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The 15 best inventions in golf history

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I think we can all agree that the game of golf has changed immensely over time. From the days of mashie niblicks and featheries to adjustable drivers with graphite shafts, the game we now play bears little resemblance to the game of Scotland of yore. Most of the changes have been fairly recent and hugely innovative.

With new scientific discoveries made daily, not one among us would dare to predict where the game might be in 25 years, or even 10 years from now. So I thought it might be fun to think about some of the inventions that have most radically changed our game. Here’s my list of the 15 best innovations in golf history, and I invite your thoughts on the ones you think I missed.

I did not go into any depth with these, as they can all be explored elsewhere. The list is not in any particular order, but we will start in antiquity.

The Molded Golf Ball

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From hard wooden balls, followed by Featheries, followed by the Haskell ball, then the Balata era and finally the solid core, multi-layer urethane, the modern golf ball hardly resembles its ancestors. The biggest impact here was clearly cost. While no one could argue that their aerodynamic performance was seriously enhanced with each passing era, the mass production of the molded golf ball made the game more affordable for everyone. A Featherie could cost as much as the modern day equivalent of $20 per ball… Of course, if we keep going we may be headed back there.

The Tee

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Clumps of dirt and later sand were used to tee the ball for some 500 years before the first peg actually designed to stick in the ground was invented in the late 19th century. Imagine how dirty a golfer’s hands used to get by the back nine.

The Lawn Mower

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Grazing sheep can nip grass down pretty tightly, but mowers can do it a LOT more quickly and over much greater areas. It is interesting that the game was played for hundreds of years before greens keepers and their staff started riding mowers. By the 1980s, the whole course was being mowed by riding mowers and we had better lies everywhere.

Steel Shafts

World Hickory Open

The first golf clubs were rather primitive looking things made mostly from hickory wood. Go into any collectors golf shop and you see them displayed conspicuously in the “unplayable classics” section. Golf clubmaking was an artful and tedious task in which some of the early golf professionals specialized, but because of this clubs were expensive and the game remained an elite affair.

The invention of mass produced steel-shafted clubs brought golf to more people because they could afford them, but steel had another effect — they played much differently than hickory shafts. It was said that one could hold the shaft of a hickory club in one hand and the head in the other hand and twist it almost halfway around. Compare that to the low torque graphite shafts of today, and the picture is quite clear: The same swing for both clubs is simply not going to work.

An interesting note: Bobby Jones retired from competitive golf when he was 28, allegedly to escape some of the pressures he faced and pursue his myriad other interests. It is also said that his golf swing never quite adjusted to the steel era, which was well under way by the mid 1930s (steel shafts were patented in 1910). Personally, I think he would have figured it out. 

Irrigation

asp regando golf

Mother nature in the form of precipitation watered golf courses for hundreds of years. The first fairway irrigation system was developed in Dallas, Texas, in 1925. The impact? Golf courses could be built where they previously could not. Irrigation and the roaring 20s saw a proliferation of golf courses like never before. Thus began the “greening of American golf,” an era from which we are only now beginning to recover. Courses in America and across the pond were so distinctly different, the first time Sam Snead saw the Old Course he asked what it was! Impact? American golf became an airborne affair, and yet another expense was added to our pastime.

The Stymie 

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Being blocked by an opponent’s ball, or being “stymied,” was outlawed in 1952. Match play, the oldest form of play, was never the same. I would love to see one tournament a year played with stymies still in effect.

The 14-Club Rule

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It wasn’t really an “invention,” but it shaped a lot of future ones.

The year 1938 saw the end of unlimited clubs in the bag and I’m sure caddies all over the world rejoiced. Lawson Little, the great amateur player of the 1930s, once went to battle with 31 clubs in his bag. Shotmaking has evolved in the modern era, or at least it had until the ball became nearly impossible to curve.

Golf Carts

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Although they were used as early as the 1930s, golf carts were everywhere by the 1950s. Their impact was immediate, bringing many more people to the game and allowing people who previously had trouble walking the course to play. In fact, the 1950s saw a huge wave of popularity in our game influenced largely by the emergence of fan-favorite Arnold Palmer and Dwight Eisenhower, a popular president who played a lot more golf than any of his predecessors and didn’t care who knew about it.

Television

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Another 1950s legacy, the first televised golf event, was in 1954 at George May’s famous Tam O’Shanter Open. This was really the first time viewers could enjoy the game as spectators even if they didn’t play. A great surge, particularly of professional golf, followed and the game began to lose much of the pomposity many attached to it. The era of the blue collar golfer was just around the corner.

The Lob Wedge

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Although not that new, the popularity of the lofted wedge has had a significant impact, particularly on professional golf. Where players once feared “short siding” themselves, they now are more apt to go for tucked hole locations because of the lob wedge. Even the amateurs who have suffered forever from the perennial condition of trying to flip more loft on the club have benefited greatly from the lob. It is underrated in its impact on modern golf.

