Top-of-the-line drivers range from $300 to $600. A top-of-the-line set of irons (usually 3-iron through pitching wedge) can range from $700 to $1,200. Top-of-the-line putters can range up to $300. The best golf balls may cost up to $60 per dozen.
As a beginner, do you need top-of-the-line equipment? Absolutely not. In fact, even many very good players play with less-expensive equipment.
There are many golf club manufacturers who offer cheaper alternatives to their top-of-the-line clubs. There are off-brand clubs, there are clubs made from less expensive materials.
You can find brand new drivers for $35 that will work just fine for beginners, and will serve you well until (or unless) you decide to move up in quality and price.
Bargain iron sets can be had for $100-$200. Putters are easiest to find cheap, many for as little as $15-$20. And balls? Plenty are on the market for $8-$10 per dozen.
And that's just the new clubs. Don't be afraid to start out with used clubs. Hand-me-downs or garage-sale finds are the clubs of choice for many beginners. You can get a complete outfitting of clubs for under $100 by checking garage sales, flea markets or classified ads.
And as a beginner, such clubs won't hurt you at all. Until you learn to play and start showing some improvement, you probably couldn't tell the difference between a 25-year-old set of irons you picked up at a garage sale and a $1,200 set of irons you were custom-fitted for by the manufacturer.
If you're dead serious about becoming a great golfer and you're planning on taking lessons and spending time on your game, and - most importantly - you have money to burn, there's nothing wrong with starting out with top-of-the-line equipment.
But if you're looking to learn on a budget, or just aren't sure how committed to golf you'll be, there's also nothing wrong with learning on the cheap. You can always take the money you've saved and go get some lessons.