How to build a featherie golf club set
Updated: Jan 6
(A beautiful selection of Kelly Leonard-created long-nosed clubs.)
The great thing about building a featherie golf club set is that you don’t need many clubs to get started. Initially, you could get by with 3 or 4 clubs. As you progress, you can simply add more specialized clubs to suit your particular preferences for more or less loft.
Please note: This article describes assembling a play set for pre-1850’s featherie golf, which was largely a game played along the ground. Yes, the ball does get into the air, but playing the lay of the land often means you are running the ball into the green.
Your first three clubs
If you are starting from scratch, we suggest you secure these three clubs first.
• A long spoon. It has between 13 and 16 degrees of loft.
• A short spoon, with 24 to 26 degrees of loft.
• A putter (0 to 4 degrees of loft). A putter with some degree of loft is handy when playing on the longer grass that can be part of a featherie course. Your putter can be a smooth-faced metal club or wooden club.
As you experience featherie play, you will no doubt sense that other clubs might be useful. We can suggest adding the following clubs in this order:
• Baffing spoon (or wooden niblick): This useful club has 27 to 34 degrees of loft, which will definitely increase the potential trajectory of your shots.
• Play club: This club provides maximum distance with only 7 to 12 degrees of loft.
• Middle spoon: With 20 to 22 degrees of loft, this is a very specialized club that some golfers never need. But you may find it useful.
Clubs for special situations
• Driving putter: This curiously named club’s low loft, shorter shaft, and larger head can help in long approaches, driving into a wind, or other situations where you need to stay low. But it can also be used for long approach putts.
• Rut iron (or track iron or rut niblick): These metal clubs have thicker, heavier shafts and larger hozzles, so they are heavy clubs. Their sturdy nature and high loft mean they are ideal for getting out of wagon ruts (should your course be plagued with wagons), bunkers, tangled grass, and other impediments.
It’s unlikely that you would ever carry all eight of these clubs (unless you’re playing a course on the wild seaside of Scotland). Featherie golf does not need to be complicated and expensive. Reiterating what we said at the start: you technically only need three clubs. Learn how to use a single club for different kinds of shots. And most important, remember that featherie golf is a game of strategy, not distance—brain, not brawn.
Where to get featherie clubs
• Kelly Leonard (https://www.klhickory.com/). At this writing, Kelly is the only full-time maker of 18- and 19-century wooden clubs we know of. He offers gorgeous, handmade replica clubs that are truly works of art. Kelly is also a very friendly and helpful advisor who can get you started with the right clubs and a plan.
• Gavin Bottrell (https://www.hickory-golf.co.uk/ and very active on FB and IG) is a noted historian and collector who makes, rents, and sells clubs through his business, Time Warp Golf. Gavin is extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and well-connected within the hickory golf world.
• There are a few makers who build long-nosed clubs (or are starting to) on a very part-time basis, such as Brad Korando (on Facebook and Instagram); Christian Williams (The Hickory Hacker on YouTube; he has many videos on playing featherie golf); and Elmer Nahum (on Instagram @practicalclubmaker). Even if they don’t have clubs available for sale, they are excellent and generous advisors.
• Join groups such as the Society of Hickory Golfers, the Golf Heritage Society, and your local hickory golf group.
• Make your own clubs. Get Elmer Nahum’s excellent book, Practical Clubmaking: A Guide to Long Nose Era Clubmaking. It contains all of the info you need, plus it’s an compelling history of the sport.