Equipment - history and development

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From its beginnings, hitting a round stone or object around a paddock with a stick, the game has come a long way.

Today a combination of metal alloys, including titanium, are carefully disigend, shaped, coloured and decorated into clubs used by hackefs the world over. For these people pay up to thousands of dollars. Ironically, the touring professionals whose names are used to market the clubs pay nothing for these pieces of equipment!


The first players carved their own clubs. That meant a very pesonalised relationship with your equipment. James IV of Scotland commissined a set from a bow-maker in 1502, so it seems safe to assum epeople were paying for clubs before then. A William Mayne was later appoined as royal club maker, and had an excxlusive license through the kingdom. James IV died in 1503, so obviously the new clubs didn't help his game much.

The clubs that James uses would have included longnoses (drivers), grassed clubs (for fairways) spoons (for short shots), niblicks (for high shots) and a putting cleek. The shafts of all these clubs were wooden. At this stage the ball used was a 'featherie' - three small pieces of leather sewn up and stuffed with feathers.

Golf shafts were made from lcoal woods, but hickory became the wood of choice for its durability. A slow swing was needed to get the best from those shafts.

In the mid-1700's some club makers experimented with forged metal heads, but it was the changes in the ball that allowed real development in clubs. An iron club slicing at the leather cover of your golf ball would sometimes cause feathers to fly in all directions!

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Golf Balls:

Around 1850 a major advance in golf came with the development of the "gutta-percha" ball. This was made of a solid molded rubber and could stand being belted by a piece of iron (at least for a while). This opened the door to metal headed clubs and the forerunners to our modern irons came were developed. As golf ball technology has developed so advances in club making and in ball control have followed. The "Haskell" ball - arubber string wound around a solid core and covered with gutta-percha was patented, and that style of ball surivived into the 1970's. Those early Haskells gave better control, and an extra 20 yards or so.

The early years of the 20th century marked other major changes in the game. Steel shafts were introduced in the 1920's, persimmon became the wood of choice for drivers, grooves were added to the club face (spin could now be imparted on the ball), and the sand wedge developed. Use of steel shafts meant more durability and more control. Players could hit the ball, rather than stroke the ball with the slow swing riqured by wooden shafted clubs.

A new two-piece ball was designed by Spalding, and development continues companies experiment with various materials and the design of dimples for flight and control. Rule makers have now limited the compression of golf balls and regulated the size. These are wayw of restricting the distance players are able to hit the ball.

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Technology advances:

Golf club technology has continued to make life easier for the average golfer, and allow the professional more control in their shot making.

Casting methods after WWII meant easier manufacturing processes and cheaper clubs. Graphite shafts were introduced in the 1970's and have now become a key component of the most drivers. Metal headed drivers were first used earli in the 1980's and now Titanium headed drivers are the norm. The lightweight and durable metal also has a spring like effect which gives more distance for almost all golfers.

As technology has developed the governors of the game have been forced to respond. Golf courses designed for long drives of 220 metres are being adapted for professional golfers able to drive 270 metres on a regular basis. The technology wll continue to evolve, designers will continue to help the average golfer hit it further and straighter, and golfers will still pay big money for the equipment that will enable them to hit a 250 metre drive or top one 100 metres into the rough. Golf does not need to cost top dollar - check out Hints and Helps for some ideas