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Golf club history: woods and irons

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If you’re going to play golf, you’re going to need some clubs. The game dates back to the 1400s in Scotland, so naturally, golf club history does too. We’ve come a long way from wooden clubs and feather-filled balls. For the sake of this piece were going to stick with the modern evolution of the game’s equipment starting off with the invention of the steel shaft in the early 1900s.

Some of the first steel shafts came from a fishing rod producer in Britain by the name of Apollo and we’re developed in the early 1920s. The shafts were much more consistent than the wooden shafts they were attempting to replace but they were still considered inconsistent by many players. Steel shaft also didn’t catch on until a number of years after their conception because until 1924 the USGA considered them nonconforming equipment. It took 5 more years for the R&A to make them legal in 1929.

It was that same year in 1929 when True Temper advanced the steel shaft and developed the process to taper shafts down or create “steps”—something we are all familiar with now. These steps could be moved around the shaft and change the flex which created more options for golfers to find the right equipment and be fit.

Since that time, the biggest steps (no pun intended) we have seen taken in steel shafts have come from stronger, lighter materials to create more flex and bend profile options for golfers.

If you are curious about graphite shafts, check out my piece “The real firsts of the golf industry” for the history behind their development as well as some other technological firsts.

Here’s a broad survey of recent golf club history.

Golf club history: woods

best driver 2020

Now to the “big stick.” The term “driver” comes from the idea that the longest club was meant to be driven as far as possible from the teeing area and hence the name stuck. The club heads were made of persimmon, because of the strong dense nature of the wood. To get these wooden heads to where they needed to be for weight, they would be fitted internally with lead weights.

The video below profiles one of the last persimmon wood manufacturers in the world.

With persimmon becoming more expensive and golf growing in popularity, many manufactures shifted from using solid persimmon to laminate—that change also made the clubs more durable, and also a change in golf club history. Those companies included Wilson, Spalding, MacGregor, even Ping with the introduction of the Karsten driver and woods.

As technology continued to move forward, other companies used various materials like graphite composites to make woods, and as much as they worked well for increasing durability they never quite caught on.

The next jump came in 1979 when Gary Adams had an idea to make wood a thing of the past. He took out a $24,000 loan against his house to found TaylorMade Golf. The first product to market was a 12-degree metal driver; the very first of it’s kind in golf club history.

Since then, metal wood technology has continued to move forward leaps and bounds; shifting from steel to titanium, and titanium to multi-material heads featuring aerodynamic designs built for speed. The rules of golf have limited size and spring-like effect of drivers but manufacturers continue to innovate and make drivers faster and more forgiving.

golf club history: Irons

Until Karsten Solheim and Ping arrived on the scene (see Greatest Ping irons of all time), iron design remained mostly the same—thin, forged blades that weren’t very forgiving. It’s not to say that everything was exactly the same, quite the contrary, but from an evolution standpoint, these were just baby steps.

To see the blade evolution here are a couple of great reads:

Then, just like with putters, Karsten Solheim designed an iron that would help reduce the severity of shots hit away from the sweet spot and the modern cavity back was born: the Ping 69. It was then only a few years later in 1982 that the most popular iron of all time, the Ping Eye 2, was set free into the world and this is where iron technology went from baby steps to full-blown Olympic sprinting.

Cavity back irons make the game more enjoyable and easier because their design reduces the severity of mishit shots and get the ball in the air easier, something that benefits all level of golfers, even professionals. Just like drivers, over the last decade, we have seen the introduction of faster, longer more forgiving multi-material designs enter the market. As CAD design and manufacturing techniques go well beyond was would have been imaginable only a decade ago.

Golf club history: beyond cavity backs

New 2020 PXG Gen 3 Irons

The next leap forward was thin-faced irons so fast they needed to be reinforced with polymer materials to prevent them from caving in. The idea wasn’t new, with the introduction of clubs like the PXG 0311 or Taylormade P790, but they perfected the ability to build ultra-thin faced irons that not only performed but felt good too. The title of the first thin or slot-soled irons belongs to Wilson golf and their Reflex irons.

