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Does a club deteriorate over time?

We are lucky to have two of the most knowledgable golf gearheads in our Golf Digest family. And they are sharing their golf equipment 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.

How many rounds of golf before a club deteriorates? —@JoelKelderman

Deteriorate? Please tell me you’re not teeing it up regularly at Chernobyl Dunes Golf and Country Club. That said, the half-life of titanium is probably 60 years or so, which should mean your golf clubs should be OK. You, on the other hand, might want to get that third ear checked out. Seriously, though, unless you’re washing your iron heads nightly in an acid bath, golf clubs aren’t going to deteriorate, especially in the hands of an amateur. Ben Hogan’s famous 1-iron from that majestic 72nd hole approach shot in the 1953 US Open at Merion, while practically unhittable for mere mortals, likely would respond just fine today if it was removed from its case at the USGA's Golf House. (The leather grip and shaft might not have held up so well, of course.) Point is, if you’re not leaving your clubs out in the rain for months at a time, everything should last and continue to perform in line with your abilities.

As Ping’s Paul Wood explains (he’s Vice President of engineering and a PhD, so he would know), “The basic construction of the metal head and metal or carbon fibre shaft is tested to what’s called high cycle fatigue meaning it is tested at forces higher than most golfers can ever achieve and for thousands of impacts to make sure that unless there is some manufacturing defect the club itself will last longer than the golfer swinging it.”

Now, do grooves get dull? Yes, especially on wedges, where you’re hitting out of the sand. So those should be replaced conservatively every three years, more often the more you play. That happens with iron grooves, too, but on a much longer timeline.

Can driver faces weaken over time? We’re just starting to figure that out because there is evidence that is happening with the pros, but almost no study as to what’s happening with use by us regular Joe’s. (Stay tuned.) Given that there are centuries-old samurai swords using basically the same kind of steel found in some irons today, it’s probably fair that your irons aren’t going to decompose in your lifetime. (Grips, of course, are another matter. If you’re not getting them changed at least once a year, you’re playing worse, hands down.)

Basically, though, your game is going to deteriorate long before your golf clubs do. We’ve said it hundreds of times and we’ll say it again: If you’re not sure whether your old clubs are as good as some new ones, take them in to a fitter with a launch monitor and see if the numbers tell you otherwise. We trust you’ll be enlightened. Which is different than glowing, which again, you should have checked out.

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