A player usually carries several clubs during the game (but no more than fourteen, the limit defined by the rules).
There are three major types of clubs, known as woods, irons, and putters. Wedges resemble irons and may also be counted among these (see below).
The parts of a club are the shaft (with grip) and the head. The shaft is a tapered tube made of metal or fiberglass or graphite fiber. The shaft is roughly 1/2 inch in diameter (12 mm) near the grip and about 35 to 45 inches (89-115 cm) in length depending on the club. The end of the shaft opposite the head is covered with a rubber or leather grip for the player to hold. The head is the part that hits the ball. Each head has a face which contacts the ball during the stroke (but the head of a putter may have two faces).
Various clubs are designed with the face having differing loft (the angle between a vertical plane and the clubface when the club is at rest). Perhaps with the exception of tee shots, it is loft that makes a golf ball leave the ground, not an upward direction of swing: for shots with a particularly high trajectory such as pitches, the club actually hits the ball in a downward motion, and with most other shots the motion is more or less horizontal. Typically, the greater the loft, the higher and shorter the resulting shot.
While it is possible to play a range of different shots using only one club, modifying only the speed and direction of swing, this is not a particularly successful technique. Far easier is it to keep the swing as constant as possible and achieve different lengths and characteristics of ball flight using a different club for each shot. To facilitate the choice of a club for any particular situation, all irons (and many woods and wedges) come in sets of similar clubs graded by loft, shaft lenght and weight. Clubs are numbered for identification with the smallest numbers indicating the lowest loft.
A typical set of clubs may consist of irons 3 to 9, three wedges, woods 1, 3, and 5, and a putter.
Traditionally, most metal golf club heads were made by
- Woods are long clubs (shaft length about 40-45 inches or 100-115 cm) for long shots. The have large heads that are somewhat spherical in shape with a slightly bulging clubface and a flattened bottom that slides over the ground without digging in during the stroke. Originally the "wood" heads were made of wood but modern club heads are made of hollow metal, sometimes filled with foam. The shaft enters the wood off-center, in such a way that the face of the wood is roughly at a right angle to one side of the shaft. Woods are used for the longest shots, ranging from 200 to 300 yards (180-275 m). The typical loft for wood faces ranges from 6 to 26 degrees.
- Irons are used for shorter shots than woods, especially including shots approaching the greens. Irons typically range from 36 to 40 inches (90-100 cm) in length. Iron heads are typically solid with a flat clubface. The typical lofts for irons range from 16 to 60 degrees. "Long" and intermediate irons (i.e. those with a lower loft) are usually played from fairway or other easy ground. "Short" irons (with a higher loft) are played from difficult ground and especially for approach shots to the green.
- Wedges are irons with lofts of more than approximately 50 degrees. Pitching wedges are rather similar to other irons but have a higher loft than those. Some wedges have specially designed undersides that make them suitable for shots from bunkers (sand wedges) or from the rough. Lob wedges have a very high loft and are used for approach shots or from sand.
- Putters come in a variety of head shapes; they have a very low loft and often a short shaft. They are used to roll the ball on the green to get the ball into the hole.