about Clubs 1900 - 1935

Drivers come in a vast range of designs. They can be anywhere from 42 to 44 inches in length and have lofts ranging from 7 to 13 degrees. The head shapes include anything from small heads that are about the size of a modern 5 Wood, on up to sizes as large as the biggest metal woods on the market today. Something that might be of interest to modern players were the metal woods that were available during that time period. Invented in the 1890's, these clubs are very scarce and should probably not be used for play. Of the different shapes of heads to be found, the large headed, pointed toe, shallow faced woods are typical of the style that the Scottish makers were producing in the 1910's and 1920's. Variations of this style were also produced in the U.S., 
but with a more rounded toe. The big heads with the deep faces are primarily
American in manufacture, most notably by Wilson. The midsize heads are virtually the same as the Macgregor woods of the 50's & 60's and are some of the most playable woods. The best American makers to look for are Spalding, Wilson, Macgregor, and Wright & Ditson. Scottish made woods should also be considered as they can have the best feel and balance of all the woods, but are more of a finesse type of club. Drivers were viewed differently in that period than today, they were used for the trajectory and the amount of roll that characterized this club. They tended to be used for shots that were into the wind and for holes that had more forgiving fairways.


The Brassie was the work horse of any set of clubs. This club got it's name because they usually had a sole plate, typically made of brass, and were intended to be used in hitting the ball off from the ground requiring the need for the soleplate to give them some extra protection. Brassie's were also used for tee shots since they gave the players more control and accuracy with a minimal loss of distance. It is normal for them to lack having the name of the club stamped upon it, so wood clubs with a sole plate and something between 12 and 17 degrees of loft can be referred to as a Brassie. They came in a very wide range of designs and intended functions. One of the variants was the Driving Brassie, which usually had a large head with a deep face and the loft and shaft length of a driver. Hitting a ball off the turf with one of those can be extremely challenging. Since the shafts are usually very stout, they make great driving clubs and should stand up to a lot of use.


The Spoon, Spoon Brassie or Brassie Spoon as they were variously referred, 
compare to something between a contemporary 3 to 5 wood in loft, and has
a range of 15 to 22 degrees in loft. The shaft is typically 41 or 42 inches in length,
but can actually range from 39 to 43 inches in their original length. As with the
Drivers and Brassie's, Spoons come in all shapes and sizes. Some of these clubs are surprisingly large headed and are some of the easiest clubs to hit. The shallow, elongated toe versions are also great hitting clubs, but because of there small size they are prone to break easily and can be hard to find in good enough shape to restore.


The Wooden Cleek is generally found to be in the range of a contemporary 4 to 6 Wood in loft (18 to 25 degrees) and has a shaft length of between 40 and 42 inches. These clubs are very difficult to find and are rarely in a condition good enough to consider using for play.


 The Bulldog style fairway wood is a very difficult club to find. A great trouble club, it has a compact head with a very rounded soleplate and a loft in the 18 to 24 degree range. The head is only about twice the size of a golf ball and is great to use for getting the ball out of some very bad lies. They are very scarce in a playable condition, but it could be a great trouble club for your play set.


Baffy, Brassie Iron, & Wooden Iron- The Baffy (pictured) is very similar to the Bulldog, but much larger and was probably used to get the ball out of very bad lies. The Brassie Iron and Wooden Iron are, as there names suggest, the fairway wood equivalent of the Mid-Iron. These are all very scarce utility clubs that should probably not be restored for play and are included here for informational purposes.


Cleek -- The name cleek denotes a specific head shape that has a shallow face and is relatively long, with very little taper from the heel to the toe. The best known of the various types is the Driving Cleek, which has a smallish head, a loft of about 19 degrees, and a shaft that is approximately 40" in length. Some of the other types are the Light Cleek, the Lofting Cleek (better known as the Jigger), the Sammy (a mongrel version) and the Lofter. The Cleek was introduced in the mid 1800's and was commonly used until about 1910 when players were finding the Driving Iron and Driving Mashie easier to hit. In the 20th century it was used almost exclusively by better players. A golf article from 1916 was spelling it's eminent demise and by 1930 the younger caddies didn't recognize the name when asked for one.


