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Golf Equipment

Golf is played with golf clubs of various types. There are four major categories of clubs, known as woods, hybrids, irons, and putters. Wedges resemble irons and may also be counted among these. A golfer is allowed to carry up to fourteen clubs during a round.

While it is possible to play a range of different shots using only one club, modifying only the speed and direction of swing, 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 facilitate the choice of a club for any particular situation, all irons (and many woods and wedges) come in sets of similar clubs graded by loft (see below), shaft length, and weight. Clubs are numbered for identification with the smallest numbers indicating the lower lofts (a 5 iron has less loft than a 6 iron).

Various clubs are designed with the face having differing loft (the angle between a vertical plane and the clubface when the club is at rest). It is loft that makes a golf ball leave the ground on an ascending 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. Grooves on the clubface impart a counter clockwise (from a parallel view of the swing) spin, known as backspin, on the ball, that when combined with the rebounding effect of the ball, give it lift. Typically, the greater the loft, the higher and shorter the resulting ball trajectory.

A typical set of clubs generally consisted of 3 woods, 2 wedges, a putter, 7 irons (numbered 3–9), and a pitching wedge. This has changed greatly in the last 25 years, as 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 favour of higher lofted woods, known as fairway woods, and extra "utility" wedges. In part, this reflected a redesign of clubs in which manufacturers reduced the lofts of the irons to make them appear to hit longer. In effect, today's 3 iron has a loft that is equivalent to a 2 iron of years ago.

Types

Woods

Woods are the longest clubs in the bag and mostly used for long shots. They have large heads that are somewhat spherical in shape with a slightly bulging clubface and a flattened sole that slides over the ground without digging in during the swing. Originally the "wood" heads were made of persimmon or maple wood, hence the name. Modern club heads are usually made of hollow steel, titanium or composite materials, and are also called metalwoods. The first steel metalwoods were filled with foam in order to ensure structural stability.

The longest wood, the 1 wood, is usually referred to as the driver. It also has the biggest head, making it ideal for use off the tee. The shorter woods are referred to as fairway woods, and feature a shallower face height which enables players to hit them off the turf. The driver can also be hit from the turf, although it requires a high level of skill to execute the shot correctly.

The typical loft for wood faces ranges from 7.5 to 31 degrees. Higher lofted fairways woods are usually preferred by ladies and senior players, as they get the ball up in the air easier than long irons at lower clubhead speeds.

The shaft length in woods varies from about 40-47 inches or 100-115 cm. The shaft enters the head at the top corner nearest to the player through a hollow tube known as a hosel in such a way that the face of the wood is roughly at a right angle to one side of the shaft. Modern woods may employ a slightly closed face to make them easier to square at impact for the average player. Some companies, such as Callaway Golf, famously eschewed the hosel in order to place more useable weight in the head. This made the clubs easier to hit, but the process resulted in far less of the shaft being affixed to a surrounding structure. This had the effect of weakening the bond between the shaft and clubhead while also exposing more of the shaft to direct contact with the ball on particularly poor swings and was often a culprit in shaft breakage in the more fragile graphite shafts.

The standard length for the driver is 45 inches. Some players prefer shorter driver shafts (43.5"-44.5") because they are easier to use, though the shorter shaft slightly reduces distance. Graphite shafts are usually preferred for woods due to their light weight, which enables users to generate higher clubhead speeds and thus, greater distance. As with many aspects of golf equipment, shaft length is subject to USGA regulations. The maximum legal length of a shaft is 47 inches, although some woods such as Black Rock's Killer Bee, have been made with shaft lengths of up to 50 inches. These woods are mainly used in long drive contests, and are not tournament legal.

Irons

Some Irons
Some Irons

Irons are used for shorter shots than woods, usually shots approaching the greens. Irons are the most versatile clubs in the bag, allowing advanced players to hit a variety of different shots with the same club. Irons usually range from numbers 1 to 9, with lower numbered irons having lower lofts. The shortest irons are called wedges. The typical iron set however consists of the irons 3 to pitching wedge. Highly skilled players may use a 2 iron, but the 1 iron is nowadays almost never used even amongst professional players. The dwindling use of the longest irons is largely attributed to the rising popularity of hybrid clubs, which offer a better trajectory and ease of use.

Irons can be classified into long, mid and short irons. The 1 to 4 irons (with lower lofts) are usually considered 'long irons', the 5 to 7 irons 'mid irons' and the 8 to pitching wedge (with higher lofts) 'short irons'. This classification may differ from person to person, depending on skill level. Some better players may consider a 7 iron a short iron, while a high-handicap player may think of a 5 iron as a long iron. Though long and mid irons are typically used for approach or tee shots, the short irons and wedges may also be used for the short game (pitching, chipping, sand play, and in some instances even putting).

