Names of old golf clubs and their closest modern equivalents

The practice of giving numbers to irons only began in the mid-1920s

Names – Old golf clubs

In the days when all golf clubs were painstakingly hand-made, sometimes by a professional clubmaker, but sometimes by the local blacksmith, clubs were far from standardised. Each was a unique creation, and the clubs were given names, not numbers. The practice of giving numbers to irons only began in the mid-1920s in the US, as industrial production began to take over, and for wooden clubs – usually carved from solid blocks – it took even longer.

Comparing antique and modern golf clubs is therefore almost impossible. Many old clubs would be illegal today (e.g. the rake iron and water iron), and some would have no purpose today (e.g. the rutting iron).

Names – Old golf clubs

Some clubs had names closely allied to their purpose, for example the ‘jigger’. Everyone agrees that the jigger is a club used for approach work around the greens, but – just as today – some people see these shots as lofted pitches, but others see them as bump and runs. So certain jiggers will resemble a modern wedge, but others will resemble a much straighter faced iron.

Names – Old golf clubs

For that matter, even modern club designations can be misleading over time. Take the 5 iron and the 9 iron. In the 1970s, these would have had about 30° and 46° of loft; the 2012 versions of the ‘same’ clubs have probably 26° and 41°.

With all these caveats, the list below attempts to give the most generally accepted equivalences. You have been warned!

Names – Old golf clubs

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Modern ClubNearest Antique Equivalent
2 woodBrassie
3 woodSpoon
4 woodBaffy, baffie, baffing spoon, wooden cleek
1 ironDriving iron, cleek
2 ironMid iron
3 ironMid mashie
4 ironMashie iron, jigger
5 ironMashie
6 ironSpade mashie
7 ironMashie niblick
8 ironLofting iron
9 ironNiblick
WedgePitching niblick, jigger, chipper

Originally posted in 2012