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Match of the Ages: 30 Years of Tech Goes Head to Head

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I vividly remember being a teenager watching the 1987 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club on television with my dad. The ever-stoic Scott Simpson made a slew of late birdies to dash the title hopes of my boyhood heroes Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros. Simpson hit a feathery 9-iron from 125 yards into the 16th and I said to my dad, “I can do that.” My dad just laughed and shook his head.

“Son, this is not the Rich Acres Par-3,” he said. “This is the U.S. Open.” I went right back at him. “I know,” I said, “but I can do that. My 9 iron goes 125 yards.”

Fast forward to the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills. Rickie Fowler is hitting 5-iron into a 250 yard hole. Brooks Koepka melts a 325-yard 3-wood. My 6-year-old daughter is watching with me as Koepka overpowers Erin Hills and she asks, “Daddy, can you do that?” I answered with no delay, “No chance.” But what struck me as odd was that I was starting to grow numb to the video game-like control and power we see week in, week out on the PGA Tour. Four-hundred-yard drives just happen now and that’s how it is. Sounds like fun, but I’m not sure it’s good thing.

Somewhere between my father’s 1987 dismissal of the crucible that was the Rich Acres Par-3 and Koepka’s brutish dismantling of Erin Hills, golf has become a wildly different game. But is it a better game? Is it more entertaining to watch? Does the technology that facilitates the game for the masses belittle the game’s rich history? Most importantly, is today’s game more fun to play? I set off on a crusade to find out.

Short of buying a silver DeLorean and traveling back in time to 1987, my best bet was to try and piece together the clubs I played as a teenager and pit them against my current set to see how they would match up. A Match of The Ages if you will; Teenage Me vs. Middle-Aged Me. The artistry of the late 20th century versus the power of the early 21st century. This was going to be fun.

Building My Teenage Arsenal

throwbacks

East Bloomington, Minnesota in 1988 was The Land of 10,000 Blades. My buddy Aaron played his dad’s old X-31s. The Hogan brothers (sons of PGA legend Terry Hogan) worshiped all things Apex. I played a set of Wilson Staff Fluid Feel irons handed down from my father. Persimmons were still King and my all-time favorites were Cleveland Classics that I bought off a guy at my barber shop for an incredibly low price. How he got them wasn’t important. What was important was that I knew at a young and tender age that there are certain questions you just don’t ask folks who are selling goods out of their trunks at barber shops.

I went online and was able to find a similar set of Fluid Feel 2-SW with Dynamic Gold shafts, a Cleveland persimmon driver and 4 wood, and a putter that was close to an old TPA that I occasionally had in play. I didn’t think playing a 30-year-old balata made much sense, so I splurged and bought some Titleist Professionals for $10 (I know the Professionals weren’t released until the mid-nineties, but I figured they’d have a puncher’s chance of still being round). All in all it cost me about $150 to recreate my teenage arsenal. Not quite barber shop prices, but a bargain nonetheless.

Middle-Aged Me: An Embarrassment of Riches

new set 2

I buy way too many clubs. Like, it’s-a-problem-in-my-marriage amount of clubs. I’ve had to pay off the doorman at my building to stash any deliveries so my wife doesn’t find them and throw them away. Currently my storage unit has more clubs than some pro shops, but here’s what’s in my bag as of right now. The Epic driver is incredible and the RBZ 14.5 and Tour Exotic 19 hybrid have kept their place in the lineup for months — not an easy task considering a few snap hooks with a utility club normally means an early retirement. This is my second set of AP2s (DGS300) and I’ve been a fan of the Callaway wedges since I got them. The 2-Ball putter might strike you as odd, but I side-saddle putted not that long ago, so the term odd is lost on me. I play the Vice Pro Plus and it’s a terrific ball. Middle-Aged Me is well-armed and ready for battle.

