The Ultimate Guide on How to Clean Golf Clubs to Help You Gain More Distance

A clean golf club is a happy club. According to the world’s top golf instructors, a club face that is clean—free of dirt, grass and other debris—will be much more effective than one that is filthy.  Conversely, if the grooves of your club are packed with mud, sand and other particles, your ability to hit a well-controlled shot will be severely compromised. In the following article, we will explore this topic a bit further, first by explaining the importance of having clean golf clubs, followed by a step-by-step tutorial for scrubbing and polishing all of the clubs in your bag.

Why Should You Clean Your Golf Clubs?

How long has it been since you have cleaned your golf clubs? Really cleaned them? Not just the cursory “wipe-off” with your golf towel after leaving a huge divot in the turf or hitting that “fried egg” sand shot, but really took the time to clean those clubs well. If it’s been a while, chances are your golf game is suffering the effects of those filthy clubs.

A quality set of golf clubs is a big investment, not just monetarily, but also a big investment in your recreation—in that all-important chance to escape the house for a while, if only for a few hours. Given this investment, it is absolutely crucial that you take the time every so often to care for your golf clubs properly. In addition to their personal importance, clean clubs are also extremely imperative in terms of your golf game.  Sadly, many golfers do not make the correlation between clean golf clubs and sharper-hit shots, but the truth is this:  grass, dirt and other debris that can get caught between the grooves of your club face, actually negate the very purpose of those grooves, and ultimately lead to mishit or out-of-control shots and higher scores.

How to Clean Golf Clubs

The manufacturers of those expensive golf clubs in your bag literally spend millions of dollars each year to introduce new and improved technologies—methods that are all aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of each club they sell.  Collectively, these new technologies are designed to help you swing the club more freely, put a better strike on the ball and deliver increased distance with every club you swing.  Those grooves on your golf clubs, especially your irons, are not there for aesthetic purposes.  They are intentionally designed and added to those golf clubs after many years of high-tech research to help you play your best possible golf.

Some golfers spend thousands of dollars each year attempting to improve their game. They invest in the most modern state-of-the-art equipment, take lessons, and spend hours on the driving range just to drop their handicap by a few strokes. This is all well and good, but when they fail to take care of those expensive clubs, they are actually (and quite ironically) adding strokes to their game by allowing dirt, mud and grass to clog the very grooves that will allow them to hit cleaner and crisper shots. Cleaning your golf clubs regularly, preferably before or after every round you play, can mean the difference between sticking the green and a game of “hide-and-seek” in the trees as you hunt for the object of your last wayward swing. Many golf experts suggest that filthy clubs—those whose grooves are nullified by months of dry, crusty earth—can easily add 4 to 5 strokes per round, and perhaps even more for beginners.

Importance of Cleaning Grooves

So why is it so important to clean the grooves of your clubs? When the grooves on your irons—and even your woods—are clean and free of crusty dirt, they actually act like tire treads on an automobile. Similar to those tire treads, the grooves work to drive liquid and debris—even air—from the contact surface of the club, allowing you to hit cleaner shots that are not affected by the aforementioned elements.

How to Clean Golf Clubs

Clean grooves will also do a better job at “biting” in to the ball. This biting action initiated by the grooves on your clubs can add between 3,600 revolutions per minute (RPM) to 6,000 RPM of spin. This spin provides better aerodynamic lift for longer shots, and gives the ball much more stability as it flies towards it target. If you watch professional golfers on television, you have no doubt witnessed a ball that lands and actually backs up on the green. This is due to the spin applied by the golfer who hit the shot—a spin that would simply be impossible without clean grooves on the club face.

Importance of Cleaning Grips

The grips of your club should also be cleaned regularly for best results around the course. Over time, dirt, oil and sweat can mix together on the grips, causing slippage or forcing you to lose control of the club, which can negatively impact your swing and the shot. Clean grips can essentially do all of the following:

How to Clean Golf Clubs
  • Provide better moisture control.  Clean grips provide a greater degree of moisture control in very hot conditions in which people perspire.  
  • Clean grips provide a better “grip.”  Keeping the grips of your clubs clean will preserve the tackiness of the grip, enabling you to have better control of the club and helping it to be more responsive in reducing errors.  
  • Clean grips will last. Cleaning your grips will allow them to last much longer, as corrosive oil, dirt and even perspiration can damage them over time.

Most grips are made to absorb sweat and oil as you play, giving you better club control, but with time these can become quite filthy and harm your overall game. They can also acquire germs and bacteria, so it only makes sense to keep these grips as sanitized as possible. 

How to Clean Your Golf Clubs

You now understand the importance of keeping your golf clubs clean, but just how do you go about cleaning them? Actually, you have a few options. You could, of course, send your clubs to a golf club cleaning service, or you could purchase one of the many dedicated golf cleaning kits, which can now be found in many pro shops around the country. However, both of those options can be very pricey and, in our opinion, quite unnecessary.