Conclusion

Technology will continue to push the boundaries of design, and golfers will benefit from these breakthroughs. The question of “how much further can we really go?” is up to engineers and advancements in materials and manufacturing, but however far it is, we should be excited about what they will think of next!

 

 

 

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Ryan Barath is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

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2021 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Golf gifts for the Clothes Horse

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to improve,” “the clothes horse,” and “the big spender.”

You know the golfer looking to get better by his/her closet full of every infomercial training aid and a pursuit of forgiveness that would put the most penitent sinner to shame.

Here are our best recommendations for “the clothes horse” in your life.

Jordan ADG 3 – $140

Taking the iconic style of the Jordan 4 and incorporating that with the performance levels of a golf shoe, Nike has created the Jordan ADG 3. A sneakerhead’s dream for golfers, the shoe comes in three different color schemes and features Zoom Air as well as the classic Jordan wing-shaped upper eyelets that are designed to cushion and support your feet on and off the course.

Buy here.

G-T PrimeGreen Cold.Rdy Hoodie – $90

Hoodies are the in-thing at the moment on the golf course, and considering Spring/Summer isn’t exactly just around the corner, now is the time to join the movement! The Cold.Rdy hoodie from Adidas features a built-in stretch for a full range of motion on the course, as well as ribbed details to give an extra-comfortable feel. Keep warm in cool conditions with Cold.Rdy by utilizing the drawcord on the hood for total protection on the course.

Buy here.

FootJoy Premiere Series Tarlow – $190

No golf collection is truly complete without a set of FootJoy’s, and the company’s Premiere Series Tarlow provide a premium, hand-selected, soft full-grain leather with luxurious calfskin details. The shoes also feature soft, supple sheepskin linings and lightweight performance materials, and with the brand’s new VersaTrax+ technology, aim to deliver unparalleled traction and stability in every playing condition and surface.

Buy here.

G/Fore Back 9 Bully Trucker Hat – $45

Show off your back 9 credentials with this ‘Back 9 Bully’ trucker hat from G/Fore that features a breathable mesh and tech interlock, as well as an athletic sweatband and an adjustable snapback closure.

Buy here.

Muni-Kids’ I’m Under Part T-Shirt – $30

Show off the ultimate golf flex in this comfortable t-shirt from Muni-Kids, a Portland-based streetwear label inspired by municipal golf culture. The shirt comes in a white color scheme and features a comfortable dual blend of 60% combed and ring-spun cotton and 40% polyester.

Buy here.

LinkSoul Anza Flora Print Polo – $89

LinkSoul’s Anza Flora print polo is available in two color schemes – ink heather and chai heather – and features a blend of cotton, poly and lycra in design to provide golfers with the perfect amount of comfort and fit.

Buy here.

 

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2021 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Golf gifts for the Value Seeker

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to improve,” “the clothes horse,” and “the big spender.”

You know the value seeker by his/her eschewing of anything that will put a significant dent into the wallet while still getting the most from their game, this includes equipment, practice tools, or anything else you might find filling out a golf bag – maybe even the golf bag itself.

Here are our best recommendations for “the value seeker” in your life.

Tour Edge Hot Launch C522, E522 drivers – $249.99

You can read all the tech details of the C522 (competition spec) and E522 (extreme spec) Hot Launch metal woods in our launch piece. But the most important point here for the Value Seeker is Tour Edge continues to deliver the best bang for your buck in the business.

Buy here.

Haywood Golf Signature Irons – $675

“Carefully crafted, consciously priced” – Haywood Golf’s signature irons are a two-piece hollow body design that incorporates a soft 431 stainless steel body welded to a hardened heat-treated 17-4 stainless steel face. The irons feature high launch characteristics and have proved a big hit with golfers, with progressively reduced offset designed to provide added forgiveness (more about the company here).

Buy here.

GoGoGoSport GS24 rangefinder – $70

70 bucks with a Black Friday discount? The Value Seeker loves that. Measuring range from 5 to 650 yards, with +/- 1m high accuracy and 6x magnification. The flagpole locking function supports a distance up to 150 yards (flagpole only) and 250 yards (aim the flag when it’s unfolded)

Buy here.

