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Clone Golf Clubs – Are They Good Enough? A Real World Answer
You have seen the ads. You’ve noticed the incredible prices. And you’ve undoubtedly asked yourself, “Are they as good as the brand names?” We’re talking clone golf clubs, of course, essentially brand-name imitations of equipment that you can buy cheaply from various sources. Well, cheap as far as brand new golf equipment goes.
But are they that good?
For those of you in a hurry (who isn’t?), here are my takeaways:
Irons. I sell a lot of used golf equipment on eBay. And you can bet I try to play just about anything interesting that passes through my office. So the prudent question would be: What would someone like me – who has access to and can put almost anything I want into play – have in their golf bag? Answer: The same set of cheap clone irons with graphite shafts that I picked up from Pinemeadow Golf a few years ago. I kid you not.
Drivers & Fairway Woods. Although it’s no longer in my bag, my overall experience with the graphite shaft driver I picked up from Pinemeadow has been fine; performance and feel were satisfactory. The corresponding fairway woods (3-Wood and 5-Wood), both also with graphite shafts, performed just as well, but I personally didn’t like their feel. This is probably based mostly on sound – I prefer the distinct metallic sound and resulting feel produced by the Callaway Steelheads and Orlimar Trimetals you’ll usually find in my bag, a sound I guess I now expect to hear every time I swing a wood – and the Pinemeadows are not had the sound I wanted.
But to be fair, many don’t. They again performed as expected. In fact, I once came third in a tournament armed with nothing more than these Pinemeadow fairways as my woods! Stupid, I forgot my driver at home and ended up using 3-Wood as a driver. Now that I think about it, that was probably a blessing, actually, given how wildly inconsistent I can be with the driver (my fault, not the club’s). The bottom line is that the fairway woods did the job, and still do – I kept a couple as a spare or loaner club.
I think it’s important to note that these comments are based on an “older” product. The latest woods releases from Pinemeadow and others may be better than what I’ve experienced – the current overwhelmingly positive customer feedback and comments on their site seem to indicate this – but I haven’t personally experienced them first hand.
Hybrids. I can’t comment much on cloned hybrids either – or even branded hybrids. I just haven’t used them yet. My bag is equipped with a 7-Wood instead of the more typical 3-Iron, and this configuration has served me quite well, at least enough to keep me from bothering with hybrids just yet. In all likelihood, I’ll be jumping on the hybrid collection soon. Until then, I can only say that in terms of quality, there is no reason to think that hybrid clones will not be at least on par with the wood offerings of the clone producers.
Wedges. Clone wedges aren’t in my bag (I’m wearing Titleist Vokeys that I got as a gift), but I’ve used them, especially the classic Cleveland-style models. Clones are very good clubs and incredible values; I have absolutely no reservations about recommending them as worth trying.
Putters. I like to switch and rotate often to keep my money around – some days, for example, I inexplicably do better with a 343 shaft instead of a 333, and vice versa; or some days a hammer just looks better than a traditional knife; and so on – and clone club companies like Pinemeadow Golf allow me to amass quite an arsenal of putters to let me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to afford such a “putter quiver” (as my friends call it) at the prices that brands are asking today. Of course, you obviously don’t need to put together this kind of putter collection; the bottom line is that clones are good and cheap and definitely worth your time to test.
Read on to learn a lot more about what I personally experienced, especially in the area of understanding the importance of choosing the right company to buy clones from because, frankly, boys and girls, it happens sometimes.
Where it all beganIt literally takes me back to the very beginning, when I picked up the game just a few years ago. As a beginner, I wanted to learn using a better set than the typical department store. But man, paying big bucks for those Callaways, Pings, or Titleists I thought about just didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense back then, not when it was still unclear whether I was going to stick with the game or not.
So, after doing some research and clicking around the internet, I picked up a set of Acer Sole trimming irons from Pinemeadow Golf. Why? looks like. They looked similar to the original and very expensive Callaway Hawkeyes. And – and this is important to me anyway – the Acers themselves looked classy, presentable and respectable, something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen using, unlike many of the cheesy cosmetic hockey clubs I see offered by other clone builders. (To this day, Pinemeadow’s selection is among the best in the field in the looks department.)
While I was at it, I also picked up a 3-club set of Acer XDS 2+ Stainless Woods (Callaway Hawkeye VFT clones), which included a 10º driver, 3-Wood and 5-Wood, and a Pure Roll Series M- 1 putter (clone Never Compromise mallet). Standard Pinemeadow Aldila graphite shafts (club steel) and pitch grips. I was a beginner, I remember, and I knew almost nothing about everything, so I figured I was playing basic, safe and cheap. If I didn’t end up liking the sport, at least I wouldn’t be out there as much.
