The History of Wilson Golf Clubs

By Savannah Richardson

Wilson golfer Gary Woodland tees off

Wilson Staff is the popular golf division of Wilson Sporting Goods. The decades-old company specializes in golf equipment and has been producing top-of-the-line golf clubs since 1914.

Wilson is known as one of the premier golf brands for both professionals and amateurs and has sponsored some of the top players on the PGA Tour and other professional Tours since the 1970's.

Early History of Wilson Golf

The Wilson Staff golf department was founded in 1914 after the emergence of Walter Hagen as a major sporting personality in the United States. After his U.S. Open win, a need for a major golf brand was inherent in the U.S. market.

This need was filled by Wilson Staff, inspired by the assembly line techniques of Henry Ford. The company first began making golf clubs as the Thomas E. Wilson Sporting Co.

Between the Wars

American golfer Gene Sarazen became the first adviser to Wilson Staff, and the company began creating its clubs with his professional advice. In 1933, Wilson introduced the Wilson Ogg-mented irons. These new irons revolutionized clubs in the United States, moving the weight of the club away from the heel and to the ball-striking sweet spot of the head.

gene sarazen escapes a bunker in 1934

Gene Sarazen hits from the sand in 1934. Image: Bettmann/Bettmann via Getty Images Sport

Introduction of the Sand Wedge

Also in 1933, Gene Sarazen began experimenting with a club that would move through sand bunkers smoothly. He welded a piece of metal to the sole of the club, giving it a weighted bottom that would bounce off the sand or ground. The club would come to be known as the R-90 sand wedge and sold an astounding 50,000 units in its first year on the market.

Top Club on Tour

Sam Snead, Patty Berg and club-makers Hall of Famer Bob Mendralla joined the Wilson Advisory Staff by 1947, and directed the company in the production of clubs for years to come. In the1970’s, Wilson Staff introduced more revolutions into the equipment world, including the Dyna-Power, the Fluid Feel and the FG Series blades. By 1983, Wilson clubs were the number one club on the PGA Tour.

1980's and 1990's

Wilson remained the top club throughout the 1980's, introducing the Staff Tour Blade in 1985. This club was introduced alongside the Staff persimmon woods, which featured aluminum face inserts, and went on to become the top woods in golf. The Staff FG-51 was introduced in 1990 and new Dyna-Powered wedges were made by Mendralla, along with a reincarnation of Snead's R-90 sand wedge.

Wilson Golf in the 21st Century

Wilson introduced midsize forged irons in 1995, and in 1997 released the new Fat Shaft irons, changing torque ideas on the professional tours. Wilson made Further innovations with nanotechnology in 2004, the Deep Red driver in 2003, the Ci6 irons in 2006 and the Di7 irons in 2007.

Where are Wilson Golf Clubs Made?

Wilson Golf Clubs are made in Tullahoma, Tennessee, but the company’s headquarters is in Chicago. At the headquarters, the designers customize and create the clubs that are then built in Tennessee.

PGA Tour Professionals on Wilson Staff

Wilson has a deep history among some of golf’s greatest like Sarazen, but there were many others who played Wilson clubs, including Arnold Palmer and Walter Hagen.

In 2021, the two most notable PGA Tour Wilson staffers include 2019 U.S. Open champion, Gary Woodland and European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington. However, other PGA Tour on the Wilson staff include Kevin Tway, Brendon Steel and Kevin Streelman.

Notable Wilson Drivers by Year

Since Wilson opened its golf department in the early 1930s, it has created a magnitude of drivers.

Year Club
1930s Model D 28J 1 Wood aka Pinehurst
1940s Persimmon Driver
1950s 4250 Stratabloc Strokemaster/Swing Weight
1960 Shot Maker Driver/K-28 Harmonized
1966 Blue Ridge Driver
1970 Staff Dynapower Fluid Feel Driver
1973 1200 Driver
1978 1200 LT Driver
1986 Staff Persimmon Tour Block Driver
1987 The Whale Driver
1995 Invex Driver
1996 Invex Ti Driver
2002 Deep Red Driver
2003 Deep Red II Tour Driver/Deep Red II Distance Driver
2005 Staff PD5 Driver/DD5 Driver
2006 Staff DD6 Driver
2007 Staff Spine Driver
2009 Smooth Driver/Spine Ultra 460 Driver
2010-11 Staff DXI Driver/Staff Shockwave Driver
2012 Staff DXI Superlight Driver
2013 Ultra BLK Driver/D100
2014 FG Tour M3 Driver
2015 Staff D200 Driver
2016 Staff FG Tour F5 Driver
2017 Staff Triton Driver
2018 Staff C300 Driver
2019-21 Staff D7, D9, Cortex & Launch Pad

Image: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images