Iron heads are typically solid with a flat clubface. There are roughly two types of irons, cavity back irons and muscle back irons. Muscle back irons are smooth at the back, while cavity back irons have a hollowed out back, a 'cavity'. Traditionally all irons were muscle back designs. These designs are also called 'blades' for their low amounts of offset, thin toplines and thin soles. This nickname has become a synonym for difficult to hit irons, though modern blade design has made them slightly easier to hit by various methods, such as moving the center of gravity slightly lower. It is often said that if you can hit a blade, you can hit any kind of iron".

Ping introduced the first cavity back iron, which removed mass from the back of the club and moved it lower and to the perimeter of the iron. This achieved two things: it made the irons more forgiving on mis-hits, and the lower center of gravity made the irons launch the ball higher, adding distance to shots for the average player. This comes at a cost, as the 'feel' (feedback) of the club is greatly reduced. Exceptions include Mizuno's 'cut-muscle' design, which is neither cavity nor muscle back.

There is a general consensus that muscle back irons are for highly skilled players, as they need to be hit consistently well and with a high clubhead speed for a player to get the most out of them. Cavity back irons are for the average player, although many professional players still utilize the forgiveness cavity backs provide. Modern iron design is usually targeted towards the average golfer. Many equipment manufacturers mostly produce easy to hit cavity back irons with thick soles, offset, toplines and oversize clubhead sizes. Though they greatly aid the average golfer, better players may dislike these designs, not only for their aestetics but also because the design limits the variety of shots a player is able to hit.

Irons are mainly produced by two processes, casting and forging. Cast irons are produced by casting molten metal in a pre-shaped cast. Forged irons are heated and beaten into the desired shape. Cast irons provide the user with less feel, and are impossible to alter more than a degree, as the casting process causes the metal to set firmly. Forged irons have a softer feel, and can be bent to the user's specifications, though the bending also naturally occurs during play, forcing players to check the lies and lofts of their irons periodically.

The typical lofts for irons range from 16 to 48 degrees. Modern day irons have lower lofts than their contemporaries from the old days, caused by the desire of the average golfer to hit the ball as far as the professionals. This was a difference in skill, but the equipment manufacturers were happy to comply. This resulted in the modern day pitching wedge to have a loft similar to an old 8 iron. Nowadays pitching wedges may have lofts up to 45 degrees, though the difference in distance between the professionals and average golfers remains.

Shaft lengths typically range from 36 to 40 inches (90-100 cm) in length. Iron shafts are usually made from steel, as the material provides better feedback needed for the shorter shots. Graphite shafts are mostly used by ladies and seniors, as the lightness of the material allows for a needed increase in clubhead speed and as a result of that, distance.

Hybrid woods

A new type of wood known as a "hybrid" combines the straight hitting characteristics of irons with the low center of gravity characteristics of higher lofted woods. A "hybrid" is often used for long shots from difficult rough. Hybrids are also used by players who have a difficult time getting the ball airborne with long irons. In a 2005 study by the Darrell Survey Company, nearly 19% of U.S. consumer golfers were using at least one hybrid club, up from only 7.5% in 2004.

Wedges

Wedges are irons usually with a loft of more than 45 degrees. Pitching wedges are rather similar to other irons, Sand wedges have specially designed undersides, which utilize a feature known as "bounce", that make them suitable for shots from bunkers or from the rough. Gap wedges represent a compromise between a pitching wedge and sand wedge--hence their name. Lob Wedges have a very high loft and are used for approach shots, from sand, or difficult recovery shots requiring an extraordinarily high shot traveling a short distance.

Putters

Putters come in a variety of head shapes and have a very low loft and often a short shaft. They are used to play the ball on the green, but may occasionally be useful for playing from bunkers or for some approach shots on courses with tightly mown fringe and fairways.

Construction

The parts of a club are the shaft, the grip, and the head.

Shaft

The shaft is a tapered tube made of metal (usually steel), or graphite fiber. Some "matrix" shafts have incorporated two construction materials, such as a graphite shaft with a steel tip in True Temper's Bi-Matrix. The shaft is roughly 1/2 inch in diameter (12 mm) near the grip and between 35 to 45 inches (89-115 cm) in length.

