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The basics of golf clubs

By Staff

A golf club is made up of three components - a club head, a shaft and a grip. The goal of club manufacturers is to create golf clubs (within the rules of golf) that maximize the physics of the golfer's swing while allowing for a range of swing error to provide an accurate, long, yet forgiving shot. The better your swing, the less forgiving club you require.

What does the number on each club stand for? The number on each club helps you determine what club is best for the situation you are challenged with on the course. Each club has a different loft. The driver (1 wood) has a loft of 10.5 degrees. The loft degree increases as the club number increases. The lower the loft, the longer the ball will fly. You can expect to see more yards from clubs with a lower number.

Make sense? In the golf world, you will find a number of players with an assortment of different sets. This is because you should select the clubs in your set to accommodate the needs of your golf game. For example, a long hitter doesn't need a five wood and probably would benefit with another wedge.

Most standard sets include:

  • Three Woods: Driver (1), 3 Wood, and 5 Wood

  • Irons: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

  • Wedges: Pitching Wedge (PW) and Sand Wedge (SW)

  • Putter

A standard set includes thirteen clubs total, although many times golfers add another iron (2 iron), wedge (AW or LW) or specialty wood (7 wood, hybrid). You are allowed to carry 14 clubs in your bag during a round.

Woods are hollow-bodied large headed golf clubs usually made out of titanium or stainless steel. The purpose of using a wood is to hit the ball longer distances. Woods are commonly used off the tee and on longer shots out of the fairway and shorter rough. The fairway wood is one of the more versatile clubs in your bag they are a lot easier to hit then your longer irons.

The sweet spot on the fairway wood is much larger than on your lower irons. Players tend to use them off the tee and on longer approach shots to help them manage longer holes. They are commonly used off the tee on short and narrow golf holes because it is important for the player to hit the fairway and they higher numbered on the easier they are to control.

The 1 wood, (also known as a driver) has the lowest loft of any club. Loft is the angle of the club face that controls trajectory and affects distance. A driver has a loft between 7 and 12 degrees. Higher lofted driver designs for large-headed drivers provide a higher launch angle, resulting in the longest drives. They get more carry with less shot error. Non-pros should use drivers with lofts of 10 degrees or higher, leave the lower lofted clubs for the experienced player.

A 3 wood has a loft between 15 and 18 degrees. It is generally one-half-inch shorter than a driver. A 3 wood should be used off the tee when you need control and distance is not as important as accuracy. A 5 wood has a loft between 20 and 22 degrees and generally one-half-inch shorter than a 3 wood.

5, 7 and 9 woods provide more forgiveness with its shorter club length than 1 and 3 woods, producing a smaller arc in the swing. The smaller the arc of the swing, the less speed the golf club will have when it strikes the ball and the less distance the ball will travel.

Irons give you the most control on any shot. The unfortunate thing is that the sweet spot on an iron is smaller than a wood. As a general rule, the closer you are to the green, the higher the iron you use. A standard set of irons consists of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 irons and Pitching Wedge (PW). Some irons are being substituted with utility clubs or woods.

The 3 and 4 irons are harder to hit than the higher number irons. Many golfers, especially ladies, seniors and higher handicap golfers are changing to a modified standard golf set that replaces the 3 and 4 iron with hybrid woods and utility irons. We think this is a sensible trend and one that a beginning golfer should consider. The hybrid and utility clubs are easier to hit than a 3 or 4 iron and result in comparable distances.

Wedges are specialty irons that give you increased shot control and the ability to shape your shot. A pitching wedge has about 48 degrees of loft, the highest lofted iron in a standard set. Over the years, you see more players use a variety of different lofted and shaped wedges. The most common wedge you will find the bag is the SW and some will add an approach wedge (AW) or lob wedge (LW). Some pros carry more wedges because they have the ability to drive the ball closer to the green and do not need to use longer irons very often so they substitute a 3 and 5 wood with an additional wedge.

Putters are responsible for getting the ball to its final destination, "The Hole." They are used on the green and the fringe. Over the years, the technology of the putter has changed for the better. The traditional putter used to be called a blade. A blade style putter has no back and is the most basic style you will find in the market today.

Over the years styles of putters have changed most are designed with cavity backs and include inserts on the face. The inserts in putters assure a flat surface on the putter face and gives you a softer feel. You are also starting to see more mallet putters. They are becoming more and more popular because of weight and alignment technology they have developed. This style of putter is usually heavier because of bigger club head. The weight of a putter is very important. Some players like heavier putters because they feel they can thoroughly swing the ball with control. Finding a putter that looks and feels good when you are looking over it and holding it is the most important thing to consider when thinking about buying a new putter. All of the putters have the same concepts you just need to go with what feels best to you.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • club selection

    MATT OCONNOR wrote on: Jun 22, 2005

    Hi, I'm a new golfer taking lessons wiyh a local pro. Could e-mail me with any standard club=yardage logrihum? How far should each club get/ thanks,mattyo.