Golf equipment truths: How often should you replace your irons?

We are lucky to have two of the most knowledgable golf gearheads in our office. And they are sharing their knowledge with you. Golf Digest’s equipment editors, Mike Stachura and E. Michael Johnson, have covered the golf equipment business for decades, and there are few who know the equipment industry better. We’ve asked them to answer your questions in a weekly equipment round-up. Tweet them any equipment questions you have, and they might answer your questions next week.

How often should you replace your irons? Mine are approximately 10 years old, but I only play twice a month. How much life is left in them? They are TaylorMade Burner 2.0. @doak_liam

Let us start with how much life is left them. Golf clubs have a very long life. It takes a lot to bust a club, and there are plenty of people playing irons that are 10 years old. So it’s not like they’re about to disintegrate in your hands at impact. But fact is if you’re not swapping out your irons at least every five years you’re leaving a fair amount of improvement on the table. At 10 years, well, it’s like handing your opponent in a $5 nassau an extra stroke a side. Today’s irons compared to your current ones are faster and considerably more forgiving. Shafts—even stock shafts—have gotten better, too. And if you don’t feel like ponying up full boat for a new set, try a used-club outlet such as the U-Try program at GlobalGolf and consider a set that’s only two or three years old. At least that’s an upgrade from what you’re currently playing. Oh, and twice a month isn’t something we’d use the word “only” with. That’s 24 times a year, my friend. That’s worthy of having some more current irons.

In raising a kid in golf, should our kids be trying to drive the ball 350 yards or should they be content with having a complete game? –@DavidBHooten

Short answer: Yes. Now, unless you’re trying to raise the next Kyle Berkshire (the reigning world long-drive champ), we think there’s more to this answer than how far your youngster needs to hit the ball. Distance off the tee is a tremendous advantage in golf. Distance off the tee without a solid iron game, superior short game and reliable putting stroke is nearly useless. After all, even Happy Gilmore had to learn how to putt. Focus on a complete game. If the individual has the potential to hit the ball that far, a good instructor will unleash that potential along with everything else. Just ask Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson. Plus a complete game lasts a lot longer. Not many guys in their 50s and 60s are bombing it 350. That said, we know college coaches who tell us that if they see a kid who’s not generating 170 miles per hour of ball speed, they quietly whisper to themselves, “Better practice folding those quarter-zip pullovers.” If you’re going to compete at the highest level, you need that extra gear. In the first two events this year, there were 263 drives of 350 yards or more. Last year 201 players recorded a drive of 350 yards or more on the PGA Tour, or about 50 more than kept their playing privileges. Even Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover had 350-yard drives. On the Korn Ferry Tour last year, there were 271 players who hit at least one drive 350 yards. Less than 10 percent of those gentlemen were good enough to get to the PGA Tour. just like there aren’t that many 225-pound left tackles in the NFL anymore, physicality is a factor. And while not many Corey Pavins are making it all the way to the Big Show anymore, if you want to get there, it helps immeasurably if you have his resourcefulness, his will, his hands and his tenacity. Indeed, of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup regular season last year, only 15 averaged more than 300 yards off the tee (admittedly, seven of the top 10), and five (Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner, Francesco Molinari and Chez Reavie—all of whom won tour events) averaged less than 290. How retro. Of course, if we’re talking about your daughter, that’s a different story. She doesn’t need to hit it 350. Yet.

I’m buying a set of Callaway Epic Flash Woods online. How can I tell if they are authentic? –@duntagolfer

Thrilled you ask this question because this is really important. First, “buying online” can mean a lot of things. (Truthfully, it’s a bit like searching for a mail order bride, rife with uncertainty and deceit and occasional serendipity. There’s a lot to unpack there.) There’s buying online from Golf Galaxy or PGA Tour Superstore or any number of highly reputable retailers. Then there’s buying off eBay or similar sites. If the latter, here’s some advice. The internet is a haven for counterfeiters. It offers them a wide audience of people who are willing to buy on faith. Not that you can’t find legit product, but you need some safeguards. First, look at the photo and the seller profile. If the seller is offering multiples of the same item and the photos all look like a glam shot, that’s a sign it could be iffy, especially with a newer model such as Epic Flash. It’s not often someone is trying to dump current models at a steep discount. But let’s say you’ve purchased the club and aren’t sure. Here are some things you can do afterward to see if you’ve been hornswoggled: Check the font of the logo. Counterfeits are often slightly off (usually thicker). On a club like the Epic Flash driver, tap a coin on the crown. If it rings like the Liberty Bell you’ve been had—that crown should be carbon and it will only ring if it’s titanium. And, believe it or not, you can smell the grip. Counterfeiters use very cheap rubber, and it has a distinct, pungent smell to it. But best to simply stick to Rule No. 1: If it’s not purchased from an authorized dealer, the risk isn’t worth it. Be honest, not cheap. You’re worth it.

I recently got fitted and spent $400 on a putter. After a few rounds I went back to a 35-year-old Ping Anser 3. –@jamejonson

No one is in favor of modern technology more than us. But we’re golfers, too, and understand the confidence that sometimes comes from a familiar look on the greens. In fact, one of us (not @MikeStachura) is currently rolling it with a Never Compromise GM2 Exchange circa 2007 with a grip that’s about to fall to pieces. So we get it. All that said, don’t put that $400 flat stick up on eBay just yet. We love the fact you got fitted for your putter, and that has to pay off at some point. There’s also no reason your 35-year-old putter can’t be measured and tweaked to make sure it fits you and your current stroke. Then you have options. A good fitting doesn’t mandate you buy something new, but rather simply fix something old.