Have you ever wondered what makes each club in your bag different from the other? Or how they work at all?
Modern day golf clubs are a work of pure engineering beauty and many hundreds of hours goes into the design of each new club.
Whether it’s an iron or putter, in this article we will be exploring the different components of golf clubs and how they came to be what they are today.
The obvious way to start is to explain the three main components: the grip, the shaft, and the club head.
Each club in your bag has these. This we know.
However, there can be differences from club to club that make each one unique and providing each with a different purpose.
For example, your driver is the powerhouse of your bag so the shaft is longer and made with a slightly more flexible material to promote greater club head speed that results in longer drives. Now that we know the three main components, let’s explore each one in depth.
Modern grips are made from a type of synthetic rubber composite. More recently, a new grip technology has taken the golfing world by storm: cord grips.
While still made with the same synthetic rubber, an extremely fine cotton fibre is woven into the grip to enhance friction and absorb any liquid that it might come in contact with. This is extremely useful if you happen to play in wet conditions, whether rain or your own sweaty hands.
The only disadvantage that corded grips have over non-corded or wrapped grips is that they are more expensive; but that higher price tag is well worth it!
Grips are seen by many as the least important part of the club. If you are one of the people who believe this, you’d be surprised to find that it can actually change the way you swing a club completely.
For example, using a thicker grip will minimise the mobility of your wrists, thus quieting your hands and leading to a more consistent club face position. This could help someone who struggles with a hook or slice get their club face aiming at the target at impact.
Firmer grips (which corded generally are) offer more feedback when you hit the ball, while softer ones (wrapped or uncorded) are more comfortable and can be good for those with arthritis or other related diseases.
As I’m sure we’ve all noticed, shafts get shorter and shorter as you move down from your driver to your wedges and then your putter.
Shorter shafts offer will lead to lower club head speeds and therefore less distance, but also offer more control. This is why they are longer for your driver and shorter for your wedges.
For the most part, iron shafts all have the same level of flexibility, with the exception of very good golfers who might get rifled shafts that offer the most control but are the most difficult to hit.
They are Ladies (L), Seniors (A), Regular (R), Stiff (S), and Extra Stiff (X). If you’re wondering which is best for you, it depends on your swing speed. Have a look at the chart below that shows the shaft flexibilities with their corresponding swing speeds.
Pretty much all clubs these days are made with either steel or graphite shafts.
Steel shafts are heavier and are generally stiffer with less torque. This means that steel shafts are generally more accurate than graphite shafts, but offer lower club head speeds and therefore less distance. Because of these characteristics, it’s likely that you’d find graphite shafts on drivers, woods and hybrids; while most irons, wedges and putters will have steel shafts.
Furthermore, for high handicapped, junior or beginner golfers, graphite shafts are preferable because they provide less vibration if poor contact is made with the ball (i.e. they hurt less).
The Club Head
Club heads differ in shape, size and angle from club to club, this much is obvious. Their actual shapes and sizes come as a result of hundreds of hours of simulations and refinements that maximise performance and efficiency.
Modern club heads are a far cry from the original, hand-forged chunks of iron or pieces of carved wood that they were in the past.
Today, club heads are generally made from titanium, steel, tungsten or some combination of those metals. The actual components of the club head are the hosel, (where the shaft connects and where you hit the ball when you shank it), the club face, and the sole. These features differ from club to club, so there can be a lot of variation, but every club has some form of each one.
Let’s take a look at each type of club head.
Driver and woods: Woods are generally made with titanium or steel and have oversized heads filled with air that allow you to hit the ball further than your other clubs. The actual size of the driver can vary, but the maximum size allowed by the USGA is 460cc (which means it displaces 460cc of water when placed in a body of water).
Usually there will be variations in the shape of a driver as opposed to a fairway wood, usually to make it easier to hit a wood off the ground.
Irons and wedges: These clubs are usually made of steel, your irons and wedges are your most versatile clubs in your bag. This is because of the variation that you will have available to you. From your lob wedge to your 3 iron (or 2 iron if you’re brave), they all have similar designs with one main difference: the angle the face is bent. The face of your irons and wedges will have grooves that will help apply spin to the ball to maximise the control of your ball flight and spin.
Putters: Probably the least favourite club for most people, but also the most important. These clubs vary in shape, from the classic “blade” designs to the more modern “mallet” designs or somewhere in between. The one thing these designs all have in common is that the face is flat to allow the ball to roll smoothly to the hole without too much bouncing.