Perimeter Weighting

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If I had to pick one man who may be more responsible for changing the modern game more than any other, I would unequivocally choose Karsten Solheim. His concept of moving the weight from the center of the clubface to the perimeter of putters and then irons has made golf easier for all of us. I’m 66 years old and still play fairly well thanks to Karsten’s curiosity.

Investment Casting

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A more efficient, economic way to make golf clubs, casting has pretty much sent forged clubs packing. Ninety percent of irons today are cast, and all the woods… or metals, I mean, are cast.

Metal Woods

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This oxymoron has confounded some English teachers, but has been the single greatest blessing to the modern game of golf. It’s now almost inconceivable to think of driving a golf ball with a wooden club head. Think about how slow we were on this one: The idea arrived in the 1970s, meaning that the game was played for about 500 years before someone raised the question: Isn’t the wood absorbing a lot of the energy in the hit? Duh!

It’s a good thing, too. Let’s leave the trees alone! When I hit a solid drive in the persimmon/balata era, which was when I wore a younger man’s clothes, it might go 250. Now I’m on the mid-to-late back nine of my golfing life and I can still drive it 250. Let’s use another sport as an example. In college I could dunk a basketball, but now I can’t even touch the net.

Oversized Drivers

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Some 25 years ago, Ely Callaway got to wondering if larger drivers might make the tee ball easier for golfers. He came out with the “Big Bertha” and the rest is history. My 460-cubic-centimeter driver looks perfectly normal to me now.

Graphite Shafts

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Talk about taking over the game. Try finding a steel-shafted driver driver in any serious golfer’s bag now. Do you want to swing this thing or this other thing that is a third of the weight? Golfers are pretty smart, after all. Credit Frank Thomas for this concept.

Curiosity might kill cats, but in golf it has made the game easier for all of us. While it is true that there are downsides to some of the changes — the lively golf ball, hot drivers that require larger playing fields and the like — changes are inevitable, and if these changes help the average golfer enjoy this wonderful game just a little bit more I’m ok with that. I am an advocate of some degree of bifurcation and think it’s only a matter of time.

Again, I welcome your comments on other inventions I may have omitted.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

116 Comments

116 Comments

  1. Pingback: Agree with Clark’s Top 15 Golf Inventions? Share yours. - Golf Slot Machine

  2. kev

    Feb 23, 2015 at 7:29 am

    I have a golf idea /invention how do I get it off the groud . Anyone know

  3. Pingback: Agree with Clark’s Top 15 Golf Inventions? Share yours.

  4. Pingback: 15 Golf Inventions You Under-Appreciate - The Golf Shop Online Blog - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  5. Pingback: The Advancing Game Of Golf - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  6. Jeff

    Nov 10, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    If it wasn’t for a cart I’d never be able to take my 3 year old neice to the course when I play and get her around the course. I know you all can say what you want, “3 year Olds don’t belong on the golf course.” Well, she likes it, she loves golf now. She can hit the ball and she’s 3. I pay my greens fees, she stays mostly in the cart, I will drive up and tell anyone I see on the course to feel free to play through. The course gets the cart revenue. I keep playing, she’ll keep playing the rest of her life.

    Carts aren’t evil, lazy golfers are. If you took carts away the same assholes would be decking out their pushcarts with padded seats, retaking yardage on their watch, taking a sip of their warmed beverage, and missing the green, and repeating it every shot. Carts aren’t the only thing making these guys slow.

  7. Taylor

    Nov 7, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    What a bunch of snobs!!! You guys blasting carts have absolutely ZERO understanding of what golf has evolved to.

    I was a pro for many years. Wife still is a pro who also played professionally. I love the game passionately. But that is what it is. A game. Golf is not a not a sport. Its recreation. I rarely ride. I much prefer to walk. That’s just my personal preference. My wife and daughter ride and I walk along as we play. However, carts are an absolute accepted part of the game and more importantly the industry. Try running a charity tournament without one. Try pulling cart revenue out of the game and watch just about every course you play go out of business.

    I agree that walking is a far superior way to experience a round of golf. But carts have expanded the reach of the game to levels it never could have dreamed of without them. Golf is more accessible because of them. It is more social because of them. From my years in the biz, I can say that most of the golf snobs are far more detrimental than the majority of the beer swilling (Hey, they’re buying 5 dollar beer and generating revenue, never see a walker doing that) golf illiterate cart riders I’ve encountered.

    Rant over.

