The growth of golf around the world, internet auction sites and the influence of China on the golf industry has prompted TaylorMade this week to issue a list of tips to ensure its customers that the clubs they buy are authentic.
The Basingstoke-based manufacturer says that despite the industry's efforts, sales of counterfeit and knock-off golf products continue and it is determined to stop golfers being taken for a ride.
Callaway, Cleveland, Nike and Acushnet (parent company of the Titleist, Cobra and FootJoy brands) are among the companies who have suffered from the boom in fake clubs and although it's reckoned that 60 per-cent of the world's genuine golf clubs are made in China, millions of poor quality copies also originate from there.
Here's a checklist of questions TaylorMade recommends its potential customers ask themselves. The same applies to almost any major brand:
I am looking at a set of clubs on eBay. How can I tell if they are authentic? Does the deal sound too good to be true? If it does, it probably is.
Are multiple clubs being sold together in one auction?
Merchandise sold through auctions featuring 14 clubs and a bag often turns out to be counterfeit product. Also, metalwoods sold in groups, such as a driver together with fairway woods, often turn out to be counterfeit. Look at where the goods are coming from. If the goods are being shipped from outside of the UK – and particularly if the goods are being shipped from China or Hong Kong - there's an increased chance they are counterfeit.
Club heads sold as separate components have an exceptionally high incidence of turning out to be counterfeit. Authorized major brand dealers do not sell club heads by themselves on eBay.
It may still be difficult to determine whether the goods the seller will send you are authentic. Sellers of counterfeit goods have resorted to tactics such as lying about the location of the goods and depicting pictures of authentic product while shipping goods that are counterfeit.
How can I tell if the clubs I just purchased are authentic?
You can compare your club against pictures posted on www.taylormadegolf.com or any of the major brands. If you notice differences in colour, shape, markings or finish quality, you probably bought a fake.
You may also consider taking your club to your local authorised dealer to be inspected but even passing a visual inspection doesn't guarantee that the club is authentic.
I bid on what I thought were authentic clubs on eBay. I received them, and they appear to be fake. What should I do next?
Your best recourse will be against the seller. You should contact him or her immediately. You should also notify eBay of the situation, referring to eBay’s policies and guidelines.
If you paid via PayPal, you should contact PayPal to inquire about whether they may be able to help you get your money back. PayPal’s policies and guidelines will also be clearly identified. You may also consider contacting the police.
TaylorMade does not compensate purchasers of counterfeit product in any way though you can help others avoid the same trap by reporting the seller to TaylorMade (or the appropriate leading brand counterfeited) and they will add the seller ID to its list of suspected counterfeit sellers.
In March, a dealer of bogus Titleist balls in Shanghai was sentenced to prison, the first conviction of a golf ball counterfeiter. And Chinese authorities co-operating with the US Golf Manufacturers Anti-Counterfeiting Working Group, raided four factories and three warehouses in Guangdong Province, seizing more than 16,000 counterfeit clubs, bags and other equipment worth $3 million, along with the molds and equipment used to make them.
Manufacturers of leading brands always recommend: "Only buy from authorised dealers a list of whom can be found on their appropriate websites under 'retail locator'.
Bet your life someone, somewhere has already created a counterfeit square-headed driver promised by Callaway and Nike in the New Year.
Click on our images below to see some high-res images of various fake golf clubs. Don't get caught out!
Tell us on the forum if you've been duped by fake clubs or even that you've purchased counterfeits or clones and found them playable.
How many have fallen for a ruse involving fake golf equipment that wasn't quite what it seemed or bought it at a price that that proved too good to be true? Tell us your tales so others can avoid the shame and embarrassment.ED
Posted: 22/11/2006 at 15:45
I've read the article with interest especially the part where you say even an authorised dealer may not be able to spot a fake visually.So they must be extremely good, how does an untrained eye tell. I'm starting to wonder about a driver I bought and sold on a few months ago, I couldn't get it past 200 yards and neither could any of my friends and it felt and sounded awful. I've just bought a Callaway X fairway, I'll be giving it a thorough examination tonight. A friend at my club has just bought a set like the ones mentioned, TM R7 1,3 & 5 woods R7 irons and a tour bag all for the amazing price of £300, I didn't have the heart to tell him. I think I might print out your page and tape it to his locker.
Posted: 22/11/2006 at 16:01
I bought from a well known retailer re worked Prov 1s when the paint came off one it was a NXT.
Also this thing about copies a lot of this goes back to the foundry where the heads are made
I feel sorry for the guys who buy fakes but not for the manufacture who keep bringing out new models every year that is a rip off.
