Meet the Golf Clubs: Explaining the Different Types

A beginner's tour of the types of golf clubs and their uses

Close-up of different types of golf clubs in a bag
There are five different types, or categories, of golf clubs today, although not every golfer carries all five types. Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Are you a beginner at the great game of golf? Then allow us to introduce you to the golf clubs. There are several different types of golf clubs in a typical golfer's bag. In fact, today, there are five categories of clubs: woods (including the driver), irons, hybrids, wedges and putters.

What are these clubs? What are the qualities of each type of club, and its uses?

The Different Types of Golf Clubs

The following articles offer newbies to golf a general overview of the form and function of each type of golf club.

Meet the Woods
The category of golf clubs called "woods" includes the driver and the fairway woods. (They are called woods even though their clubheads are no longer made of wood.) The woods are the clubs with the largest heads (typically hollow, extending a few inches from side-to-side and a few inches from front to back, with rounded lines) and with the longest shafts. Golfers can swing them the fastest, and they are used for the longest shots, including strokes played from the teeing ground. Continue Reading

Meet the Irons
Irons come in numbered sets, usually ranging from 3-iron through 9-iron or pitching wedge. They have smaller clubheads than woods, especially front to back where they are comparitively very thin (leading to one of their nicknames: "blades"). Most irons have solid heads, although some are hollow. Irons have angled faces (called "loft") etched with grooves that help grip the golf ball and impart spin.

They are generally used on shots from the fairway, or for tee shots on short holes. As the number of an iron goes up (5-iron, 6-iron, etc.), the loft increases while the length of the shaft decreases. Continue Reading

Meet the Hybrids
Hybrid clubs are the newest category of golf club - they became mainstream only around the turn of the 21st century (although they existed for many years prior to that).

Think of the clubhead of a hybrid as a cross between a wood and an iron. Hence the name "hybrid" (they are also sometimes called utility clubs or rescue clubs). Hybrids are numbered like irons are (e.g., 2-hybrid, 3-hybrid, etc.), and the number corresponds to the iron they replace. That's because hybrids are considered "iron-replacement clubs" - many golfers find them easier to hit than the irons they replace. But if a golfer uses hybrids, it is most likely as a replacement for the long irons (2-, 3-, 4- or 5-irons). Continue Reading

Meet the Wedges
The category of wedges includes the pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge and lob wedge. Wedges are their own type of golf club, but also are a sub-set of irons because they have the same clubheads as irons - just more severely angled for more loft. The wedges are the highest-lofted golf clubs. They are used for shorter approach shots into greens, for chips and pitches around greens, and for playing out of sand bunkers. Continue Reading

Meet the Putter

Putters are the most-specialized golf clubs, and the type of club that comes in the widest varieties of shapes and sizes. Putters are used for, well, putting. They are the clubs golfers use on the putting greens, for the last strokes played on a golf hole - for knocking the ball into the hole.

There are more varieties of putters on the market than any other club. That may be because choosing a putter is a very personal process. There is no "right" putter. There is simply the putter that is right for you.

Putters generally come in three styles of clubhead, and three varieties of lengths.

  • Clubheads: Clubheads can be a traditional blade; a heel-toe clubhead; or a mallet clubhead. A traditional blade is narrow and shallow, typically with the shaft entering at the heel (although sometimes center-shafted). Heel-toe putters have the same general shape as blades, but with extra weight at the heel and toe to add perimeter weighting, and with other design tricks to help make the clubs more "forgiving" on mishits. Mallet putters have large clubheads that maximize that forgiveness of poor contact. Mallets come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some very large and quite unusual.
  • Lengths: Standard-length putters, often referred to as "conventional putters," range from around 32 to 36 inches long, from one end to the other. Standard, or conventional, length is the most popular and is the length that beginners should start with. Belly putters are those whose length causes the grip-end to come up to - you guessed it - the golfer's belly. And long putters (a k a broomstick putters) are in the upper 40-inch, lower 50-inch range, allowing the golfer to stand more upright. (Related: Putter length - what is right for you?)
  • Personality: But what putters boil down to is personal choice. If it feels good to you when you are using a putter, then that putter will probably work just fine. So much of putting is confidence, so having a putter that feels good, that appeals to your eye, that you simply like, can only be a good thing.

All putters, regardless of size or shape, are designed to start the ball rolling smoothly, with a minimum of backspin to avoid skipping or skidding. Almost all putters do have a small amount of loft (typically 3 or 4 degrees).

Names of Old Golf Clubs

Golf clubs have changed quite a bit over the long history of the sport. There used to be clubs with names like mashie and niblick and jigger and spoon. What were those? What did the names mean? Let's go over the names of old, archaic golf clubs. Just for fun.