Shafts are quantified in a number of different ways. The most common is the shaft flex. Simply, the shaft flex is the amount that the shaft will bend when placed under a load. The load in this case represents the swing of a given golfer. Golfers who have faster swing speeds generally use shafts that are less prone to bending, i.e. stiffer shafts. Another method of measuring shaft stiffness is the frequency of a given shaft, that is the number of cycles per second the shaft makes when struck by a tuning fork. The stiffer the shaft, the greater the frequency is. Different manufacturers have different standards for measuring the flex of a shaft, so one company's standard should not be taken as universal. For example, Grafalloy's Blue model tends to play stiffer than does Aldila's NV-65 shaft. Most shaft makers offer a variety of flexes. The most common are: L (Lady), A (Known as soft regular or Senior Flex), R (Regular Flex), S (Stiff Flex), and X (Tour Stiff, Extra Stiff or Strong Flex). Some companies also offer a stiff-regular flex.

It is widely known that most male golfers play shafts that are too stiff for their own good. A shaft that is too stiff will result in a loss of distance because the golfer is not strong enough to place enough load on the shaft to cause it to deform and thus "whip" through the ball. Occasionally, some golfers play with shaft flexes that are too light. The major problem caused by a "whippy shaft" is a loss of accuracy. In general, shaft stiffness appropriate for any particular player is dependant on the club-head speed reached by said player. A regular flex shaft is for those with an average head speed (80-94 mph), while an A-Flex (or senior shaft) is for players with a slower swing speed (70-79 mph), and the stiffer shafts, such as S-Flex and X-Flex (Stiff and Extra-Stiff shafts) are reserved only for those players with an above average swinging speed, usually above 100 mph.

On off-centre hits, the clubhead twists as a result of a torque. In recent years, many manufacturers have produced and marketed many low-torque shafts aimed at reducing the twisting of the clubhead at impact. The less the clubhead twists laterally, the greater the golfer's accuracy. Most recently, many brands have introduced stiff-tip shafts. These shafts offer the same flex throughout most of the shaft, in order to attain the "whip" required to propel the ball properly, but also include a stiffer tip, which cuts back drastically on the lateral torque undergoing in the head. This translates into greater accuracy with the same distance as a regular shaft.

Prior to the 1930's, hickory was the dominant material for shaft manufacturing, but it proved difficult to master for most golfers, as well as quite frail. Steel was the ubiquitous choice for much of the next half century. Although heavier than hickory, it was much stronger, more durable, more uniform, and more consistent in its performance. Prior to steel, a player would need a slightly different swing for each shaft given the inherent inconsistencies in the hickory shafts. Graphite shafts first appeared in the 1960's, but did not gain widespread use until the early 1990's.

Widely overlooked as a part of the club, the shaft is considered by many to be the engine of the modern clubhead. Current graphite shafts weigh fractions of their steel counterparts which allows for an overall lighter club than can be swung at a much greater speed. Within the last ten years, performance shafts have been integrated into the club making process. These performance shafts all have various characteristics-some are designed to launch the ball high, others low, for example. They also allow for greater discretion for the modern golfer as every shaft model is slightly different. Whereas in the past one club could only come with one shaft, today's clubheads can be fit with dozens of different shafts, increasing the variety of combinations by an order of magnitude, creating the potential for a much greater fit for the average golfer.

Triangle Golf Shafts

The newest type of golf shaft to date that came out in 2006 is the Triangle Golf Shaft. Triangular in design the triangle golf shaft boasts the most aerodynamic design and yet the best rigidity for maximum control. Some people refer to triangle golf shafts as "Trigraphite Shafts".

Grip

The end of the shaft opposite the head is covered either with a rubber, synthetic leather, or colloquially, a leather grip for the player to hold. The modern grip has also undergone a number of iterations and the vast variety of models makes it far easier for a discriminating golfer to find a model that is comfortable to him or her.

Clubhead

Each head has a face which contacts the ball during the stroke (but the head of a putter may have two faces).

Older persimmon and maple woods had heads that were primarily made of the aforementioned materials save for a possible metal sole and/or faceplate. These wooden headed clubs were dense and heavy and as a result remained miniscule in comparison to today's clubheads. Their smaller surface area also made consistent good contact more difficult.

Gary Adams, founder of Taylor Made Golf, is considered the father of the modern metal wood. Adams began to market his club in the late 1970's, but it was nearly a decade until metal woods established a firm foothold in the golf community. Many PGA Tour players still used persimmon woods into the 1990's.

Metal woods provided an advantage over persimmon in that they presented a stronger and lighter material which allowed manufacturers to make larger clubheads. Larger clubheads resulted in larger faces, which meant that it was easier to contact the ball, particularly in the desired area; sometimes referred to as the sweet spot. The larger the sweet spot, the better the chance of hitting a good shot.

