“Niblick,” “mashie,” “spoon” and “cleek” — these are just a handful of the names that were used for golf clubs before numbers and more modern names came into play.
Following the greater mass production of golf clubs in the 1940s, the consistencies between certain clubs from various manufacturers became strong enough to warrant golf club numbers.
We’ll explain what these numbers mean and how different clubs are used, plus share a few famous favorites from Tiger, Bubba and other historic players.
What Are Golf Club Numbers?
Golf club numbers are the numbers given to clubs to denote their characteristics — specifically the loft, or angle, of the clubface.
While the placement of a golf club’s number can vary depending on the manufacturer, it can typically be found on the underside of the clubface and top of the shaft.
Typically, golf club numbers span from 1 to 9. However, more modern clubs may have numbers that are outside of this range. s
What Do the Numbers on Golf Clubs Mean?
Referring to its loft, golf club numbers highlight how a certain club will strike the ball in terms of height and distance.
In general, a club with a lower-angled clubface will have a lower number.
Golf club numbers are also impacted by the type of club they belong to. Different groups of clubs have certain characteristics and designs — meaning the numbers only hold relevance within that group, but not when compared to a different type of club.
The types of golf clubs with numbers are:
Drivers & Woods
Let’s take a look at each group individually.
1. Drivers & Woods
Drivers and woods can be identified by their longer shafts and rounded heads.
Despite having the same number, a 1-driver and 1-iron are angled at different degrees due to the way they are made. In fact, a 1-iron's loft is roughly double the 10-degree tilt of a driver.
The same can be said for woods. At 15-18 and 20-22 degrees respectively, a 3-wood and 5-wood will have a lower loft than similarly numbered irons.
Making up the majority of a golfer’s bag, irons have shorter shafts and flatter heads when compared to drivers and woods.
Their lofts rise incrementally and can be split into further subsections:
Long irons (2-4): 18-25 degrees
Mid irons (5-7): 29-34 degrees
Short irons (8-9): 37-41 degrees
Sharing a similar look and feel to irons, wedges are characterized by their open clubface.
While wedges are usually referred to by name, they can also be numbered in relation to the exact degree of loft for the individual club. For example:
A pitching wedge can be a 52
A sand wedge can be a 56
A lob wedge can be a 60
What Are Numbered Golf Clubs Used For?
Each club has its own purpose on the golf course, whether it's numbered or not.
While every golfer will use their set of golf clubs differently depending on technique, preference and experience, club choice has a major impact on two key aspects: distance and style.
A lower club number, with its lower degree of loft, will result in longer distances.
This is why golfers will choose a driver, wood or long-iron off the tee on longer holes and opt for mid to short-irons and wedges for approach shots and Par 3’s.
Keep in mind that skill also has a significant say in the length of a golf shot.
During his recent victory at Augusta, John Rahm outdrove the average low-handicap golfer by some distance, but only beat his professional counterparts by 3.5 yards.
The distance Rahm outdrove younger, middle aged and older golfers with low handicaps also increased by age to roughly 50, 70 and 90 yards respectively.
As you approach the green, different styles of shots are needed as you get closer to the hole — requiring different types of clubs.
If a shot requires more loft or less roll, you might opt for short-iron or wedge
If you find yourself in the rough, you might choose an iron or fairway wood
If you’re not quite in a position to approach the green, you might choose a long-iron or fairway wood
Blockquote: Dave Pelz: “65% of all golf shots occur inside 100 yards.”
What Golf Club Numbers Are Used the Most?
According to the rulebook, 14 is the maximum number of clubs a golfer can have in their bag.
This rule was implemented during the 1930s to limit pro golfers from bringing too many clubs to tournaments, as they struggled to decide between newer steel and older hickory sets.
This limit continues to have a great impact on the sport today, as players aim to narrow down their most effective and varied club selections into one bag.
So, what golf clubs are used the most today?
Drivers & Woods
The most common drivers and woods used today are:
Although an unpopular choice, some golfers will also choose to use a 2-wood and 4-wood.
The most common irons used today are:
While the 1-iron used to be a key addition for some golfers, its rarely used today.
The most common wedges used today are:
While these are the most popular wedge numbers, due to their niche nature the numbers on wedges can vary depending on both the golfer and the maker.
Examples of Famous Golfers’ Favorite Golf Clubs
Every golfer’s bag will consist of a revolving set of 14 clubs as they change and adapt their game.
But what are the golf club numbers that the professionals prefer?
From famous shots to wins at major tournaments, here are some of golf’s most famous clubs.
1. Tiger Woods: Putter
Tiger Woods has produced unthinkable shots with every type of club, on courses at many of golf’s most iconic destinations.
However, one club has been seen so often it has become one of the most recognizable clubfaces in golf — his putter.
Featured in 14 of his 15 major victories, this particular Scotty Cameron Newport 2 has a history stretching back to 1999!
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2. Arnold Palmer: Driver
Before winning his first Masters, Arnold Palmer was told his style of drive would never be enough to achieve victory at Augusta.
Yet, his “low ball” style led Palmer to four green jackets — making his driver one of golf's most famous clubs.
Even at the age of 74, Palmer was producing memorable low drilled shots with his driver in major tournaments.
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3. Bubba Watson: 3-Iron
One of golf’s 21st century greats, Bubba Watson's bag of golf clubs look slightly different to most tour golfers due to the fact he is left-handed.
Of these left-handed clubs, it was Bubba’s 3-iron that gained attention back in 2018 when he hit the ball 366 yards off the tee.
Considering this is more than double the distance an average recreational golfer hopes for, it’s fair to say Bubba gets on well with his 3-iron.
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4. Henrik Stenson: 3-Wood
Golf isn’t always about the newest technology or most expensive clubs; sometimes players will have a connection with a certain club.
Henrik Stenson carried his trusty Callaway 3-wood for over a decade between 2008 and 2019. He then readded the club to his bag for the 2021 Valero Texas Open.
Its resale value at the time? Just $13.50.
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5. Ben Hogan: 1-Iron
Forever known as one of the most difficult golf club numbers to use, the 1-iron was made famous by one man and one shot alone.
Ben Hogan hit his 1-iron 213 yards on the second shot of the 18th at Merion Golf Club. The shot helped him reach a playoff round, which he eventually won, to emerge victorious in the 1950 U.S. Open.
Since newer technology and more forgiving clubs have led to the rejection of the 1-iron by both professionals and recreational golf players, Hogan will forever be linked with the club that led him to a famous victory.
Blockquote: Lee Trevino: “Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”
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