A Brief History of the Golf Club

We all know what golf clubs look like today, but what did they look like several centuries ago? Like humankind, the golf club continues to evolve. The development of the club gives us all a rich insight into how the sport was once played. If we look closely, it might even give us a sneak peek into any future developments for the sport.

The 1500s

A set of golf clubs varied in the 16th century. Golfers used play clubs, known as “longnoses”, for driving. They played with fairway clubs, or “grassed drivers”, for medium range. Other clubs that golfers used were: “spoons” for short shots, a putting “cleek”, and “niblicks”, which were similar to wedges. Those who crafted the clubs used wood. They specifically used ash or hazel for the club shafts. Separately, they made the club heads by using tougher wood, such as pear, holly, apple or beech. They connected the club head to the shaft with a splint. Then, they bound the two parts with a leather strap.

The 1700s

Local blacksmiths began making the first iron club heads around 1750. Players used these for “niblicks” or wedges. Then, in 1826, Robert Forgan, a club-maker in Scotland, began using imported hickory. The hickory hailed from America and club-makers used it for making club shafts. It rapidly became the club-maker’s wood-of-choice since it was both readily accessible and strong.

The 1900s

Club-makers became more creative in the early 20th century. They introduced the steel shaft around 1925 in the United States. Even so, blacksmiths commonly constructed clubs by using steel since the late 1890s. Players preferred the steel shaft based on its remarkable accuracy and noted durability. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews banned concave-faced wedges by 1931. From that point forward, players used the modern sand wedge. The inventor, Gene Sarazen, created the wedge that possessed a straight face and increased bounce.

Present Day

Golfers today play with titanium club heads, which are combined with graphite shafts. The club head size for drivers does not exceed 460cc. Golfers are no longer making their own clubs from wood. Instead, companies manufacture the clubs using advanced technology. By doing so, the clubs are tailored to each individual. Depending on the type of club the player desires, there are a number of resources that explain where to buy specific golf clubs.

A Brief History of the Golf Ball

The golf ball, like humankind, evolved over the course of centuries. Although many are familiar with the modern, rubber golf ball, known for its varied properties that serve players depending on their desired technique, its origins can be traced back to the 14th century.

Wooden Golf Balls

Despite minimal available evidence that wooden balls were used in those early golf games, it is discussed that they were used in the 14th century for games bearing resemblance to the sport.

Hairy Golf Balls

The form of ball, known as the “common” ball, experienced a long shelf life due to its more reasonable cost compared to later models, such as the featherie golf ball. The Scottish first imported the balls in 1486 from the Netherlands, and they were filled with cows’ hair or straw.

Featherie Golf Balls

Introduced in 1618, featherie golf balls differed from hairy golf balls primarily in the filling. Filled with goose or chicken feathers, the ball was filled more than its predecessor. However, as a result, it lacked the same distance potential. Given the lengthiness of its creation, the cost of featherie golf balls was also higher, resulting in hairy golf balls’ use until the early 18th century.

Guttie/Gutta Golf Balls

By 1848, the Gutta-Percha ball made the game – or at least the ball – reach new heights. Dr. Robert Adams Paterson invented the new model in 1848 using dried sap from the Malaysian Sapodilla tree. The creation of the ball encouraged creators to stray from the original smooth surfaces when they realized indentations on the ball led to greater aerodynamic potential.

Rubber Golf Balls

Golf balls as we know them are a product of a chance discovery. When Coburn Haskell wound rubber thread into a ball, and added a cover at a later date, the latest form of the golf ball was created. The rubber Haskell golf ball, though first mirroring the bramble patterns of the guttie balls, was transformed in the 1900s by inverting the dimples for greater control.

Crazy Club Scramble Tournament Rules

The scramble is one of the most popular types of golf games, especially for fun-style tournaments and other casual events and especially for teams of players with mixed skill levels. For those who don’t know, the standard rules of scramble-style play state that each player takes their shot, then the best shot is selected amongst the group, and each player taker their next shot from this new position, until the team has holed out. In other words, only the best shot from your group counts. Then, everybody goes and plays from the spot of this best shot.

A scramble can be fun because bad shots are often meaningless, and the team invariably scores considerably better than any of the individual members would do. As a mostly fun and casual game of golf, it also enjoys several variations and embellishments that can make it even more fun. Often, these rules are adopted only on specific holes. Some club scramble tournaments we’ve been a part of have slightly different rules. Looking to create a creative scramble-style tournament at your own club? Here is a list of ideas and rules that can be adopted on specific holes at your home course.

