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Golf Club History

The game of golf originated along the coast of Scotland during the 14th century. Golfers would hit a stone around the sand dunes using a stick or club. The first clubs and balls specifically made for golf were fashioned from wood and the balls at that time were made from hardwoods.

History of Golf Club Construction

All early golf clubs were made entirely of wood, and in 1618 the feather golf ball or 'Featherie' was introduced. The feathery ball was produced until the early 1850's and this kept the construction of golf clubs limited mostly to wood in order to protect the leather featherie golf ball from destruction.

Wood golf club construction continued until the first "Gutta" golf ball was introduced in 1848 by the Rev. Dr. Paterson. Gutty-percha is a similar material to rubber that is made from the dried sap of a tree. The lower cost of Gutta balls rejuvenated the game of golf and allowed implementation of metal golf club heads due to the gutta ball durability.

Steel Shafted Clubs Were Introduced in the 1920's

Until the early 1900s, all golf clubs were fitted with wooden shafts and for the most part wooden heads. Golf clubs from this era had funny names instead of numbers and the chart below gives a ruff estimate of how they placed in comparison to today's club numbering system. The first steel-shafted golf clubs were made in the United States in the 1920s. About this same time club makers started using the current numbering system to identify different clubs, in place of the old names.

Woods.         Original Name
No.1 Wood; > Driver, Play Club
No.2 Wood; > Brassie
No.3 Wood; > Spoon Brassie
No.4 Wood; > Wood Cleek, Baffy

Putter;        > Blank

Irons.    Original Name
No.1;  > Driving Iron,  Cleek
No.2;  > Cleek, Mid Iron
No.3;  > Mid-Mashie
No.4;  > Jigger, Mashie Iron
No.5;  > Mashie

Irons      Original name

No.6;   > Spade Mashie
No.7;   > Benny
No.8;   > Mashie Niblick
No.9;   > Pitching Niblick

Wedge > Niblick, Baffing Spoon



History of Golf Club Design

The most major influence in golf club construction and design has been the golf ball itself. New club styles have tended to follow innovations in golf ball design. Other factors of influence include the nature of the terrain in which they were used, rules set up to govern what could or could not be used, technology and tools available to make them, and now in recent years, the physics and computer aided technology.

On of the biggest changes to the club heads themselves was the move from smooth faces on the irons to the grooves you see on all irons today. Around 1908 designers realized that you could get more backspin on a ball with a grooved club, which also led to more distance.

Factors That Have, and Continue to Influence the Design of Golf Clubs

Terrain: Terrain was obviously one of the biggest factors to influence golf club design. Prior to the gutta ball, most shots were accomplished by a range of wooden clubs in a variety of shaft lengths and face lofts. They were designed around the need to make shots from different lies on the courses terrain. This in turn gave us the numbering system for club loft and made the chore of choosing the right tool for variables in distance and terrain a lot easier to make.

Technology: Until about the 1870's iron clubs were made by blacksmiths making them heavy implements with large hosels to connect the shafts. Then drop forging became widely available and club head size decreased considerably. Drop forging allowed iron clubs to be mass produced in factories and by 1910 factories were mass producing versions of the old hand made wood club heads as well.

Regulation: Regulation of what was is allowed in competition led to a more uniform club style. Many of the more peculiar items were ruled out, such as the adjustable loft club. Since the 1980's computers have been used increasingly to design clubs that are made of high tech materials with graphite shafts and titanium metal head that seem to be getting as big as a VW beetle.

US Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews

As golf club innovations are introduced, they are looked at by the world's golfing authorities to see if they give users an unfair advantage. These innovation are then either ruled out or their application is controlled within defined limits - like the width and depth of club face grooves.

Another reason for golf club regulation is the need to maintain the competitiveness of older golf courses. Having equipment that could reach a Par 5 green in two shots for the average golfer would reduce the challenge and caliber of the course.

The Great Clubmakers

Scotland, the birthplace of golf was truly the original mecca of fine golf club manufacturing. Early clubmakers like Tom Morris and Willie Park exported their clubs all over the world. The craft of club making was a very lucrative business in those days and only the very wealthy could afford the clubs needed to play the game.

People have been using sticks to hit objects around for many centuries. That activity eventually turned into what would become Scotland's game of golf in the 1400's, and it soon spread to the United States. With this the evolution of golf clubs and golf club history began it's creative journey. Back then there was no standard for design and most clubs were hand made, often by the players themselves.

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