Kirkland Signature 3-piece wedge set – $169.99

The Kirkland Signature 3-piece golf wedge set dropped last year (read our launch piece here) and has provided players with a quality wedge set at a super affordable price. At just $169.99, golfers can have a 52 degree GW, 56 degree SW and 60 degree lob wedge, all with milled face technology without having to break the bank.

Buy here.

Whoop 4.0 – $30/month (+$30 to join)

How about having a personalized digital fitness and health cost all for an annual price of $360? Used by many Tour pros, including Justin Thomas and Nelly Korda, the Whoop 4.0 comes free with your membership and provides real-time feedback on your sleep, training, recovery, and health, plus in-app coaching features golfers and athletes optimize performance.

Through the Whoop app, you’ll be able to receive personalized insights and actionable feedback based on your unique data, behaviors, and goals — with a strain ‘coach’, sleep ‘coach’ as well as a behavioral journal to make sure you are at your optimal condition to start shooting low rounds.

Buy here.

Stitch SL1 Golf Bag – $208.80

With a current reduction of $140, value seekers won’t want to miss their chance of owning the Stitch SL1 golf bag. Weighing in at just 57 oz, the bag is designed using Stitch touring fabric in design for durability, lightweight as well as water resistance. 

Perfect for those that travel or players that walk the course, the SL1 bag is a minimalist’s dream with limited storage and a single strap for a vintage feel.

Buy here.

 

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2021 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Gearhead

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to get better,” and “the big spender.”

You know the gearhead by his/her tired eyes from scouring the GolfWRX forums late into the night and his penchant for bringing two bags to the course—the gamer set and a bag full of demo clubs and shafts.

Here are our best recommendations for “the gearhead” in your life.

TaylorMade MySIM2 – $629.99

What’s better than a TaylorMade SIM2 (top 5 in GolfWRX’s Members Choice)? How about one in custom colors? Five different options for personalization including the aluminum ring, topline paint, and more.

Buy here

1withGolf bag – Varies

What gearhead wouldn’t want — nay, need — a custom golf bag? And when it comes to the combination of customization and quality, we can’t recommend 1withGolf enough.

A personalized and customized golf bag makes for a super cool, special, and memorable holiday gift. 1withGolf has over 135 color combinations for you to choose from and has the fastest turnaround in the industry.

Besides custom bags, their Xpress 3.5, Xpress 4.0, Xpress 14-way stand bags, and Z-100 15-way cart bags are all lightweight and of great quality with sleek design. They are full of consumer-friendly features to provide extra comfort on the course.

Buy here

Cobra King GrandSport-35 – $349.99

What screams gearhead in 2021 more than “3D printed putter?” Cobra’s King GrandSport-35 is 3D printed and folds in Sik’s DLT face to complete this ingredient-intensive gearhead stew. Yum!

Buy here

Rapsodo MLM – $499.99

Rapsodo’s MLM is the only launch monitor that uses the power of your iPhone or iPad to provide immediate feedback on launch data, instant video replay and active shot trace. Recognized by industry leaders for its pro-level accuracy for shot distance, ball speed, club speed, shot shape, smash factor, launch angle, and launch direction, the MLM is uniquely positioned and priced and merits a long look as you weigh your launch monitor options.

Buy here 

Fujikura Ventus – $350

Winner of GolfWRX’s Member Choice for best shaft and one of the most-played wood shafts on the PGA Tour, the Fujikura Ventus hype train rolled on in 2021 — and for good reason: Velocore is no joke in terms of dispersion control, particularly on off-center hits. Black, Blue, and Red target three distinct ball flights and deliver on all three fronts.

Buy here

Vokey WedgeWorks T Grind – $199

The T Grind is a Voke original, inspired by work with a former Titleist Brand Ambassador, fine-tuned by the master craftsman and Aaron Dill. The characteristics reflect the great hands of the inspiration; this is a low-bounce wedge with a narrow crescent surface. Unique from the L Grind, this wedge has a wider back flange, which creates unique playing characteristics and allows for a lower measured bounce, in addition to the narrow bounce surface.

Buy here

 

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