Furthermore, the use of titanium as a metal in golf club construction has revolutionized the equipment industry. Since titanium is both lighter and stronger than steel and has amazing corrosion resistance, it is an ideal metal for golf club construction. Manufacturers could now make woods with greater volume, which increased the hitting area, and thinner faces, which reduced the weight. The first mass-produced titanium wood bought in large quantities, The Callaway Golf Great Big Bertha, was introduced in 1995. It was an, at the time, massive 253 cubic centimetres of volume. Subsequent drivers were even larger, which made the effective hitting area much larger. Thus the driver went from the most difficult club to hit well, to one of the easiest. The USGA has curbed the volumetric growth of drivers by instituting a size rule which states that no club can measure greater than 460 cubic centimeters.

Traditionally, most iron heads were made by forging, which involves the careful shaping of the club head through hammering and pressing of heated steel. Today, most modern golf club heads of all types, not just irons, are cast through a process known as investment casting. This process allows manufacturers to redistribute the weight into the perimeter of the club, known as perimeter weighting, which helps to increase the accuracy of mishit shots. Forged club are still prized for feel and "workability", the ability to curve a ball's flight intentionally. In the 1970's, Ping developed the cavity back iron, which improves forgiveness, the ability to have a good shot even with bad contact with the ball.

Regulations

The ruling authorities of golf, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) reserve the right to define what shapes and physical characteristics of clubs are permissible in tournament play. Several recently developed woods have a marked "trampoline effect", a large deformation of the face upon impact followed by a quick restoration to original dimensions which acts as a slingshot, resulting in very high ball speeds and great lengths of tee shots. Current USGA and R&A regulations differ with respect to acceptable limits of the "trampoline effect". Therefore, a few club types may not be played in tournament or professional play under USGA jurisdiction, but are allowed elsewhere.

Other large scale USGA rulings involve a 1990 suit, and subsequent settlement, against Karsten Manufacturing, makers of the PING Brand, for their use of square, or U-grooves in their immensely popular Ping Eye2 iron models. The USGA argued that players who used the Eye2 had an unfair advantage in imparting spin on the ball, which helps to stop the ball on the putting greens. Ping ultimately changed the design of subsequent Eye2s, the older clubs were "grandfathered in" and allowed to remain in play as part of the settlement. Today square grooves are considered perfectly legal under the Rules of Golf.

Nicknames

Woods

  • [1] Driver
  • [3] Spoon

Irons

  • [1] Driving Iron

Wedges

  • [56 degree] Sand Wedge (SW)
  • [52 degree] Gap Wedge (FW)
  • [60 degree] Lob Wedge (LW)

Golf Shafts

Golf shafts are used between the grip and the "club head". The profile of the golf shaft is circlular in shape and some of the strongest and lightest materials are used to make the golf shaft. Graphite and tempered steels are used for the best strength. In 2006 the newest profiles that are USGA approved and have ultimate strength are Triangle Golf Shafts or some call the shaft Trigraphite Shafts.

The Golf Ball

A golf ball is a ball designed for use in the game of golf.

An appendix to the "Rules of Golf" defines that a golf ball must not weigh more than 45.93 grams (1.620 oz), that its diameter must not be less than 42.67 mm (1.680 in), and that its shape may not differ significantly from a symmetric sphere. Like golf clubs, golf balls are subject to testing and approval by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the United States Golf Association, and those that do not conform with the regulations may not be used in competitions (Rule 5-1).

History

Wooden balls were used until the early 17th century, when the featherie ball was invented. A featherie is a handsewn cowhide bag stuffed with goose feathers and coated with paint. Due to its superior flight characteristics, the featherie remained the standard ball for more than two centuries.

In 1848, the Rev. Dr. Robert Adams (or Robert Adam Paterson)[1] invented the gutta percha ball (or guttie). Because gutties were cheaper to produce and could be manufactured with textured surfaces to improve their aerodynamic qualities, they replaced feather balls completely within a few years.

In the twentieth century, multi-layer balls were developed, first as wound balls consisting of a solid or liquid-filled core wound with a layer of rubber thread and a thin outer shell. This design allowed manufacturers to fine-tune the length, spin and "feel" characteristics of balls. Wound balls were especially valued for their soft feel.

Today's golf balls have progressed into having titanium cores, hybrid materials, softer shells and a more pressurized core. They usually consist of a two-, three-, or four-layer design, consisting of various synthetic materials like surlyn or urethane blends. They are available in a great variety of playing characteristics to suit the needs of golfers of different proficiency.

Aerodynamics

When a golf ball is hit, the impact, which lasts less than a millisecond, determines the ball’s velocity, launch angle and spin rate, all of which influence its trajectory (and its behavior when it hits the ground).