The Tale of the Tape

I took 16 shots with each driver and 8-iron using Bridgestone E6 balls. I took out the best and worst 4. Averages in gray.

club comp

The 8-iron data had me puzzled. Sure enough, the modern 8-iron was bent fairly strong. Thanks to Brendan Kelly and Tim Ellis at Roger Dunn’s Golf Shop in Seal Beach, California. Here are the specs for all the irons in play.

loft lie

The Match Begins

Rancho Park Golf Course is the epicenter of golf on the Westside of Los Angeles. Its 6,630-yard, par-71 layout from the tips makes it the perfect host for the Match of The Ages. The format is 18 holes of Match Play. Middle-Aged Me has honors and so my match begins.

The opening hole is a 381-yard par-4 and my first drive with the Big Bertha Epic might as well be a commercial for whatever Jail Break Technology is. I don’t come close to hitting it squarely, but the ball somehow stays in the air for a lifetime and carries the fairway bunker some 240 yards away with ease. I don’t exactly hit the Cleveland persimmon on the screws, either. Instead, I smack an embarrassing line drive that rolls out some 220 yards into the middle of the fairway. I make a pair of sloppy bogeys and move on.

welcome-rancho

The second hole is a 467-yard tree-lined beast of par-4. I hook the Epic left, which is my stock miss. Teenage Me, sensing an opening, bombs a high fade. I seldom hit fades, so this is shot is completely slightly miraculous. I pose on the finish longer than usual to savor the moment. Teenage Me has 215 yards left and a useful 3-iron finds the green. An easy two-putt gives Teenage Me a 1-Up lead.

For the rest of the front nine, the Epic catches fire. Middle-Aged Me has wedge into all of the remaining par 4s and is greenside on the sole par-5 in two with ease. The Epic is an undeniable, inanimate Death Star of a driver. It is completely robotic in every sense and lethal when programmed properly. Middle-Aged Me rides the Epic to a 3-Up lead through nine holes.

In a cinematic sense, if the Epic is the Death Star then the persimmon is Morgan Freeman’s Sergeant Major John Rawlins from Glory: old, dark, proud, regal, and loyal no matter the odds. Unfortunately, Teenage Me is facing long odds because the persimmon is consistently 50 yards behind the Epic. My swing with the persimmon seems to be a little longer, a little more deliberate, and even when I hit it one the screws it’s just not even close.

pregame-cart

As for the irons, the Wilson Staffs feel great, but they seem to drift left (hook) a little more than I’m used to. With exception to the 2 and 3 irons (which require Buddhist Monk-like focus), the Staffs seem just as playable as my AP2s. I would guess that any purists out there who still game a clean MB blade like the Callaway Apex, Titleist 718 or Cobra Kings would find little difference. As for workability, just about every single shot I’ve hit since age 12 has gone right-to-left, so you want to read about workability you’ve got the wrong guy.

Checking in on the golf ball battle through nine holes, the Titleist Professional is holding its own. Lots of check and surprisingly firm and durable considering the vintage (a skulled 3-iron on the 8th imparted more damage to my fragile psyche than the actual golf ball). Should the USGA ever move towards bifurcation, the Titleist Professional would be a great standard for ball construction. On the other side of the cart, if you know how the Pro V1x plays then you know how the Vice Pro Plus plays, which is to say incredibly well. When played side-by-side, the difference between the modern ball and the older ball is staggering.

Example: No. 4, par-3, 200 yards. Teenage Me rips 4-iron (24 degree loft) and I’m on the front edge. Middle-Aged Me hits a solid but not spectacular 5-iron (26 degrees) that flies to the middle of the green. I would confidently say there’s a one club difference in distance on irons (matching lofts, of course.)

clock

Back to the Match of The Ages: the back nine starts off with some real fireworks with blood exchanged on Nos. 10, 11, 12 and two gritty up-and-down par saves on No. 13. Middle-Aged Me is 4 Up and has the honor on the intimidating 14th that plays out of a shoot. A compact swing of the Epic produces a low draw/hook off the tee that ends up in the fairway about 160 yards out. Teenage Me (focusing too much on the canopy of trees surround the tee box) hits the persimmon off the toe and the result is a Clayton Kershaw sinker that goes about 60 feet 6 inches and dives into the junk. Needing a miracle, I hack the ball back into play but Teenage Me has met his Waterloo. Middle-Aged Me makes par and wins 5 & 4.

