Lingo: Golf Clubs Are 'Sticks'

Hey, buddy, have you seen my new sticks? Those are some nice sticks you got there, friend. In golf, "sticks" is a slang term for golf clubs.

Of course, most golfers already know that. But do you know why sticks became lingo for golf clubs? There are multiple reasons, one of which is that literal sticks (shafts of wood) were once one of the components that comprised a golf club.

"Sticks" refers to the collective group of golf clubs that a golfer carries in his or her golf bag. It is also used singular in many other golf slang expressions. For example, someone who is "a good stick" is a good golfer. Someone who plays the "chicken stick" is someone who lacks confidence in his driver and so is using a shorter club instead, to be safe. If you "stick it close," you've used that golf club in your hands to hit your golf ball close to the flagstick. Those are just a handful of examples.

The primary reason that "sticks" came to be slang for "golf clubs" is that golf clubs used to have shafts made of wood. In fact, for a few centuries after purpose-made golf clubs started being made, back in the mists of Scotland, the entire golf club was made of wood: wooden shaft, wooden heads.

After iron heads came along, wooden shafts (hickory eventually became the favorite wood) remained part of the highest levels of amateur and professional golf until the 1930s. Some golfers into the 20th century also told tales of fashioning their own clubs out of tree branches or blocks of wood. Sam Snead remembered his very first golf club being one he, as a young boy, carved out of a tree branch — just something to knock around rocks or balls with. Which is how golf clubs began being made back in the 15th and 16th centuries.

How old is the sticks lingo? Very old. The term was widely used at least as far back as the 1850s, probably much farther. In fact, "sticks" might be one of the oldest slang terms in golf that is still commonly used today.

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