Variation: The team has to hit into a designated bunker before completing the hole. This is one of our favorite variations, and we usually set it up at least once on each nine. It’s an interesting feeling and need for focus trying to hit into a fairway bunker from the tee. Other hazards or indicated areas on a hole can also be a forced intermediate goal before holing out.

Variation: Team must use worst shot. This can get a little tedious and slow the pace of play when implemented for every single shot. So, you can stipulate the team must only use the worst tee shot, or you can stipulate the worst shot rule applies until the team is on the green. Or you can stipulate the worst putt must be taken (and thus everybody must make the team’s final putt before holing out), which changes the thought process to pure lag putts on any putt from a considerable distance.

Variation: The use of extra wide golf holes also provides interesting possibilities. Like the idea of using worst shot on the putting green but worried about the pace of play? Worried about the pace of play especially on one particularly fraught hole on the course? Like the idea of increasing the odds of a chip-in or hole-out from distance? Cut either an 8-inch or 15-inch hole on the green.

Variation: Use alternate shot rules for one or more holes. This is another great way to speed up the pace of play, while also adding some moments of pressure to individual players. You can also play scramble off the tee and then alternate shot.

Variation: Each team gets a length of string, often 5-10 feet. This string can be used to improve the lie of the team throughout the round. So, if a putt comes to rest close to the hole, the distance can be measured with the string which is then cut. The team is then considered to have holed out without adding a stroke. Can also be used to get out from behind a tree, bunker, or water hazard. Ties can also be broken at the end of the day, but the team which has the longest remaining string.

Variation: For one hole, the four-person team splits into 2 two-person scramble teams. Each mini-team then plays the hole as a scramble (or alternate shot). Then the team takes the best score (or the worst) from the two scores on the hole.

Variation: Club restrictions. This could be almost anything. Each player must choose only 1, 2, or 3 clubs with which to play the hole. Each player must blindly draw pieces of paper to determine which club(s) they will use for the hole. Each player is only allowed to use irons on a hole (including the putting green). After every hole, or every birdie, or every bogey, one club must be removed from the bag (either one player or every player on the team). There are an essentially endless number of permutations.

Variation: On holes in which all four players hit the fairway from the tee, the team is then granted a free shot that may be taken by only player on the team. The whole team then plays from that position as with regular scramble rules.

What Golf can Teach You about Accounting

You have to be able to count in order to be able to play—oh yeah, and business. Golf and accounting are both about business culture, right? Sure, but there’s obviously a lot more to it than just that. From natural personality traits to cultivating calm in your mental life, from playing by the rules to relentlessly seeking improvement, there are all kinds of instructive connections between golf and accounting.


Meticulous Detail, Deceptively Simple Goal

Golf is like accounting in some truly fundamental ways starting with the fact that each seems like such a deceptively simple goal: Hit a ball with a stick. Record and reconcile numbers to track financial activity. And yet. For anyone who’s ever taken on either golf or accounting in any serious way can tell you, it’s never quite that simple. All the muscles in your body must come together in balance and in time with each other to achieve the desired effect. Those who are naturally attuned to the details tend to be best at both golf and accounting, and yet, it’s often the ability to not become hyper-focused or lose trust in a well-practiced system that determines long-term success. Again, it’s a lot about personality traits.


The Clubs in Your Bag

In golf, you get 14 clubs. In accounting, you’re given a number of resources from printers, computers, software, phones, tablets, filing cabinets, etc. In golf, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to carry three putters in your bag. In accounting, you can have too many competing resources for an effective system, especially when it comes to data management and software technologies. Maybe you don’t need to carry a driver and fairway woods in your bag most of the time because you typically play Par-3 courses, maybe because you’re teaching children how to play or because you’re pressed for time. In the same way, if you’re an independent accountant managing a handful of local business firms, the best club in your bag might be a low-cost accounting and payroll solution. In contrast, if you’re head of the accounting department for a sizable corporate firm, you might pitch the idea of investing in and integrating a custom payroll platform.


Improvement Through Accountability

The best accountants—and golfers—practice the art of perfectionism not just in the details but in the system itself. It’s easy to get complacent when an employer is happy with the results. On the other hand, you can only go so long before your accounting resources are outdated—especially if you don’t yet have a relationship with a software company that’s continually updating their offers. On your end, diligent data entry and tracking are essential, just as the golfer needs to focus on one shot at a time. Accounting solutions need to be continually analyzed and improved upon for error rate, on-time filing, and accounting costs to determine if and when a change is needed. Likewise, golfers need to analyze their game by more than just their round score. You should also look at fairways hit, greens in regulation, and putts—at the very least.