Same quality? Problems?
Needless to say, I’m hooked on the game now, and I’m doing everything I can to try and get that handicap down to as low a number as I can. I have also become involved in a number of golf-related business activities, such as selling golf equipment on eBay.
Which means at least two things: I now not only know enough about the game to competently evaluate the performance of my clone clubs, but I also have the opportunity to regularly play and test a lot of expensive name brand gear so I can actually make decent and fair comparisons.
The fact that my Pinemeadow irons are still in my golf bag as I write this should tell you a lot. It’s not that I don’t like playing around with branded irons – I do. In fact, I own a set of Clevelands and a set of TaylorMades for no other reason than because I like to play with them occasionally (I don’t everything Clevelands and TaylorMades, mind you, only certain models I kept).
the thing is, I play no better or worse with Clevelands and TaylorMades than I do with Pinemeadows. It’s the same thing with Callaways, Titleists, Hogans, Mizunos, or any other brand of equipment. My game generally plays out the way it should at my level regardless of which club I use.
The obvious conclusion: It’s me, not the clubs.
So, given that I’m happy with the way the clones look, feel and perform, why on earth would I want to bother with name brand clubs that cost up to 8X (or even more!) but don’t to do. offer me some extra game benefits over clones?
Even if we could say there was a slight advantage or benefit to using a brand name set over clones, then we would have to ask ourselves: Would it be worth the extra cost? Yes, I like to keep an eye on the good old cost/benefit ratio, and based on what I’ve experienced, for players at my level (medium handicap) or higher, these incremental benefits don’t exist.
How about better players? Do low handicappers and scratch players realize any benefit in playing with brands over cheap clone gear? I’m not good enough to know. But judging by the feedback posted on Pinemeadow’s site, it looks like more than a few low handicap/scratch players have “discovered” the benefits of cloning.
However, please note that I have also experienced a few issues with the items I received from Pinemeadow:
” Not long after I got my irons and woods, a few plastic ferrules popped off. Nothing serious, it’s easy to fix with pricking drops of superglue. but…
” Within just a few months, the plastic ring on my 5-Iron not only popped, but completely broke off. The thing just opened up. Then, within a few days, so did the ferrules on the 3- and 7-Irons (I played odd numbers more often then).
While I probably could have put them back together with more superglue, I realized this was now in the realm of weird, and I wasn’t too happy about it. So I immediately emailed Pinemeadow. They quickly made me want to return the whole series at their expense, even bats with ferrules still intact. They said they would fix the clubs, which they did. I think, however, that they eventually came back brand new replacement clubs instead of going through the time and trouble of taking apart and reassembling each of my original clubs just to fix some ferrules. Those clubs I got back sure looked like new, wrapped heads and all. I can’t obviously say that they do this in every situation; I’m just saying exactly what “service” I received.
That was a few years ago. The set has been trouble free ever since.
” After about a year after purchase, I noticed something new on the Acer XDS 2+ driver head: a very pronounced indentation about a quarter inch in diameter at the toe. It must have happened on the 3rd, I thought, as I skied. Obviously, this did not affect the club’s performance in the rest of the round because it went unnoticed. My fault, not a Pinemeadow quality problem, I decided.
But I did mention it in an email to Pinemeadow. I wanted to know if this is common. I was told two things: (a) this is unusual and (b) I still had some time left under the original one-year warranty, which totally blew my mind – in fact, I only had two days left – so I could send club back to swap! Again, this exchange was made without costing me a penny out of pocket, shipping and all! That was a pleasant surprise.
” To say that I like Pinemeadow Golf’s service and support is an understatement. But I hated their stock handles; they felt cheap to me, and the fact that they wore out and needed replacing very quickly – damned if I got a full season of very casual play out of those grips – reinforced that conclusion.
I was not alone in this observation. On Pinemeadow’s site you could find a lot of negative feedback about these grippers. I can’t see the complaints anymore, and I hope it’s because Pinemeadow has started using much better standard grips.
Even then, I say splurge a little and have Pinemeadow install one of the better handrail upgrade options they offer. The benefits far outweigh it negligible cost go this way.
It should be clear that I highly recommend Pinemeadow Golf. Great products and prices, and even better, absolutely excellent service.
Another place to try is GigaGolf. I don’t have a set of theirs, but I’ve been playing with a friend and I’m equally impressed with the quality of their work and the low prices… no hesitation in recommending you give them a try.
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