In the early days of golf, players carved their own clubs and balls from wood. In the 16th century, a set of clubs consisted of longnoses for driving, fairway clubs for medium range shots, spoons for short range shots, niblicks (similar to today's wedges) and a putting cleek.
Steel replaced hickory shafts in the 1920s.
By the 1980s, hi-tech materials such as graphite and titanium, which are extremely strong but very light, were commonplace among professionals.
The longest and least lofted of the woods, the driver is used primarily off the tee when maximum distance is required. Most drivers have a loft between seven (for players who like to fire the ball low) and 12 degrees (for a higher trajectory) from the vertical. The sweet spot can be anything up to six square inches (52sq cms).
Many recreational golfers prefer the slightly shorter and more lofted 3 or 4 wood off the tee for better control. It can also be used off a good lie on the fairway instead of a long iron for power and precision.
The ‘fairway woods’ as they are known, have longer, more flexible shafts than irons which create greater swing speed and greater distance. The more lofted five wood can even be used from a good lie out of the rough. Many players prefer this ‘sweeping shot’ to attempting to get an iron through the longer grass.
As the name suggests, the woods were traditionally made from tough wood – such as beech, holly, and pear. Shafts were made from ash or hazel. The head was connected to the shaft using a splint and then bound tightly using leather straps. But for the last 20 years, materials such as graphite shafts and titanium metal woods have come into widespread use.
Irons are numbered according to the angle of the face – the lower the number the steeper the face.
Only the best players take on a 2 iron with confidence.
The 3 iron is the longest iron in a standard modern set of clubs. It is still pretty tough to hit but is worth considering on long approach shots to the green or off the tee on long par 3 hole.
The 4 iron is the lowest many amateurs choose to go in the iron stakes. It has a shorter shaft than the 3-iron so feels less ‘upright’ and intimidating. If you have one, a 7-wood is a good substitute if you prefer but will give you less control.
The 5 iron is an ideal mid-range club that combines distance with control. It is still a distance club but has enough loft to feel comfortable and generate a flighted trajectory. Experiment chipping with the club when it is necessary to keep the ball lower than with a seven or nine iron.
The 6 iron is the one that many golfers find easiest to hit. The 6-iron is an ideal club with which to begin learning the game. Experiment using the club in a variety of ways changing the length of your swing to obtain different results.
The 7 iron is ideal for shorter approach shots. A good club to use for the ‘bump and run’ shot suited to links courses or when there is a strong wind and one wants to keep the ball low. Take a three-quarters swing with a more ‘punchy action’ instead of a full eight or nine iron. It’s also an ideal club to practice with on the range.
The 8 iron is a good attacking club which guarantees consistent length and accuracy. The lofted clubface allows the player to land the ball close to the pin with a minimum roll – and often with backspin on the ball. Backspin comes from striking the back of the ball before the turf.
The best players can use their 9 iron in a host of different ways. You can either pitch it long with a full swing or chip it delicately from the fringe of the green.
Most wedges come with 50 to 52 degrees of loft, which is ideal for making approach shots and chip shots. You can also buy a lob wedge, which has around 60 degrees of loft, for those delicate shots from the perimeter of the green, especially from the rough.
Most professionals will carry two wedges as well as a sand iron.
On average about 40% of your shots on the course will be hit with this club. Because putting is all about personal touch and feel, putters come in all shapes and sizes. Most professionals own dozens of putters which are thrown in and out of the cupboard depending on recent results.
There are four general types:
There is only one way to find one that suits - test as many as possible.
There are two types of golf ball:
Manufacturers use a combination of different materials with different features, such as hardness and weight, to make both types of ball. The most common golf ball covers are made from two materials; Surlyn and Balata.
Surlyn provides a stronger cover, while the Balata is a softer material that offers a little more spin control but might not last more than a few rounds. Most professional players prefer the control of the Balata golf ball. Amateurs are better off with the Surlyn which last longer.
The surface is 'dimpled' to increase lift and reduce air resistance. Balls come at different compressions; 100, 90 or 80. As a general rule, the 'hardest' balls should only be used by low handicappers. Any other numbers on the ball are only there to help you identify your ball on the course.
For many amateurs, brand new golf balls are an expensive luxury and we make do with 'seconds' and keep a bag of their oldest most battered balls with which to practice on the range.
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