And another thing how come two different club makers are bringing out a square head in the new year. what one is the copy
Posted: 22/11/2006 at 17:51
I know of a few sellers on ebay selling fake clubs, they have done for a few years now, particularly Yes and Taylormade putters.
Strangely enough they have good ebay ratings, with a minority of buyers spotting that they have been ripped off.
Some of these sellers will refund no questions asked if you give them neg feedback, and tell you you can keep the goods as well if you mutually withdraw the neg feedback, this way they keep a good feedback rating, and they still make tons of cash off the majority that can't spot a fake.
Posted: 22/11/2006 at 17:58
I posted here a little while ago about getting caught when I bought a fake TM Corza from an ebay seller with a supposedly high feedback score.
I did get a refund in the end, but it wasn't difficult to spot that it was a fake once I'd got my mits on it.
I'm much more careful these days & ask more questions. Any doubts - walk away. For every bad seller on ebay, there's always a good one too.
Posted: 22/11/2006 at 18:16
I had lessons and bought a fake swing - what an eejit!
Posted: 22/11/2006 at 22:21
A couple of weekends ago I was out with SWMBO and we saw a sign on a village hall for a "Golf Sale", she must have been in a good mood for she suggested we stopped and had look.
No surprise to find lots of knock off shirts but the highlight for me was a set of obviously "cheap clubs" that were embossed with the legend "Pang" in shall we say a well known typeface.....
Posted: 22/11/2006 at 23:16
won a set of cleveland wedges a week or 2 ago.. had a look at feedback that had been posted between me winning and me coming to pay for the clubs saying that the seller was in the business of selling fake clubs... I emailed him asking if he could guarantee the wedges were genuine clevelands. He said he couldn't. We mutually agreed to scrap the whole thing.. he did ask me to leave positive fedback though..never had anymore contact with him after that.
Posted: 22/11/2006 at 23:47
So where does it all come from? I have posted this in this forum before...
A few months back someone from China "spammed" this forum with offers of cheap clubs. Before the threads were pulled by the mods, I noted the e-mail address and asked for some details. Essentially this was an "entrepreneur" with a factory in China offering any mainstream make/model club (driver, irons, wedges, putter) that you care to name, in two formats: straight copy (e.g. $20 for TM460r7 driver) or a very very good copy for about twice that. In any quantity, with big discounts for buying +50. The pictures that this guy sent me were very impressive.
So basically, despite being an ebay addict and a compulsive club buyer, I will only buy from stores now. At least I have a fighting chance of getting the real thing.
Posted: 23/11/2006 at 07:52
Looking for info on a putter I had bought a came across a couple of sites blatantly advertising copies of heads from all the major manufacturers. Even found my nice new putter listed.
I did note however that this site wanted more for the head than I paid for the whole club so I felt a little bit less upset to realise that I had probably just bought a fake and I realised that the seller must have made a loss by starting the price too low.
However I would never have bought the putter for a higher price in the first place.
What I thought I was buying was bankrupt stock as the company folded last year.
Posted: 23/11/2006 at 08:19
I have a cousin who lives in Hong Kong and my uncle went out to visit two years ago. Being a golfer he told them he was in the market for some new clubs, got a whole bag of TM plus driver and 3 wood for £100 ! He's convinced they are genuine (in that they were made in the genuine factory but assembled outside), I'm not so sure... the quality is pretty good but just the odd rough edge here and there to make me wonder. He's not had any problems and likes them.
He's off again soon but been told that due to the popularity of golf in china the prices have gone up considerably.
I blame the major golfing companies for taking their manufacturing to china just to maximise profits (after all they don't pass on the discounts to us).
Posted: 23/11/2006 at 09:52
A friend recently bought a Ping G5 at a BUY IT NOW price of £99.When it arrived it was clearly a bad copy which had been hand painted,brush strokes included.The lesson is to avoid these too good to be true priced BUY IT NOW items.
As I like to ignore mt own advice, I recently bought a pair of Cleveland Halo's in an Ebay auction for a suspiciously low price.I received them the other day and they do look like the real thing.Whether I can hit them like the real thing is another matter.
