To play the game properly the following clubs are necessary: driver, brassey, cleek, mid-iron, mashie, and putter. Although not absolutely essential a niblick may also be added. Many good golfers rarely carry one, using the mashie instead, except perhaps in an important match. Let us first take the driver.
With all the varieties on the market - and their name is legion - he would be fastidious indeed who could not find one to suit him, provided he knew what he wanted. Tastes vary in a marked degree, and sentiment goes for so much as to largely account for the many different styles, for what may be eminently adapted for A would be useless in the hands of B. Yet we see B vainly endeavoring to play with a club entirely unsuited to him, simply because A does so excellently with one of the same kind, B being totally unmindful of the fact that their styles are wholly dissimilar. So many things enter into the make-up of the club, apart altogether from the model or pattern of the head (such as the lie, the weight, the length, and qualities of the shaft), that it is a rare thing to find any two exactly alike. It is, therefore, only by a good deal of experimenting that the player can arrive at any fair idea of what best suits him. Somebody has said that it is about as difficult to select a driver for another man as it would be a wife. A divorce from the one, however, is a simple matter. In the hands of a first-class player there is comparatively little difference in results between any two entirely different clubs that you may hand him, since he has the faculty of quickly adapting himself to their peculiarities. And clubs have peculiarities, as we shall shortly find.
It is much easier to get a club which will humor your peculiarities than it is to play with one which has peculiarities at variance with your natural style. Make the club suit you instead of making yourself suit the club. The great thing is to know just what you need. Few men have the time or the disposition to run through the whole tribe of clubs and ascertain for themselves, in a practical way, whether they can accomplish better work with a heavy head united to a stiff and long shaft, or a heavy one with a stiff and short shaft, or a heavy head with a long and whippy shaft, or one with a short and whippy shaft, or, finally, a light head with these various equipments. As a general thing the beginner makes the mistake of selecting too heavy a club, from a lack of appreciation of the fact that it is not so much the weight of the club which drives a long ball as it is the speed at which it is moving when it meets the ball. It is obvious that in the hands of the ordinary player a heavy club cannot be swung so fast as a lighter one. When the beginner grasps this fact in its true significance he will have made a long step towards improvement in distance. Of course there is a limit as to the weight of the head. With too light a one the additional speed gained in the swing does not compensate equivalently for the lack of weight any more than the very heavy head makes up for the necessarily slower swing. There is a happy medium. This happy me dium, however, is not a fixed quantity, since all men are not cast in the same mould. Some have very strong wrists, some strong arms, some are gifted with both, and when is joined to this combination a lissomeness of body, the naturally long driver is the result. Such a man is likely to have a very rapid swing, and will probably prefer a stiff shaft. The man with a less rapid swing will get equally as long a ball by using a more supple shaft. The more "music" there is in the shaft, however, the greater is the liability to slice or pull, especially if the least pressing be indulged in. Let us take the head by itself and examine it in detail. It is usually made of beech, persimmon, or dogwood. A beech head is generally credited with driving a slightly longer ball, and usually one with more carry. This is probably due to its more resilient qualities. Being somewhat softer than the other woods mentioned the ball sinks into the face a trifle more appreciably, and therefore is practically an integral part of the head for a fraction of a second longer. In other words, the head is in contact with the ball for a longer period of time, infinitesimally so when actually measured, but enough to store up a shade more energy in the ball.
Beech seems to possess this quality of resiliency in about the right degree, being neither too soft nor yet too hard. The climate here, however, does not lend itself to the preservation of the wood, and it very soon cracks in the face, necessitating a leather inset. With a good leather face, the head is almost as good as ever, about the only objection being that in wet weather the leather becomes more or less pulpy, and consequently does not drive quite so far. When the face shows signs of cracking it should not be allowed to go too far before being faced with leather. It will not do any harm to a leather face to give it a coat of good spar varnish. This will assist in filling up the pores and help to keep moisture out. The varnish should, however, be allowed to thoroughly dry before the club is used.
Next to beech, persimmon is a splendid wood, and on account of its greater durability is preferred by many players. It is not quite so resilient as beech, but drives almost as long a ball, and lasts much longer. Dogwood is also an excellent wood, somewhat harder than persimmon, and more durable than either it or beech. Except in wet weather it is apparently improved in driving power by being leather-faced. There is so little to choose among the three woods mentioned that it resolves itself into a question largely of sentiment, pretty much the same as the shape of the head appeals to different players in various ways.
Concerning models, it undoubtedly appears to be the tendency to materially shorten the length of the face, especially with class players. The only advantage of a wealth of face is that it offers more margin for error, the inaccurate player being more likely to hit the ball with some part of it, even though a slice or a pull may result through the ball being struck off the heel or the toe of the club. The more accurate hitter, however, finds that the weight of the wood unnecessarily taken up by a long face can be used to greater mechanical advantage, and he accordingly proceeds to cut off the toe and add its equivalent weight where it will do the most good - behind the point of impact. Or he gets a new club built on these lines, and it does not take him long to discover the greater merits of the change from the longer balls he is enabled to drive. Another feature in connection with the small - faced head is perhaps worthy of consideration, in respect of the lesser atmospheric resistance encountered in the swing. Like the weight, however, the size and shape of the head are matters of individual preference.