What’s a Cleek?

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A cleek is a golf club with an iron head and wooden shaft. It was used to overcome game obstacles and became popular in the mid-1800s. In modern golf, cleek can refer to a 1 iron or a 4 wood. Cleek clubs had unique markers indicating their manufacturer and purpose, and collectors seek clubs with historic brands.

Historically, a cleek is a golfing term that referred to any wood-shafted golf club that has an iron head. The head was designed as a smooth narrow blade. The term comes from the Scottish word cleek, which meant “a metal hook”. In modern golf, cleek can refer to two different types of clubs: a 1 iron and a 4 wood.
The 1 iron, also commonly known as the driver, is sometimes called the cleek. This is a metal club with a very small angle. This lack of angle produces a low trajectory resulting in long and very low trajectory tee shots.

Cleek can also refer to a 4-wood golf club. In this case, the cleek, sometimes referred to as a medium spoon, has a deeper angle and a wooden head. The club is used on the fairway for shorter shots designed to fall smoothly onto the green. Also, a 5-wood is sometimes called super cleek, as it produces even more loft and less distance.

The Cleek golf club became popular in the mid-1800s after the introduction of the first latex-based golf balls. Previously, metal club heads were not used routinely, as their metal blade could easily cut the seams of feather-filled leather golf balls. Cleeks continued to gain popularity in the late 1800s in Scotland and England as golf club designers switched from primarily wooden club heads to stronger iron.

Metal allowed for the creation of uniquely shaped iron heads, mounted on wooden shafts, to overcome specific game obstacles. Some of the uses these clubs catered to included long green strokes, putting, and playing from the rough, rocks, and sand traps. It has become common for golfers to carry around a bag full of specially designed clubs, which in turn has led to new rules of golf governing the number of clubs a golfer can carry.

According to the British Golf Museum, these iron clubheads began to bear a unique marker, or trademark, stamped into the back of the clubhead. This marker indicated who had manufactured the club and for what purpose it was designed. The earliest known cleek marker dates to the 1860s, with general marker use becoming widespread in the 1880s. These marks remained popular until the 1930s when all-metal clubs and shafts became fashionable. Golf memorabilia collectors are looking for cleek clubs with historic brands, with over 600 unique brands recognized by experts.

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