Driving Iron -- As the name implies, it was used for driving off from the tee but was also used to hit a ball off from the fairway. They generally have an Iron shaped head, but can also be found with a toe that is almost as tall as a Mashie type head. These tall "toe'd" versions appear to be a special utility club to be used above the 1-Iron. Driving Irons were originally developed as an alternative to the harder to hit driving cleeks some time around the turn of the century.


1-Iron -- The 1-Iron was put into service with the development of the numbered set sometime around 1920. It was probably intended to be a replacement for the driving iron, but most manufacturers continued to offer a driving iron in there catalogs as an add-on utility club after the advent of the "set". The basic head shape of this club does not seem to change significantly amongst the samples that I have documented. Most of the variations in the clubs seems to be limited to fluctuations in their weight and loft.


Driving Mashie -- This very stout shafted club was used for accurate driving off the tee and for long, aggressive shots from the fairway. The club gets its name from the Mashie head shape. The short head length, a pronounced taper outward at the toe, along with the low loft of the face, allowed a better player to get the ball out of lies that longer headed clubs couldn't get through. Generally these clubs have a fairly stout shaft to accomodate this use.


Push Iron -- This is club was developed for a specific type of golf shot. The "Push Shot" is quite a bit different from the contemporary understanding of pushing a shot. If done properly, this technique put considerable backspin on the ball for more bite on the green. The resulting trajectory was very low and it was suggested that it was used primarily for down wind shots. It is a very difficult shot that only the very best of players could accomplish. The shot was popularizes by the Harry Vardon. This club hits quite well with a standard swing, but bear in mind this is a very collectable club and should probably not be used for play. If it is put into a set as a normal club, it should fit in between the driving iron and the mid-iron.


Sammy -- This specialty club was designed to fulfill a better players shot making need. It seems to fit in between the driving iron and the mid-iron based on the loft and length. Made in the Cleek head shape, it has a rounded back and driving iron length shaft. It is capable of hitting the ball as high as the mid-iron and almost as long as the driving iron. The lower center of weight in the head makes this club get the ball higher in the air than an equivalent club with a different head shape. It is also a scarce club and is probably more collectable then playable, but in the right hands it would be the perfect club to build a set around.


2-Irons --"Invented" in the early 1920's, this club is attributed to be the numbered replacement of the mid-iron, but is usually found to be slightly less lofted and longer hitting then the mid-iron. It will probably be the second iron in the better players set and the first iron for the player that prefer lofted woods over long irons. The head shape tends to be very consistent from club to club.


Mid-Iron -- This was one of the first iron clubs to choose in the construction of a basic set of clubs during the early 20th century. The use of the name dates back to the 1890's. It is a medium long length shot club that served general duty. It was used for any other type of shot that required a lower trajectory flight with some run. A number of early instructional books recommended to start with this club when first learning to play the game. It is important to find an exceptional example of this club when you start playing courses over 6400 yards in length.


Mashie Iron -- This club is generally found to have identical specifications to the Mid-Iron. Prior to the 1930's, it was probably used as an alternative to the mid-iron in situations were the mashie head shape was better suited. It was occasionally added into numbered sets of the better players as a utility club during the later 20's and 30's. Some of the American made sets that had a club labeled as a mashie iron did so ceremonially as they were not made in a mashie head style. This is the club that was used by Bobby Jones for his famous shot out of a fairway trap to win the 1926 British Open.


Approaching Cleek -- First invented in the 1890's, it's name describes the club very accurately. It has a cleek shaped head and was used for making approach shots to the green. The majority of these clubs seem to be made with a musselback. I have found one reference that suggested that these clubs were a modified version of the jigger (The author didn't want to offend the club by calling it a mere jigger). They are "powerful" clubs and have an incredible feel when hitting them because of the increased weight behind the sweet spot associated with the musselback design. For the better player with a more consistent swing, this could be a great club. The long shallow head is probably a little too challenging for the less experienced player. This is a moderately scarce utility club that could be a factor in the design of a set of clubs if it suits the players swing.


Iron -- Dating back to the 19th century, this club was used to make medium length approach shots. Most 20th century scored face clubs that have "Iron" stamped on them will be roughly equivalent to the mid-iron but slightly less strong in loft. It appears that they might also have been used as a betweener club for the mashie and mid-iron. There are references to players carrying both an iron and a mid-iron in their bags.


