From Calamity Jane to Phrankenwood: 18 most famous golf clubs in history
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1. CALAMITY JANE
“It was rusty and sort of beat up and no doubt had several owners before it every got to me,” Bobby Jones once said of the cracked-hickory-shafted putter that he used to win his first three majors. The original Calamity Jane, which is housed today at Augusta National, gave way to a successor, Calamity Jane II, and while that club wasn’t much to look at either, it worked just fine for Jones, who won 10 more major titles with CJII in his bag.
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2. GENE’S SARAZEN’S SAND WEDGE
Contrary to popular perception, Sarazen didn’t invent the sand wedge, whose origins actually date to 19th century Scotland. But the Squire did design the first modern iteration of the club, with a steel shaft, face markings and a sleek flange that helped him win the ’32 U.S. and British Opens.
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3. BEN HOGAN’S ONE-IRON
A plaque on the fairway of the 18th hole at Merion marks the spot from which Hogan whistled his now folkloric one-iron approach shot in the final round of 1950 U.S. Open. But you knew that. What you might not know is that shortly after the championship ended (the Wee Ice Mon won it in a playoff), the one-iron itself went missing for 33 years, only to resurface when a golf club dealer discovered it in a used set that he’d picked up for $150. That’s a pittance to pay for a priceless piece of golf history, which now resides in the USGA museum.
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4. JACK NICKLAUS’ WHITE FANG PUTTER
In 1997, at his son Steve’s 34th birthday party, Jack received the most memorable gift of all: a Bulls Eye putter, its face speckled with white paint. A broken pencil was jammed into the butt end of its grip. Nicklaus recognized it right away as the club he’d nicknamed White Fang, the putter he’d used on his way to winning the ’67 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. After the championship, Nicklaus had stored White Fang in a bin in his Florida home; Steve, unaware of the club’s significance, had picked it up and loaned it to a friend, who took his time returning it. White Fang now resides where it belongs: at the Jack Nicklaus Museum at Ohio State University.
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5. ALAN SHEPARD’S MOONLANDING SIX-IRON
It was one small step for man. One giant jolt of publicity for golf when Shepard smacked two shots on the lunar surface with the makeshift six-iron that he’d stowed away with him on Apollo 14, covering the club with a sock so it wouldn’t be detected before launch.
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6. BILLY BAROO
“Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy. This is a biggie.” For hardcore Caddyshack fans, Judge Smails’ antique putter enjoys near mythic status, a prop as central to the film as a Baby Ruth bar in a swimming pool.
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7. LITTLE BEN
Ben Crenshaw’s father reportedly shelled out $20 for this Wilson Staff 8802 putter (the same design Arnold Palmer had long used), which he passed on as a present to his teenage son. Among the dividends it paid: an invaluable role in Crenshaw’s 1984 Masters win.
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8. JACK NICKLAUS’ MACGREGOR RESPONSE PUTTER
Cup your ear, and you can almost hear the roar around the 17th green at Augusta, coupled with the echo of Verne Lundquist’s “Yessir!” call as Jack Nicklaus points his putter to the heavens. And not just any putter. The oversized MacGregor Response ZT that played such a huge part in the Golden Bear’s epic ’86 Masters win.
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9. MARK CALCAVECCHIA’S SQUARE GROOVED IRONS
It wasn’t hip to play square grooves in 1987. Some folks even said that it was flat-out unfair. Their outrage stemmed from Calcavecchia’s performance at the 1987 Honda Classic, where his eight-iron approach from grabby rough on the 16th hole spun to an improbable stop on a firm island green. Calc had played the shot with a set of Ping Eye2s, whose U-shaped groove pattern became the subject of a drawn-out legal battle between club-maker Karsten Solheim and the USGA, which argued that the grooves came with an unfair advantage. In the agreement the two sides eventually reached, all existing Ping Eye2s were grandfathered in as legal, but Solheim was required to abandon the design in favor of USGA-conforming grooves.
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10. NICK PRICE’S ZEBRA PUTTER
Price was hitting it so pure at the 1994 British Open, he was even striping it with his putter. The putter was a Ram Zebra, with a mallet-head and black-and-white alignment marks that inspired its name.
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11. FRED COUPLES’ ‘LADIES’ DRIVER
The 3-wood that Couples used to great effect throughout much of his career, including several Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, wasn’t actually a 3-wood. It was a driver that once belonged to Tom Watson’s now ex-wife, Linda. Couples came across it while rummaging through Watson’s garage in Kansas City, and asked if he could have it as a loaner. It turned into a possession. Couples now keeps it in his trophy case at home.
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12. DAVIS LOVE’S PERSIMMON DRIVER
The 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot is best remembered as Love’s lone major win. But here’s another tidbit for cocktail party conversation: it also marked the last time that a player claimed a major with a persimmon driver in his bag.
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13. IAN WOOSNAM’S EXTRA DRIVER
Don’t ask Woosie to name the make and model. Come to think of it, better not to mention the club at all. The Welshman has acknowledged being haunted by the memory of that “extra” club, the one his caddie, Myles Byrne, failed to count prior to the final round of the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham. Woosnam had just claimed a share of the tournament lead when Byrne alerted his boss to the error, a blunder that put Woosie in violation of golf’s 14-club rule. The infraction triggered a two-stroke penalty and a brief, heated reaction from the fiery Woosnam, who flung the offending driver into the gorse beside the second tee.
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14. TODD HAMILTON’S HYBRID
If they ever carve a Mt. Rushmore of Golf, Todd Hamilton’s face will likely not be on it. But he will always be remembered for his rock-solid performance at the 2004 British Open, where we got around the firm terrain of Royal Troon with help from a 17-degree loft Sonartec hybrid, a club he said he used at least six times per round. That wasn’t just for full shots, either. When all was said and done, Hamilton had gotten up-and-down with his hybrid on 13 of 14 tries, highlighted by a 36-yard bump-and-run that sealed his playoff win over Ernie Els.
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15. TIGER WOODS’ SCOTTY CAMERON PUTTER
Nike’s exit from the hard-goods business gave Tiger freedom to change equipment. When he returned to competition at the Hero World Challenge, he also reunited with his Scotty Cameron putter. And no wonder. It’s the one he flashed in 13 of his 14 major wins.
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16. BUBBA WATSON’S PINK PING DRIVER
Pink isn’t just for Paula Creamer. It’s also the color of the Ping driver Bubba first busted out at the 2012 Masters. The flashy look had a higher purpose: It marked the start of a year-long fundraising campaign. Every time Watson blasted a tee ball 300 yards or more, Ping donated $300 to his charity.
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17. PHIL’S PHRANKENWOOD
In early 2013, mad scientist-style tinkering in the Mickelson camp gave life to a beefed up Callaway club that was something like a three-wood crossed with a driver. At that year’s Masters, Lefty unleashed the monster with notable success; he was third in total driving for the week. But it turned out he couldn’t quite control the odd creation. By the time the U.S. Open rolled around, Mickelson had abandoned Phrankenwood for a Callaway X Hot 3Deep wood, which was still in his bag when he won the British Open later that year.
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18. HENRIK STENSON’S THREE-WOOD
Stenson calls it “an old trusty.” We call it a Callaway Diablo Octane Tour, a design that dates to 2008. By today’s standards, it’s practically a relic, but Stenson can hit it 290-plus, a pretty gaudy distance, even in this high-octane age, and it was a huge part of his British Open win last summer. (Earlier this month, Stenson swapped out the Diablo for a newer Callaway model, from the Epic line. But don’t count out Old Trusty just yet. “We’ll see if it stays in or if the old one comes back,” the Swede joked.)
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