The “Golden Age” of Used Equipment Shopping

by   |   February 26, 2013
Used golf clubs

By Rich Conforti, GolfWRX Contributor

Much like any other secondary market, the pre-owned golf equipment industry offers prospective buyers more options than ever before thanks to a full integration online. Golfers that are on a budget are presented with a great opportunity to obtain a well-kept set of sticks at a reasonable price.

This can be attributed to a combination of several factors.

First, manufacturers are releasing clubs with more frequency. Club technology is pushing forward faster than ever and because of this it sometimes doesn’t even take a full calendar year for a club that was once cutting edge to being the journey down the beaten path toward antiquation.

Look no further than TaylorMade, whose strong 2012 was highlighted by the release of the popular Rocketballz series of fairway woods, drivers and hybrids. The line, particularly the fairway woods, was lauded for its extra distance, with everyone from Justin Rose to the muni player seeing results from the new club. This year, TaylorMade released its new line of Rocketballz Stage 2 drivers, fairway woods and hybrids that address some of the minor issues that golfers had with last year’s model while expanding on some of the club’s strengths.

The RBZ Stage 2 is said to give golfers an additional 10 yards on top of the 17 that the original RBZ offered when compared to the company’s 2011 fairway woods. The additional distance comes from the RBZ Stage 2’s more low and forward CG, a new face material, a more versatile shape and a refined “speed pocket” than last year’s model. Aesthetically, the RBZ Stage 2 features the familiar white club head/black face combination but has a yellow/gray stripe as opposed to last year’s neon green design.

In addition to “turning over” clubs faster than ever before, manufacturers also offer golfers multiple releases per year. In 2012, Ping offered golfers a choice of three new driver options—the Anser, the G20, and the i20. From a quick look, the Anser and i20 seem to be a very similar product, with both offerings combining a matte black finish and low spin launch conditions. The Anser is slightly different from the i20, however, as it offers an adjustable hosel that allows golfers to change loft and shafts easily. This year, Ping has released its adjustable G25 driver, which will likely send many i20s, G20s and Anser drivers into the used market.

The final factor, and this one may seem to be a bit of a reach, does not involve equipment but rather, focuses on the participation of golfers. It’s no secret that statistics show, for whatever reason, a steady decline in golfers over recent years. While this is certainly troubling for golf on a grander scale, it also means that in theory there should be less of a demand for equipment (and used equipment) on the secondary markets.

Less competition for buying + more club options than ever = better deals.

Assisting the cause is a myriad of online retailers to go along with storefront golf shops (Golfsmith, Golf Galaxy, small shops) and classifieds such as the BST forums on this site.

First to mind is eBay, the standard bearer for all online trading. eBay offers golfers the largest selection of used equipment, with more than 150,000 used club listings at the time of publication. What makes eBay unique from other retailers is that it not only offers listings from golf shops like 2nd Swing or 3Balls but also from individuals looking to sell a single club or set without the assistance of a middleman.

From personal experiences (on both sides of this situation) it is in the latter of the two where the best deals can be found. Freed of the void of a less than spectacular trade in value from a merchant, prospective sellers are often inclined to offer clubs at a lower price than the retailers for the sake of a quick sale. This situation is a win for all involved—the seller will inevitably profit more then if they had accepted whatever trade-in value was offered to them and the buyer will get the club at a lower rate then what the retailers offer. Timing is key here.

Of course, when purchasing from smaller shops and individuals on eBay, the buyer increases the risk of the club not being “as advertised” in regards to quality and condition. While eBay does protect transactions through their dispute system and through PayPal protection, this is a hassle that all try to avoid.

Another potential issue lies in the fact that a desired club may not always be available at a price that is head and shoulders of the competition, thus bringing other online retailers back into the picture as options. Regardless, it is on eBay where one can consistently find the best deals on the web. Some examples later on will give a better idea of this.

Another site that is familiar to all in the GolfWRX community, 2ndSwing.com, has traveled down an interesting path to becoming the successful online retailer that it is today. Opened in 1997, in the days before the Internet became a fixture, the Minneapolis-based shop found success and over the next 10 years developed into a chain of 75 retailers. But in an April 2012 interview, owner Simon Kallal told Jeff Wieffering of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was concerned that 2nd Swing had “strayed from its original mission,” as the retailer began to focus more on the sale of new equipment, a market dominated by the big box retailers.

As they continued to expand under the eye of a new group of investors, Kallal and the original ownership group was slowly pushed out. It seems to be of no coincidence that it was around this time the 2nd Swing reputation began to take a hit amongst avid equipment hunters particularly on these forums. A bankruptcy ensued and “2nd Swing 1.0” was no more.

