We're out for a round with old friends, when the husband, who has about $1,500 worth of new clubs in his bag, points to his wife's bag. "Aren't those great clubs I got my wife?" he asks. "I paid $25 for them at a garage sale." Or then there's another friend who had his 20-year-old clubs cut down to fit his wife who's about a foot shorter than he is. She's a regular golfer, too, playing twice a week.
These true stories say a lot about what women let men do to their game. Part of it happens because women are worried about the price of golf -- from green fees to clubs -- and are unlikely to fight domestic battles over getting more expensive equipment.
"Price is a bigger issue with women," says Jay Hubbard, marketing director for Tour Edge in St. Charles, Ill., "and I'm not sure I have a sense for why. But the female shopper is more value conscious whereas men are more spontaneous."
Lisa Schinnerer, public relations representative for KZG, a North Hollywood, Calif., manufacturer, says: "The question that women ask themselves is: 'Am I worth those clubs?' Most women are just not as avid about golf as men. They say to themselves 'I only play a few times a year, so why should I go out and buy better clubs?' "
The answer to all that is that there is a strong possibility you'll play better and want to play more often if you have equipment that takes advantage of the new engineering that has changed everyone's distance on the fairways. And furthermore, there are a number of manufacturers in the marketplace who have the value-conscious shopper in mind.
"We don't necessarily have lines that are specific for women," says Schinnerer. "All our products are custom fit for the individual person - woman or man. But we have several wood heads and iron heads that are focused on game improvement and that particularly should be appealing to women."
KZG has a fairly new iron called the MC-II that should have that kind of game-improvement appeal, as well as having a good price, she says: "It's the duplicate of one of our forged irons that is made in a cast club."
Suggested retail (including fitting) for a set, from 3-iron through pitching wedge, is $549 for graphite shafts; for steel shafts it's $449. Schinnerer also suggests that women consider KZG's Cobalt driver and fairway woods that are "very price point friendly" and can be ordered with more loft than usual. Suggested retail for the driver is $269 in graphite and $239 in steel. The fairway wood is $239 in graphite and $209 in steel.
Women should put more emphasis, she says, on having clubs that are fitted and built to suit their game. "Our dealers go through a detailed fitting process that includes the appropriate shaft, loft and lie angle," she says.
Schinnerer's general suggestions for women who are buying clubs:
-- Look for a mid-sized head - a little larger head that has a more weight and a wider sole. That makes it easier to get the ball off the ground.
-- Consider clubs that have a progressive offset. That makes them easier to hit and helps you square up your club at impact.
-- Look for clubs with a lower center of gravity.
-- Remember that if the size of the head is too compact, it's harder to hit.
Tour Edge, too, aims to provide premium quality clubs at affordable prices. "A lot of our business is from women just starting to pick up the game," Hubbard says. "They've started with really cheap clubs and now they want to move up. But we also have women buyers who are advanced in their game and are looking for more technology benefits."
High handicap golfers - and that includes a fair number of women - have been flocking lately to one of those technological advances, the ironwood hybrids that are half-iron, half-wood. Almost every major manufacturer now produces them. LPGA players use them extensively; some PGA players carry them in their bags.
Women thinking about buying equipment should try these clubs and consider replacing some of their longer irons with a couple of ironwoods. These clubs are particularly good with sloping lies where you might be afraid to use a fairway wood or in the rough when you need more distance than an iron alone can offer.
Tour Edge has had great success with selling women on its Bazooka JMAX ironwood line. As Hubbard notes, "They have a higher trajectory; they're easier to hit than an iron; and they are easier to control than a wood."
A full set of these Bazooka JMAX clubs for women can be purchased in graphite for $639. Believe it or not, some golfers are ready to replace their 9-iron and sand-wedge with ironwoods.
What many women do, Hubbard says, is buy a combo - two ironwoods and six regular irons from the Tour Edge Progressive line for $420 (suggested retail).
Another clubmaker, Nickent Golf in the City of Industry, Calif., has had a great deal of success with its Genex 3DX ironwoods, made for both men and women.
But now, according to Mike Lee, president and CEO of Nickent, the firm has a new concept for women designed to focus more on the ironwood hybrids. Nickent will issue its Goddess Collection in May featuring 10 clubs including a 14-degree driver and a fairway wood of the buyer's choice. The rest of the set would include a 4, 5 and 6 in the ironwood style and then regular 7-, 8- and 9-irons plus a sand wedge and pitching wedge. You'd add the putter, of course, as well.
"Women really don't have to drag 14 clubs around," says Lee. "The whole set would have a suggested retail of $649."
Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.