What defines a ‘best’ brand? A longstanding reputation for excellence among customers? Innovative products available at the time of writing, for a ‘best brand this year’? The overall portfolio of products it sells? Its customer care?
Maybe a little of all of these go into defining a ‘best’ brand. And perhaps something more – that sense that we know excellence when we see it, feel it, play a round of golf with it?
As such, our list of the best golf club brands is determined on a ratio of some science, some hard evidence, and a little more than a pinch of pure gut instinct.
Your mileage may of course vary. All we can do is tell you why the brands that made it onto our list are there, and what they’ve done lately to impress us.
OUR TOP PICK
Callaway has been around since the early 80s, which, yes really, means it has over 40 years of experience in the club-making business.
It’s a company that has added a quantum leap in club design and club selling more than once, and in 2021, it continues to deliver outstanding clubs not only to professionals but to beginners and high-handicap golfers, meaning it’s a company that wins fans across the golfing ability spectrum.
In terms of names to drop about Callaway, PGA and European tour stars Phil Mickelson and Francesco Molinari have been known to favor Callaways in their bag – and to win with them.
When it comes to innovation, Callaway has had several big successes, from the introduction of the Big Bertha driver in 1991 – which drove both a ton of golf balls down the fairway, and the trend towards larger heads with more forgiving sweet spots which 30 years later shows no sign of abating.
It always felt like a kick of corporate kindness – bigger sweet spots and more forgiveness pulling potential golfers into a lasting engagement with the game.
But what has Callaway done lately?
Oh, it’s not been idle.
The development of the ‘Mavrik’ range has extended the Big Bertha thinking, with the Mavrik Max delivering even an even bigger club head and even more forgiveness.
Add to that the company’s phenomenal success with ‘complete’ sets of beginner clubs, as exemplified by the Callaway Strata set.
Available in 12-, 14-, 16-, and even now and 18-piece set, the Callaway Strata set has become a legend among new golfers, providing everything a new golfer could need, from a driver, though a 5-hybrid to a pitching wedge and putter, along with the bag to transport them and headcovers for the woods and hybrids.
In that development, Callaway took the stress out of choosing a bagful of clubs when you’re new to the game.
The Strata set was a set of significantly above average per clubs, with enormous amounts of forgiveness in their heads, and all for a single low price.
As an ambassador for the game, it’s this sort of development, as much as the company’s reputation with PGA stars, that makes it stand above the crowd for us.
And recently, Callaway took that Strata spirit one step further with the release, in relative silence, of the Callaway Edge set – a full set, similar to the Strata, but with a significantly more impressive putter, for a low price through a very limited bricks-and-mortar supply chain.
When news eventually broke of the set’s release, it flew off shelves and was eventually made available through Amazon.
For putting highly effective golf clubs in the hands of lots of people for a less frightening price than many; for bundling golf clubs to take the pressure off newcomers; for innovating forgiveness into golf clubs everywhere and helping to make it an expected norm at the high-handicap end of the game, Callaway gets our number 1 vote as the best golf club brand right now.
Want to try?
If you want to experience one of Callaway’s best, you’ll probably get some great use out of the:
Good loft and launch, plus that textbook Callaway forgiveness of mis-hits, make the Callaway Mavrik Max irons worth checking out.
TaylorMade is a brand that was born innovating. In 1979, it introduced its steel driver and the golfing world looked up with a “Huh?” which quickly became an “Oh heck, yeah.”
It would be flippant to say that the rest is history, because TaylorMade has been innovating regularly since then, securing a reputation as one of the most consistent – and consistently surprising golf brands on the planet.
Developments like TaylorMade Twist Face technology have been re-shaping clubheads, with examples like the M3 and M4 drivers in 2018 dropping jaws around the golfing world.
Then came the M6, with a combination of staggering forgiveness and distance that seemed impossible.
The company has since improved on the M6’s performance with its Saim drivers, that spin the same two plates of forgiveness and performance, only faster and further and more.
And TaylorMade doesn’t restrict itself to excelling at drivers – its Sim Max irons are off the chain, and regularly fly off shelves because they bring that quality of forgiveness right down the line, with every iron going easy on off-center hits.
In terms of star power, it’s worth dropping casually into conversation that the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy use TaylorMade clubs, so as well as being forgiveness masters, the company has the top end of the market covered.
TaylorMade is an example of a golfing brand that has progressively covered the whole golfing waterfront – delivering irons that forgive a beginner’s errors, pushing numbers down for intermediate players with doggedly high-quality, responsive clubs, and capturing the attention and the loyalty of some of the best golfers in the world.
That combination of an innovative spirit and the urge to make every golfer better than they were keeps TaylorMade right at the top end of the golf club brand charts.
Want to try?
