A Brief History of Golf and Golf Club Head Design

The game of golf has been around since the 1400s when it was invented in Scotland. In the 1800s the game migrated to the United States. Players used to carry 20 – 30 different clubs made of wood and hit “featheries” – hard leather, feather-stuffed balls.

In 1856, Robert Forgan used American hickory trees to make golf club shafts. Persimmon wood was the primary material used for golf club heads until the late 1800s. Gold club heads were often hand-carved. The development of mass-produced iron prompted a shift to drop-forged iron golf club heads.

The modern game of golf was born in 1913 when amateur Francis Ouimet out-played British master Harry Vardon in the U.S. Open played in Brookline, Mass. Ouimet was a former caddie and local boy who lived across the street from the course. Vardon was the predominant player in the field at that time. Ouimet was the first amateur to ever win the U.S. Open.

Modern Advancements in the Game and Rules Changes

Developments in club design and specifications were quick through the 1900s. Grooves were added to the club face of irons around 1908. In 1931, Billy Burke became the first golfer ever to win the U.S. Open using metal-shafted clubs. The modern sand wedge was born in 1932 when professional golfer Gene Sarazin developed it, he went on to use it to win the British Open. The year 1939 brought new rules limiting the number of clubs a player could carry to 14.

In 1959, “Engineer Karsten Solheim invents a putter with more weight at the heel and toe of the blade and a thinner, lighter sweet spot. The novel design makes it easier for golfers to hit the ball straight. He quits his day job, creates the golf-equipment brand Ping, and makes a fortune.”

Other significant dates in the game of golf and development of the modern golf club head:

  • 1973 – Graphite shaft clubs become the mainstay of women and seniors
  • 1990s – PGA players FINALLY realize the benefits of graphite shafts
  • 1991 – The Big Bertha stainless-steel-headed driver joins the scene — the birth of over-sized heads
  • 2013 – TaylorMade developed the R1 driver that allows a player to adjust the pitch of the golf club head face to different angles for different playing conditions

The Modern Golf Club Head Face – A Design and Engineering Masterpiece

The golf club head is the “business end of the stick.” There are different types of club heads that have different purposes. The Driver, or wood, is a larger club head suited to distance shots from the tee and fairway. The Iron has a smaller, flatter club head. Golfers use irons to advance the ball down the fairway, out of sand traps, out of the rough at the edge of the fairway, and onto the green. The putter is a flat-faced club used for putting the ball along the closely-cropped manicured area of the green and into the hole.


The 1-wood, known simply as the Driver, is the club most golfers choose for drives off the tee. Drivers have a slightly-angled face to keep a lower ball trajectory and achieve greater distance. The driver is usually the largest club in your bag. It has a bulbous head and a flat face.

The head is hollow, drop-forged alloy, specifically weighted for a better, more powerful swing. Modern drivers have adjustable weights, and some have adjustable faces, allowing the individual golfer to change how the club works.

The other drivers in your bag have different angles to provide more loft from the fairway, or from the tee on shorter holes. This video offers a great lesson in drivers and how to select the right one for your game:

The next video is from a golf convention where manufacturers each took a few seconds to describe their newest drivers. Features, weighting, shaft types – you name it, this video has all the latest information on the newest driver technology out there and how it works into your game:


Irons are the short game clubs. Golfers use irons for different types of shots from the fairway, out of the rough at the edge of the course, and for escaping from sand traps. They have a shorter distance rating and increased loft. Their grooved heads help put spin on the ball.

They have angled faces that will vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Lower numbered irons will have less steeply angled faces for longer, lower lofts. Higher numbered irons have more steeply angled faces for higher, shorter shots with more spin.

There are as many opinions on using your irons as there are golf balls in the world. The only opinion that really matters is your own. As you play, you will develop your own sense of what feels “right” for your game. Study the masters; watch videos, read books and magazines – whatever makes you comfortable. Then hit the practice range and practice.

Cleaning Your Equipment — How Often to Clean Golf Club Heads

Keeping your equipment clean is important for your game. Dirt may often pack the grooves in your club face. Because the grooves aid the spin of your ball, it is important to keep them clean. Most golfers carry a small towel to wipe their clubs after every shot.

If you are one of those have-to-have-every-gadget types, you can spend $40.00 or more to get an actual golf club head and ball cleaning machine. But really all you need is a towel, a stiff brush, and occasionally some soapy water. The type of soap doesn’t matter, and most golfers just use a little dishwashing liquid. Consider using the same type of soap each time you clean because different soaps may leave different residues that might affect your game.

We found two basic videos to help you in keeping your equipment in tip top playing condition. The first video is great for cleaning on the course, between shots. The second offers a more thorough method for after your game.

Featured image from Flickr under CC BY 2.0

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