Posted: 23/11/2006 at 10:02
I bought a odyssey 2ball steel blade putter from ebay, when it came in it was so obviously a fake, emailed the bloke and said he had bought it in good faith but would refund me. When i eventually got my hands on an original I took some photos and sent them to him. He seemed genuine enough and thanked me for my help. The funny thing was I lost the headcover awhile later and found one on ebay, when it arrived it looked real enough but the more i used it the more it became apparent it was a fake, it was getting tatty very quickly and the velcro wasnt sticking properly, I went back to ebay to see if anyone else had problems and sure enough loads of people had left bad feedback and they were nolonger a registered seller. There was a happy ending because when changing from my cart bag to my carrybag for the winter i found the old headcover in the bottom of the bag. When i compared them, they were like chalk and cheese. What a sucker!!
Posted: 23/11/2006 at 12:18
dundeenil - were the Halo's you bought perhaps a 2 and a 4 iron pair? Or a 1 and 3?
Like you I was too tempted to pass up such an opportunity, and a couple of months back I bought a 2 and 4 iron pair for a "suspiciously cheap price" from an Ebay auction. There were lots of positive feedback comments left by other happy buyers so I felt a little bit reassured. The clubs looked genuine enough, and when I tried them out on the range, they were fine. Took them out in a medal after about 2 weeks - on the third hole, hit my tee shot to a long par 3 with the 4i replacement, and the face cracked all the way across the top. I showed it to my club pro and he wasn't able to say whether it was a fake or not. Tried emailing the seller - surprise surprise, no response. They had been deregistered on Ebay so no recourse there. Ended up buying a new 4i Halo from the club pro - comes with a warranty and I know where to go if anything goes wrong.
Happier news is though that the 2i is still in one piece and seems to work ok. So not sure if I was unlucky.
Only thing that confirms my suspicions after the event - the clubs come with a sticker that covers the clubface. With both of the ones i got from ebay, it was hell to get the sticker off -it left the glue all over the clubface, like when you try and take a plaster off after a long time. The replacement I got from the pro had no problems, sticker peeled off perfectly first time leaving no trace. Is this a sign? Who the hell knows??
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, and I guess, like most golfers, part of the fun of the "hobby" for me is trading my equipment and buying new stuff in the hope of finding the magic killer club that will reduce my handicap. If I buy a dud Halo for £50, am I really worse off than paying £170 for a new Taylormade driver which, after a brief honeymoon period is confined, to the garage with the other rejects?
Posted: 23/11/2006 at 12:46
Paul-The clubs you describe are the ones I have bought.Too make matters worse,I too am going through a honeymoon period with a T/M R7 which cost about the same as yours.There seems to be a very strange pattern forming here.Could my driver meet with the same fate?
Posted: 23/11/2006 at 14:50
Check out this club:
Posted: 23/11/2006 at 16:11
I was over in Beijing during the summer and the place is awash with fake golf stuff, bags balls, clubs you name it. As with everything over there they ask you for an outrageous price to begin with and then you work your way down. In many cases you would want to have the real mccoy and the fake to see the difference as they are such good copies. I bought a couple of putters knowing that they were fake and Odessy two ball and a Taylormade monza roza, which I like very much but it is showing signs of wear already. At a tenner a piece I thought why not, wasn't bad considering they wanted about 200 quid to begin with :-)
Posted: 24/11/2006 at 18:38
We have seen some fake versions of the X3 golf trolley come on to the market recently and it's a real pain - there are a couple of things that we ought to bear in mind on these:
1. Most equipment that is copied is copied 'blind' meaning that the copier has no idea why things are designed like they are. This can mean that quality is taken out of key areas to make it cheaper to make, having a negative effect on product performance.
2. It costs a fortune to develop new products, and then to defend them against the copycats - so the counterfeit industry actually means that the cost on your new equipment goes up! People that copy designs will never bring you innovation....
Posted: 30/11/2006 at 17:02
There are copies/fakes in all products these day. Only buy from registered dealers or people you know. Maybe if the manufacturers lowered their prices, golfers might not have to buy fake products to look good on the course.
Posted: 01/12/2006 at 08:06
I bought a TM Rescue off Fleabay and it looked the part. Did not feel the same as the other TM Rescue I own and after one round it went rusty, and I don’t mean slightly rusty. When I went to play again it was rusted more than my oil can wedge! Now in the bin. Still buy off fleabay but only from fleabay shops and sellers with loads of sales.
Agree with Mr Stewart Golf, when you buy a piece of equipment you are also paying for the development of the item. We all want the latest shinny gear that is going to help up play better golf but it costs loads to develop. The price we pay includes all these costs.
I hope they continue to develop new products as I will buy them and if you think it’s to high a price to pay wait a few months and the price always comes down. Just think if there was no development we would all be playing the JJB K1, with a double kick shaft.
Posted: 01/12/2006 at 12:10