What do you think when you hear the word Walmart?

I'm sure there are lots of visuals coming to mind at this very moment. I'm willing to bet golf clubs aren't one of them. Today might change that.

Big box stores can mean big savings, and in the case of the Costco Kirkland Signature Golf Ball, big performance too. The Costco ball was the golf equipment story of 2016. Nothing else came close. That got us wondering if maybe non-golf, big box retailers might hold the key to performance on a budget. The ball is a great start, but what would happen if we rolled back prices on the rest of what goes into the golf bag?

To find out, we put big yellow smiles on our faces and headed down to our local Walmart to buy the best (it's a relative term) box set the store had to offer. We're talking Nitro Blasters, baby. And sweet bonus, they even come with a stand bag.

We'll keep you in suspense over the price for a little bit longer, but let's just say, our first impressions - the cavity badges...cavity stickers, actually, don't exactly scream high quality or any quality for that matter.

But hey, you never know, right? At a minimum, we figured it was worth putting the Blasters to the test.

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HOW WE TESTED

  • We tested the Walmart Nitro Blaster set against a driver and iron set from a leading manufacturer.
  • Three clubs from each of the two sets were tested.
  • From each set, a driver, 6-iron and pitching wedgewere tested.
  • Ten golfers with handicaps ranging from 0-15 and driver swing speeds between 90 and 110 mph participated in this test.
  • Each tester hit 12-14 good shots with each club, rotating frequently rotating between clubs.
  • Gross mishits were eliminated and are not included in shot counts.
  • Remaining outliers were identified using Median Absolute Deviation (distance, yards offline, and launch angle), and dropped before calculation of the final averages.
  • All testers hit Bridgestone B330-RX Golf Balls.
  • Ball Data was recorded using a Foresight GC2 Launch Monitor.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • *With the name brand set we tested with the 9-iron, however, for the Walmart set we used the set's combination P/9-iron.
  • The stamped loft for both drivers is 10.5. However, we measured the actual loft of the Walmart driver at  6.2 degrees. The name brand driver was measured at exactly 10.5°.
  • The playing length of the name brand driver was 45", while Walmart driver measured 44".
  • Both the Walmart and Name Brand driver's were marked as regular flex.

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THE RESULTS

How does a $200 set of clubs hold up against clubs from one of the leading equipment manufacturers in golf? Let's go to the data

9-iron
9_iron

OBSERVATIONS:

  • It is important to note the name brand 9 iron measured a full 5° degrees stronger than the Walmart P/9.
  • Ball speed, carry, and total distance favored the name brand set, likely due, in part, to the significant difference in loft.
  • The name brand club launched nearly two degrees lower. However, spin differences were insignificant.
  • Although the name brand club flew lower with less spin, shots on average finished marginally closer to the center line.
  • All but one tester achieved higher ball speeds and total distance with the name brand 9-iron over the Walmart equivalent.
  • Standard deviations of ball speed and carry suggest similar forgiveness characteristics across the face.

6-iron
6_iron

OBSERVATIONS:

  • This time, the name brand 6-iron measured a whopping 7 degrees stronger than the Walmart offering.
  • The strong-lofted brand name 6-iron produced higher ball speeds, carry and total distance numbers.
  • Launch angles for the name brand club are again lower, and spin rates differ by approximately 800 RPM. This is explained by the significant difference in loft.
  • Ball speed and carry standard deviations again suggest similar forgiveness characteristics.

Driver
Driver

OBSERVATIONS:

As mentioned above, The actual loft of the Walmart driver was more than 4 (4.3 to be exact) degrees below the stamped spec. With an actual loft of just above 6 degrees, 4 of our ten testers weren't able to achieve a launch angle above 10 degrees.

  • In general terms, the Nitro Blaster was no match for the name brand competitor.
  • The Nitro Blaster produced shots a full 7 mph slower on average, resulting in significantly lower carry and total distance numbers.
  • The name brand driver also on average launched higher with more spin than the Nitro Blaster.
  • Peak height (not shown in the chart) for the Nitro Blaster reached only 54 feet, while the the name brand driver reached into the 90s.
  • The likelihood is that the launch conditions produced by the Nitro Blaster would be unplayable for a majority of recreational golfers.
  • Standard deviations (used as a measurement of consistency) for both carry and total yards suggest the name brand driver is significantly more forgiving across the face.
  • The Nitro Blaster Driver was responsible for a significantly higher number of outliers, suggesting a greater likelihood that any given shot will produce a poor result.

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THE VERDICT

Unfortunately, you won't find the Nitro Blaster driver or irons on the demo rack at your local golf shop, but that's fine. We think most of you will be better off sticking with what you have right now.

  • While the Nitro Blaster did show, on average, better proximity to the target line, it's important to note that shorter clubs will almost invariably be straighter clubs.
  • While it's easy to see that the Nitro Blaster driver was not able to stand up whatsoever to the name brand, the performance of the Blaster irons wasn't terrible, and the rate of outliers was consistent with that of the name brand offering.
  • Both the P/9 and 6-iron, while shorter, were marginally more accurate than their name brand competitors. As you would expect, they also flew higher and spun more.
  • The irons also offered similar standard deviations on ball speed and carry, suggesting that the forgiveness of the irons isn't too far removed from their name brand competitors.
  • As mentioned previously, the badge is cheaply made. Also noteworthy, there is a significant difference in durability between the name brand set and the Walmart set. Despite only being used indoors for this test, the Nitro Blaster irons already show significant wear.
  • While the Nitro Blaster irons may be suitable for a beginning golfer, the driver is a liability and is reason enough not to purchase this set.