By 2008, the 2nd Swing name was back in the hands of its founders, who had a bit of a different vision this time around. Not looking to get too expansive on the ground, “2nd Swing 2.0” features only two store front locations and a strong online focus. It wasn’t long before customers slowly came back and the perception of the retailer began to take a turn for the better.

2nd Swing boasts an impressive selection of “23,643 pre-swung clubs” ranging from traditional options to some pricier collectible items (which Global Golf, and 3Balls do not offer) including this offering for a mere $3,999.00 plus shipping. Too pricey for you? Maybe this is more in your range. Along with their impressive selection of collectible and tour issued equipment, 2nd Swing boasts the internet’s most impressive selection of products and options this side of eBay.

Another perk of 2nd Swing? Those fortunate enough to live near one its two storefront locations in Minnesota have the opportunity to demo the product before purchasing. It is one thing to demo a similar model, but there is a certain added comfort that goes along with taking the exact club you may purchase for a spin.

Joining 2ndSwing at the top of a Google search for “used golf equipment” are Global Golf and 3Balls. For what 3Balls lacks in selection it makes up for with strong pricing. In collaboration with eBay, 3balls created the well-known PGA Value Guide as a way to set the standard for pricing. Much like the Kelley Blue Book sets the price for secondary automobile sales, the PGA Value Guide strives to do the same for used golf equipment with the hope of creating a seamless secondary marketplace.

Global Golf, the top search result on Google for “used golf equipment,” has a selection and pricing that is more in line with those of 3Balls but still trailing far behind eBay’s best offerings.

While all four of these options offer players exceptional bargains, it is clear that eBay offers some prices that are head and shoulders above the rest. Yes, each person may have his or her own preference and a certain comfort level when selecting a retailer to purchase pre-owned equipment. That being said, there is no question that eBay remains the best opportunity for affordable prices on pre-swung golf equipment.

Check out the table for comparisons of recent deals on eBay, 2nd Swing, 3Balls and Global Golf:

Club Recent eBay SOLD 2nd Swing 3Balls Global Golf
Taylor Made Rocketballz 3 Wood (stock stiff shaft, “good” condition or better $85.99 ($16.00 shipping) $129.99 + taxes ($12.99 shipping.) $110.46 + taxes (free shipping) $114.99 + taxes ($5.99 shipping)
Callaway Razr X Irons (stock shaft, “good” condition or better, 7 irons) $210.00 (15.42 shipping) $399.99 ($12.99 shipping) *6 irons $264.15 (free shipping) *6 irons $274.99 ($5.99 shipping) *6 irons
Titleist 910 D2 Driver (stock shaft “good” condition or better) $99.99 ($9.99 shipping) $219.99 ($12.99 shipping) $161.46 (free shipping) $189.99 ($5.99 shipping)

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20 Comments

  1. dbamford

    February 20, 2014 at 11:11 am

    I have had good experiences with Global Golf — the gear is as described and I don’t have the worries about counterfeit. Yes, trade-in values are always low — ever tried to trade in a car? Handling (often times) junky inventory of “traders” is not a business I’d want to be in — low margins and hassles –. Everybody thinks their beat-up clubs are in “very good” condition! Ha.

    I’ve bought good clubs off Ebay, but good clubs, even used, are in demand and don’t go super cheap. Even beat-up clubs are still playable so if you don’t care about the fashion-show then you can get good deals.

    I have given up on 2nd Swing — their website is broken half the time, and they don’t answer the phone. I left 2 messages and 2 emails, and got nothing but crickets on their end. Done wasting time there.

    Overall I love the Internet — you can find anything, (heads, shafts, etc) and then have your local box store or fitter assemble it for you … those of us that don’t live in metro areas with lots of selection finally can get any club we want. Big change from 10 or 15 years ago eh!

  2. purkjason

    May 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I found out the hard way …. all anyone has to do is go on Ebay and buy a set of Ping Eye 2 irons and the game of golf will be simplified and more enjoyable and will cost alot less. And I admit I used to change equipment almost every 4-6 months. All equipment is maxed out, especially in distance. The game is about precision and accuracy.

  3. Florence Turner

    March 4, 2013 at 5:41 am

    The reason for the fast-paced innovation is competition. Different brands battle it out and try to be better than the other. They think of many creative ways to make their counterparts look dull. That is how things work in the real world.

