OK, you want new clubs. Do you drop a big number and buy the name-brand set you see on the pro's bag, or do you save some bucks and buy the knock-off set? There are pros and cons to going either way. I'll present the argument for buying knock-offs.
But first, let's make an important distinction between perfectly legal knock-offs and clones, and that of illegal, counterfeit fakes. A knock-off might have a similar look and the performance traits of a name-brand club. But the legal knock-off will have a clearly marked and distinguishing name and logo so that there is no question as to what you're buying or playing with. No patents or trademarks will have been infringed. Nor will they try to fool you with a too-similar name and look, like the King Snake vs. King Cobra rip-off that we saw a few years ago.
On the other hand, the shape and design marks of the counterfeit club, down to exact logo and paint color, have been painstakingly replicated to fool the buyer. The ability to distinguish between the real McCoy and an illegal fake is hard even for the expert. Unless you are trained to know what to look for, it is pretty hard to tell the difference – until you hit the ball. That's when the inferior materials and craftsmanship of the fake clubs show themselves. Fakes and counterfeits are illegal and shouldn't be bought.
A fake Rolex may impress some people, and it still tells time. But a fake golf club isn't going to impress anyone; it just won't feel right or perform as well. What's worse, the fake will cost about the same as the real thing. Everybody knows that if the price is too good to be true, it's probably not the real thing. To avoid suspicion, the sellers of counterfeit golf clubs try to sell at prices comparable to the originals.
Clones and knock-offs, on the other hand, are made with quality components, using the same grade of steel and titanium, and often from the same foundries and manufacturers that supple the name-brand companies. With quality materials and similar design principles, knock-offs perform similarly to the name brands but provide much better value; you can usually save 60% to 70% off the name-brand set. The money you save on clubs you can spend on lessons, which is always money well spent.
Name-brand companies spend a lot of money on research and development to continuously improve performance. And there is no question; the clubs they sell get better year after year. They also spend a lot on marketing to convince golfers that they can buy a better game. Advertising and branding costs are legitimate expenditures. They help pay for the major golf magazines, network broadcasts and licensing revenue paid to sponsored touring professionals. With a name-brand club, you're paying far more for these marketing costs and overhead than you are for design innovations and better performance.
Knock-off manufacturers accept that they will not have cutting-edge designs and innovations. But they have evaluated design changes that have truly improved performance over time. They then model these design principles into their own-make clubs. For example, the major design changes that have led to truly better performance over the years are perimeter weighted, cavity-backed irons; offset club heads; hybrids that replace long irons; bigger club heads for bigger sweet spots; big, lightweight driver heads; and graphite shafts. The changes that come out year after year are pretty much minor refinements on these major innovations.
You can get all these game-improvement innovations at a very reasonable price by buying knock-offs from reputable suppliers on the web. They offer the same custom-fit options as the name brands. A reputable dealer will clearly let you know you are buying a knock-off; a seller of counterfeit merchandise will try to tell you it's the real thing.
Keep in mind that not everyone has the same idea in mind when using the words knock-off, clones and fakes. For our purposes, and yours, if you distinguish between illegal counterfeits and legal knock-offs, you'll be on the right track.
Oh, and if you're in the market for a titanium knock-off driver, make sure it's titanium and not a titanium alloy. The later is mostly aluminum and meant to fool the uninformed.