Historically, a cleek is a golfing term that referred to any wood-shafted golf club fitted with an iron club head. The head was designed as a smooth, narrow blade. The term is derived from the Scottish word cleek, which meant "a metal hook." In modern golf, cleek can refer to two different type of clubs: a 1-iron and a 4-wood.
The 1-iron, also commonly known as the driver, is sometimes called a cleek. This is a metal club with very little angle. This lack of angle produces a low trajectory resulting in long, very low trajectory tee shots.
Cleek can also refer to a 4-wood golf club. In this instance, the cleek, sometimes referred to as a middle spoon, has a deeper angle and a wood head. The club is used on the fairway for shorter shots designed to fall softly on the green. In addition, a 5-wood is sometimes referred to as a super cleek, as it produces even more loft and less distance.
The cleek golf club came into popular use in the mid-1800s after the introduction of early latex-based golf balls. Previously, metal club heads were not routinely used, as their metal blade could easily slice the seams of the leather feather-filled golf balls. Cleeks continued to gain popularity in the late 1800s in Scotland and England as golf club designers switched from primarily wood club heads to the stronger iron.
The metal allowed for the creation of uniquely shaped iron club heads, fitted to wood shafts, to overcome specific game obstacles. Some of the uses these clubs addressed included long green shots, putting, and playing from the rough, from rocks, and from sand traps. It became common for golfers to carry a bag full of specially designed clubs — which in turn resulted in new golf rules regulating the number of clubs a golfer could carry.
According to the British Golf Museum, these iron club heads began to carry a unique cleek marker, or trademark, stamped on the back of the club's head. This marker designated who had produced the club and for what purpose it was designed. The earliest known cleek marker dates from the 1860s, with general use of markers becoming widespread by the 1880s. These marks remained popular until the 1930s, when all-metal clubs and shafts came into vogue. Golf memorabilia collectors search for cleek clubs bearing historical cleek marks, with more than 600 unique marks recognized by experts.