In the previous edition of this series of posts on golf terminology, we talked about words that describe ball flight. This time, I’d like to break down the anatomy of the golf club.
Sometimes when I describe something relating to a club, I get questions about the terms that are typically used. After a while, all the words seem simple to understand, but really, how is a new player supposed to have any idea what a “hosel” is?
Again, this glossary is mostly for newer players to help with an understanding of the basics of the golf club. Seasoned veterans will probably know most of this.
Let’s jump right in and talk about the various parts of the golf club and go over definitions that describe it all.
Here’s a look at an iron:
That image shows the basic parts of a golf club. In this case, an iron. It consists of:
- Shaft – Long tubular piece of steel or graphite the connects the grip and the club head.
- Club head – The part of the club that is used to strike the ball.
- Grip – Not visible in the photo, but it lives at the far end of the shaft and is where you put your hands.
Here is a closer look at the club head:
Let’s discuss the various parts of the club head.
- The club face is the part of the club that strikes the golf ball.
- In the center of the club face (approximately), you’ll find the sweet spot. This is the area where you will get the most accuracy and distance when striking the ball because that’s where the center of gravity is. Hitting the ball elsewhere on the face causes the club head to try and turn, causing a loss of distance and change in direction.
- The toe is the end of the club, out away from the shaft.
- The heel of the club is the side of the face closest to the shaft, where it meets the hosel.
- The hosel is the part of the club head where the shaft is affixed. This is where the shanks originate. In the diagram, it goes all the way from the heel up to the ferrule (the little black ring at the top of the hosel). Ferrules are normally cosmetic, but can also work to preserve club integrity.
- The top edge is pretty straight forward. It’s the edge you see at address at the top of the club face when you look down at the club.
- The leading edge is the edge where the face meets the sole (refer to the first diagram for the sole). When you make a swing, the leading edge is what makes first contact with the turf.
- Conversely, the trailing edge (not called out in the diagram) is the opposite edge of the sole, where it meets the back side of the club.
- The horizontal lines across the face are known as the grooves. The grooves grab the ball and impart spin upon it when it is struck with an iron. Grooves on drivers are normally cosmetic.
Lie and Loft
Lie angle and loft angle are two important club characteristics. The following image shows lie angle:
Lie angle simply refers to the angle of the shaft in relation to the sole of the club head. You’ll usually find that the lie angle of longer clubs is a little more (or, “flatter”) than that of shorter clubs like wedges that are more “upright”. Many times, this can be adjusted for players to give them maximum fit in their clubs. A taller player might prefer a more upright lie and shorter players might prefer a flatter lie. This is something a club fitter can help you decide.
Loft, on the other hand, describes the angle of the club face with respect to vertical (at address, with the sole flat on the ground). For instance, a wedge that has 54 degrees of loft means that the face is tilted 54 degrees back from vertical. A driver has very little loft, usually ranging from 8 to 11 degrees.
Cavity Back Versus Muscleback/Blade
Irons have historically come in two types: cavity back and muscleback (or “blade”, if you prefer). The difference is simple: in blades, the back of the club head is mostly solid, meaning the mass is evenly distributed. In a cavity back, the back of the iron isn’t solid. The top photo above shows that to a degree, however, I’m not sure it would be completely classified as a cavity back either.
The purpose of the cavity is to get more of the mass around the edges of the club (called “perimeter weighting”), which increases the moment of inertia. That means that if you hit the ball off center (on the heel or toe), the club head is less likely to twist, so the ball will go a little further than if it were poorly struck with a muscleback iron.
The advantage of blade irons is the higher degree of control they give the player. There is less tolerance for error, but for a player that desires more control, they’re the obvious choice, assuming the player can strike the ball well enough to overcome the worse result from off-center hits.
In the last several years, the lines between cavity back and muscleback irons has blurred somewhat. It’s not so clear anymore. Designers are going more for specific playing characteristics and sometimes a little of both designs gives the desired result. For instance, the iron above doesn’t have a completely solid back, but certainly has less of a cavity than some other models.
Forged Versus Cast
The photos above show Callaway X-20 Forged irons. When referring to forged versus cast, we’re talking about the manufacturing process used to make the club head. When irons are cast, the steel is melted and poured into a mold. Forged irons are normally constructed by pounding or pressing the steel into shape.
It used to be that cavity back irons were typically cast and muscleback irons were more likely to be forged, but this isn’t really the rule anymore. Club makers are knocking down all the barriers between the various fundamentals in club design and combining technologies like never before to make clubs that are longer, straighter, more forgiving, and have better feel.
Woods and Hybrids
Woods and hybrids usually share the same anatomy as irons with the exception of the materials and construction of the club heads. Woods (or “metals”, really), are usually hollow and can be made of steel, titanium, or other alloys. Hybrids are exactly that: part metal wood, part iron and combine the characteristics of each.
Since their basic design is very similar to that of an iron, I won’t go into more detail here.
I discussed bounce in great detail previously. Briefly, bounce is the characteristic of the sole where, when the club is grounded at address, it refers to the amount that the leading edge of the club is off the ground, compared with the trailing edge. It is expressed in degrees. A club with 14 degrees of bounce, such as a sand wedge, will have its leading edge sitting higher than a club with less bounce.
That covers the basics of Golf Club Anatomy 101. The basic terminology isn’t difficult to pick up. There’s definitely room for an advanced course, though. While we talked about the basic parts and features, there’s a whole other level of club design.
Things like shaft flex, kick point, center of gravity, shaft matching and more all lie beneath the surface. Most players don’t need to be concerned with that level of detail. That stuff is more important for club fitters and tour pros, whose concern is getting the maximum out of equipment. If you like to tinker with clubs, though, it’s worth understanding all the physics behind club design.