Wooden clubs and the earliest irons

The oldest surviving golf clubs belong to the Royal Troon in Scotland. These were originally found in 1889 during a renovation of a house in Hull, England. The clubs were in a closet behind a fake wall along with a newspaper dated 1741. However, it's not entirely certain if the newspaper date can serve as a true clue. Because the clubmaker's stamp has become so worn over time, it can no longer be deciphered.

It is believed that the six wooden clubs were made in the early 18th century and the two iron clubs found were made even earlier. All eight clubs have thick wooden shafts of ash. Only two of the clubs have their grips preserved. These are made of thickly wrapped wool yarn. Club heads are carefully made with long outstretched heads. All have a lead weight in the rear of the club and also an animal bone at the front edge that protected against ground hits. The iron clubs are very heavy and in comparison to today's iron strangely shaped.

At this time, a set of golf clubs consisted of between eight and twelve clubs. The clubs necessary to have were a few gaming sticks, a grass drive, a baffing spoon, a wooden nipple and a wooden stick. Most golfers had at least one iron club to use if they ended up in a bad position. However, this club was very rarely used because the feather ball was very fragile and the slightest slip with an iron club could cost a new, expensive, ball.



The wooden clubs were so-called at the time. "long-nested wooden clubs".

These were used from the mid-15th century until the late 1880s. The low, oblong club head was perfectly suited to sweeping away the feather balls. The heads were mostly made from various fruit woods, such as apple, pear, plum and cherry, but also beech. The impact surface had a slightly concave shape and on the back of the club, in a recess, a weight of lead was placed to make the club heavier and more controllable.

To protect against sharp stones on the ground, a small piece of bone from some animal was put at the front of the lower part of the club. Already at this time, they experimented with the shafts and made these of different types of wood that had different properties together with the club head. Common woods used were ash, hazel, redheart, greenheart, purpleheart, lancewood and bloomahoo. Hickory was first introduced in the early 19th century when it turned out to be the best wood to use thanks to the fine quality and the great abundance of this material. The shaft was shaped by hand and put together with the club head with a simple joint, and then glued with the help of strong glue. In the end, the fastening was wrapped with waxed sail yarn or twisted wire. This method came to be called "scare-headed", where the word "scare" comes from "scarf" which means join together. The jointing was made as fine as possible so that the shaft would look like an extension of the head. The shafts were longer than today's and ranged between 40 and 45 inches. The grips were built from below by first putting on a layer of fine wool between 10 to 14 inches down on the shaft. The wool was held in place with the help of a thin layer of resin on the shaft. After that, they carefully wrapped on some kind of soft leather. The leather bracket both at the top and bottom with twisted wire. Compared to today's thickness of grip, these grips were significantly thicker and also softer.

When irons became more popular

As you have previously read, iron clubs were initially used only to move the ball from very difficult positions. Since a bad hit with an iron club destroyed the feather balls, iron clubs did not become popular until after 1848, when the guttapercha ball came. The earliest iron clubs were not, like today's, made of machines. They were the result of a long and painstaking job by a skilled blacksmith. It started with a piece of iron heating up. After that, with a hammer you could shape the club head that was desired. On some clubs, the club head and hose were hammered individually and welded together.

The early iron clubs were not made in so many designs. A "Cleek" was the longest iron club. It had a long shaft and not much loft. Cleeken was used for long iron strokes and tee shots. The club called "Lofter" often had a concave hit surface and can be compared to today's iron fairy in terms of lofts. The club was used to record against the green. The "sand club" was a very lofted club with a large and heavy club head. It was only used to hit the ball from bunkers. There was also a club called "Track Iron". It is equivalent to the earliest iron clubs used when hitting from difficult situations.

By the time we arrived in the 1890s, we had developed a technology that allowed the clubs to be factory-made on a larger scale. The club was now heated and put into a mold that was under pressure from a mechanical hammer. It was only the finish of the club that needed to be hammered by hand now. The larger manufacturers had many employees who only heated up the clubs and put them in molds. For collectors of old clubs, it is important to check what it says on the clubs. On the clubs that were made partly with machines, it usually says "Hand Forged", even though they were made by machines. The previous clubs do not say this. They could only be handmade because there were no machines at the time.

