The Evolution of the Golf Club

No one knows how golf got invented but is generally accepted that the game evolved from a Scottish crofter trying to hit pebbles into holes dug in the sand dunes with the first golf club – a stick. The first equipment purchase was recorded in 1502 when King James IV of Scotland bought a set of clubs from a bow-maker.

As the game’s popularity spread clubs were fashioned from hard European woods like holly, pear and apple. Shafts and heads were made of wood, usually by local golf professionals. Sometime around 1750 the first club heads of iron appeared, most often from local blacksmith shops.

When the game began being played in the United States in the late 1800s golfers discovered that hickory made their clubs last longer and so it became the wood of choice for shafts. Club heads were often crafted from persimmon wood. Meanwhile it was discovered in 1908 that grooves on clubs could impart increased backspin, resulting in more distance. This brought even more players into the game and factories began springing up to produce golf clubs for the first time.

Steel shafts were invented in the 1920s and by 1938 they were so prevalent that the rule limiting golfers to 14 clubs was enacted since golfers didn’t have to worry about shafts breaking during a round anymore. That means that Bobby Jones, Harry Vardon and Walter Hagen, among others, all toted as many clubs as their hearts desired in piling up major wins during their careers.

For the next half-century little changed. Fiberglass shafts were tried in the 1960s but failed. Graphite shafts and metal heads for woods were both available in the early 1970s but few in the tradition-bound sport saw fit to adopt them. The biggest innovation during that time was to a putter when Karsten Solheim invented the Ping Putter with more weight at the heel and toe to enable golfers to putt straighter.

The floodgates opened in 1991 when Callaway introduced the Big Bertha driver with an oversized metal head. Persimmon drivers disappeared overnight. The monster-headed clubs were quickly teamed with high-tech graphite shafts and instead of waiting decades for equipment to change golfers now look forward to new golf club marvels coming out every year. Helping fuel that fire are the high performance, custom-fitted shafts from Fujikama. Click here for their latest innovations.