Golf Club Care and Maintenance: How to Keep Your Clubs Looking and Performing Like Brand New


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Golf clubs today are really an investment. More than just financially, also an investment in your game. Iron sets can cost over $2000 or more. Wood sets $1700. Drivers alone can cost in excess of $1000. At the time of purchase there is not much said about how to care for your new clubs. some stores will tell you to use long neck head covers if your clubs have graphite shafts, but that’s about the total of the advice. A quality set of clubs properly cared for can last a lifetime.

The first rule in keeping your clubs in like new condition is: DON’T TAKE OUT YOUR FRUSTRATIONS ON YOUR CLUBS! That may sound a little humorous, but, I’ve repaired many more clubs damaged due to temper tantrums than were caused by normal play. For the majority of golfers, care and maintenance starts with a regular inspection of your equipment. What do you check? How long does it take? How often is needed? Total time shouldn’t take more than 5 or 10 min.

Ideally, you should inspect your clubs prior to and after each round. But not being able to do that check them at least once a month, if during your inspection you find problems, get them repaired by a qualified professional golf club repairman before you use the club(s). This can save you money in the end.

Start your inspection by checking your grips for wear and tear. Grips usually wear along the top edge where the thumb rests. Grip material can get hard and glossy with age, they also would be slippery. Sometimes this can be repaired and will be explained more fully later. Next, check the shafts for rust, creases, or bends. Check for loose heads. Look at the ferrules, (the plastic piece that the shaft goes into before the club head. ) if they are unseated from the hosel it could be an indication of other problems. Check the heads for gouges, cracks, rust, etc. For graphite, shafts check for scratches, wear marks, and fibers peeling away. If you are one of the select few that still use “wood" woods, inspect the finish. Chips in the finish, loose whipping, damaged or loose inserts, or soleplates can drastically reduce the life of our clubs. Again if you see any problems se your professional golf club repairman.

Regular cleaning goes a long way toward keeping your clubs new. There are clubs that offer cleaning services whenever you play. Unfortunately, most of us don’t play at a facility that has this service, so we have to clean our own clubs. I know golfers that clean their clubs after every round. I also know golfers whose clubs only see any water when they play in the rain. Cleaning club heads is the part of club care & maintenance with which golfers are most familiar. Start with a bucket of water (I find that lukewarm is the most comfortable to work with). Let the clubs soak, heads down, for a few minutes. Then take a medium stiff nylon bristle brush. A vegetable brush; a fingernail brush; or you can get a synthetic paintbrush and cut the bristles to about a half inch in length. Scrub the grooves and stampings and generally scrub the whole head. Scrubbing with the lines of the grooves makes it easier to clean all the dirt out of the grooves. If you have stubborn dirt or stains, you can use a mild abrasive such as soft scrub or barkeeper’s friend. When complete rinse the head with clean water and towel dry. If the head has any minor surface rust, you can lightly rub it out with a fine grade steel wool. Use at least 000, but preferably 0000. Using a coarser grade can cause scratches in the finish of the head. Household steel wool is usually 00 grade and too coarse to use on your clubs.

After drying, you can apply a stainless or chrome polish. If you use a polish of any type, be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions fully. These cleaning procedures are applicable to both metal woods and irons. It is not recommended to soak wooden club heads. Any heads made from wood should be washed with water and immediately towel dried. After the heads are dry, you can apply one or more coats of a good furniture wax such as Johnson’s Paste Wax. While we are talking about woodenheads, it should be noted that if you play on rainy or wet days, extra care should be taken with your wooden club heads. They will need to be kept dry. Towel dry after every shot, and never put wooden clubs into head covers! Water and humidity can ruin woodenheads quickly if there are any spots where the finish is bare (this is easily spotted during your routine inspection). Any damage should be immediately repaired by your golf equipment professional. Cleaning your clubs is simple. It not only can make your clubs look better, it can help your game. Dirty clubs can cause “flier" lies so your shots are harder to control. Clean grooves will put more spin on the ball thereby helping to hold more greens.

The next area we will talk about is shafts. First, we we will discuss steel shafts. Steel shafts are far and above the easiest and least time consuming pieces of golf equipment to maintain with regular care. Most of the time a quick wipe with a towel will keep them clean. If there is light surface rust, rub with 000 or 0000 steel wool. Again, anything coarser will cause scratches. If there, is any heavy rusting or pitting, contact your golf equipment professional. After cleaning, it is a good idea to apply a good chrome polish or even a car wax.

Graphite shafts: Graphite shafts need more care than any other piece of your golf equipment. Graphite by nature has a dull appearance.

Manufacturers paint each shaft and put a silkscreen logo or name on them. The next step is to put a coat of polyurethane over the paint to seal them. Normal usage of your equipment, bags being moved, clubs taken and returned, clubs banging around during a round, and even rattling around in your trunk, can wear through the polyurethane layer. After the polyurethane layer is gone, the paint will go quickly. After the paint is gone, it will not be long before the graphite fibers themselves will be damaged. If the fibers are worn and cut, the chances increase greatly that the shaft will break. This can also void any warranty that the manufacturer offers. If that’s not reason enough, graphite is very expensive to be replacing unnecessarily. Besides the longneck head covers, what can be done to prolong the life of your graphite shafts? While you may not need to clean and polish your steel shafts very often, graphite should have regular cleaning and sealing. I recommend that you clean your graphite shafts with water only. Using solvents can breakdown the polyurethane layer, Abrasives can scratch and wear through to the graphite, and may contain harmful solvents. Before you use, any product on your equipment be sure of what it will do. After cleaning and drying apply one or more coats of a good furniture wax, (i. e. Johnson’s), or a specialty product (Shaft Wax). This should be done at least once a month. With regular cleaning and maintenance, your clubs can last for many years to come.

Grips: Grips are the final area of club care that we will cover. Grip care may be the most neglected aspect of golf club maintenance. The majority of golf shops that offer regripping will tell you as a matter of course that you need to regrip at least once a year. If you want to change every year that’s all right. For the cost of a set a grips (about $40-$50), you just might want grip every year. But for the average golfer once a year is not necessarily needed. For the once a week golfer, you most likely can get away with every year and a half to two years. Grips should be changed when they are cracked, slippery, or worn. There are ways that you can extend the life of your grips. Cleaning is the number one way in keeping a grip in like new condition. Clean your grips no less than once a month. The only tools you need to clean grips are your stiff bristle brush (from club cleaning), liquid dish soap, and a towel.

NEVER PUT YOUR CLUBS INTO A BUCKET OF WATER GRIP FIRST! Doing this will cause the accumulation of moisture around the butt end of the shaft, and will cause the shaft butt to rust. The rest of your club can look brand new, and be well taken care of, but will be ruined if the shaft is eaten away by rust. To clean grips dip your brush into water. Put a little dish soap on the brush and scrub the grip. Rinse with clean water, and towel dry. If the grip is hard with a crusty type covering, you may be able to bring them back to life. Take medium coarse sandpaper, or other abrasive, and “sand" the grip lengthwise. After the sanding step, you need to clean the grip as previously described. If the sanding step doesn’t work, you need to regrip. This can be time consuming, so you should decide if it’s worth the effort.

In conclusion, whether you spend $200 or $2000 for your new clubs, if you follow these simple steps you can extend the life of your clubs for years. You’ll also increase your enjoyment of the game.

Steve Passarell is the owner of Custom Club Creations, a golf club fitting and building facility. He has over 15 years of experience and has had extensive training by some of the industries best experts. His philosophy on custom clubs is to offer the best quality products at prices that all golfers can afford.

Contact Steve at


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