If you’re thinking about purchasing a new pair of clubs, then you should begin my doing your research. This article is for people new to the game or looking to get a bit more of an understanding about just what they’re buying. So let’s start with the basics: there are four major categories of clubs: woods, hybrids, irons, and putters. Wedges, which resemble irons with a more angled club head, may also be counted among these. A golfer is allowed to carry up to fourteen clubs during a round.
It is possible to play a range of different shots using only one club by modifying only the speed and direction of swing (which anyone who has ever seen the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore knows), but this is not a particularly successful technique. It is much easier to keep the swing as constant as possible and achieve different lengths and characteristics of ball flight using a different club for each shot. To help golfers make the appropriate choice of a club for any particular situation, all irons (and many woods and wedges) come in sets of similar clubs graded by loft, shaft length and weight. Clubs are numbered for identification with the smallest numbers indicating the lower lofts (for example, a 5 iron has less loft than a 6 iron).
Loft refers to the angle between a vertical plane and the clubface when the club is at rest. Various clubs are designed with the face having differing loft. It is loft that makes a golf ball leave the ground on an upwards trajectory, not an upward direction of swing. With the exception of the tee shot, the club actually hits the ball in a horizontal, or slightly downward, motion.
The impact of the clubface compresses the ball. The grooves embedded on the clubface impart a counter-clockwise (from a parallel view of the swing) spin, also known as backspin, on the ball. When combined with the rebounding effect of the ball, it gives it lift. Typically, the greater the loft, the higher and shorter the resulting ball trajectory. That’s a free golf tip there!
Anyway, a typical set of clubs generally used to consist of 3 woods, 2 wedges, a putter and 8 irons in addition to a pitching wedge. This has changed greatly in the last 25 years along with golf club technology. Today, most players have opted to take 2, or even as many as 5, of the difficult-to-hit longer irons out of the bag in favor of higher lofted woods, known as fairway woods, and extra “utility” wedges. This certainly reflected a redesign of clubs in which manufacturers reduced the lofts of the irons to make them appear to hit longer. So for example, today’s 3 iron has a loft that is equivalent to a 2 iron of years ago. Imagine that!
Now that you’ve had an overview of the different clubs and how they work, have a look through some of my other tutorials to learn more about each set of golf clubs in more detail.