  8. Barney Adams

    Nov 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Dennis. The graphite shaft was Jim Flood. As for the 60 deg wedge I could argue that all but a very few should consider using one. Would replace with soft spikes in a heartbeat.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 6, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      I want to hear why most shouldn’t use it pls

      • Al385

        Nov 8, 2014 at 4:08 am

        The most used clubs in my bag: putter and 60º lob wedge

      • barney adams

        Nov 8, 2014 at 11:37 am

        It’s too often a risk reward shot that requires a high degree of skill. The flop over the trap slightly under-hit ends up semi buried in the sand because of the spin. I’ll skip the skulls some of which have never been found.
        you can hit a great flop and end up 7′ from the hole still odds on to 2 putt and if you don’t hit it perfectly it’s a disaster.
        The key is practice, lots and lots. not something a lot of amateurs do and even if they wanted there aren’t many adequate facilities.
        A full swing 60,70 yd shot you can do the same with a SW and avoid the beauty that goes straight up.
        Some folks do fine, I’m talking about the majority.
        have you noticed how much better putting surfaces have become since softspikes

        • Dennis Clark

          Nov 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm

          putting surfaces have improved certainly; putting stats have not kept pace but thats another story.

          Quite the opposite on the 60. mid-high handicapper can be more aggressive with attack angle and body rotation on short pitches with more loft on club. Shallow attack angles from backing up or chicken winging from early release can all benefit from MORE loft around the greens. It’s when they don’t have enough loft that they get in trouble. I have a 64 I use for teaching, But of course this is a teachers perspective. Theorettically i agree… they don’t know how to use it from so many years of flipping loft on the club. Its like a player using too stiff a shaft to too little loft and hanging back to
          get loft on the club. Give them a ladies shaft and 13 degrees of loft and you’ll see them start turning through the shot with mess less right side bend. Promoting bad swings with clubs that off set the mistake is not something I prefer as a teacher.

        • Dennis Clark

          Nov 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm

          I mist my steel spikes when I walk on the cart path!! Loved the old sound: 🙂

        • Jack Wullkotte

          Nov 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

          Hi Barney,

          First of all, I still can’t believe Flip is gone. I thought he would live forever. As far as the different wedges they now make, I’m still all for the old fashioned way of opening the face of the sand iron to whatever degree of loft that you need. Throughout the 49 years that I was Jack’s personal clubmaker, he used a 52 degree pitching wedge and a 58 degree sand wedge. Some critics say he was never a good wedge player. Are they serious? Try winning 20 majors (includes 2 US Amateurs) without a few good wedge shots. True, if he would have had Gary Player’s short game, he would have consistently shot scores in the 50’s. 🙂
          See you at the show.

          Jack Wullkotte

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 6, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Power Pod Jim…

      • barney adams

        Nov 8, 2014 at 11:41 am

        and graphite shafts as he started Aldila, ( I researched this one with a couple of my ancient contemporaries) and the backassward putter and a bunch of other things. I loved the power pod the face was about 7deg closed !
        I have a dual strap stand bag next to the wall in my office from 1870 ! Interesting how long it took for a modern version.

    • Jack Wullkotte

      Nov 29, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Having worked with Toney Penna for 20 years at the MacGregor Golf Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio and then 6 years with him at the Penna Golf Co. in Jupiter , FL, here are some of the innovations he brought to the manufacturing area of golf. In 1950, he designed the MT model, which was essentially the precursor of the low profile iron that was supposedly started in the 1970’s. He also went to cycolac, aluminum, and graphite face inserts in the 1960’s. As far as I know, he was the first manufacturer to feature a whole set of investment cast irons. From what I can remember, Ping only made putters at that time and a small company named Tomahawk Golf Co. made putters and wedges. Toney also featured the Colo-Krome faces on the Tommy Armour irons in the late 1950’s and the black ceramic faces in several iron models in the early 1960’s. He was the first one to feature “bounce” on the soles of iron heads. He created antique finishes on wood heads in the late 1950’s and 60’s. He was one of the first manufacturers to begin producing complete sets of irons with Aldila graphite shafts. Unfortunately, it was a big mistake because he installed them in his short necked forgings, and all the shafts snapped at the top of the hosel. Not the fault of Aldila. Toney designed the jumbo LHHLTFF model in the 1960’s. LHHLTFF stood for “Left hip high and let the f—– fly.” I know there were other firsts that were initiated by Toney, but that should be sufficient to bring some comments that are either informative, corrective, or complimentary.

