Golf clubs as we know it weren’t actually breathed into life until the mid-1920s, when American factories began producing irons as a matter of course. Woods took a little longer, but they soon followed their cousins onto the factory floor. Before industrialization of golf, clubs were often made by artistians or blacksmiths — which resulted in a lot of variation between models.
The golf clubs used before the modernization of sticks were different in many ways, but several modern clubs have pre-modern counterparts to thank for their designs. Although golf club collectors are often looking for early modern clubs like Titleists and Wilsons, collecting the very oldest golf clubs can prove an interesting challenge for golf enthusiasts.
A Quick Primer on Pre-Modern Golf Clubs
Before you head out to an auction or flea market looking to find a deal on an really collectible club, it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking at. Here’s a quick primer on some of the more common models and where they’d fit in a modern bag:
Cleek. These clubs varied widely between players, but they were all narrow-bladed and relatively light. They were used for playing from sand, from the rough or playing long shots on the green. Their corresponding modern club is the 1 iron.
Mid Iron. It’s not a 2 iron, but it’s a lot like one. It would have been more lofted than a driving iron, but fell out of popularity long ago.
Mid Mashie. Another long iron, the mid mashie fell neatly between the mid iron and the mashie. It’s probably most like a 3 iron in spirit.
Mashie Iron. Used for driving and for long, full shots from the green, the mashie iron was a lofted club that would be similar in function to the 4 iron.
Mashie. Although this club is not the same as a 5 iron, the loft and purpose of these two clubs are very similar. It was introduced around 1880 and was often used for pitching and shots that needed lots of backspin.
Spade Mashie. Closely associated with the modern 6 iron, the spade mashie was a valuable tool in any pre-modern golfer’s arsenal. It was deep-faced and was more lofted than a mashie.
Mashie Niblick. This wooden shafted pre-modern club would have been most like your favorite 7 iron. Players often used it for pitching.
Niblick. This wooden shafted wonder would have been used most like a 9 iron. With its short head and steep loft, it was often used for playing out of ruts and tight lies.
Brassie. The British Golf Museum is quick to state that modern 2 woods aren’t brassies, but they’re the closest equivalent in use and loft. These were often fitted with brass sole plates, hence the name.
Spoon. Their name comes from the fact that spoons had a somewhat cupped design, causing them to have a spoon-like depression in the face. The name was used for a number of club designs, but by the early 20th century if you said “spoon,” you were talking about something similar to a 3 wood.
Baffie. More like a 4 wood than anything else, the baffie was similar in looks, appearance and use to this popular modern wood. It was small headed and steeply lofted.
We don’t deal in brassies, mashies or niblicks at 3balls.com, but we’ve got plenty of new and used golf clubs for when you’re ready to turn your passion into play. You’d not dare damage your beautiful antique clubs when you can get gently used clubs for less than you’d think 24 hours a day, seven days a week on our website.