GUIDE TO BUYING HICKORY CLUBS FOR A PLAY SET
When considering hickory clubs for play it is vital that you know as much possible about the clubs before buying in order to make up a balanced set for maximum performance.
Woods with neck or heel cracks or loose back lead back weights are often to be found and will require restoration work before the club is suitable to be used for play. Also woods with cut back faces taking the roll and bulge from the face itself should not be considered as it can affect performance, i.e. distance and accuracy. The same applies to clubs with very light swing weights, under C2 for men and B5 for ladies, or clubs with pronounced bent or overly shortened shafts as these faults can upset the balance and feel. When searching for irons check for loose heads or poorly fitted re shafts as again these faults will affect performance. All the above mentioned problems are a deal more common than you might imagine.
So to put your mind at rest it is safer to buy from a recognised supplier whose clubs have been professionally restored and provide as much important information as possible about each club in order for you to buy with confidence before making the next step, discovering the pleasure of playing with these beautiful vintage clubs.
One must always remember that the average age of a hickory club is between 80 to 100 years and even older in some cases so you are purchasing an item of golf history, a golfing antique.
Straight face drivers with less than 12° of loft can be very difficult to use unless you are a skilled player. The rule of "the more loft the easier to hit" applies to all clubs including modern clubs today. So for most golfers selecting a driver with as much as 12° - 14° of loft, or preferably a brassie known as a No2 wood with 12° - 15° would be ideal unless you intend to test your skill to its limit with a straighter face model!
Depth of face is also important. Deep face woods will promote a more penetrating shot. Shallow face woods, with a lower centre of gravity, will promote a higher flying shot. So look for these options when buying woods.
Most hickory era socket neck woods have square to slightly closed face angles at the address, as they were usually made by skilled club makers. Make sure that you do not buy any woods that sit "open" at the address as they can make hitting straight shots a lot more difficult. Please be assured that all our woods are carefully selected to sit squarely or slightly closed when addressing the ball.
Shaft flex in a Driver or Brassie is important to consider. A stiff flex will suit a strong, powerful swinger as it will aid control. But if you have a slower more rhythmic swing then a shaft with some flex will most certainly help to get the ball "up quicker" and give more accuracy and length. Shaft flex is not so important with lofted woods (Spoons and Baffies) as the shorter shaft combined with loft is designed automatically to get the ball airborne.
Please bear in mind that hickory shafts used in woods up to 1930 were not as clearly categorised as shafts are today by having a label explaining flex and kick point. They are natural products and will have variations of flex which only adds to the spirit of the game. We endeavour to honestly describe all our clubs offered for sale but it is impossible to fully describe shaft flex other than Firm, Stiff, or Flexible.
So ideally purchase a lofted Driver (10° - 12°) or Brassie (12°-15°) for driving, together with a Spoon (15° - 18°) or Baffy (18° - 22°) for fairway play. If you have no love for long irons then add a Baffy instead to play those shots, plus this wood is very useful when presented with a shot from the semi rough just off the fairway.
When selecting irons for play it is important to know the correct loft of each iron in order to gauge the distance required. You will find a hickory club and modern equivalent table at the end of this article so that you can make a reasoned choice when buying irons.
Some hickory players prefer a 4° loft gap between each club similar to modern irons whereas other players prefer a 7° loft gap which means that they are able to carry less clubs in the bag, i.e. 6 to 8 clubs which was the norm in the 1920’s. One degree of loft gap is equal to 3 yards (2.74 metres) of carry, so bear this in mind when calculating the number of irons for your set.
For example a mashie with 34 degrees of loft will carry the ball approximately 12 yards (11 metres) further compared to a mashie with 38 degrees of loft, or 12 yards (11 metres) less than a mid iron with 30 degrees of loft. So clubs with 7° loft gap will add or reduce the distance by approximately 21 yards (19 metres), i.e. using a mid iron with 28 degrees loft will carry the ball 21 yards (19 metres) further compared to a mashie with 36 degrees of loft. Naturally it depends on the average length you achieve using a certain club as to which club you select as some players are long hitters and others are short hitters using the same club so that is why it is important for you to select clubs that suit your game. The above carry lengths are only a guide and therefore not exact.
Please remember that lofts on clubs from this era were not standardised as today and the same model type can have different lofts. As an example over the years we have measured hundreds of hickory Mashies that vary between 30° to 45° so knowing the exact loft of each iron will help in building a perfect set.
Besides the standard names listed below, there were numerous other irons produced with odd names such as – Iron, Mid Mashie etc, but as long as you are aware of the loft then these can easily be fitted into your play set.
Cleeks, Driving, and No1 irons all have a similar loft spread, usually between 18° - 23°. So unless you are a good long iron player stay away from these and use a lofted wood or even a Mills lofted, hybrid style aluminium wood.
No2 and 3 irons. These will have between 20° - 25° of loft.
Mid Irons with a loft 25° - 28° are often the first iron in the bag after the woods.
Sammy (a round back Jigger) 24° - 26° are often used for chipping around the green as well as for long low shots are also found in this range. Quite a difficult club to master so invariably only used by a low handicap player.
Jiggers 30° - 34° are often used for chipping around the green as well as for long low shots are also found in this range.
Mashie 32° - 40°. The Mashie is the utility iron in the bag, hence that is why many hickory players carry two different styles of mashies in the bag with varying lofts.
Spade Mashies, Deep Face Mashies normally have 38° to 42°.
Mashie Niblick 40° to 46°. A great iron for approaching the green.
Finally the Niblick, the most lofted iron, can vary enormously in both loft and head size. Usually a standard model will have around 50° of loft, equivalent to a modern gap wedge/pitching wedge. But if you looking to play out of bunkers or high loft shots, it is advisable to buy one close to 55° of loft, quite hard to find but a joy to use!
There are many styles available from straight blade, wry neck, bent neck through to mallet heads and also from different head materials. Some are made with metal heads, some in aluminium and others in wood. It may well take a while to find one that suits, so be prepared to invest over a period of time by trying out different models as they all offer different feel.
Copyright © Antique Hickory Golf Clubs . All rights reserved.