How Golf can Teach You to Be a Better Investor

Both personal and professional investors can learn to craft better investment strategies, make better individual investment choices, and gain greater perspective through their love of golf. You need to know your long-term financial goals and how you’re going to get there, just as you to understand how the details of the game and your swing can lead to lower scores and a deeper passion for the experience.


Practice and Training

From basic working knowledge of your investing platform to doing the deep-dive research into specific stocks and various trading strategies, from diversifying your portfolio to knowing when to take a calculated risk, practice makes perfect, or so they say. We say that there’s no such thing as perfect—not in a round of golf, not over the course of a lifetime of investing. In golf, you need to learn some sense of the proper form, before then also putting in several hours on the driving range and on the putting green. In the best of circumstances, this hard work will pay off in effortless seeming success on the course and in your investment returns.


Course Management and Club Selection

It’s not enough to rely on single stock tips, no matter how juicy and intuitive they might seem at the same time. You may feel most comfortable with a 7-iron in your hand, but just because you’re a 7-iron away from the pin doesn’t mean you should be shooting at the flag if it’s just 20 feet from a water hazard. Likewise, you need to be able to fit the club selection and what kinds of shots you have in your bag with the ultimate goal of getting the ball in the hole. With investing, this really just boils down to consistent and honest risk-reward evaluation and then being able to trust your read and take action. Even then, course management and club selection can only cover for so much and it doesn’t help the bad short that will occasionally happen to anyone. Overcoming adversity and not panicking is a great lesson for golf and for investing.


Different Golf Games and The Cost of Doing Business

Maybe instead of a traditional game of golf, you prefer the relative ease and fun of miniature golf or Topgolf. There’s no shame, and there is a lot of low-stress fun to be had. Maybe you don’t need to fret over competitive investing and trying to beat the market. Moreover, golf isn’t cheap and investing fees can add up. Likewise, in most settings, the greens fees is a consideration about where to play. Likewise, most people consider the cost of doing business with a financial advisor, investment firm, and/or trading fees.


How Golf can Teach You to Be a Better Business Leader

More than just a cultural tradition that’s quickly becoming outdated, golf can cultivate and replenish those traits and behaviors that make for an effective business leader. There’s still a lot to be said for the truism, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” but this is arguably less true than ever before. And so, more than just being around those people who already have money and influence, golf has value in the business community for the traits and knowledge it takes to play well and to play with pleasure.


Work Hard, Work Smart, Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

In our experience, in today’s business world, you and your company has to work hard and smart to succeed. I take a similar approach to golf in my personal life. Even if I can only find an hour or two at most of time, I’ll get out to local driving range and putting green. Heck, even if I only have 20 minutes, I might get out my putter and work on making solid strokes, squaring the putter head and aiming for a spot on the wall. I never was into the fake indoor putting greens. But I also try to work smart: I line up and pick a spot to aim at on every one of my practice strokes. On the putting green, I use one ball, I try to read every putt, and I hole out every time. “Not being afraid to fail” has been a trendy tech business motto for several years now, but it still makes me think about making a major or even semi-major swing change. Your swing results may have to digress before you get better. But you still have to buy-in and not be afraid to fail to know whether or not the new swing mechanics might unlock a new level of golfing proficiency.


Fashion, Etiquette, and Decorum

I’m not talking about playing nice or being conciliatory—although, arguably, effective leaders need to have this club in their bag, too. Rather, I’m talking about how recognizing and following decorum to gain or maintain an advantageous situation—or to minimize a disadvantageous one—is essential as a business leader. Still, much like being an effective writer involves knowing the rules so you also know when to break them, so too is the decision to break with etiquette and tradition in golf, business, and other circles of life. It may be A Gentlemen’s Game, but it’s not just for the dudes. Just as businesses lose a competitive edge by ignoring the skills available from half the population that’s consistently underestimated, this simple lesson of gender equity is one that some of the most exclusive and prestigious private golf clubs took too long to learn.


Adherence to the Rules and a Level Playing Field

This is an ideal to which we should aspire to live up to, even as we understand the entire playing field and what must be done to remain a viable business. But an adherence to the rules, which themselves are consistently and fairly enforced, even when they don’t always make intuitive sense, creates a level playing field in which skill, sportsmanship, and the idiosyncrasies of the game itself shine through. That’s called integrity. This applies to the rules of golf themselves, at least in competitive tournament-style play, but it also applies to golfing equipment and the nature of the game. Whether it’s various spring-loaded technologies or belly-putters, any number of illegal devices and swing aids can fundamentally change the nature of the game and the skillset required to master it. You want to talk about an industry “disruptor.”