People have enjoyed smacking small objects with sticks since the beginning of time; in fact, it was so much enjoyed that it was turned into a sport that we now know as golf in 15th Century Scotland. Naturally, as the sport became progressively more competitive people began to refine crude sticks into more efficient shapes, until wood shafts and heads morphed into what we have today. A timeline of the development of the golf club is below.
16th – 18th Century: King James IV has a set of golf clubs made for him by William Mayne. This set included play clubs for driving, fairway clubs for medium-range shots, spoons for short-range shots, niblicks for pitching, and a cleek for putting. Shafts and heads were made of wood, mostly to prevent damage to the expensive, delicate leather golf balls of the early era.
19th Century: Iron-like clubs with huge, heavy hosels were made by blacksmiths up until the late 1800s. They were very difficult to use due to their weight and the fact that they easily damaged the leather golf balls of the time. In the late 1800s, the process of drop forging came to be, allowing more user-friendly iron clubs to be mass-produced in factories. Woods, still made of wood, were mostly made by local pros until the early 20th Century.
20th Century: The first 30 years of the 20th Century marked a period of rapid growth in golf club design. The sand wedge as we know it was invented by Gene Sarazon. Persimmon became prominent in the woods of the era and grooves began to appear on the faces of irons, as it was discovered that grooves imparted more backspin on the golf ball. In the late 1900s, both graphite and steel shafts were introduced, preventing almost all shaft breakage possibilities and allowing swing speed to be maximized as a result. The casting method was introduced in 1963, making clubs more easily made and lowering their cost. The first metal woods were made by TaylorMade in the early 1980s.
Present : In the early 21st Century, drivers have been pushed to their legal limits, progressively increasing in size until the limit of 460 cubic centimeters was reached. Their faces have become incredibly thin, yet marvelously strong, and many unconventional shapes have been experimented with to help improve performance. Irons, wedges, and putters have also been tweaked in shape, weight, and groove design. A new breed of club, called the hybrid or rescue club, has been introduced to combine the benefits of a fairway wood and the benefits of a long iron into one club.