The first step to becoming a pro golfer is to know and master your tools. Even without the dream to go pro, you still need to have a good understanding of how golf clubs work. You can’t just take one and swing. Well, you can but you probably won’t get the ball in the hole.
Golf is a game of precision. Aside from just working on your swing, you must ALSO know which club you need to use. No matter how hard you hit the nail, it probably won’t be effective if you use a shovel when you should be using a hammer. In the same way, this guide from golferpros will help you through identifying the different parts and types of golf clubs and when to use them. We’ll also be diving into what happens as your club hits the ball to help you understand how the energy from your swing is transferred to the ball.
The golf club is your main tool in this game. There are many different types of golf clubs, each type with a specific purpose, but they all have the same general parts. From the top to the bottom, you have the Grip, Shaft, and Head.
The Grip is the part of the golf club that you hold. Now, a majority of golf clubs have a rubber grip which can range from being firm to soft. Other materials used are synthetic polymer blends, cords, and leathers; with leather grips being the only material used in the earlier years of golf. Grip selection is dependent on your needs. As a beginner, a standard rubber grip should be enough for you to have a firm hold.
Aside from the type of material, grips also have different sizes. A standard size grip would suit most golfers but, depending on your style, you might prefer a larger or smaller grip. The smallest size is for hands that are shorter than 7 inches. The way to measure the length of your hand is to start from the center of the base of your hand, where your palm meets your wrist, all the way to the tip of your middle finger.
The smallest grip size is known as a junior grip. Standard grips are for hands that are 7 to 8 ¾ inches long. Midsize grips are for hands 8 ¼ to 9 ¼ inches while the largest Jumbo grips are for hands larger than that. For people with even larger hands or those who just prepare oversized grips, you can use tape to extend it.
Extending from the grip and carrying the head is the shaft. Different golf clubs vary in shaft length and the shape of the club’s head. You’ll find that common materials used are either steel or carbon-fiber compound.
Other materials that are now being used are graphite, titanium, and nano fuse which is a crystalline alloy with a carbon composite sublayer. The type of material that makes your shaft can affect how your swing might feel. These materials relay energy and vibrations differently so if you are used to using a club with a steel shaft, you’ll feel a different kind of impact when you use a graphite club.
Shafts also have a flex rating. A flex rating is basically the measure of the shaft’s stiffness. The rating ranges from Ladies (L), Seniors (A), Regular (R), Firm (F), Extra Firm (X), and Stiff (S) with L being the least stiff, allowing the most bend during a swing.
A pro would ideally prefer a stiff shaft since it would provide better control and relay the most energy from an effective swing. However, a beginner would benefit more from a limp L or A rated shaft, which could provide an extra whip-like motion, relaying stored potential energy to the ball.
The head is where you will see the most variety between golf clubs. The different types of golf clubs are divided depending on the shape of the head. The head may seem to be the smallest part of the golf club but variations in its design play a crucial part in how the club is best used.
The head is further divided into parts: the Hosel, Face, Sole, and Back. The Hosel is the part that connects to the shaft. The face is the part that will hit the ball. The part behind the face is known as the back.On the face of the head, you’ll find the toe, heel, and sole. The toe is the part that is furthest away from you, while the heel is the one closest. The sole is the lowest part which is closest to the ground.
The loft refers to the angle face of the head is tilted away from the perpendicular axis of the shaft when you stand it on the ground. You’ll need the right tools to measure the exact loft of a golf club. A higher loft would have a more angled or horizontal face while lower lofted club faces will look more vertically oriented.
The loft, also referred to as the slope of the face, can determine your strike’s trajectory and distance. A club with a lower loft, such as a Driver, would cause the ball to move at a lower trajectory but travel a longer distance which is why a Driver is used at the tee where getting a wider coverage is a priority. Drivers have the lowest loft degree.
Higher lofted clubs, such as irons and wedges, are for shorter distance shots. The higher angles on wedges are extremely useful because they give golfers better control. A commonly used wedge is the Sand Wedge which, from its namesake, is often used to bring the ball up in the air and out of sand bunkers.
The grooves on the face of the golf club prevents the ball from skidding. It keeps a firm grip on the ball even when there are droplets or bits of grass that could get caught between the ball and face during impact.
For example, when there is moisture that gets caught in the swing, the droplets of water can enter into the grooves while the face impacts the ball. If there were no grooves, the water would affect the shot and cause the ball to either go in another direction or slip off.
A recommended set of golf clubs would include 3 woods, 7 irons, 1 hybrid, a putter, and 2 wedges of your choice. This is not a requirement, but it is a good variety of clubs to complete your set of 14.
Each golfer is allowed their pick of 14 clubs. Most would opt to have a larger selection of irons, wedges, and putters. The reasoning behind this will be clearer after we discuss the different types of golf clubs.
Originally, woods were golf clubs with large heads made from wood. While the name has remained, these golf clubs now have heads made from metals. A major advantage in the manufacturing of metal golf clubs is the liberties that manufacturers have in terms of design. With metals, they are able to mold the head to its best design.
There are many things to take into consideration with golf clubs with large heads. A heavier club head is good for stability when taking your swing because it prevents twisting. A slight twist as you swing would change the direction of the ball. However, light heads allow you to put more power and speed into your swing, relaying more energy into the ball causing it to travel further. Now, most golf heads are hollow because this places the weight of the head along the perimeter. A hollow head is better designed to prevent twisting than one with the weight in the center.
With a hollow center, the head can also be made larger, creating a wider surface area to hit the ball with. Remember that precision is key when playing golf, so the larger area gives you a better chance to strike the ball.