      Jack Wullkotte

    • Jack Wullkotte

      Nov 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      Barney, Here’s a little incident that occurred at the Penna Golf Co. in 1973 when I was the plant supervisor. Jim Flood came to our plant with some of his Aldila shafts, intent on selling Toney the idea of using graphite shafts in all of our clubs. Toney instead, demeaned the graphite shaft as having more torque than hickory shafts, more flex than hickory shafts, and too light, along with the fact that he thought they would break too easily. Flood then took one of the shafts, put the tip end of the shaft on the lowest rung of a chair, and the butt end of the shaft on the floor, and stepped on the middle of the shaft. The shaft bent, but did not break. Toney was impressed. I tried to make Toney aware of the fact that the middle of the shaft touched the floor before it ever got to the breaking point, but he told me to mind my own business. Because of that demonstration, Toney ordered a ton of Aldila shafts. After the shafts were delivered, a contingent of executives from the ATO Co., our parent company, came to Jupiter for a visit. Toney gave them a tour of the plant and then we all went back to Toney’s office. That’s when he unveiled the Aldila graphite shaft. He used Flood’s method to demonstrate how strong and limber the shaft was. The only problem was, Toney put the tip of the shaft on a higher rung with the butt end on the floor. The shaft was at a much more severe angle than Flood had it. After Toney had set the shaft in position, he stepped back and sent his foot into the middle of the shaft. Naturally, the shaft snapped in two with one part going one way and the other going the other way. He literally screamed, “that dirty SOB, I’ll kill him.” Eventually, Toney tried to get Aldila to take the shafts back, but they wouldn’t do it, so, Toney began putting Aldila shafts in all the iron heads. Most all of the shafts broke, because of the short hosels. By then, I had quit Penna’s, so I don’t know what went on from there.
      True story.

      Jack Wullkotte

      • Dennis Clark

        Dec 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm

        LOL Jack, that’s a great story!! To get back to the issue, I’m discussing with Barney, did Flood or Frank Thomas first come up with idea for graphite? On the putter, are you saying that Karsten was first responsible for the idea of perimeter weighting, but Penna built that concept into his irons before Karsten? Thx for reading my column.

  9. Tom Beavers

    Nov 6, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Dual strap stand bags. The thing old guys put on the putter grip to pull the ball out of the hole. Lightweight waterproof golf shoes. And the headcover that keeps a beer cold !

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      I wish they had the double strap bag when I carried!

  10. Dan

    Nov 6, 2014 at 11:44 am

    As stated golf carts are a neccesary evil only to those who can still walk a course. I carried my bag for over 25 years but, got sick and can’t handle walking 18 holes anymore or even 9. I wish I could because I loved to walk the fairways and had time to think about my next shot but, the fact is I would have had to give up the game I love without golf carts. Adding GPS to carts was maybe not an invention but, a way to speed a round up for those of us who don’t own personal GPS devices IMHO.

    • Straightdriver235

      Nov 6, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      These are labeled the “best inventions”–the golf cart is not among them. Time for you to give up the game, or play in that cart when no one else is around, dude. The caddy provided more jobs around the course and introduced lower class youth to the game. We are much worse for it, not to mention paths are built way too close to fairways and greens. I am sympathetic to Casey Martin, but for the masses, no. Tghe cart is a lazy excuse for claiming you are playing golf. Absent a medical waiver it is not golf when you ride a cart.

      • Jeremy

        Nov 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm

        “It’s not golf unless you pay a lower class child to do the heavy labor, dude.”
        -You

      • Dennis Clark

        Nov 6, 2014 at 6:03 pm

        i think your medical exemption is exactly what carts should be for. i think some of the comments are more directed to the “abusers”. Actually at many courses they are MANDATORY now, a revenue source of course.

      • Dennis Clark

        Nov 6, 2014 at 6:05 pm

        i certainly agree on the caddy. its how i started and many more like me. Growing up on the “other side of the tracks” had it not been for caddying , no golf.

      • Dan

        Nov 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm

        I hope and pray you stay young and never get sick enough to need a cart. I’m not making an issue of this but, as I said, I walked for over 25 years (even before dual straps) and I miss it a lot but, I’m not giving up the game I love because I have to use a cart. Good Luck to you as you grow older.

      • Jem

        Nov 8, 2014 at 11:22 pm

        “Time for you to give up the game”? Seriously? Who do you think pays the bills at that course you play? Old guys in carts. Remember that before you take away their clubs and stick them in a nursing home. I love to walk, but it’s hard to find playing partners who share that desire, so sometimes I use a cart. I agree that, in my opinion at least, the game is better when walked, but it’s not up to me to judge how another guy wants to play. As long as they’re not running over me, more power to them in the cart.

  11. bok006

    Nov 6, 2014 at 10:26 am

    I still get stymied now and then.
    Not by opponents ball but trees, bushes, rocks……..

  12. Simon Hubbard

    Nov 6, 2014 at 6:23 am

    Not an invention really but the USGA and the R&A. Some would argue that they don’t get things right all the time, but the intent is there to preserve the heritage of the game.

    And again not an invention but the book written by Dr Alastair Cochran, the search for the perfect swing, still current and used after 40 years. This has helped our overall understanding of what happens when a ball is struck.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 6, 2014 at 7:29 am

      Spot on wih Search. Soooo far ahead of its time. I still use a lot of the information in there in my teaching and its over 45 years old! Good call.

