Apart from a stodgy image, prohibitive cost is the primary thing that keeps people from golf. But you save hundreds by carefully considering the essentials and avoiding unnecessary extras (like novelty golf balls). Here's what you need to get started. -John Ross

Apart from a stodgy image, prohibitive cost is the primary thing that keeps people from golf. But you save hundreds by carefully considering the essentials and avoiding unnecessary extras (like novelty golf balls). Here's what you need to get started. -John Ross

Clubs

A decent set of irons and wedges and at least one fairway wood are a must. A good fit is far more important than brand name, and many used sets are available. Splurge on a good putter. Leave the driver at the store.

Bag

Take it from a former caddie: the lighter, the better. And no leather. Make sure your bag has a good set of pockets and a comfortable, two-shoulder strap. Many prefer bags with a built-in stand, which holds the bag upright when set down.

Shoes

Golf spikes help you swing more smoothly, especially in morning dew. Be sure to buy a model that comes with replaceable soft spikes.

Balls

Beginners should buy in bulk. When starting out, consider buying "X-outs," name-brand balls sold at a discount because of minor manufacturing defects.

Accessories

Get creative with non-essentials. An old towel works as well as a new Golfsmith model. Thick socks will protect club heads. Grab free tees at the course.