As with Callaway, it’s tricky to choose just one recommendation from TaylorMade, because the company has made it its core business to improve and serve golfers at every level.
Probably the easiest way into an understanding of the essence of TaylorMade excellence though is to try out some Sim Max irons.
When you get bored making shots with your irons that you’ve never made before (that’ll by the large sweet spots on the Sim Max irons forgiving your off-center strokes and tomfoolery), you should probably hang up your golf bag, because there’s no reason not to love that philosophy of helpfulness forged into golf clubs.
On any other day, you might see Callaway and TaylorMade jump about and switch places, because they regularly race towards excellence, helpfulness and innovation from professionals to newcomers, and both effectively transform and expand the nature of golf itself.
In listing the best golf club brands today, it’s impossible to ignore Cobra. Based in California, and owned by the German sportswear giant Puma, Cobra was one of the champions that introduced the world to hybrid clubs. While the golfing world continues to reap the benefits of that innovation, Cobra has by no means been resting on its hybrid laurels.
Then it comes to game improvement clubs, the company is always in the top 5 named, and usually – as here, to be fair – when it comes to irons particularly, Cobra steals marches on some competitors and makes it into the top 3.
Its Speedback iron sets, like the F9 Speedback, are regularly noted as among the best game improvement irons in the business.
The company may not yet have quite the all-sector dominance of the likes of Callaway or TaylorMade, but it’s certainly getting there.
As a game improvement specialist, it’s highly prevalent at the high-handicap end of the market, but it’s also expanding its presence in the hardcore golfing sector too, with the likes of Rickie Fowler and Bryson De Chambeau using its clubs on the PGA tour.
And to capitalize on that expansion into the big pro leagues, Cobra also makes a forged range of irons for golfers with lower handicaps, to serve the commercial end of the highly skilled golf market too.
For bringing hybrid clubs to the fore and popularizing them among all kinds of golfers, as well as for consistent performance in bringing game improvement irons to the mass golfing community, Cobra is an unmistakable golfing brand, setting out stalls at different ends of the golfing spectrum.
Want to try?
Given the specialization of the low-handicap forged clubs from Cobra, the best way to get a sense of that the brand is all about is probably to check out the:
A coherent set of game improvement irons to help high-handicappers develop their down-fairway play, the F9 Speedbacks are often lauded by those who’ve tried them as among the best on the market.
Hang on – Titleist? The golf ball people?
Yep, Titleist, the golf ball people. Like Cobra, Titleist was born innovating, its Pro V1 golf ball leaving an indelible mark on golf around the world since its introduction in 2000.
But while most golfers know and love that, they might be surprised to see Titleist making it onto a list of the best golf club brands.
Not people like leading professionals Adam Scott or Justin Thomas, both of whom are regular Titleist club-users, but people generally.
The reasons Titleist’s club-making activities are relatively rarely celebrated are a little complex.
It’s certainly true that the company’s revolutionary series of golf balls – which now include a wide range, including softer and brighter balls for use by seniors and slow-swingers – is the first thing for which the company came to prominence.
That means that whatever it does in terms of golf clubs, it’s golf balls that will probably always be the first thing people associate with the company.
It’s also true that Titleist’s fame as a golf club-maker is unfairly muted because most of its clubs are aimed at the lower handicap-golfer.
Golfing skill levels are shaped like a pyramid – there are many more people at the beginner and high-handicap levels, so the likes of Callaway and TaylorMade, which specialize in game improvement clubs, are inherently better known.
Titleist, by serving mostly (though not exclusively) the higher-skilled, lower-handicapped golfers on the course is if not exactly a well-kept secret, then at least a club-maker you have to work to ‘achieve.’
That means the company’s success with golf balls – which any player can use – is doubly allowed to overshadow its work as a club-maker.
When you talk about lower-handicap golf clubs, the language changes slightly, from a focus on forgiveness to a preoccupation with the Moment of Inertia, the shaping of shots, and suchlike.
These are areas in which Titleist has a good deal of experience, and it continues to innovate in these low-handicap clubs, particularly irons.
By ensuring that low-handicap golfers still have things to look forward to, and tools to help them hone their play, Titleist has carved itself a rich niche in the golf club market.
For that, and for continuing to evolve the quality and the abilities of its irons in particular, it gets a place on our list.
Want to try?
OK, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.
A set of long-bladed irons for more attack in the Moment of Inertia, balanced with tungsten in their toes, the T300 irons are quite something to handle, and while they’re available in several versions, including women’s and seniors’, they’ll test your skills more than somewhat.
Cleveland is an interesting manufacturer. On the one hand, it covers the waterfront as much as many other club-maker in the market.
The push and the power of the Cleveland Launcher are rightly celebrated among golfers who like a good grunt and a decent distance off the tee, for instance.