  13. Shakers97

    Nov 6, 2014 at 1:13 am

    Golf gps watch, stand bag, mallet putter, trackman, video analysis……

  14. Pingback: The 15 Best Inventions in Golf History | Golf Gear Select

  15. leftright

    Nov 5, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Personally I wish graphite shafts had never been invented. If I was omnipotent I would do away with them. They have caused more frustration, money and confusion than anything else in the game. You think I’m crazy just ask Barney Adams. The earliest ones would send the ball into the next county and now they create more confusion and bankruptcies than the Democratic party.

  16. marcel

    Nov 5, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Robin Williams is missing there

  17. Phil

    Nov 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    What about the Cart/Beverage Babe? It’s gotta be up there….

  18. Nathan

    Nov 5, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    What about Soft Spikes or Golf Chain Retail Stores?

  19. SMH

    Nov 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    This article is complete garbage, the best inventions were the last 5 TMAG drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids

    • Andrew

      Nov 5, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Dagnabbit…I can’t find mention of screws, slots and white paint anywhere…

  20. Bernhard

    Nov 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    You forgot anchoring with longer putters. This great invention has allowed us to lower handicaps by 10 or more, enabled us to make just about every putt within 30 feet, cured the yips, and made us taller and better looking. God knows where the game would have gone if the higher ups would have allowed it to continue….

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm

      Made us younger, more virile and so on…:)

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      well we know that experiment was short lived by USGA standards. What will Keegan do in a year and a half???

  21. Tom WIshon

    Nov 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    1, Titanium alloys – they not only taught the industry about COR to open the door to a little more distance with drivers, but its lower density with the same or higher strength than traditional stainless alloys allowed larger driver heads with much higher MOI for much better off center hit forgiveness.

    2. Launch Monitors – they opened the door to having the information to lead to more in depth clubfitting research which in turn offers golfers a much greater chance to play to the best of their given abilities.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm

      True. true. I suppose anything with its own atomic number should be on the list of greatest everything; like aerospace, medicine, nuclear waste…Still blows my mind that anything that light could be that strong! Raise the COR for amateurs!! 🙂

  22. brian

    Nov 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    How about the “Arnold Palmer”. The 19th hole has never been the same since that was invented haha

  23. Paul Wilson

    Nov 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    You forgot Iron Byron. Not only did it test golf clubs and balls but it is also responsible for gathering important swing data which is found in today’s launch monitors.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      I was at the testing facility one time when a club broke on that thing; talk about some freaked out observers!

  24. ProAmDuffer

    Nov 5, 2014 at 11:30 am

    I believe the author in many instances here is confused between a discovery and an invention.

  25. hayesh

    Nov 5, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Lightweight and WATERPROOF golf shoes have to be on the list. Remember when you’d play on a normal morning, and just the dew from the course would soak into your leather soles and they’d weigh a ton by the second hole? Your socks would even be damp by the third hole. Great shoes make walking so much more enjoyable.

    As do lightweight carry bags, with legs.

  26. LRRY

    Nov 5, 2014 at 11:18 am

    yOU MENTION FRANK THOMAS IN YOUR STORY, HOW GREAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN TO HAVE FRANK THOMAS AND BERNY ADAMS TOGEATHER TO TALK GOLF CLUBS AND BALLS…BOTH THESE MEN TELL IT LIKE IT IS..

  27. Crabgrass

    Nov 5, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Is the 14 club rule an “invention”?
    I’d like to see the ‘stymie’ in action sometime, but, again, not sure it can be called an invention.
    When did grooves appear on clubs? That seems like a biggie.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      Not technically but but a huge impact nonetheless. I think most got my drift…
      Yeas grooves were like dimples on the ball; hard to imagine the game without them.

  28. other paul

    Nov 5, 2014 at 9:05 am

    You said it was getting harder to curve the golf ball. Not sure why, I can slice it 50 yards and hook it 30 no problem. Also small draws and fades aren’t to difficult.

  29. Daniel

    Nov 5, 2014 at 7:11 am

    You have the lob wedge but how would we all do if we didn’t have BOUNCE?

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 5, 2014 at 7:32 am

      very true, bounce comes under Sarazen’s invention in 1932, the SAND wedge. Story has it that after he came up with the idea, he actually turned the club upside down in his bag so competitors wouldn’t copy it:)

    • Jack Wullkotte

      Nov 29, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      I mentioned bounce as one of Toney Penna’s innovations from the late 1950’s. Gene Sarazan might have put it on his sand iron, but Toney did it on the whole set irons.

  30. John

    Nov 5, 2014 at 2:13 am

    I play a lot of hickory golf, and while the clubs certainly have more torque than a modern club, saying you could twist the head “halfway around” is a huge exaggeration. Someone would have to have enormous “Bo Jackson in his prime” strength to do that.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 5, 2014 at 6:56 am

      It sounded far fetched to me too; I went back looking for where I read it and can’t find it…It HAS to be exaggerated I agree but it made the point, there was a LOT of twist in those shaft. Where do you play hickory golf? And why?

