The Evolution And The History of Golf Clubs

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Luke is an avid weekend-warrior golfer from the East Coast who plays golf more than he cares to admit.

a bag filled with golf clubs

You know you love this game, but how much do you know about its origins? The history of golf clubs is fascinating.

In the game of golf, a good set of clubs can make all the difference. Each type of golf club serves a unique purpose in the game. Golf clubs, and the game itself, look very different from their ancestral origins. 

We can learn a lot from golf history, both in the game and the clubs themselves. Both amateurs and professional golfers have benefited from club development and evolution.

To understand the changes clubs have undertaken, Our Golf Clubs would like to give you a little background and history. Knowledge of past successes and failures will help future generations of golfers like you to improve your golf game. 

Our Golf Clubs is here as a resource of knowledge and information. We’ll help you improve your skills so you can get out there and enjoy the game!

The History of Golf Clubs: A Look-Back

an old set of hickory golf clubs these clubs are a part of the history of golf clubs

While golf’s true ancient origins remain a mystery, some speculate it derived from an ancient Roman game called Paganica. However, the officially documented invention of golf was in the 1400s in Scotland.  

No matter its origin, one fact remains: use clubs to hit balls into holes to score and, ultimately, win. The types and quantity of clubs used have varied across the centuries. 

At that time, there were five main styles of clubs from which to choose:

  • Play Clubs or Longnoses, for driving 
  • Fairway Clubs or Grassdrivers, for medium-range shots
  • Spoons for short shots
  • Niblicks, which are similar to wedges
  • Putting Cleek

Though there were only five styles, each golfer sometimes carried as many as forty clubs! Thankfully in 1939, the numbering system and fourteen club limits were imposed, much to the delight of caddies everywhere. 

Original Club and Ball Designs  

historical golf clubs in leather bags hanging on a wall

Clubs were often crudely made from carved wood.Early in the history of golf, players designed and crafted their own clubs. Most clubs were made with a solid piece of wood, but some were fused and connected by leather straps. 

While wood/iron fusions worked for shorter range clubs like wedges, longer drivers became too heavy to maneuver. Other metals were cheaper and more desirable but were prohibited due to the type of ball used. 

The Featherlite golf ball was invented in 1618. It was made from leather and feathers. If golfers hit the Featherlite with anything other than wood, it would occasionally explode upon impact. 

Sadly, this ball was the status quo for nearly 200 years. Thankfully it was made obsolete with the invention of different golf balls in the early to mid-1800s.

The “guttie” ball invention in 1848 allowed for a more diverse range of club variations. It was made from a solid piece of rubber called gutta-percha. Greater distance and durability gave this golf ball precedence over others. 

Later in 1898, the Haskell three-piece ball was invented and became the standard for the next ninety years. The Haskell was a solid core piece wrapped by rubber string and covered in gutta-percha. 

It was replaced by Spaulding’s two-piece ball in 1972, which is still widely used today. 

Golf Gains in the 20th Century

Great gains in golf happened in the early 1900s. After a solid ball was brought forth, it led to other adaptations in club design.

Former “Longnoses,” or drivers, were too heavy when fused with iron. Bulgers or woods then replaced them.

Woods were typically made with popular persimmon wood due because it was both durable and powerful. Until 1991 when the first “metal” wood emerged, persimmon was the wood of choice for most golfers. 

Wedges had already been fused with metals since the late 1800s. It wasn’t until 1908 that club makers discovered that adding groove lines could increase backspin and distance. 

The use of steel was trendy in the 1920s. However, it was widely contested until 1929, when the Prince of Wales used it in a match. Clubs made with steel shafts were more robust and lighter and could produce better accuracy. 

However, this posed another dilemma. With a lighter club, a golfers swing also had to change. 

The fluid body swing replaced the heavily loaded arm swing. As swing speeds increased, it birthed what we now know as the modern swing. 

It enabled greater maximization of clubhead speed without exact timing. To this day, all golfers greatly benefit from having a lighter club design. 

Metal and the Modern Era

metal golf clubs in a leather bag

The history of golf clubs took a turn when the casting method of mass production began in 1963. Metals like steel and iron became cheaper to produce, nearly eliminating individual craftsmen. With industrialization, clubs became more affordable and greatly expanded the popularity of the game. 

As access to more materials like fiberglass, titanium, and graphite became available, clubs evolved even more. However, due to their thin, bendable structure, all proved to be inferior to steel. 

Thankfully modern technology gave metals like graphite and titanium a big boost. Graphite is now a mainstay and is so superior that it is being used as metal “wood” for most drivers. The first occurrence of this was with Big Bertha in 1991. 

What began as crude club combinations of iron and wood are quickly becoming the wave of the future. 

Clubs of the Future

As technology advances, so does the game of golf. While the clubs we use today look quite different from golf clubs used earlier in history, one fact remains. A golfer is only as good as the tools he uses. 

Standard wooden clubs have evolved the most. Actual wood was replaced with lighter titanium and graphite shafts, and head size expanded to its maximum 460cc. 

Having a more forgiving sweet spot allows players to hit the ball with greater speed and precision. Now players like Tiger Woods aren’t the only ones with the advantage! 

Long irons have stood the test of time, but combination innovations have emerged. Hybrid wood and iron clubs are proving to be a great asset for beginners and slow swingers. 

The wedge golf club had a concave face early in history. Over time, the wedge’s surface not only flattened, but horizontal lines were also added to produce spin. Wedges have also greatly benefited from hybridization, making them lighter and easier to swing. 

Though seemingly basic, putters stand to advance the most with new technology. By adding weight to the heel and toe, it enabled a straighter putt. Players can expect to experience a reduction in twisting, even with off-center contact. Par will come easy!

A Hole in One

a hole in one

The history of golf clubs is fascinating, but Our Golf Clubs is most excited about the future of golf. We are here to provide you interesting and useful content to enhance and simplify your own golfing experience. 

Our Golf Clubs provides you with everything best in golf. Stay tuned to Our Golf Clubs for all your golfing needs. If you’d like more information on clubs and which style is right for you, check out our previous blog post here

Then get out there, improve your skills, and enjoy the game! Here’s to your next Hole in One!

Luke Griffin

Luke is an avid weekend-warrior golfer from the East Coast who plays golf more than he cares to admit.

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