Middle-Aged Me may have won the match 5 & 4, but Teenage Me definitely won the fun 10 & 8. A big part of that fun was getting reacquainted with a game I hadn’t played in a while. A game that was less about distance and more about shapes and trajectories. A game light on predictability and loaded with variety where a good drive didn’t mean wedges into every green. I saw the golf course as the architect had intended it to be seen, which let me appreciate more of its features. I’m not denying the element of novelty, but playing with my old teenage clubs — despite shooting 86 — was nothing short of inspiring. And to emphatically answer my original question; yes, it was a lot more fun.

card

Trust me on this: go out and get a nice persimmon. If for no other reason than if you practice with it you’ll improve as a ball striker, just buy one. Don’t worry about how old it might be. Jack Nicklaus won every single one of his majors — including the ’86 Masters — with a 3-wood from 1958, so I think it’s safe to say the material holds up well. Yes, you’ll find the older clubs are heavier and they’re a little harder to hit, but they are far more rewarding… and they’ll make hitting your modern clubs seem like child’s play.

As you can tell, the old clubs are growing on me. Maybe it’s a nostalgic whim, or maybe there’s something more profound at play. It could just be that people out there want something with a little more heart and soul. I think that’s why we buy hand-stitched wallets and drive old roadsters; we want to feel the humanity and the craftsmanship that goes into someone actually making things. So if you’re ever around a driving range in L.A. and you see a guy with an old Wood Brothers driver working on his gentleman’s fade, stop by and say hello. I’ll give you a few cracks at the driver and you can tell me what you feel.

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Laz Versalles is a husband, father and golfer who lives in Santa Monica, California. A former club professional, Laz now works in healthcare, coaches a middle school golf team and strives to break 80 whenever he gets a chance to play. A native of Minnesota, Laz is a lifelong Twins and Vikings fan and believes Randy Moss is the most dominant football player than ever walked this earth. You can follow Laz on twitter @laz_versalles

72 Comments

72 Comments

  1. Crazy About Golf

    Dec 15, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Great article. Thanks for sharing! I play to a 1-handicap with today’s golf club technology. A few years back, I wondered just how I might fare with clubs from yesteryear. So i took my dad’s set of Golden Rams (of course he still had them because he’s a hoarder) out to the course for a test drive. The driver itself didn’t give me too many problems, but the irons were the tiniest little things I can ever recall seeing (and I play blades now)…..needless to say, I put up 8 strokes more than I normally would (luckily i made a few good putts or it would have been worse). I felt like my manhood had been completely stripped away from me…hitting approaches that ended up 10 yds short of the green or having even the slightest mis-hit feel as though I had just rearranged my dental work gave me the utmost respect for those who played the game in the generations before us. Tiger is certainly the greatest of this era, but his skill is no match for what Nicklaus, Hogan and Jones showcased before him.

  2. JW

    Dec 5, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Thought the article was really well written… and a cool take as well.

    Now that I don’t play for anything bud fun the older clubs are definitely more fun.

    Also believe Randy Moss is the best WR ever… LOL.

  3. Benny

    Nov 29, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks for the great reading. It does make me think about strategy and precision. It’s why I still play blades. I remember the girl on Morning Drive was laughing while being blown away after she saw some old drivers. The phrase “hitting it on the screws” made so much more sense. She had no clue there was actually screws in the faces. Thats when you know we are old and walked to school up hill both ways. Nuts to think about the original 59 and that time and length. Maybe the best round ever??

  4. Jeff

    Nov 10, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Thank you for an enjoyable read. Love your writing style. Many years ago I started with a set of Hogan blades and a couple of Ping persimmon woods. Would be very interesting to have that same set and take a whirl with them again.

    • EGR MN

      Nov 11, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      It’s called EBay.

