Why Do They Even Call These Golf Clubs Woods Anymore
Taking the wood out of your woods!
As anyone who plays the game knows, golf can take it out of you, physically (trust me it can), mentally (we’ll talk about the ‘yips’ at some point), and financially. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to drop a king’s ransom on clubs and paraphernalia that won’t take a stroke off of your game. On the other hand, technology has certainly changed the game and it makes sense to keep up with advances when it comes to some of the composite materials finding their way into clubs shafts, even golf balls. To ignore this stuff puts you at a disadvantage from tee to green.
Back when Wood was King
But these days I play with a few linguistically inclined golfers who wonder why the longest hitting clubs in their bag are called ‘woods’ when the only tree in sight are the ones that are keeping them from hitting the green. Keep in mind that until the late 1920’s the whole club was made of wood, because steel was too heavy to be incorporated into club design. Not until lightweight but strong steel tubes could be mass-produced did we move away from wooden shafts and clubheads.
Here’s a bit more history based on personal experience. When I decided to pick up the game, I inherited my first set of clubs. It was an old set of Spalding irons, and a beat up set of golf woods, a Driver, 3 wood and 5 wood. The irons were a bit of a mess and over ten years old. I upgraded pretty quickly as I learned the game and found that the sweet spot on my old clubs was about the size of the end of my pinkie finger. The woods though were things of beauty, designed by the famous club designer Irving King out of Shreveport, Louisiana. They were elegant, beautifully crafted and stained pieces of persimmon wood with metal facings literally screwed into the head of the club. Thin thread and glue held the wood to the shaft, which was made of flex steel, and the grips were honest to goodness leather.
Armed with these babies I proceeded to win the long drive competition at Arnold Palmer Golf Camp at Bay Hill Country Club near Orlando Florida when I was sixteen. I could knock out a solid 235-yard drive pretty much at will. The three and five fairway woods had just a little more angle than the driver did and that club allowed me to hit my fair share of par 5 greens in two.
The Driver Heard Round the World
But then the ’80s came and Ron Streck became the first pro to win a professional tourney, (The Houston Open in 1981) with a Taylormade metal wood, the first of its kind. It was nicknamed the “Pittsburgh Persimmon”, and as momentous events in golf history go it was a pretty big one. That win, with that club, changed the game of golf. And in a short time, the fabled and elegant persimmon head wood was gone, replaced by metal woods. There were some notable moments: the arrival of the Big Bertha line of clubs from Callaway that hit the market in 1991. The selling point was that the clubface was so big, the sweet spot was the size of your fist and it would be nearly impossible to mishit the ball with a club head so large. Millions upon millions of golfers set out to prove that statement notable false, but what was indisputable was that the era of woods made of wood was long gone. As to me, I still have those old persimmon head woods and I guard them like the pieces of history they are. But I don’t hit them anymore, it’d be like driving a model-T in the Indy 500. Time the great leveler has done for my Irving Kings. And as Forrest Gump would say: “That’s all I have to say about that.”
Don’t be nostalgic, but if you can’t help yourself you can still pick up some beautiful Persimmon head woods on the internet. They’re not even that pricey, but when it comes to bringing them out on the course feel free, but don’t expect them to give you the kind of results you’re going to get from the composite, titanium and steel alloys that are driving your ball well down the fairway these days.
A few of the best
So, accept that change is a part of everything, even golf. Revel in it perhaps. I do and so as a nice coda to this walk down memory lane let’s take a look at some of the best metal woods on the market these days. This is a movable feast and ever changing but we’re well into golf season so it’s worth taking a look at some of the best the market has to offer.
3 Best DriversTaylorMade M3 Driver 460cc
TaylorMade, the makers of the original metal wood can still make quite a club. This is a beauty of a club, easily as elegant as any classic persimmon head wood. It’s angled to reduce spin, provides less loft on the heel and more on the tow to allow you to easily hit different shots with the same club. It has a split weight system to make this club a precision instrument but incredibly forgiving at the same time.Ping G410
This driver looks like it should be some Star Wars tool rather than a driver. It’s sleek, and incredibly high tech looking, but don’t let that commitment to form fool you, when it comes to hitting the ball this club is all function. You will pay for the privilege of hitting this club but we’d urge you to head out to your local clubhouse or sporting goods store and give it a swing. You might just be sold.
Finally, we have to talk about the Mizuno ST190. This is a beautiful club. It won’t set you too far back when it comes to rough but it will set you up for plenty of greens in regulation. It’s made of an incredibly light carbon composite and it has a large forgiving club head. And don’t even get me started on the quick switch adaptor that lets you adjust the loft and lie settings, that’s a bonus that I still find it hard to wrap my head around.
3 Best Fairway WoodsCallaway Epic Flash
The whole goal with this club is to get the ball up off the ground and into the air where it can do what it’s meant to do, go in the hole. Callaway is promoting what it calls Face Cup Technology that they say will give this ball quicker loft and more ball speed, and who doesn’t need that. Plus I’m a fan of the Callaway brand so give it a try.Cobra King F9 Speedback
Whatever you need to do from the fairway this is the club to help you do it. The name of the game in fairway woods is being able to get that ball up off the grass and then give it the distance and control of a wedge. It’s a dream to get that kind of control with a long club but this Cobra club is going to get you pretty close. So give it a swing and pick one up, the price isn’t going to give you too much of a headache either.
Man, I do so love this club. It’s like butter off the fairway and will get your ball up out of the rough with no trouble at all. It’s light, it’s forgiving, it’s balanced and unlike a lot of fairway woods feels more like a short iron than a fairway wood. The name of the game with this club is control, no spin and lots of forward roll. Plus, you can’t beat the price.
Verdict: We All Win
Golf is nothing if it’s not a game of nostalgia. We remember Bobby Jones and Arnold Palmer, and we can compare Jack Nicklaus’ and Tiger’s Masters wins. That’s a good thing because golf is an individual game, and so the personalities and little moments are what create a lifetime devotion to the game, and there isn’t really any way to identify with your golf heroes other than how they play. After all, there are no city franchise golf pros or stadiums.
But while it’s good to be a student of the game, it’s also good to let the game breathe. We sometimes wonder how baseball would be different if they allowed the players to start swinging aluminum ping-dingers to the fences. Would it be better? Who knows, but it’d be different. That’s what makes golf so special, it can change, it always changes, these days it changes faster than any of us can keep up. New technology, new courses, new ways to play, new faces every year make it a constantly shifting professional landscape.
So long live the wooden wood, and let us remember the play clubs, the niblicks, the mashies, and mid-mashies. At the same time let us comfortably consign them to golf history, draw our composite alloy, shifting weight weapons and go in search of birdies of our own. The sun is high and the course is calling.