  4. Dave C.

    March 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    The PGA Vslue guide is a joke. Trade in means giving your clubs away. Some Callaway woods trade for 84 cents, and online retailers still sell them for $ 30. Iron sets trade for under $ 5.

    Of course, buying low and selling high is the norm. I recsll a store 20 years or so ago called Play it Again. I had a beautiful set of Wilson Staffs, I was offered $ 17 for the 8 irons, newly regriped.

    I’ll donate my excess clubs to a school or veterans’ organization first.

  5. Joe Golfer

    March 1, 2013 at 1:26 am

    I’ve come across some great bargains on eBay, including golf items.
    That said, I also have found that sellers on eBay often have higher, not lower, prices than the PGA Value Guide.
    My local Golf Galaxy store uses that PGA Value Guide for pricing for used equipment. Sure, selection is hit or miss, but I’ve found great bargains there too.
    If a golf club or set of irons is popular in real life, it often isn’t cheap on eBay either.
    Plus, eBay seems to have an influx of counterfeit equipment that looks remarkably like the real thing, especially Callaway, but also includes other brands like Ping and Titleist, so “buyer beware”.

  6. J

    February 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    2nd swing is sometimes the same price as a new model when you pay their inflated shipping cost. I have requested info from them several times and been told ” well… It’s s really nice shaft…(stock)”… I emailed them once to ask what hosel size a wedge was and I swear…their response… ” we have no way to determine hosel size when the shaft is already installed “…. 2nd swing is an overpriced clown show with no reasonable prices and a lack of even basic knowledge..have fun with that tragedy if you choose to shop there.

    • golfa8

      February 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Yeah, I agree. Had a bad dealing with 2nd Swing. I won’t do business there again. They were downright nasty on the phone.

    • Joe Golfer

      March 1, 2013 at 1:18 am

      It’s ridiculous that they couldn’t determine the hosel inner diameter once a shaft was installed. All they had to do was measure the shaft diameter where it enters the hosel, using a calipers.
      I think some component companies sell width guages that slide over the shaft and tell you, making it super-simple, in the event that one doesn’t have a calipers. But a professional store like 2nd Swing should definitely have calipers.

  7. Doublepar

    February 27, 2013 at 11:37 am

    When you say decline, are you speaking in terms of just the US or is this a global trend?

  8. Tony

    February 27, 2013 at 4:40 am

    2nd swing overcharges, no bargains found there.

  9. Pingback: The “Golden Age” of Used Equipment Shopping – GolfWRX | Golf Products Reviews

  10. Nat

    February 26, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Golf equipment has maxed out, especially drivers, a few years now. So unless you need the latest for appearance sake, save money and go used.

    • Gabbo

      February 26, 2013 at 11:39 pm

      I agree with Nat. Equipment is pretty much maxed out. Almost every company makes REALLY good stuff and has for years.

  11. Ben

    February 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Great article, I’ve been searching for some GI irons and a new fairway wood over the past few weeks and stumped up today for a near perfect Callaway Razr Fit 3 wood and a set of 9 month old Mizuno MP53 irons. The savings have meant I’ve made the purchase rather than waiting and passed on my old clubs to a friend who wanted to start playing.

  12. Dale Houle

    February 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Was there a better club back in the day; Ping I 2′s were great. My son is learning on my old set and wow do they still perform. Never pay retail, way to many options out there. Or just ask your local mom and pop shop to price match, mind did and my latest set of R11 irons were bought at a very fair price. Ordered without grips and my local shop put on what I like at no extra charge.

  13. Mark

    February 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    The golden age was before Bombsquadgolf educated the masses about tour issue equipment and you could find a hand made Scott Cameron for $100 in a used putter bin. Now every TXXXX serial or X flex shaft is snapped up and ho’d out to eBay. These used resale stores that offer 90-day buybacks should really wise up and write down the shaft that was in the club. You can unscrew a TP7HD and put in a junk shaft in the parking lot with the new adjustable equipment and get your money back plus the $400 used shaft in the car.

    • Matt

      February 27, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      You’re a beauty hahahaa!

  14. Nate

    February 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Very nice article Rich. Hopefully the growth of the secondary markets for clubs will get more people playing the game.

    One thing to add about the PGA Value Guide is that every club has two values; (1) the buyback value that a store will give you, and the (2) resale value. If you are selling you can always get more selling it yourself, but having a store or site buy it back is often much more convenient.

  15. Danny Orr

    February 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Great article! Had no idea about the PGA Value Guide…

    • bob

      February 27, 2013 at 4:52 am

      dealt with both 3balls and gobal both are excellent in service and product

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