The History of Golf - Clubs and Balls. How The Right Choice Is Important

In this section you will learn a bit more about The History of Golf – Clubs and Balls If you have reached this page without reading the first…

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The History Of Golf: Clubs and Balls

In this section you will learn a bit more about The History of Golf – Clubs and Balls

If you have reached this page without reading the first part of the ‘History Of Golf – The Beginnings’ then please read The History Of Golf: Part 1

The Clubs: How the Past Drove a “Wedge” Between Rich and Poor

The Chinese version of how they invented golf included stories of jewel-encrusted clubs, which spoke volumes of who actually was playing this game. It would be a serious stretch to believe that the peasants and farmers were in position of such magnificent clubs, especially when they were used for a game.

In the Scottish legend, the shepherd’s used their long, wooden crooks to hit balls into rabbit holes. At least it was not only the wealthy or the royal that got to play this version of the game! From the shepherd’s crook, the next version of the golf club was born. The most skilled artisans, the same artisans who regularly made bows and arrows and other weaponry, made earlier golf clubs. William Mayne, the first official club maker, was appointed to the court of James I in 1603. Early clubs were made with the wood of beech, holly, dogwood, pear or apple trees for the heads, and ash or hazel for the shafts. The latter gave more flex than the others. Upgrades came along to these wooden clubs with the addition of lead in the back of the club’s head, and leather and other materials put in the clubface.

Modern day golfers can buy clubs with differing sized club heads. Some of the club head sizes are not as legal as others, so always make sure that you follow the rules of the course that you play at the most. Also make sure you know the difference between regulation and non-regulation club head size, especially if you plan to pursue tournament play.

Modern day golfers also get the advantage of a wide range of materials, from common steel to ultra strong titanium. When choosing your clubs, make sure that you understand the terms loft and flex. Also make sure that you know what type of club will fit your style of play and body type the best. And as always, only buy clubs that are within your budget. Beginning players do not need the top of the line golf clubs, for instance.

Another huge advantage for the modern day golfer is the ability to custom build your own clubs. There are two ways to accomplish this option. The higher end option is to have computer analysis of your swing and body frame, and then your special clubs are built for you. Would your budget bear up to this option, though? The lower end option is to build your own clubs. You choose the heads, the shafts and the grips from a wide range of selections and then you assemble the various pieces into your own version of the perfect club.

Once you have unlocked your potential for golf, and you know that you are going to stick with it, you can then start upgrading. Buy a new club every month or so if your budget will allow. There is no rule that all clubs must be bought on the same day- you can technically mix the new in with the old. The rules do say however that you can only carry a maximum of fourteen clubs at one time- but not which ones those fourteen actually are. You could technically carry fourteen of the exact club if you choose to do so, but that would be kind of foolish!

Golf Balls: Dimples, Feathers and Other Interesting Ideas

The size and shape of golf balls are governed by the R&A (formerly part of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) and the United States Golf Association (USGA)and the ball manufacturers must adhere to these specifications. These include:

1) Size. The ball must be at least 1.68 inches in diameter, no smaller. It can be bigger though, but that is the minimum size allowable.

2) Weight. Maximum weight is 1.62 ounces.

3) Velocity. Yes, the R&A and the USGA measures a ball’s velocity. The ruling here is that no ball can exceed 250 feet per second at temperature of 75 degrees.

4) Distance. This is one of the most important considerations when judging a ball. A ball is only supposed to go a distance of 280 yards, (with a leeway of around six percent, that totals out to around 296.8 yards). The USGA measures distance using a machine named Iron Byron which hit’s the ball. Modern day golfers are blasting the balls at distances of close to 300 yards on fairly regular intervals, so this rule will probably need to be changed slightly, or the design of the ball changed.

5) Spherical.  The shape of all golf balls must be round, period. Fault corrective balls that are weighted on one side failed the test on this one. Golf balls are round, end of story.

Back in the days of James I of England, balls were hand stitched affairs, stuffed with boiled feathers. King James felt so strongly about the balls that he had had commissioned that any balls not bearing his mark were confiscated. Depending on the weather, the feather-balls actually travelled farther than one would expect them to go- including about 180 yards in dry weather and about 30 yards less when it was wet.

The feather ball remained in play until roughly 1848 when gutta-percha was first used. After heating, the substance could be moulded into a hard ball. Unfortunately, this smooth ball did not do as well in flight as the golfers would have liked and they started abusing this new design, leaving nicks, scratches and dings in the side. Golfers soon discovered that these defects actually made the ball behave far better, so all balls were scored before play- these dimples improved play so much that the feathers all, ahem, flew away and the golf ball as we know it now was born. Well, at least the basic design of the modern ball, anyway.

The next improvement in the golf ball came in 1903 when an American dentist started playing around with a liquid filled rubber core, elastic covering, ending with the traditional gutta-percha casing. The ball gained popularity after it was used in several championships and it was crowned king of the golf ball.

The new golf balls carry the familiar design, but more durable synthetic materials are used for the coverings. But, they left the dimples alone, because sometimes the simplest ideas are the most brilliant.

Tees and Other Accessories: Those You Want, Need or Could Do Without

If you pick up a golf magazine, or turn on a golf tournament on television, you will instantly be floored by the sheer volume of stuff that “they” will try to convince you that you need in order to be considered a real golfer. Not true! Golf is not about the toys and gadgets that you buy, and they are never going to invite you to the US Open simply because you have the most golf themed items in your master bathroom. Golf is about getting out there, working hard on your swing and trying to get your score as low as possible. You do not need a “I’d Rather Be Golfing” toilet seat cover to accomplish that. You really only need your clubs, some balls and a couple of tees. Of course there are other things that you might like to have, or might come in handy, but they are not necessary to the game itself.

Tees have not changed in design since the early days of the history of golf, as they were basically wood splinters with a sharpened end that would slip into the ground and a flattened top to cradle the ball; a simple, straightforward design that did not need to be upgraded in any way. Of course, tees come in a variety of colours and materials now, but the most basic design is still the best. There are novelty tees, but they are basically for laughs and red faces at office parties, not for pushing into the ground for a round of golf.

Another item that may or may not be necessary is the head cover. Basic designs resemble socks that will keep your heads from banging into each other, and will protect them from the elements. At the other end of the spectrum, is the super-duper, deluxe types that are like stuffed toys for your golf clubs. You can get designs to show what your favourite animal is, your college team, your colour- almost everything imaginable. By all means choose a cover that is functional and suits your personality, but really, a little touch of restraint here is a good idea!


This is the end of the second part of the History of Golf – Clubs and Balls – continue to part 3….