What is a niblick?

A niblick is a kind of golf club, what we would call nowadays a 9-iron.

In the old days — yes, long before I was born — clubs had names. Today we still call the 1-wood a driver, and that thing we use to hit the ball when on the green is called a putter, but the other clubs commonly used were given names. Here’s a partial list, taken from “The Vintage Era of Golf Club Collectibles” by Ronald O. John, 2002, published by Collector Books, Paducah, Kentucky.

Number Name
1-wood driver
2-wood brassie
3-wood spoon
4-wood cleek
1-iron driving iron
2-iron mid iron
3-iron mid mashie
4-iron mashie iron
5-iron mashie
6-iron spade mashie
7-iron spade mashie niblick
8-iron pitching niblick
9-iron niblick
10-iron wedge or jigger

I’d like to point out that if you look at a variety of books on golf history, and I have a pretty decent collection, you will see some minor disagreement as to the names of clubs and the corresponding number of the modern ones used. This makes sense, because in the early days of golf, clubs were made in very small shops all over Scotland by people. Not in a factory where standardization would rule. There was a great deal of variety in the clubs and balls made, and a club-maker in St Andrews might have referred to what we call now a 1-iron as a driving iron, while a club-maker from Perth might have called it a driving cleek. Also, in the days before mass-production and standardization, clubs were made by hand from notoriously unique materials like wood. Every block of persimmon, commonly used for drivers, is unique. Every piece of hickory, the wood-type of choice for the club’s shaft, is completely different. Imagine the skill it required to hit the various clubs in the bag, each with its own weight, flex and personality, compared to using a matched set today, where every club has the same swing characteristics.


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