      • John

        Nov 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

        I’m a member of the Society of Hickory golfers, an organization founded in 2000 by a small group of hickory players including famed club designer Tad Moore. In the insuring 14 years this organization has grown by leaps and bounds. There are now several thousand hickory players in the US and abroad. There is a hickory tourmanment somewhere just about every week save Dec. and Jan. There are, in the US, five “major championships”, the US Hickory Open and four others. The USHO was won this year by Jeremy Moe, a club pro from Arkansas who shot 69/68 at the Asheville (NC) CC, the World Hickory Open was played in Scotland this year with Sandy Lyle (yes, that Sandy Lyle) winning with 74/69. Those are great scores with hickory. So that’s a bit of what, and now the why. It’s more fun. It’s creative, most guys carry 9 to 10 clubs so you’re inventing shots as you go along. A 6100 yard course is not obsolete. No glove, no Trackman. No rangefinders. Simple, straightforward golf. Harry Vardon won major championships with 8 to 9 clubs and his gift to get the best out of them. Those 15 inventions? Ours pretty much stops after the tee. Modern golf is in decline for a number of reasons, many of them discussed in detail by Barney and others on this site. Our version of golf is growing, fast.

  31. Dennis Clark

    Nov 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    One of the inventions I did not list but certainly has had a great impact on the game is modern, earth moving equipment. For example, tractors, backhoes, etc. Remember golf course used to be built with mules and drag pans…a developer can now have almost any piece of ground developed into a golf course. Couldn’t do that years ago

  32. Iman

    Nov 4, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    I’d add launch monitor/flightscope to the list. Not only it measures distance/spin/etc, it “changes” the way we hit the ball.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 5, 2014 at 6:57 am

      what do you feel you’ve done differently in the hit since LMs?

  33. Dennis Clark

    Nov 4, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Golf carts come under the “necessary evil” tag i suppose…the WRX readers are among the most upper echelon of true golfers who love the pure aspect of the game. But I fear to think how the might shrink if we removed the cart. Would anyone play in Colorado or on really hot days or over the age of 70 or…:)

    • bradford

      Nov 5, 2014 at 8:23 am

      Unfortunately, they’re a mode of profit now rather than accessibility. Most don’t “need” them, nor do they speed up play, but you’ll be forced on a Saturday morning to pay for it whether you take one or not. Granted it’s changed the game, but I would say for the worse. The exception for me is for those who could not play without it, but not for those who simply would not.

      I WOULD add the 2-strapped carry bag to the list.

      • dot dot

        Nov 5, 2014 at 10:20 am

        Carts are great. Best thing that ever happened to golf. Who carries a bag any more? Barbarians!

        • PAUL GRAY

          Nov 5, 2014 at 12:45 pm

          Proper golfers that appreciate proper golf course architect, that’s who.

        • bradford

          Nov 6, 2014 at 10:39 am

          The sarcastic tone means we may actually agree on something for once?

        • Busterpar

          Nov 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm

          That’s what pushcarts are for! Outlaw carts – they lead to too long courses, housing developments with no personality courses attached, 200 yards between tees, and rude inconsiderate people that don’t/won’t play ready golf because they can just ride to their ball. Then take 43 practice swings, reline the shot, 37 more practice swings……you know the ones.

  34. Pingback: Sun Mountain Adds to List of Best Golf Inventions

  35. Dennis Clark

    Nov 4, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Range finders are a great addition to the list; where they’d fall on the impact scale i don’t know, Certainly down from the tee and modern ball but maybe ahead of some other things. How much have they made the game easier? Im not sure really. If you know the target is precisely 167 yards, you have to be able to hit the ball that far. And hitting the ball that far comes back to steel clubs, graphite shaft, the modern ball, and on and on down the list. so its an INDIRECT influence i suppose. Thoughts?

  36. Jeremy

    Nov 4, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Perhaps it falls under the category of Television, but I’d include YouTube/the internet. I worked my way down to about a 7 handicap without ever having a teacher or coach, just copying what I see the best in the world doing on TV and the internet. Throw in the super-slow-motion camera while you’re at it. Frankly, I can’t imagine how people ever played golf before having access to the wealth of instruction that’s now available.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      Agreed, the internet has helped a lot of golfers! Great invention by no less than the US government through the defense department largely!

      • CD

        Nov 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm

        Internet was invented by Tim Beners-Lee (British)

        • Dennis Clark

          Nov 4, 2014 at 6:12 pm

          The world wide web was first conceived by Berners lee. Military research was done years before that…A good book on the subject: “Digital Disconnect”

        • ams165

          Nov 5, 2014 at 12:34 am

          ahhhh no…

          it was Al Gore…….insert sarcasm laugh..

