Why the Golf Driver Is Also Called a 1-Wood

Dustin Johnson of the United States plays a driver off the 14th tee during the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 19, 2019
Dustin Johnson's downswing with his driver, or 1-wood.

David Cannon/Getty Images


The driver is one of the standard golf clubs carried by most golfers, but it also carries another name, one that has become non-standard over time: 1-wood.

Yes, a driver and a 1-wood are the same golf club. Today, it is uncommon for golfers to refer to their driver as their 1-wood; go back far enough in golf history, however, and it was a much more common thing.

As an example of that fact, consider Craig Wood. Wood was a prominent PGA Tour golfer from the 1920s into the 1940s. He was a long-driver of his time, and his fellow pros nicknamed him "1-Wood." Because he smashed his driver so far, he became Craig "One" Wood: "There goes ol' 1-Wood!"

Key Takeaways

  • 1-Wood is another name for the driver, although it was more commonly used in times past.
  • While most drivers made today still have the number "1" printed on their soles, not all do, and using the club's loft in addition to or in place of the "1" also occurs.

Why Drivers Are Also Called 1-Woods

The numbering of golf clubs dates to the 1920s, coming into real prominence in the 1930s. Before that, there were no golf clubs called the 5-iron or the 3-wood or the 9-iron. Before the advent of "matched sets," golf clubs had names.

But when matched sets arrived and began taking over golf in the 1930s, they arrived with the names of clubs (names such as niblick and mashie) replaced by numbers (such as 3-iron, 4-iron, etc.).

The woods, a category that includes the driver plus fairway woods, were also numbered. The driver was given the number one, followed by fairway woods such as the 2-wood, 3-wood-, 4-wood and so on.

Look into a golf bag today and you'll still see those numbers on the soles of golf clubs. Those numbers make it easy for a golfer looking into her bag for a club to identify which one she wants.

And when numbered sets became the norm in golf, the number "1" began appearing on the soles of drivers. Hence, the driver also became known as the 1-wood.

Today, most drivers still have the "1" printed on the bottom. In some cases, it might be in smaller type than the loft angle of the club; in a few cases, the "1" might not appear at all, with only the number for the loft angle appearing. But most drivers still have that "1" printed on their soles.

The Use of Drivers/1-Woods

How do golfers use the driver? The 1-wood is the longest — both in terms of the actual length of the club, from the top of the shaft to the bottom of the clubhead, and distance it plays — club in the golf bag.

As such, it used almost exclusively for playing the golf ball off the tee from the teeing area at the start of golf holes. You can use the driver on any shot you want (for example, hitting driver off the deck). But most golfers use it exclusively off the tee on a hole that is long enough to require a good belt of the ball down the fairway.

Because the driver is the longest-shafted club and has (outside of the putter) the lowest amount of loft, it is often the club most difficult to use for amateurs and recreational golfers. In fact, most golf teaching pros advise recreational golfers to forego the 1-wood in favor of a 3-wood or 5-wood (or hybrid) in order to improve launch angle and gain better control of shot direction.