Guide to the Technology Behind the Golf Clubs

A golf club is a piece of essential equipment to play golf. After all, you cannot hit a golf ball without a golf club. The evolution of golf clubs is pretty interesting because you get to know the difference about how they have been made since golf was born and what types of material that have gone into their creation.

Here’s a bit of history about golf clubs:

The earliest golf clubs were made of wood. Apart from the fact that it was the most widely available material at that time, wood was also easy to shape. The first golf balls resembled baseballs (the balls themselves, by the way) because they also consisted of stuffed material encased with leather. Wood was the ideal material for golf clubs because they were soft enough not to damage the golf balls when hit.

During the 1840s, the leather balls were later replaced by newer models made of hard rubber, so golfers no longer had to worry about breaking the ball as they hit it. By then, they had started to use golf clubs with iron heads. Since iron is malleable, iron clubheads could be shaped with sharply inclined faces while maintaining their durability. Because of this, golf clubs with iron heads (also called “irons”) were used to hit shorter and long-trajectory shots, while golf clubs with wooden heads (also called “woods”) were used to make longer and short-trajectory shots.

Since then, all golf clubs consisted of wooden shafts and wooden or iron heads. It was until the 1920s when manufacturers began to make steel golf clubs. It was about this period that golf club manufacturers agreed upon the use of the numbering system to classify golf clubs. The irons were number one to nine, while the woods were number one to five. The higher the number, the more inclined the surface of the striking face’s surface. Another type of golf club, the putter, retained its name, rather than being assigned with a number. Then came another golf club, the sand wedge, which was first designed in 1931 to help golfers get out of the sand bunkers.

Golf clubs with fiber-reinforced shafts were introduced during the 1970s. They were lighter than steel, but they tended to flex too much. Manufacturers made a lot of improvements to minimize the flex, and they resulted in shafts made of hybrid materials. The first metal-headed drivers were introduced in 1979. In 1989, manufacturers came with the oversize metal-headed drivers, which consisted of a hollow center and stuffed with foam; they also had bigger striking faces.

Here are the fundamental parts of a golf club:

  • Grip – The grip is the part of the golf club located at its top. Golfers use the grip to hold the club.
  • Shaft – The shaft is the part of the golf club between the grip and clubhead. Actually, the grip covers the top of the shaft, while the bottom is inserted with the clubhead through the hosel.
  • Clubhead or head – The clubhead or head is located at the bottom of the golf club. It is the part that hits the golf ball, making contact with the ground in the process. The size and shape of the head depend on the type of the golf club. For example, drivers usually have large and heavy heads.
  • Club face – A club face is the edge or surface of the clubhead that is meant to strike the ball. The “loft” of the club face refers to the angle at which the surface is inclined, and there are particular reasons for that. Lofts vary depending on the type of club. For example, the driver has the flattest loft so that the ball will go off the club fast and low. The grooves on the surface are designed to give backspin to the golf ball. The backspin improves the loft of the ball.

Raw materials

 Golf clubs are manufactured from various materials, most commonly wood, metals, plastics, ceramics, and composite materials.

Different materials are chosen depending on properties, such as strength, flexibility, resistance to impact, formability, density, friction, and others.

Club heads are also made of different materials, depending on the type of club. For instance, a driver’s or a wood’s club head is usually made of certain types of wood, such as beechwood or ash wood. The clubheads of irons and wedges, on the other hand, can be made of stainless steel, chrome-plated steel, tungsten, titanium, beryllium nickel, or a combination of any of these metals.

Golf grips are made of hollowed material such as natural or synthetic leather, rubber, or cord. Golf clubs with genuine leather grips are the most expensive, but they are generally thought to provide the most comfortable grasp.

How is a golf club made?

 Clubhead:

  • For the making of the clubhead, it is formed by what is called investment casting. The metal die for the head consists of two halves, and each of the two halves has a hollow cavity which is the precise size and shape of the desired club head.
  • Molten wax is poured into the hollowed die cavity and let it to harden.
  • Once the wax becomes hard, the die is open and the wax pattern is removed. This process takes several times to repeat. Many wax patterns are affixed to a “sprue,” which is a central wax column, to make the “tree.”
  • The tree is immersed into a liquid mixture that consists of a powdered ceramic ingredient, a gel-like agent and different types of chemicals. It is then set aside for the coating to dry. Once dried, the tree is then placed in a container, which is filled with a molding slurry. The slurry is then set aside to harden.
  • Once the mold becomes sufficiently hard, it is then put inside an oven and is heated to 1,200 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (550 to 1,100 degrees Celsius) to melt the wax patterns. The molten wax runs out the bottom and any wax residue turns into vapor. Next, the mold is inverted.
  • The hot mold is filled with the molten metal for the club head, which is then set aside to harden. Once the metal cools and hardens, the mold metal automatically disengages itself from the tree, and the separate cast heads are broken away from the sprue.
  • To harden the outer surface, the iron cast heads are treated with heat. It is done by at least a couple of ways – using a flame or an induction coil. Then it is quickly cooled, which results in a different grain structure on the steel, which is a lot harder than the rest of head.

Shaft:

This part focuses on the making of a steel shaft. There are two ways to manufacture it – it’s either by “seamless” construction or “welded tube” construction.

Seamless construction:

  • In a seamless tube construction, the steel shaft starts life as a large cylindrical-shaped solid steel.
  • The cylinder is then heated and penetrated with a particular machine. This process turns the solid steel cylinder into a large, thick-walled tube.
  • The thick-walled tube gradually reduces in diameter (about five-eighths of an inch in diameter) due to a series of stretching processes on special machines called draw benches.
  • The shaft “blanks,” as they are now called, will then undergo a series of squeezing processes. It will form the separate sections of diameter reduction which is referred to as “step-downs” on the shaft.

Welded tube construction:

  • In a welded tube construction, the steel shaft begins life as a flat strip of steel.
  • The flat steel is then coiled and welded to form a tube.
  • Utilizing a high-frequency welding, the two ends of the coiled steel strip are fused together.
  • Next, a special machine takes away the excess metal from the outside and inside of the welded tube in a process called “skiving.”
  • Once the welded tube is formed, it is stretched down to the standard and required five-eighths of an inch of a diameter.
  • The shaft “blanks,” as they are now called, will then undergo a series of squeezing processes. It will form the separate sections of diameter reduction which referred to as “step-downs” on the shaft.

Once the raw steel shafts are formed and patterned according to the individual shaft design, they are then treated with heat and straightened. The steel shafts are plated with nickel-chrome for additional durability and rust prevention.

Assembling the club:

 There are many ways to assemble the golf club: 

  • For the metal shafts, the end of the shaft is inserted into the socket on the head. A small hole is drilled crossways through both the shaft and the socket. Next, a small metal pin is pressed into the hole, and an epoxy adhesive is used to hold the pin in place.
  • The other end of the shaft is put in a hollow die, then a rubber grip is molded around it. The shaft may be stamped with a label or logo of the manufacturer.
  • The raised metal parts are polished, which gives the club a finished look.
  • Any recessed letter of a manufacturer’s logo or lettering may be filled with paint or any coloring material.

For identification and decoration, adhesive stickers may also be affixed to the club head.