The 'Play Club' Was Golf's Original Driver

A term that used be common in golf but is virtually never heard anymore, outside of historical discussions of the game, is "play club." But the old, archaic golf club whose name was "play club" was, essentially, the original driver.

The club we call the driver today is the longest club, both in terms of shaft length and distance it can strike the ball. It is the straightest-faced club, meaning it has the least loft. And it is the club that is most likely to be played from the teeing area.

The ancient golf club called the "play club" was the historical equivalent of the modern driver. It didn't look like a modern driver, not even close; but it was used in the same, basic manner. The play club was the club a golfer would choose to hit the ball far from the teeing area.

The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms defines "play club" as "the old name for the straightest-faced, longest-hitting wooden club." It was later also called the grass club or the long club, before evolving, both in terminology and design, into modern drivers.

How old is the term "play club"? It goes back at least to the early 1700s, probably earlier. But the earliest written use cited by the dictionary is from 1735. We can safely assume that "play club" was being used by golfers prior to that, however.

The term had died out by the early 1900s, at the latest. In his 1921 book Fifty Years of Golf, Andrew Kirkaldy wrote that one golfer hit "his hardest with the 'play club,' as the driver used to be called."

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