I've now been collecting antique golf clubs for about 15 years. Although I've also been playing hickory golf for about 8 years, it has only been in the last few months that I came across a full set of hickory shafted irons. They are all stamped Mac Smith and were made by George Nicoll of Leven. I obtained them from a nice old lady who said they had belonged to her father. She had kept them in a cupboard for many years but had decided to sell them. The irons run consecutively and are stamped as follows, 1-iron, 2-iron, 3-iron, 4-iron JIGGER, 5-iron MASHIE, 6-iron SPADE MASHIE, 7-iron MASHIE-NIBLICK, 8-iron, 9-iron NIBLICK, 10-iron PUTTER.
This was the first time I had seen a complete set of hickory shafted irons and a putter. What's more something became clear to me. On my Timewarp Golf days , where I rent out lots of clubs for people to play hickory golf, I have lots of people asking me what's the equivalent of a mashire, mashie-niblick, niblick, etc. When I say that a mashire is the equivalent of a modern 7 iron they often sound surprised and say that they thought it was a 5 iron. Now if you get a modern 7 iron and line it up with a mashie you will see that they are of the same loft. Yet, also in many reference books on golf, and particularly old one's, you'll see that it says that a mashie is a 5 iron...so what's happened??? Well, logically, what I believe has happened is that the definition of a 5 iron ( and a 7 iron and a 9 iron for that matter ) has changed!!! In the 1920's and 1930's when numbering of club heads first came in mashies were stamped 5 ( and mashie niblicks 7, and niblick's 9). This knowledge has been recorded in many books and has passed into golfing folklore. HOWEVER, over the years golf club manufacturers have become used to working with a different standard loft for a 5 iron, 7 iron, etc. Therefore, a modern 5 is NOT the same as a number 5 iron from the hickory era, and the same for the 7 and 9 irons. If you don't believe me get some out and look at the lofts!! So in summary, the lofts of a modern 5, 7 and 9 ARE 2 CLUBS LESS than their equivalent hickory period numbered clubs.
Funnily enough, 2 weeks after obtaining the George Nicoll set I acquired a similar numbered set stamped TRUE-LINE. They are for sale at www.antiquegolfclub.co.uk. They exhibit the same conditions regarding the relative lofts! Great playable clubs though! Cheers Gavin Bottrell.