Since golf is such a pleasurable and competitive sport where players are always looking to shave off that last stroke players have always sought to make better equipment.Golf is a hard enough game without making it harder with inadequate tools of the trade. Initially in golf history players actually carved their own clubs and balls from wood until skilled craftsmen assumed the task. Long-nosed wooden clubs are the oldest known designed clubs remaining in use from the 15th century until the late 19th century. Long-noses as they were affectionately called were made of pear, apple or holly trees and were used to help achieve maximum distance with the feathery golf ball which began to come into use in 1618.
Later , other parts of the golf set developed – play clubs which included a range of spoons at varying lofts : niblicks , a kin of the modern 9 iron or wedge that was ideal for short puts: and a putting cleek – a club that has undergone the most rigorous experimentation.
The next generation of golf ball – the gutta percha ball put the clubs of the day to test. The first “Gutta” ball is believed to have been made in 1848 by the Rev. Dr. Robert Adams Paterson from gutta-percha packing material. Gutta-percha is the evaporated milky juice or latex produced from a tree most commonly found in Malaysia. It is hard and non-brittle and becomes soft and impressible at the temperature of boiling water. Gutta balls were handmade by rolling the softened material on a board. The new durability of the Gutta, together with its much lower cost, resistance to water, and improved run, provided rejuvenation to the game of golf. Not without some resistance from traditionalists, the Gutta gradually replaced the Feathery golf ball.
The golfing bottleneck now became the long-nose clubs. Long-nose clubs could not withstand the greater stress of the sturdier gutty.
As a result golf club makers were forced back to the design stage. Some club makers tried using leather, among other materials in their clubs in an attempt to increase compression and therefore distance. Others implanted metal and bone fragments into the clubface. In 1826 Scottish golf club maker Robert Forgan began use hickory wood imported from America to manufacture golf club shafts, and hickory was soon adopted as the wood of choice.
Bulgers were shaved down versions of long-noses with bulbous heads resembling the shape of today’s woods, becoming popular implements that golfers could use with the new golf balls nicknamed “gutties”. By the turn of the century, bulgers were made almost exclusively of persimmon imported again from the USA.
Metals heads were around as early as 1750, but they took a significant turn for the better when a man named E. Burr applied grooves to the irons, which contributed to even greater control of the golf ball through increased backspin. In 1910 Arthur Knight introduced steel-shafted clubs, which precipitated an early example of technology application law.
Most players preferred hickory shafts for more than 20 years after the advent of steel. Golf’s ruling bodies more than contributed to this attitude as well as simple human resistance to change. The U.S. Golf Association did not legalize the use of steel shafts until 1924. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, procrastinated until 1929, finally relenting after the Prince of Wales used steel shafted clubs on the old course at St.Andrews. Billy Burrke was the first golfer to win a major championship with steel shafted clubs when he captured the 1931 U.S. open at Inverness Club in Toledo Ohio.
These ball and club innovations , combined with the mass production applications of the emerging American Industrial Revolution, provided golfers with relatively inexpensive equipment that was superior to anything that they had know a few years before. Thus golf club technology advanced and strokes were shaved off.