China has a long-standing, infamous reputation of being the prime source of many fake products that are circulated throughout the world. This phenomenon is called shanzhai, or “mountain stronghold”. Shanzhai nowadays refers to under-the-radar companies that produce cheap imitations of practically everything while evading taxes and government regulations.
Even golf clubs are not safe from being given the bootleg treatment. While there are other countries such as Vietnam and Thailand that are also sources of counterfeits, China is still the undisputed leader in manufacturing bogus “discount golf clubs” under the radar. More often than not, they also maintain websites in order to sell those fakes. Those sites are written in poor, broken English and their domain registration information either reflects Chinese contact information or made-up foreign addresses despite their claims that they are based in the US or Europe.
There is a reason why fake versions of clubs that will be officially released soon will turn up a few days or weeks before the actual release dates of the real things.
Taiwan was formerly a coven for underground manufacturers to produce fake goods. But when the Taiwanese government started imposing stringent intellectual property laws to get rid of fakes and upped the wages of the country’s workers, those underground manufacturers moved to mainland China, where they now mass-produce fakes at a rapid pace using lots of underpaid workers. And since many golf manufacturers outsource their production lines to China, there is a high chance that a Chinese worker will steal a blueprint and leak the secrets hidden within it to shanzhai factories. To add to the confusion, counterfeit sellers will always parade their clubs as special “discount golf clubs fresh from the OEM”. Even worse, they will take pictures from either the sites or the marketing materials of real manufacturers and post them on their sites as if nothing happened. The fakers will roll out their fake clubs just to get rich quick, considering their low salaries.
As the fakers are getting better in their game, they will perfect the art of copying the copyrighted designs from major manufacturers without any glaring mistakes at all. This results in what is called the “super-fake”. The super-fake phenomenon was first discovered in fake luxury handbags that do their best to imitate their more expensive authentic counterparts in every nook and cranny using high-quality materials. It will only be a matter of time before the fakers produce super-fake gold clubs at higher prices compared to low-quality fakes.
While golf manufacturers are more aggressive in stamping down fake versions of their products, some Chinese law enforcers are adamant to clamp down on fake golf clubs as well as other fake golf gear and apparel. These items do not get much attention compared to fake consumables such as cigarettes and medicines, since golf is mainly a sport played by the rich. To add insult to injury, the Chinese have a twisted sense of practicality. If they are chosen between two similar things that have a huge difference in price, they will go for the much cheaper thing, even if it is a fake.
And due to the rapid production of fake “discount golf clubs”, unimaginative merchants from the US and Europe will buy them in bulk and sell them on eBay or on their own sites. Therefore, it always pays for a prospective golfer to always read the horror stories of fellow golfers who have been duped by those “entrepreneurs”.
In the end, buying fake discount golf clubs from China damage the reputation of the manufacturers of real golf clubs. As long as the fakes circulate, they will deceive unaware buyers into blaming the manufacturers themselves for producing supposedly inferior versions of their clubs.