Cleaning your golf clubs yourself is actually quite easy to do, and the experience can oddly be quite rewarding, especially when you consider the reasons for these regular cleanings: lower scores and more enjoyment on the course.To help you get started, below we have provided a step-by-step tutorial that will make cleaning your clubs a snap.

Step 1 – Gather Your Cleaning Solution and Materials

Cleaning your golf clubs only requires a few basic materials. These include:

  • A bucket (A plastic bucket is recommended)  
  • A mild dishwasher detergent  
  • A tooth brush (or some other brush with small, soft bristles that are not metal. Metal can damage the surface of the golf club)  
  • A rag—for washing  
  • A towel—for drying the clubs as you finish cleaning them
How to Clean Golf Clubs

Step 2 – Create Your Cleaning Solution

The next step is to create the cleaning solution in which you will first clean your irons and your putter.  To accomplish this, squeeze a small amount of the dishwashing detergent into the bottom of your bucket, and add just enough water to cover the heads of your irons.  In doing this, take care that the water is warm, but not too hot. The heads of your golf irons are secured to the shaft of the club using little plastic ferrules. These ferrules are glued on to help join these two parts of the club.  Hot water can potentially melt the glue used to fasten these ferrules into place, so it should definitely be avoided.

Step 3 – Submerge Your Irons and Your Putter

In this next step, our purpose is to submerge the golf clubs in our cleaning solution for about 5-10 minutes. During this time, the warm water and detergent will work in unison to loosen some of the dirt and grime that has been caught between the grooves of the club, and remove some of the oils and other chemicals that may have accumulated on your irons since the last good cleaning.Remember, you want just enough water to cover the heads of your golf irons. Ideally, the plastic ferrules should be above the water level during this step so that you do not risk the possibility of weakening that glued connection.When submerging your golf clubs in the bucket, you will want to be next to an outdoor garden hose, or at a big, deep sink in the garage or laundry room of your home.

Step 4 – Cleaning and Rinsing Your Irons and Putter

The next step of our process is to clean the irons. Here you will want to remove one club at a time from the warm, soapy water and begin cleaning it, starting with the grooves. Using an old toothbrush, carefully clean each groove of the club, removing all the dirt and debris that should have now been loosened by the cleaning solution. Remember, this is the most important step of the cleaning process, as grooves that are filled with dirt essentially nullify the effectiveness of the club.After cleaning the grooves of the first club, take your brush and wet rag and finish the process by cleaning the sole and back of the club head.

Once the entire club head has been washed, carefully rinse off the club using the garden hose or water from the large sink. Make sure that all dirt and debris has been lifted from the grooves and elsewhere on the club as you rinse, and be careful not to splash water up onto the grips. After the club head has been thoroughly washed and rinsed, place it on a clean flat surface, preferably atop a large clean towel.Repeat this process with each of the irons in your bag and your putter.

How to Clean Golf Clubs

Step 5 – Drying Your Irons and Putter

With the three most outer fingers of your top hand now wrapped around the club—and with the club still nestled along the top of your left palm where it meets the fingers—it is now time to set the lead thumb and the forefinger.Without changing the position of the club, simply roll your thumb over to the right side of the handle or grip. As you do this, curly your left index finger around the club. If this step is done correctly, you should feel the meaty portion at the base of your thumb pressing directly down onto the handle or grip of the club. 

Step 6 – Cleaning Your Fairway Woods and Driver

How to Clean Golf Clubs

When cleaning your metal woods and drivers, we do not recommend you submerge them in water as you did with your irons and putter. These clubs usually have a glossy finish that can be harmed by harsh soaps and chemicals. Instead, just dip them briefly in the warm, soapy water, and immediately wipe them with a wet rag to rinse the soap from the club. Dry them immediately, including the shaft, and place them back into your bag.If your fairway woods have grooves in them, you can still use a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove any dirt and debris from the grooves. After doing so, just follow the instructions provided above.Not too many years ago, the term fairway “woods” actually referred to the two or three clubs a golfer had in his/her bag that were actually made of persimmon wood. Today, most golfers have switched over to the longer-hitting metal woods and drivers; however, if you are still playing with true “woods,” the cleaning instructions above are not intended for you. To clean wood clubs, simply wipe them off with a damp rag, and immediately dry them with a towel.

Final Words

By cleaning your clubs in this manner, preferably after every round of golf you play, you can ensure that the various technologies used to enhance and improve these clubs—to add more distance and control to your game—was not done in vain.

Paul Liberatore
Paul Liberatore

As the Founder of Golfers Authority Paul Liberatore Esq. has spent the last 7+ years writing about the best golf equipment or instruction from the top golf instructors in the world. He has been a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated Golf and GolfWRX. After graduating with honors from Purdue University, he realized that he had a passion for the golf business and the law. When he's not practicing law, or creating golf content on YouTube, he can be found on his syndicated Behind the Golf Brand podcast talking with the most prolific leaders in the golf industry. 

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