A ball moving through air experiences two major forces: lift and drag. Drag slows the forward motion, whereas lift acts in a direction perpendicular to it. The magnitude of these forces depends on the behaviour of the boundary layer of air moving with the ball surface.

Every modern golf ball has dimples; their purpose is to increase and shape the lift and drag forces by modifying the behaviour of the boundary layer. It should be noted that drag and lift forces exist also on smooth balls: they are only modified, not created, by dimples.

One effect of dimples is a reduction of drag, contributing to the increased length of flight of dimpled balls compared with smooth ones.

A spinning ball deforms the flow of air around it, thus acting similar to an airplane wing. Backspin is imparted in almost every shot due to the golf club's loft (i.e. angle between the clubface and a vertical plane). A backspinning ball experiences an upward lift force which makes it fly higher and longer than a ball without spin would. Sidespin occurs when the clubface is not aligned perpendicularly to the direction of swing, leading to a lift force that makes the ball curve to a side. These lift forces are further increased through the presence of dimples.

In order to keep the aerodynamics optimal, the ball needs to be clean. Golfers can wash their golf balls manually, but there are also mechanical ball washers available.

Design

A two-piece golf ball with large and small dimples

Most balls on sale today have about 300 to 450 dimples. There were a few balls having over 500 dimples before. The record holder was a ball with 1,070 dimples -- 414 larger ones (in four different sizes) and 656 pinhead-sized ones. All brands of balls, except one, have even-numbered dimples. The only odd-numbered ball on market is a ball with 333 dimples.

Officially sanctioned balls are designed to be as symmetrical as possible. This symmetry is the result of a dispute that stemmed from the Polara, a ball sold in the late 1970s that had six rows of normal dimples on its equator but very shallow dimples elsewhere. This asymmetrical design helped the ball self-adjust its spin-axis during the flight. The USGA refused to sanction it for tournament play and, in 1981, changed the rules to ban aerodynamic asymmetrical balls. Polara's producer sued the USGA and the association paid US$1.375 million in a 1985 out-of-court settlement.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office's patent database is a good source of past dimple designs. Most designs are based on Platonic solids such as icosahedrons.

Golf balls also come in different colours. They help with finding the ball when lost or determining your ball from others. White is the most common colour.

Golf tees

Golf tees

In golf, a tee is normally used for the first stroke of each hole, and the area from which this first stroke is hit is informally also known as a tee (officially, teeing ground). Thus, for example the ninth hole of a course is played from the ninth tee to the ninth green, and similarly for the other holes. Normally, teeing the ball is only allowed on the first shot of a hole, called the tee shot, and illegal for any other shot. However, local or seasonal rules may allow or require teeing for other shots as well, e.g. under "winter rules" to protect the turf when it is unusually vulnerable. Teeing gives a considerable advantage for drive shots, so it is normally done whenever allowed. On short par 3 holes where the first shot is a chip, the tee shot may be played without a tee.

A standard golf tee is 2.125" (two and one eighth inches) long, but both longer and shorter tees are permitted and are preferred by some players.

 

History

The development of the tee was the last major change to the rules of golf. Before this, golf balls were teed up on little heaps of sand that was provided in boxes. This explains the historical name tee boxes for what is today known as teeing ground.

The earliest golf tees rested flat on the ground and had a raised portion to prop up the ball. The first patent for this kind of tee was awarded to Scotsmen W Bloxsom and A Douglas in 1889. A tee closer to the modern type, with a ground-penetrating spike, was patented in the UK in 1892. These and other variations — including one that African-American dentist Dr. George F. Grant created out of rubber and wood — failed to catch on, as most golfers stuck to tradition and continued using heaps of sand. It took a strong marketing effort by Dr. William Lowell in the 1920s to bring manufactured tees into widespread use. Lowell's product, a simple wooden peg with a flared top, was copied around the world, and still remains the most common type of golf tee.

Other equipment

Sometimes transport is by special golf carts. Clubs and other equipment are carried in golf bags. Golfers wear special shoes with exchangeable spikes (or small plastic claws termed soft spikes) attached to the soles. They also often wear gloves that help grip the club and prevent blistering. 

When on the green, the ball may be picked up to be cleaned or if it is in the way of an opponent's putting line; its position must then be marked using a ball marker (usually a flat, round piece of plastic or a coin). A ball mark repair tool (or pitchfork) is used to repair a ball mark (depression in the green where a ball has hit the ground). To repair a ball mark, one pushes the tool under the mark, and lifts upwards gently, loosening the compacted turf to allow rapid regrowth of grass. Scores are recorded on a score card during the round.

 

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