This Spalding UK-made iron was purchased online for less than $15 in 2011. It is one of the first clubs in my original playset and I found it to be a reliable 150-yard playclub for me when starting out. With 26 degrees of loft, it plays as an equivalent to a modern 5-iron, and is a mid-iron in hickory parlance. This crescent-shaped forged iron is rather uncomplicated. As with so many period clubs, there is zero forgiveness, but a sure sense of strength across the face. This seems like a versatile weapon, in a sense, as the shape allows one to mimic a jigger for a punched, run-up shot, or simple lash out for a towering approach to the green. I would guess that this is a mid-1920s club.
– Robert Birman
In 1900, Spalding entered the British market supported by huge investment. Large retail outlets were opened with prestigious London addresses, High Holborn, Haymarket and Fetter Lane. Similar stores followed in Edinburgh and Manchester. At first, Spalding brought its goods (not just golf, but tennis items, footballs and exercise equipment) from the U.S. but soon found it worthwhile to manufacture in the UK. A factory was set up in Putney in London and one in Dysart, in Fife. Forged iron heads for Spalding clubs sold both in the UK and U.S. Irons made in Scotland can be recognized by the anvil cleek mark.
The range of clubs produced by Spalding during the hickory era is enough to satisfy any collector and many do collect only the clubs of this maker. There are unusual materials to be found in clubhead construction: Spalding soon followed Mills in offering a complete set of fairway clubs in aluminum; the Gold Medal series of 1910-1919 used aluminum bronze; putters were made with lead faces (for a soft feel) and, perhaps the most famous, the Cran cleek, an inlaid wood face on an iron club. James Cran was a clubmaker at Spalding who received the patent for this in 1897. Covered by the same patent is the ‘spring face’: this leaves out the wood and covers the cavity with a thin sheet of metal. Supposedly the recoil of this at impact acted as a spring. Weighting patterns of every kind can be seen in Spalding club heads: a hemispherical lump to concentrate weight at the sweetspot or bar backs to do the same.
Spalding led many innovations in the field with elements such as deep-grooved designs, commonly known today as the “waterfall” and waffle-face irons.By the 1920s, A.G. Spalding & Brothers was using the process of “drop forging” to manufacture metal clubheads. Clubmakers’ traditional method had been to shape metal heads with an anvil and forge (hence the early cleek mark). But soon thereafter, Spalding craftsmen were using mechanical hammers to craft clubheads, drill sockets in them to attach the shaft and then polish the heads, all of which allowed Spalding to manufacture matched sets of clubs and mass produce them.
The company experimented throughout the 1920s and 1930s with lathe-turned hickory shafts that featured circular ridges spaced at standard intervals down the entire shaft. The design gave the clubs an exotic bamboo look; the underlying message being that these clubs offered players bamboo’s legendary flexibility and whip-like strength.
Throughout history, makers have relied on the crescent shape to seek innovation and utility. Below are classic samples of crescent irons from the early 1800s to the 1920s. These clubs, in theory, offer less resistence with the turf. My assumption based on these designs, is that early crescent clubs allowed players to dynamically adjust the lie-angle of their delivery. One can image the variety of positions available with this shape of instrument, with the hands held low or high without radially changing the relationship of the impact, or interaction, with the earth or sand.