Most people have played golf at least once in their lives. For some, it becomes a life-long obsession. The game today is a far cry from what it once looked like in the early part of the 20th century. Wooden golf shafts and balls stuffed with feathers were once the norm until the USGA allowed steel shafted clubs to be used on Dec.9, 1926. That day, the game of golf evolved for pros and average players alike. Shots were straighter, longer and deadly accurate compared to its predecessors and golf scores soon began to plummet.
Golf shafts from the 17-18th centuries were crafted from ash and hazel wood for high end use, and for the commoners, whatever hardwood was available locally. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that hickory wood made its first appearance as a club shaft. Hickory’s reputation was that it was flexible, strong and durable, making it the obvious choice for manufacturers for the better part of a century.
Thomas Horsburgh made the first steel shaft in 1893, but there just wasn’t any interest as steel and very heavy and costly. 20 years later, Allan Lard of Washington DC, was granted a patent for his design of a perforated steel shaft. To reduce its weight, hundreds of small holes were drilled into the shaft. While this made it lighter, it also made the shaft “whistle” when it was swung and thus, it never caught on. In the 1920’s, an American firm called Bristol Steel in Connecticut developed a seamless tubular shaft which became the accepted standard.
For those unfamiliar, the United States Golf Association (USGA) is the final authority on everything having to do with how the game is played, including equipment golfers can use. The rules are:
“The shaft of the club must be straight from the top of the grip to a point not more than 5 inches (127 mm) above the sole, measured from the point where the shaft ceases to be straight along the axis of the bent part of the shaft and/or socket.”
“At any point along its length, the shaft must bend in such a way that the deflection is the same regardless of how the shaft is rotated about its longitudinal axis; and twist the same amount in both directions.”
“The shaft must be attached to the club head at the heel directly or through a single plain neck and/or socket. The length from the top of the neck and/or socket to the sole of the club must not exceed 5 inches (127 mm), measured along the axis of, and following any bend in, the neck and/or socket.”