Definition, Origins of 'Hitting It on the Screws' in Golf

Screws near the center of a wood club face
Have you ever heard the expression "hit it on the screws" used on the golf course? It's a phrase that was once more common than it is today, because it originated with a specific piece of golf equipment that is no longer used. The expression itself survives, however, and even branched out from golf into a wider usage.

The phrases "hit it on the screws," "on the screws," "hitting it on the screws," "make contact on the screws," and similar all mean that a golfer has made great contact with the golf ball when swinging a golf club, resulting in a shot that feels great and looks great.

Did you just play a stroke that felt fantastic, like you made perfect contact, and your ball, as a result, is out there in a great spot? You might exclaim to your partners, "Man, I really hit that one on the screws!"

The expression originates with persimmon drivers — woods made out of actual wood, as opposed to today's metal- and composite-headed drivers. Over time, most manufacturers of wooden-headed drivers (typically made of persimmon wood) began applying inlays — or what we now call inserts — to the clubface. This had the effect of protecting the integrity of the wooden clubhead from repeated, high-speed impacts with the golf ball.

Sometimes those inlays were attached simply with glue, sometimes with nails. But usually they were attached with screws, often arranged in a diamond or some other pattern. And the position of those screws was near the center of the clubface, or arranged so that they served to frame the center of the clubface.

And that's where "hitting it on the screws" comes from: With a persimmon driver, golfers wanted to strike the golf ball with the very center of the clubface, and that's where the screws were that held the face insert in place.

Persimmon drivers began being replaced by metal drivers in the 1980s, and were gone from golf (with rare exceptions at the recreational level) by the early 2000s. There are no longer screws near the center of driver clubfaces. But the expression "hit it on the screws" lives on for a very well-struck golf shot.

From golf, the phrase spread to baseball, where "on the screws" refers to a batter cracking a hard-hit ball (even if the result is not necessarily a base hit).

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