serve a purpose—getting your expensive golf balls back from the water or dense woods that you’re unsure of.

Many of these will fold up pretty small, or at the very least, fit inside your bag right next to your clubs. If you’re not bringing every type of club available, you can use one of the spare slots for it.

Umbrella

Golf Umbrellas

The weather forecast is pretty fantastic when it comes to accuracy, but light drizzles and sprinkles can happen at random (especially if you’re in or around Florida—it’s like someone has a rain switch and they can’t decide what they want to do).

If you’re playing nine holes and it starts sprinkling as you arrive at the eighth, we both know you’re going to finish out the game. No need to let those steel clubs rust because of it though.

Spare Socks

Spare Sock

It gets sweaty out there.

Your gold shoes aren’t going to have collars like your trainers or fashion sneakers, so you need to account for the one common shortcoming of golf shoes.

Once your socks are wet all the way through the ankle, chafing and irritability are bound to happen.

Since you’ll naturally compensate for the pain by altering your footing, you’re going to mess up your stance and cause more damage to your skin if you continue.

Sounds like a far-fetched thing to consider, but you try to go nine holes in the dead center of July and tell me otherwise.

Divot Tool

These simple little wonders let you immediately patch up the hole that your tee would otherwise leave in the ground.

Some private golf courses require this, otherwise the next patron could unknowingly dig a spike from his cleats in, and tear up a good chunk of grass.

Unnecessary damage. It’s easily preventable if you carry a couple of these with you. Your friend is likely to forget theirs, as many golfers do, so having an extra is always nice.

Push Cart

Not using a golf cart?

Don’t have a caddy?

No problem.

These are big pieces of gear. They’re excellent if you’re walking on the green and you have to lug your own clubs around though=.

I say this is an extra because it’s just not necessary; you should hopefully be fit enough to carry your own bag across the course. I’m not saying it doesn’t stink at times, I’m just saying that a push cart is not a necessity.

A few reasons that they can be helpful though is that they take the strain off of your shoulders and lower lumbar. That means running a slightly lessened risk of injury, while also keeping your joints from tensing up for a wider swing.

Back Brace

Golf Support Belts

In the theme of being comfortable and ensuring you don’t sustain any injuries, you should grab a back brace to help keep your spinal alignment in place while you’re swinging that driver or putter.

You can discreetly wear a back brace underneath your Polo if the idea of using one embarasses you. Thanks to modern designs, they’re thinner than ever before, meaning nobody will know that you’re wearing one.

Wrist Support

Wrist Support for Golf

Using a form of wrist support works just like a back brace—it fortifies your joints to handle incoming stress.

That’s not a new concept. Wrist support would ideally be used for your dominant hand, which is also the one hand you would not normally be wearing a golf glove on.

What this does it protect your wrist from horizontal movements that could make your joints feel like they pop out of place. When you lean down to swing, your wrist moves from side to side just a little bit.

This keeps things stiffer, and in some cases, might make for a better shot.

What Should Be With You For Every Game of Golf?

Everything in the essentials column: golf clubs, bag, towels, balls, tees, and other items. But as far as quantity goes, that’s another story entirely.

There’s something you should know, called the One Ball Condition.

That means that in a professionally-regulated match, or a competitive match where you’re playing by PGA and USGA guidelines, you can only use one brand of ball, and one model of ball from that brand.

If you remember Tiger Woods almost running out of balls back in 2000, that’s because he didn’t take full advantage of one of the most lenient rules in all of golf: there’s no limit to the number of balls you can carry in your bag.

Y’know, you just have to make sure they fit.

18 Golf Balls

I would carry 12-18 golf balls instead of the standard amount, which is 9. That’s a safe number that allows for some mishaps and losing a few here and there.

That being said, I also bring two gloves so I have one as a spare, an extra pair of socks, and seven towels. Most golf bags can fit about three or four, but I sweat a lot whenever I golf, and it gets in the way. It makes my socks uncomfortable, the glove gets slick on the inside, and the towels are just there to help clean up the mess.

Since I usually use a canvas golf bag, I also bring along a silicone freezer-style bag that’s completely waterproof. I store used towels, gloves and socks in there so that they don’t stink up the bag or leak sweat into the lining of the canvas.

The essentials column, and a few spare items to help you stay cool and calm. I keep some aspirin in my bag for hot days where I get dehydrated, and energy bars for a bit of a pick-me-up during a long game.

Get Equipped, Get in the Game

From the most essential to the bountiful extras that make the game (and time on the course) that much more enjoyable, you now know everything you need to have a fun and successful day out on the course.

This covers everything—first-aid, nutrition, skin protection, performance, and everything in between. You’re ready to hit the course and make the most out of your newfound knowledge, starting right now. Get those cleats, pull that visor down, and get to it.

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