          • Dennis Clark

            Nov 5, 2014 at 6:59 am

            actually bad rap on Gore, but it WAS funny. He DID push for a lot of funding during his time in office though. Again for the military research.

          • 1GolfJones

            Nov 6, 2014 at 4:53 am

            Albert Arnold Gore was born on March 31,1948 exactly 9 months to the day after the Roswell, New Mexico incident. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    • Gustavo

      Nov 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      you know how people played golf before YouTube…they went out to the course and practiced and played. They also could sit and watch a live PGA teaching pro in person, that is just as good, if not better then sitting at a computer and getting “YouTube Lessons”.

  37. TRocket

    Nov 4, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    George Franklin Grant
    George Franklin Grant. in Chester, New Hampshire George Franklin Grant (September 15, 1846 – August 21, 1910) was the first African American professor at Harvard. He was also a Boston dentist, and an inventor of a wooden golf tee.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      Great stuff; I heard a dentist from Maplewood NJ somewhere in my travels, but I can’t recall I ever read that so your discovery may very well be accurate

  38. Archie Bunker

    Nov 4, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    What? Where’s THE HAMMER on this list? BAM!

  39. D

    Nov 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I would nominate the “beverage girl” to the best innovation list and remove the lob wedge.

  40. adolfo

    Nov 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Take the carts out and put in the Rangefinder. A Cart is not going to help you hit the ball closer to the pin

    • birly-shirly

      Nov 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Depends on your criteria for inclusion. I think way more people play golf because they can ride around in a cart than care about the precise yardage. Not saying that’s necessarily a good or healthy thing, just an observation.

      • Dennis Clark

        Nov 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm

        I agree Birly, the IMPACT of carts was probably greater, good or bad?

        • Rich

          Nov 5, 2014 at 9:45 am

          I wouldn’t include the Rangefinder, as the only difference I see it making when I play is slowing everyone down. How many people on here constantly find themselves waiting for playing partners to laser a yardage only to watch them miss the green altogether? The majority of us mere mortals need to focus on just hitting greens in the first place and as our skill level improves then tool like this become more useful…

          • bradford

            Nov 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

            Fully agree, I’m a 6.3 index right now, and I can get by 100% on the 100, 150, and 200 yard markers. It does not help a 20hcp to know the difference between 160 and 170, because he’s not consistent enough to know which club that would be anyway. The ONLY time I wish I had more info is for trouble off the teebox.

  41. Tom Henman

    Nov 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    How about the sand wedge? Seems to be to be a bigger thing than the lob wedge.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 4, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      True, the sand wedge could easily have been on the top list, I agree! 1932 Gene Sarazen! Certainly made the game easier for every golfer; though it amazes me how many people cannot use it correctly

      • CD

        Nov 4, 2014 at 5:43 pm

        Sand wedge used correctly = biggest difference or steel shafts. Hmm!

  42. Mandark

    Nov 4, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    No turbulators.

  43. steven j

    Nov 4, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    How about some of the items that make it easier to walk the course such as the lightweight golf bag, golf stand bag, dual shoulder straps and the golf push cart?

    in mentioning irrigation and riding mowers, along with that group could come the drainage systems on greens and beyond.

  44. Jafar

    Nov 4, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I think GPS rangefinders take some of the fun out of the game.

    • Dave S

      Nov 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Have to respectfully disagree. Nothing worse than hitting exactly the shot you mean to hit, only to see it fall short or go long and off the green. Professionals have caddies that give then exact yardage, wind direction and suggestions on what to hit and hot to hit it. Us weekend warriors have none of that, and have a far smaller margin of error on our shots. Knowing the distance to the green as made golf more fun (for me at least) and has sped up play… no more searching for the sprinkler head and then pacing off yardage.

      • TR1PTIK

        Nov 4, 2014 at 3:21 pm

        Agreed. I’m horrible at judging distances and wouldn’t stand a chance if not for GPS.

        • CD

          Nov 5, 2014 at 2:37 am

          I think that it is a key thing to learn and which improves you as a player – acquiring ‘feel’ and judging by eye. There is knowing a distance and then adjusting to it anyway. I think it can be learned and taught and is another under-rated thing that separates good players, especially in the short game. Including and perhaps especially where there is a trompe l’oeil from the course architect.

  45. Dave S

    Nov 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    How about modern golf apparel? I realize this is less of an “invention” and more of an evolution over time, but enough cannot be said about how much better it is to play wearing moisture-wicking shorts and polo (while walking the course in any one of the number of incredibly comfortable golf shoes on the market) vs. wearing plus-fours and a shirt/tie/jacket combo.

    Also on my list would be laser rangefinders/personal GPS devices. The biggest game-changer golf purchase I’ve made in the last 10 years was buying a gps watch. Nothing else (including various drivers, putters, irons and wedges) comes close.