The change of the wooden clubs when the Guttapercha ball came

When the guttapercha ball came, you had to change the clubs as well. Since the ball was much harder than the previous spring ball, they often broke their long-nested wooden sticks. In addition, the new, heavier, ball was more difficult to control with the available clubs. From about 1880, therefore, the heads of the wooden clubs became shorter, wider and deeper, a club type that came to be called "Bulger". Bulger was a driver with a convex hit surface that made the risk of a slice or hook less. The spoon disappeared from the bag and was replaced instead with a baffy or a brassie. These clubs were fitted with a brass bottom plate, hence the name. The wooden clubs came to be made more of machines just like the irons at this time. It was also started with another fastening, a socket joint, which is still used today. The hole for the shaft was drilled into the club head and the shaft was then fastened with strong glue. However, a reinforcement was still put in the form of a winding around the fastening. At the turn of the century, there was an incredible experiment with club design and different materials.

Different inserts were tried to protect the impact surface. These could be of glass, rubber, slate or ivory, for example. Clubs with a spiral spring under the impact surface in order to increase the speed of the ball were tested. Lead weights were put into the club's toe and heel in the hope that the ball would go straighter. Until 1900, the iron clubs' hit surfaces were completely smooth, which almost made it impossible to get a back screw on the ball. Caddies of the time had towels with them to wipe the club head so that it was completely clean of grass and soil. Around 1890, club heads with handmade, round holes in began to appear. The aim was to get more back screws in the ball.

More modern clubs

New materials and new technology are what have made the clubs' development go forward. Perhaps the most important step towards the modern clubs was when they started experimenting with steel shafts in the clubs. As early as the 1890s, attempts were made by the blacksmiths Thomas Horsburgh and Willie Dunn. Horsburgh patented the idea in 1894 but then quit partly because he did not think they would be approved, and partly because the technology to manufacture the shafts did not exist at the time. In 1905, however, they began experimenting with steel shafts in England again. The first clubs with seamless steel shafts were manufactured in England in 1912. By the end of the 1920s, steel had conquered the U.S. market. The USGA had approved the steel as a shaft as early as 1925. However, it should be mentioned that steel shafts were used quite extensively before they were approved. However, it took until 1929 before the Royal & Ancient approved the use of the steel shaft.

Already in 1927, True Temper had patented the standard for steel shafts that applies for most things to this day, namely with so-called steps. Manufacturers continued to shower the golfers with arguments as to why the steel shafts were better than hickory. The arguments they put forward were, for example, that it was cheaper, that the bend in the shafts should be more constant and that the material was easily accessible. The golfers, on the other hand, were not convinced and could decide whether they wanted steel or hickory shafts in their newly ordered clubs. It was not until after World War II that the clubs were made solely with steel shafts. When the steel shafts began to be manufactured to a greater extent in the 1930s, the possibilities came with matching a set of clubs for different purposes. They removed the names of the clubs and replaced them with numbers. One reason the clubs were numbered instead of being given names was that the beginners of the time had difficulty knowing what the different names meant and what to have the different clubs for. Many clubs had both numbers and names in the beginning.

Lots of clubs for different modes and strokes were manufactured and many players carried between 20 and 30 clubs when they played.

On January 1, 1938, the USGA introduced a rule that no more than 14 clubs could be with them during a round. The following year, R&A introduced the same rule. The limit on the number of clubs was introduced to "reintroduce the possibility of individual strokes and improve the playing skills". At the same time as they began experimenting with steel shafts, a type of wood had also been found that was much more durable than previously used, namely Persimmon. When the watch was turned up until 1950, all manufacturers of steel shafts used their clubs. Various methods to prevent rust had been tried, such as painting the shafts, but chromizing them became the leading standard.

In the 1960s, they also began experimenting with trying to make sweet-spot on the club bigger so that the result on wrong strokes would be better. The most difference was noticed on clubs from PING and Confidence. Most golfers soon accepted the changes that would make their golf better. The new clubs came about by the raw material being melted into one form and out came clubs that were almost ready to put shafts in. Many of the better players still preferred the forged clubs that had some work done by hand. They liked the better feeling that this club gives.

Progress has taken great steps since the 1960s. New materials have been tested. Shafts have been developed in materials other than steel, such as graphite. The graphite shaft made its first appearance on the golf market in the early 1970s. By 1973, the shaft had taken the market by storm. However, it did not become so long-lived because the shafts did not have such good durability or properties at the time. However, the developers did not give up and continued research and in the mid-80s the graphite shafts reappeared in a better guise. A graphite shaft weighs much less than a steel shaft and a weaker player can get up a greater speed on the club than it could with a heavier shaft. The wooden clubs have gone from being wooden clubs to metalwoods. By making the clubs in metal instead, you can make the heads bigger and thus make it easier to get good shots. The development of the equipment is something that has affected golf a lot. There are now many restrictions on how the equipment may look and behave so that the game does not become too different from golf as it is supposed to be played.

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