Golf has been around for hundreds of years, existing when people thought the world was flat. Only in the last 80 years have golf clubs had metal shafts, making the largest time frame of golf, Hickory. Generally the Hickory era is pre-1935, when steel became the norm for clubs. Most clubs in use for hickory golf date from the 1910's and 20's. WWI, The roaring twenties, Jazz, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Will Rogers, Howard Hughes, Jack Dempsey, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones......Hickory GOLF.
Sets of golf clubs back in the hickory era were rarely matched sets. In fact, matched sets of clubs did not begin until the end of the hickory era. The greats of golf, and the weekend golfer in that era had mixed sets of clubs. Many would try a number of clubs to find the right ones. There were many Scottish and American club makers as well. Also in this era a set of clubs could consist of a handful to over 20 clubs. There was no set number, and no limit to how many clubs a player could have. Clubs from the Hickory era also differ to modern golf clubs because at the beginning there were no names or numbers on them. A golfer had to look at the club and its loft to know which club was needed. Soon they started to name clubs, and later into the era they would number them. (Just because a hickory golf club has a number on it does not mean it is the same or equivalent to the modern club). In my play set I have a wedge and a putter that both have an 8 on it. Also, I have a 4 Iron that has the loft and distance of a modern 6 or 7 iron.
Today, many golfers new to hickory will borrow, rent or purchase, a set to try. Typically a beginner set will consist of 6 clubs or so. A Brassie, Mid-iron, Mashie, Mashie-niblick, Niblick, and putter is really all that is needed. After some time and getting used to the clubs, another club or two find its way into the bag. I personally started with 6 clubs and have used up to 10. At the moment I have 8 in the bag.
This rough guide for hickory-to-steel or modern clubs equivalent may help the beginner.
Brassie - modern driver/3 wood
Spoon - 5 wood
Mid-Iron - 2 or 3 iron
Mashie iron - 3 or 4 iron
Mashie - 5 iron
Spade mashie - 6 iron
Mashie-niblick - 8 iron
Niblick - Pitching Wedge
This list is very basic. There were so many other clubs and names. When it comes to playing Hickory golf, I find simple is better.