      I play with a set of Wilson Staff Goosenecks I bought in 1992. 2-PW with a HOgan Apex SW for added comfort.
      Last year I found a 1 iron WS Gooseneck on eBay and bought it, though I’m not yet convinced it gives me more than the 240-250 I consistently get off the tee with my 2 iron.
      Last year I finally broke down and got rid of my old Burner Plus 9.5 driver, which I used to launch 310-320 consistently. My wife bought me a driver fitting and I got put in a Titleist 915D3 (I’d still rather put my $ into rounds of golf instead of equipment). 290 off the tee right down the middle…and I’m now 56 years old (10 handicap; used to be 3).
      Next up is my putter…since it too is from 1992. But…as much as I’ve test drove other putters, this Taylor Made is the perfect swing weight and it’s small imperfections are embedded in my brain and muscle memory.
      Dad used to tell me “It’s the Indian, not the Arrow.” With apologies to all the great equipment companies, he’s right.

  5. Carl-Gustaf

    Nov 8, 2017 at 8:03 am

    First of all, why you play DG S300 shaft is beyond me. Totally not the correct shafts for you seeing your swing speed and spin with your 8-iron.

    Second of all, why did you not correct the lofts in the old set first? Clearly it’s 4 degrees between clubs so the 8-iron in the old set should be 40 degrees but thru the years got bent a bit (which is common).

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 9, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      Hi Carl,
      A few things: I’ve had Rifle 6.5, and DG X100, but ever since I suffered a grade 2 separation of my AC joint I’ve gone down to the DG300. As for the old staff lofts, I was happy with how they looked and kept them as is.

  6. Mike

    Nov 7, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Very interesting! No. 3 is the par-3, not No. 4, just fyi.

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 9, 2017 at 11:40 pm

      Yeah- saw that. Funny how I seem to make 4 more on #3 than I do on #4!

  7. Mark Peck

    Nov 6, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Fantastic article, thank you Laz.

    I’m 49 now and this really resonated with me. Brings me back to playing in my teens in the 80s. I’ve always played blades and currently have 3 sets of the Staff Fluid Feels in my basement, all full 1 iron through wedges. (though not with the W/S badge stamping). I believe my sets are circa ’86 – ’89.

    Also have a set of the Ram Tour Grinds but I couldn’t hit them as well for some reason. Currently playing Mizuno MP37s. I love when folks tell me that blades are only for good players. Then I let them hit mine and they get instant feedback on where they are missing on the face, even high handicappers. I’ve seen folks improve dramatically after a bucket of balls on the range with my butterknives.

    I’ve also gone full retro on my bag, used to tote a Vagabond (Jones knockoff) from high school through college and have since tracked down 3 on Ebay and am restoring them now.

    I’m sure I could lower my index w/ full kit of modern, fully juiced sticks, but I love the simple passion of walking, shotmaking (and shot failing!!) and enjoying the experience.

    PS – also loved your review of Goat Hills on GCA, bravo.

    Thanks again

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 9, 2017 at 11:45 pm

      Thank you, Mark. I appreciate your feedback. We just had the club championship at the goat and there was a lot of persimmon in play. Tons of good players there. I just bought a Wood Bros driver on eBay this morning. A friend had one in college and he tells me a lot of the old SWC players like Justin Leonard played that driver. Can’t wait. Funny you call the vagabond a knock off! I loved those bags but I was a Jones kid myself. Connect w/ me on twitter or FB.

      • Mark Peck

        Nov 12, 2017 at 10:44 pm

        Love it Laz. I’m headed down to my basement to dust off my old MacGregor m85w eye-o-matic. You’ve inspired me to get a new grip on it and put it back in play.

        I’ll hit you up on FB.

        Thanks!

  8. jgpl001

    Nov 4, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Just puts Al Geiberger’s 59 into perspective and how brilliant it was with a similar bag of old school blades, persimmon woods and a balata ball on a course well over 7000 yards in the Texas heat

    Unbelievable

    • etc.

      Nov 4, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      Does anybody really believe that today’s GI and SGI clubs helps recreational golfers with their game? I think it’s all a gigantic hoax perpetrated on the gullible golfing masses to sow discontent with their current clubs and to trick them into buying the latest ‘improved’ clubs that will rescue their pathetic game.
      IOW, it’s not YOU, it’s your clubs trickery propaganda. Have you fallen for the scam?