 Mongrel Mashie -- A utility club designed as an in between club for the mashie and the mid-iron. Mongrel was used interchangeably with "freak" to describe specialty clubs, but examples of this particular club show it to have been made as a "betweener club". The head shape is very similar to an Iron head shape and retains very little of the Mashie shape. It will be found to be very similar in performance to a wood shafted 3-Iron and could have been a predecessor of that club.


3-Iron -- The third iron in numbered sets, it fit in loft and distance in between the Mid-iron and the Mashie. This club will probably see a lot of play since most players seem to find themselves with approach shots of it's hitting distance.


Jigger (Lofting Cleek) -- Invented just before the turn of the century, this club started out as a cleek with the face laid back to make approach shots that are mostly carry. It was intended to fit in between the Mid-iron and the Mashie on full shots and was found by some to be very useful for chipping and pitch shots. Many were cut down for this purpose when their owners found them too difficult to use with a full swing. The shallow face makes them very challenging for the less experienced player to hit, but it can be a favorite I among the better players.


2 Mashie -- This was originally intended as a second mashie that a player might add to the set to give an alternative or to fill a void between the primary Mashie and the Mid-iron. It was also intended to be a backup in case the first club broke during the round. This is a scarce club and the few examples that I have documented had it fitting accurately between the Mid-iron and the Mashie in terms of loft and shaft length. I have found no direct printed references to this club other than players saying they liked to have a second Mashie in their set, and that one or the other was better for half swing approaches or pitches.


4-Iron -- This was intended as the fourth club in a numbered set that fit in the progression between the 3-iron and the Mashie. It was occasionally used as an alternative to the Mashie. Original sets that have both clubs showed them to be virtually identical in loft and shaft length and it can only be presumed that they were each used for there unique hitting abilities. The difference was in the head shape and that the 4-Irons are almost always under weight. Check this club closely before buying.


Mashie -- Invented in the 1880s, this club probably started the Iron club revolution. The head shape is shorter and deeper than the Cleek or Iron heads and has more taper from heel to toe, giving it a hatchet like shape. This club was the most played of the iron headed clubs in a players bag. It was used for the majority of the shots, from its maximum distance, down to the shortest of approach shots. There were a number of players that carried two mashies in there bag. The second was included either as a backup just in case one broke, or to have another club with a different playing characteristic.


 Spade Mashie -- This club can be readily identified by its oversized shape. As the name suggests, it is a very large headed mashie with added loft. The designed use, as best as can be documented, was for hitting balls from out of fluffy lies so as to not miss the ball by going under it. It was also used to fill a full shot distance between the mashie and the mashie niblick. The Spade can be an unruly club to hit as it tends to be a little unwieldy because of its size. They also seem to have been made very light in head weight, presumably to compensate for the size, but the lightness tends to make them even harder to control. If you decide to acquire one to play with, be advised to check the feel of the club to make sure that you can play it.


Benny -- A type of Mashie Niblick that was developed by and named for Ben Sayers of North Berwick. It has a distinctive head shape very similar in style to a Mashie but with a loft that is closer to a Spade Mashie. It can be used as an alternative to the Spade to fill in a gap in the spacing of the clubs. It's more moderate sized head makes it easier to hit then the Spade Mashie. It is also a scarce club but well worth finding for a play set.


Mashie Niblick -- A well lofted club, it was intended to fit in between the Mashie and the Niblick. It is excellent for pitching, chipping and full lofted approach shots. It's invention has been attributed to the Foulis' of Chicago, since the original shape for the club was patented by them in 1903. As with most of the clubs of this era, the Mashie Niblick was made in a very wide assortment of shapes and sizes, the most popular of which is best described as egg shaped.


Niblick -- The most lofted of the hickory era clubs, it is usually found to be comparable to the contemporary Sand Wedge. Like the sand wedge, it was originally used for much of the same purposes, bunker shots, lofted approaches, and extricating the ball from various other bad lies. The club can be found in a wide range of lofts varying in comparison from the pitching wedge down to the lob wedge. This club was also offered in a wide range of styles and sizes encompassing club heads only slightly larger than the ball, up to the "Giant" and "Mammoth" Niblicks that measured as much as eight inches in diameter. These clubs were additionally used to negotiate a stymie.


Putter -- This is one of the few clubs whose name and purpose is still recognizable. Putters are available in an incredible variety of shapes and styles. These were, and still are, the clubs that have been the most experimented with.