How to Spot Counterfeit Golf Gear

Counterfeit clubs, balls and equipment are running rampant right now in the golf industry. Officials say even the most savvy shoppers could fall for a fake. You could be ripped off, and even hurt!

"Counterfeiters want to make the product as cheaply as possible while still looking passable to you," explained Therese Randazzo with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

"These guys are good. the differences are almost indistinguishable," said golfer Michael Byrnes.

Experienced golfer Michael Byrnes got lured into buying fake clubs online.
The real test for fake clubs? Part of the club head is supposed to be made of tungsten, a metal a magnet won't stick to.

So by performing a simple "magnet test", Michael confirmed he got clubs made of steel, a cheaper metal.

The counterfeiters even make golf apparel!

A tip to spot fake apparel, with the fake, the inner packaging is from china. We're told that's where most counterfeit equipment is made.

Balls, clothes, clubs and covers are just part of hundreds of counterfeit items U.S. Customs and Border Control seize each year, and the numbers are going up.

In 2009 agents seized 519 counterfeit golf items compared to 786 in 2010.

"It's a problem that's very difficult to stop," said Stephen Gingrinch Cleveland Golf VP of Global Legal Enforcement.

It's a tough battle!

Customs says the new way counterfeiters elude agents is by sending fake stuff through the mail and on private carriers, rather than in a huge cargo shipment. The feds can't search every package and can't force the Chinese Government to stop the crooks.

"Going after the counterfeiters overseas is a challenge because we lack us jurisdiction," said Gingrinch.

Now big name golf companies like Cleveland are getting involved, teaching customs agents how to spot fakes and putting pressure on the Chinese Government to shut down counterfeit plants.

Gingrich says they have a pretty big handicap in this match.

"To completely stop counterfeiting i would say is probably next to impossible," he said.

What's the result to golfers who buy fake stuff?

It can put a real divot in your safety!

Some counterfeit Cleveland club's shafts bent after one use, the company says other fake equipment could injure people!

"The head has flown off, its inferior materials," said Gingrich.

Experts say if a sub par club doesn't take your head off, counterfeit stuff will chip away at your game.

The swing weights are different and it will impact the product's performance.

It will also whack your bank account: fake golf items aren't much cheaper than the real thing.

Michael is writing off his score and warns counterfeit stuff is more prevalent than you think! 

He's teed off, to say the least.

"It's just very difficult to think that you're a bright, educated individual who can be taken advantage of," he said.

Experts say to protect yourself from getting stuck with a counterfeit always buy online from an authorized dealer.

Watch out for deals that seem "too good to be true", look for a label of authenticity on the product.

And always buy with a credit card, if you don't get what you paid for you can dispute the purchase.

If you end up with a counterfeit golf product, the feds want to hear from you.

To report counterfeit goods, go to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website.

For a similar story from the U.S. CBP, click here

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