The golf club with the biggest head, lowest loft, and longest shaft is the Driver. Drivers are used at the tee because the design is best suited for driving the ball to a distance, bringing it as close as possible to the hole. The Driver is also best used at the tee because its large size makes it difficult to strike the ball when it is on the ground. Following the Driver in head size, and with a higher loft degree are the Fairway woods. They are so named because they are usually used when on the fairway.
Just as the woods were originally named because they were made from wood, irons were the first golf clubs that were made of metals; Iron to be exact. Unlike woods, irons are characterized as having higher loft degrees.
This means their faces are more angled, making them best suited for taking shots that are less than 200 yards away. You can easily identify irons by the shorter shaft and smaller clubheads. Grooves on irons may sometimes be more prominent.
There are 2 types of irons. First is the Muscle Back, also known as the “Blade Style” Iron. The second is the Cavity Back Style. The main difference between the two is the presence of a full back behind the face of the former while the latter has a hollow back.
Muscle Backs are often preferred by more skilled players. Also known as Full Back Irons, the presence of the weight gives it a higher center of gravity. This means that using a full back would give a lower trajectory shot as compared to a hollowed-out Cavity Back iron. On the other hand, the hollowed back of Cavity Back irons gives it better perimeter weighting, making it easier for players to hit the ball.
Wedges can be identified as either a subset or irons or a whole other set of golf clubs. These are the golf clubs that have the shortest shaft lengths and the highest loft degrees. When you look at the pros, most carry 3 to 4 wedges. From the lowest to highest loft, you have the Pitching Wedge (PW), Approach Wedge (AW), Sand Wedge (SW), Lob Wedge (LW).
Maintaining the same rule, the higher lofted Lob Wedge (LW) can give you a higher trajectory but shorter distance to your shot. Propelling the ball higher may not be important when you are at the tee, but it is useful for when you get stuck in a bunker or are on a steep hill.
The main purpose of the putter is to putt the ball into the hole. You will find many variations on the putter head but we can classify that into either traditional blades, heel-toe head, and mallet putters.
The traditional blades are narrow blades where you can find the shaft supporting the blade at the heel. These are the putters that carry some similarity with hockey blades. The heel-toe heads are similar but carry some weight at the heel and toe areas. Instead of being a narrow blade, it will have thicker edges. Lastly, the mallet putters are those with larger heads.
There are many different styles and shapes to putters because putting is dependent on the golfer’s preferences. The best way to identify which one works for you is to test them out.
Long irons, which are those with the lower loft and longer shafts are now opted out in favor of hybrids. Because of the design of those long irons, hitting the ball can be difficult. Thus, hybrids which retain the lofts of irons but the bigger heads of woods can give golfers a “best-of-both-worlds” advantage.
Wedges and Putters are more specialized golf clubs. Hybrids are the clubs that carry characteristics of the other 2 types discussed earlier: Woods and Irons.
When choosing golf clubs, there are more things to worry about than just picking out whether you need a wood or an iron. Woods and irons are numbered to identify the loft and shaft length.
With each increasing number denoting a higher loft and a shorter shaft. For example, a 1-Wood, which is commonly known as the Driver, has the lowest loft and the longest shaft. A 2-Wood would have a higher loft, and a shorter shaft. The same applies when comparing Irons.
Long irons are the 1-,2-,3-,4- irons, that have higher lofts than fairway woods, which are most commonly the 3- and 5- woods but have longer shafts when compared to other irons. Wedges and Putters don’t follow the same numbering system because Wedges are already divided into types based on the loft degrees, while putters vary in the general shape of the head and not the loft.
The actual contact time between the ball and the golf club is 450 microseconds. When that happens, the ball undergoes 4 phases. Initially, the club presses up against the ball, causing the impacted side to flatten. During this phase, the ball looks like the letter D. Next, 2 things happen: the ball returns to its original shape and it starts to move up across the face of the club head. The third phase involves the ball stretching forward. During this phase, the ball elongates and starts to spin as it moves forward. Lastly, the ball leaves the face of the club and bounds forward. Hopefully, straight into the hole.
Prior to that, you and every other golfer, take the time to get your stance ready, position your feet, straighten your back and ready your aim. The goal is to focus your energy and direct it into the ball. The impact between club and ball is the culmination of your stroke, but the outcome is largely dependent on more than just your technique.
The stiffness of the shaft of your golf club would affect how the energy of your stroke is related to the ball. The length of the shaft would change your stroke dynamic. The type of golf club you use, specifically the head shape and loft would change how the ball will move forward. Whether it will move higher up in the air or have a lower trajectory to cover more distance.
Aside from your skill and your equipment, there are other things that will affect the game. Some of these things are beyond your control, such as the wind direction. Regardless, your technique is critically important in the sport. Pros aren’t pros because they have the best and most expensive equipment. They have a combination of skill and the right tools. They know how to hit the ball and they know which club to use when they need it.
However, it is fair to note that manufacturers have made it easy for beginners to enjoy the game. There are golf clubs available that are ideal to make golf more friendly for those without Tiger Woods’ skills.
Bobby Hurst Is the founder of golferpros.com. He has been an avid golfer and instructor for over 20 years. He has always been passionate about the sport for as long as he can remember and considers the GolferPros.com site as a passion project where he gets to share his love of golf with other avid golfers. He considers golf to be a sport that exercises both the mind and body; which is why you will constantly find him out on the course at least once a week. On his games, he enjoys trying out new techniques, and equipment. You can find his golfing tips, and reviews on some of the best golfing equipment on the site.