For golf enthusiasts and players alike, finding a 3-wood in a bag of thirteen other golf clubs is a rather routine task. On the other hand, asking a newbie to do you a favor and recover one from your golf bag may produce head-scratching results.
That's because the traditional names we have for our golf clubs refer to golf club compositions that club manufacturers no longer apply. What used to be eponymously named variations of woods now consist of metal and composites, irons are made of stainless steel... it can be downright confusing for any beginning golfer.
Luckily, we've created a breakdown that details how your golf clubs are made, and just what your golf clubs are made out of. This way, you'll know exactly what makes your clubs the highly evolved tools that they are today, while keeping your novice buddy from fumbling around in your bag and searching for a club that resembles a piece of oak.
How Are Golf Clubs Made?
Golf clubs have come a long way since their mid-15th century Scottish conception, when early golfers would whittle clubs out of the wood supplied by local forests - giving them their early categorical name.
Different kinds of wood were utilized for different purposes in the earliest golf club components. Golf shafts typically consisted of woods like hazel or ash, which was indigenous to the European countries that golf was initially played in. Club heads, however, were crafted from hardier woods, like holly and beech.
Irons as we know them today didn't enter the picture until the 18th century. These metal clubs were the crude creations of blacksmiths up until the late 19th century, when iron-forging techniques helped craftsmen create stronger, more durable clubs.
The golf clubs of yesteryear, while similar in their basic shaft-and-club-head design, are a far cry from the technologically advanced golf clubs of the 21st century. Let's take a look at the elements that make today's golf clubs the high performance tools of modern-day golf.
The Elements of Modern Golf Clubs
Golf clubs have changed drastically over the course of their half-a-millennium existence. Through trial and error, the golf clubs that we know and recognize today are the result of countless modifications by golf equipment makers over the years to improve the status quo.
By pushing the envelope, pioneers like PING and TaylorMade have engineered products to deliver the highest possible level of performance. So what makes today's golf clubs so special?
- Irons. Once heavy, burdensome clubs to heave around the golf course, the irons of today are relatively lightweight clubs that are designed for maximum performance off the fairway. Modern irons are made of chrome-plated steel, stainless steel, titanium and other metal compositions, making them anything but the rust-prone clubs of the past.
- Woods. While the woods of olden days bore dense club heads that utilized the best that the forests had to offer, the woods of today are computer-engineered modern marvels consisting of hollow titanium, steel and composite heads that boast a variety of different features. Ultra-thin clubfaces provide high-speed drives that wooden drivers of the past could never produce, and the adjustable weights that some clubs possess make correcting one's hook or slice as simple as dialing it in. Try that with a 1960 MacGregor Tommy Armour persimmon special.
- Shafts. Club heads and faces have seen a lot of changes over the years, as have the club shafts that are responsible for delivering power from the player to the ball. What started out as wooden shafts have moved primarily to graphite during modern times. Graphite shafts provide ample flex during the downswing that helps send the ball sailing further than wooden shafts could ever allow. Shaft flex varies between manufacturers, so it's important to have a good idea of your general swing speed before choosing a shaft with the right flex for you. Of course, if flex isn't something that you're particularly interested in, steel shafts are still available.
- Grips. Golf club grips have come a long way from their ancient counterparts. While the first golfers most likely played sans grips, golfers today have a couple of options. Leather and rubber are the primary golf grips available now, although rubber has certainly become the most popular style in the 21st century. This is mainly because rubber handles moisture better than its leathery competition. Grips are really just a matter of preference, so whatever feels right is any golfer's best choice.
Understanding just how golf club components have evolved over the years gives golfers the knowledge that they need when shopping for the right golf clubs and equipment. Passing along that knowledge is also a surefire way to keep any beginning tag-alongs from rummaging through your gear for ages, hopelessly looking for a wooden stick in your bag.