Despite the ample free time you have out on the course between crushing your drives, sending your irons, sticking approach shots and draining long-distance putts (that sound like you, right?), you likely rarely think about how those very clubs you’re wielding with such mastery are made.
But for a second, consider the complex functionality that each of your clubs needs to deliver: they need to be lightweight, but also be heavy hitters. They need to be flexible enough to give you the whip you need to hit further, but durable enough not to break. They need to have a thin shaft with a heavy club head, but stay intact over thousands of shots.
Needless to say, there’s a lot going on with your clubs and a lot of it has to do with the process of how they’re made. Like most things, a deeper understanding of how your clubs are made will undoubtedly help you understand your game at a deeper level, once you know the elements at play in each of your swings.
Below we’ll take you through an overview of how the core components of each of your clubs are made.
How Club Shafts are Made
Arguably the most dynamic piece of any golf club, your shaft needs to be flexible, resilient and lightweight. Shafts are typically made of several different materials including aluminum, stainless or chrome-plate steel, titanium, carbon or graphite.
All of these elements offer different qualities to meet the diverse needs of millions of golfers around the world. Classic materials used in steel shafts are usually more stiff, while modern materials such carbon and graphite shafts offer more flex.
The two most common methods of making shafts are Tube Drawing or the more recent Pultrusion process.
Tube Drawing is used for making steel shafts and involves pulling a thicker tube through the thinner opening of a die with a specific diameter. This forms the steel into a smooth cylinder at the correct length for each of your various clubs (drive to putter). Once the steel has been cast, the exterior is finished with a chrome-plating, giving it a polished look.
The Pultrusion process is used to create pieces of fibre-reinforced plastics that are then tightly woven together to create incredibly flexible and durable materials. These are thn pulled through heated steel molds that sculpt the composites into the various lengths needed for different clubs. This same material is also used in fishing rods, hockey sticks and tent poles.
Finally, each shaft must measure a minimum of 18 inches (457mm) in length to be considered legal length as per USGA (United States Golf Association) guidelines.
How Club Heads are made
While shafts may be the most dynamic piece of each club, there is no denying the individual club heads attached to them are more important when it comes to the versatility in distance, height and spin that woven together form the tapestry of your ‘game’.
Whether you use a smaller driver head or prefer the oversized variety, most modern driver heads are made from some combination of steel, titanium, carbon graphite or aluminum. The materials are put into highly detailed molds that shape the head of the driver depending on the intended specifications.
But driver heads are not only expected to perform well, they also need to look and of course sound really good too (nothing sounds as good as a well-hit tee shot!). To achieve that classic sound, many drivers have face inserts made of sonorous materials like metal ceramics or zirconia.
Irons & Putters
While driver heads seem to have increasingly more technology built into them these days (like adjustable loft and materials sourced from NASA), the process for casting iron heads is truly impressive - here’s a quick breakdown of how it works:
- The head of the iron or putter is originally designed with computer software (likely CAD) and then feeds the data into a machine that creates a mold to the precise specifications
- The mold is then injected with liquid hot wax, which eventually harden, leaving you with a series of different lofted wax club heads
- Each of these wax club heads is meticulously checked for any flaws like bumps, cracks, ridges and any other imperfections that may be present
- These abnormalities are then expertly removed or corrected using basic tools such as nail files and small chisels
- Once the wax heads are free of any imperfections, they’re then dipped into quicksand (which can withstand extremely high heat), which quickly bonds to the wax forming a outer layer
- These quicksand-wax heads are then put into a refrigerated room to dry and then brought back out again for another coating of quicksand - this process is repeated 5 times in total.
- The quicksand clubhead molds are then put into a steam oven at over 1000°F which melts the wax inside leaving an empty mold
- The quicksand mold is then filled with molten hot metal (or combination of different materials) and is left to cool off
- Once the mold and the metal has cooled off, they break the mold open and you are left with a semi-finished clubhead
- The final step involves cleaning and sandblasting the club face, as well as painting any logos that were cast on the club
Additional club crafting facts
Your golf club grips are typically either made from a molded synthetic rubber or a classic leather wrap. Both are applied with either water activated adhesives or strong double-sided tape, so that the grips can easily be replaced without using any harsh or toxic chemicals (which they used to have to use!)
Ever wonder how that heavy club head stays attached to your shaft, despite how hard you swing? The small piece keeping them together is called a hosel, which easily allows for the club shaft to slip in, a small pin is then inserted crosswise into the shaft and club head and finally affixed with heavy-duty epoxy to keep everything together.
And lastly, have you noticed that all of your clubs have a black plastic attachment just above or on (what you now know as) the hosel? Sometimes it comes with a red, yellow or blue colour as well. This piece is called the ferrule and while it may seem important, it mostly serves as a decorative piece.