And it’s no slouch when it comes to irons, either, delivering a joyously forgiving set in the Cleveland Launcher UHX irons.
Those irons, which mix cavity-backed and utility-hollow irons for a coherent journey down the ranges, have been making a name both for themselves and for Cleveland.
But if you think of Cleveland and look at its contribution to enhancing the game of golf and the experience of golfers, there’s one thing for which the company stands tall above all others. Cleveland is the ultimate wedgelord.
Cleveland wedges are everywhere, being used by high-handicappers as Hail Mary clubs to get them out of sticky situations, right up to professionals like J.B. Holmes and winner of the 2019 Open Champion, Shane Lowry (something of a worldwide advertisement, that, as Lowry’s short game was distinctly instrumental in his win on that occasion).
In particular recently, it’s worth examining the Cleveland CBX2 wedge in some detail. Cavity-backed and made in a range of options, from wedges for loft to wedges for backspin, ranging from 46 degrees to 60 degrees, the CBX2 is more or less a masterclass in wedge construction and operation.
Making the wedge available with either a stainless steel or graphite shaft, what Cleveland does with the CBX2 is to elevate a previously overlooked club and make it an art form of practical application in and of itself.
Depending on your needs, there’s no reason not to carry more than one CBX2 in your golf bag, of different elevations so you can use them to conquer different wedge-based challenges.
Rather than trying to solve everybody’s problems in a single, all-purpose wedge, Cleveland has elevated the art of wedge-play to the same level as wood or iron-play, so you can choose the right iteration of a practically perfect wedge to help you get past particular problems or tricky lies.
Many experts estimate you can shave a couple of shots off your game score with the right wedges in your bag.
That’s when you’re going to need a Cleveland most of all.
Want to try?
Unsurprisingly, we’re suggesting you give the CBX2 a try – but be aware of what you’re looking for when you buy.
The weighting and the impact on your game changes as you go through the degrees of loft, so make sure you’re trying the right CBX2 for your game.
If you are, we’re pretty confident you’ll quickly realize the point of carrying at least one CBX2 in your bag.
Sure, you may not have heard of Robin Golf. That’s fine – it’s a relative newcomer to the market, but it’s a combination of high-quality clubs and an innovative try-and-return policy that is making the company’s name.
While Robin only makes and sells semi-complete sets, rather than individual clubs to mix and match, it does sell several different sets, allowing men, women, and juniors to get a set more tailored to their likely height and swing-speed characteristics.
We say semi-complete because technically a set is not classed as ‘complete’ unless it contains 14 clubs, and the Robin sets focus on the ‘main’ clubs you’ll need, so there are just 9 clubs in each.
What you get in a Robin set is:
- A driver
- A fairway wood
- A single hybrid
- 4x irons (5/7/9/Pitching wedge)
- A sand wedge
- A putter
- Along with a golf bag and headcovers
The company makes these sets in the same facilities and using the same materials, as some of the bigger, more well-known club-makers, so there’s every reason to believe that the quality of the Robin clubs is right up there with those other manufacturers too.
The clubs are also classed as super game improvement clubs, so they’re right there for beginners and high-handicap players to make use of.
What might give especially newer golfers pause is a relative lack of information about the precise characteristics of the company’s clubs – even its website, while it has encouraging images and some brief pointers on the nature of the clubs, doesn’t drill down into anything like as much detail as the leading club-makers on the market do.
It’s also fair to say that Robin is pitching its super game improvement clubs at a price that might make the likes of the Callaway Strata set buyer gulp.
But – and this is most of all why Robin earns a place on our list – its sales model is based on up-front payment for the set of your choice, which you get to ‘try out’ for a full 90 days.
If you’re not perfectly happy with your Robin club set after that time, you get to return it, no harm, no foul, and go on with your life with another club-maker.
The company says its aim is to “make buying premium clubs easier and more approachable.” Whether the clubs are right for you probably depends on where you are as a golfer.
The notion of super game improvement clubs with extra-large sweet spots, comfortable grips and the like is not new, but Robin is a relatively new player when it comes to offering such clubs to new and high-handicap golfers.
That newness might make Robin a risky prospect for golfers who have heard more about the likes of Callaway, TaylorMade, Cobra, etc. But the innovative approach to selling premium clubs makes Robin a company to watch.
If the clubs start appearing in more and more professionals’ hands, you might well start to see the price of a Robin set start to climb and climb, till they’re priced like a premium set.
For creating a take on the fuss-free, let-us-handle-it club set that lets you buy risk-free, we’re giving Robin a place on our list of the best golf club brands around right now.
Want to try?
Robin Clubs are as yet unavailable from anyone but Robin direct – which makes sense given the company’s returns policy.
If you want to give Robin a try, visit the company’s website.