Golf Clubs Through The Centuries

by David Walters - Date: 2006-12-12 - Word Count: 472 Share This!

The game of golf has developed alongside the equipment. In the ancient game, clubs were much longer and flatter in design than they are today. Players gripped them in the palms of their hands and swung them flat around the body, bouncing them off their shoulders or biceps in the backswing.

The manufacture of clubs has, for many centuries, been a highly skilled affair. In 1603 we know that one Williarn Mayne, a bowmaker by profession, was appointed clubmaker to James VI of Scotland James 1 of England.

At this time, clubs had shafts made of ash or hazel with a head of blackthorn, beech, apple or pear. The lie was flatter and the heads much longer than present day clubs about 1 inch from front to back and 4 to 5 inches long in the head.

The majority of clubs were wooden with quaint names such as playclub, brassie, grassed driver, long spoon, short spoon and bathie, which implied a personal relationship between club and player. The irons, on the other hand, were for shots from particularly difficult places hence a bunker iron, rutt iron, track iron and so on.

Over the years, the irons were used not only for recovery shots, but also for general approach play. By the end of the 19th century, a new range had been developed for longer shots the mid iron, cleek, niblick and mashie, for example.

From 1948, the use of the gutty ball in place of the old fashioned feathery ball brought a further change to the game. Players found a definite advantage when hickory was used for the shafts. They had more tautness than ash or hazel ones, allowing players to swing in a more upright stance.

The design also changed in that the shaft was now bored into a hole in the head, replacing the original method of splicing the two together.

The introduction of the rubber ball at the end of the 19th century had brought about an earlier change in the game. This ball required the use of harder wood for durability, and persimmon was therefore used. Originally, there had been no insert to the woods, but soon either bone, ivory or, later, plastic was inserted in order to impart extra strength. A shortage of good persimmon later led to experiments with laminated wood.

Persimmon was, for many years, the most highly prized of woods for the professional. But for most players today, laminates and now 'metal woods' with their durability and greater distance striking are the order of the day. Hickory had been used for the shaft for many years. With the shortage of this wood after World War 1, clubmakers turned to steel shafts. Now steel is gradually being superseded by graphite, boron, titanium and other materiaK Lighter, stronger shafts assist in producing greater distance, while shafts with less torque (twist) produce far greater accuracy.

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