  46. Bob Gom

    Nov 4, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Have to agree….rangefinder should not been left out.

  47. Danny

    Nov 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I’m assuming you have the bubble burner shaft at number 16

  48. Jadon

    Nov 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    The range finder/GPS technology has been a game changer for me personally. That’s pretty weird to think about. Download an app on your phone to tell you how far away you are from the green.

  49. Big_5_Hole

    Nov 4, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    No mention of the pencil with an eraser on the end?

  50. JJC

    Nov 4, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    golf carts? really? if it were up to me they would be banned without a medical certificate. the game was meant to be walked and with the obesity epidemic in this country, a lot of people would be well served to hoof it around the course.

    • Derek

      Nov 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      ^^^ truer words have not been spoken. Leave the carts for the medically unable.

      • TR1PTIK

        Nov 4, 2014 at 3:25 pm

        Absolutely agree. And, I hate trying to deal with slow play from a group with carts when I’m walking. I feel like they never want to let me play through because they don’t want to wait long enough for me to walk by them even though I have to wait on nearly every shot. Carts should only be an option for the elderly and disabled.

        • Jeremy

          Nov 4, 2014 at 4:36 pm

          And the hungover, of course.

          • Justin

            Nov 4, 2014 at 5:23 pm

            One could argue that the igloo ice chest coupled with the golf cart had a tremendous impact on the popularity of the game. At least where I live, way more people happen to play golf while they are drinking beer instead of drink beer when they are playing golf. Remove the cold beverage and a vehicle to tote it around with and we would lose 70% of our golfing public!

            Sad truth. Maybe we need a little bit of that pomposity back?

      • Fatty

        Nov 5, 2014 at 1:16 am

        Derek,

        As they do, at the Old Course – you have to have a handicap certificate to rent a buggy.
        That’s why you don’t see too many fat, lazy American golfers playing that course on their golf vacation

    • Oldplayer

      Nov 6, 2014 at 5:47 am

      Agree. Carts are a blight on the game and should not be allowed for able bodied golfers.

      • Busterpar

        Nov 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm

        So bloody true!!!!! And this from someone with a new knee. Walk, walk, walk!

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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Opinion & Analysis

Autumn golf is the best golf

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For many, golf euphoria occurs the second weekend of April when the flowers start to bloom, courses begin to open, and the biggest tournament of the year is on television. But I believe the absolute best season for golf is the fall.

Let me explain.

SPRING

Spring is the season of hope and rebirth, and for most golfers, it’s the first opportunity to break out new clubs or take the game you’ve been working on all winter to the course for the first time in many months. Depending on where you are in North America or around the world, golf courses are just opening up and the ground is drying out from a winter filled with snow and ice.

Yes, spring is fantastic, you can shrug off the occasional mud ball since it’s probably your first round in four months and you’re willing to cut “the super” some slack for the slow greens, because you’re just happy to be out on terra firma chasing around a little white ball. Your game is rusty. Courses aren’t quite there yet, but it’s golf outside, and you couldn’t be happier.

SUMMER

The dog days. This time of year is when golf courses are the most busy thanks to the beautiful weather. But high temperatures and humidity can be a real deal-breaker, especially for walkers—throw in the weekly possibility for afternoon “out of the blue” thunderstorms, and now you’re sweating and drenched.

Unless you are a diehard and prefer the dew-sweeping pre-7 a.m. tee time when the sun breaks on the horizon, rounds tend to get longer in the summer as courses get busier. And you’ll often find more corporate outings and casual fairweather golfers out for an afternoon of fun—not a bad thing for the game, but not great for pace of play. Summer makes for fantastic course conditions, and with the sun not setting until after 9 p.m. for almost two months, the after-dinner 9 holes are a treat and you take them while you can.

FALL

As much I love nine holes after dinner with eight clubs in a Sunday bag and a few adult beverages in June, nothing compares to the perfect fall day for golf.

The sun’s orbit, paired with Mother Nature, allows you to stay in your warm bed just that little extra, since you can’t play golf when it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. The warm, but not too warm, temperatures allow you to pull out your favorite classic cotton golf shirts without fear of the uncomfortable sweaty pits. We can’t forget that it’s also the season for every golfer’s favorite piece of apparel: the quarter zip  (#1/4zipSZN).

Courses in the fall are often in the best shape (or at least they should be), since player traffic and corporate tournaments are done for the season. As long as warm afternoons are still the norm, firm and fast conditions can be expected.

Last but not least, the colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—frame the green fairways and dark sand to make them pop in the landscape. Fall is the final chance to get in those last few rounds and create happy thoughts and mental images before the clubs go away for the inevitably cold, dark days of winter.

Fall is meant for golf! So take pictures, smell the smells, and make great swings, because golf season is quickly coming to a close, and now is the time to savor each moment on the course.

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