      • Pp

        Nov 5, 2017 at 5:14 pm

        Ask the people who bought the P790 how they’re playing

  9. M. Vegas

    Nov 4, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Your teenage arsenal had a sweet lookin putter yo

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 9, 2017 at 11:47 pm

      It’s no longer in the teenage arsenal. It’s in the tournament bag now yo.

  10. Mat

    Nov 4, 2017 at 2:38 am

    To me, this is all the more reason to reign in the ball.

    If clubs can have a CoR, why can’t the ball?

  11. Tim

    Nov 3, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    I run a summer golf league at one of the local muni’s. Every year, I try to convince the league to play with “real” woods and blades on British Open week, just for the tradition and to put some of the fun you speak of into the round. I have enough in the garage to outfit anyone who wants to give it a try. I have one player out of 50 that will hit a ceremonial tee shot off the first tee, but other than that, it’s just me against the world. I’ve been trying for almost 20 years to get people to give it a try, but no success so far. I’ll keep trying, as everyone should have some perspective on how things have come along.

  12. Someone

    Nov 3, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    is it just me or were the loft gaps between the 7/8:9 in the wilson set off? wouldn’t it be more accurate to play modern day blade vs old blade?

    i used to think blades were all the same but i went to a fitter to just hit some of the new stuff and found that Mizunos new MP18 actually went 5yds linger while the new TM p790’s with microgrooves actually went shorter, obviously due to the additional spin, but that gave them a much steeper landing angle and possibly could hold more greens. game improvement irons have always been jacked lofts which is one of the reasons that i prefer to play blades, but to each their own. i always check the std lofts of sets on their websites and any game improvement is always jacked up to be stronger. i guess long and wrong equates to game improvement since you may be closer to the hole, however if you hit them center every time, they absolutely have a chance of going further. with blades I have had more consistent distance control. not a knock on the cavity back tho, i did start with cavity backs from the get go. I just enjoy playing blades now.

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 3, 2017 at 8:52 pm

      The Apex CF16 lofts are nuts. These were used, old clubs so I wasn’t surpised to see them all voer the map.

  13. asugrad1988

    Nov 3, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Laz:
    The best thing I got from your article was memories. As I read through your great story, it brought back memories of playing with my friends when I was just a kid. I can’t remember how far I hit my clubs back then but I can remember getting a hot dog and a Coke at the turn for less than $1.00.
    Thank you Laz!

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 3, 2017 at 9:26 pm

      Love it. We always played the par-3 and the loser bought lemonades and snickers. Normally 1.00.

  14. Matt

    Nov 3, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Golf seems a bit less fun with the newer equipment, regardless of the scoring improvements. I’m playing the latest and greatest, fitted properly and all my old gear is gone except for a handful of Mac and Hogan persimmons. With retro gear (bikes, surfboards, golf, etc) the handmade aspect simply makes sport feel more human, so if I had enough spare time it would include an occasional round with old clubs.

  15. Tom54

    Nov 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Wonderful article Laz. Lots of golfers who are not old enough to have ever played persimmon woods and balata balls cannot relate to the difference between older equipment. One of my longest drives ever was with a Macgregor 945. Whenever I stand on that hole even with today’s modern drivers there’s no way I could carry it on the green. I guess being younger had a lot to do with it though. I wonder if 25-30 years down the road will those clubs and balls be such a leap forward or have we reached the limits. It is funny how when you look at old persimmon drivers you say “ man look how small it is, I could never hit that”. I’ll bet in 1980 if you handed someone todays big headed monsters you would have said “man look how big this thing is, how am I supposed to hit this little ball with that”

  16. James Sweeney

    Nov 3, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Enjoyed this article. While highly unscientific, you’ve taken a fair shot at the question of whether this game has actually gotten better over time.

    One can fairly say, I think, that if the clubs used were tested using laboratory standards the differences betwen the two sets would be less than you experienced.

    I often play persimmon woods in casual rounds with friends whose abilities are similar to mine, and for the most part I can keep up, distance- wise. I practice with the persimmons, however. My persimmon driver and three wood are copies of clubs custom made for Tiger Woods by Louisville Golf in the late 90s. They were copies of his Byron Nelson driver and McGregor Armour three wood and made so he could use them in practice. I use modern equipment in competition. I play blades.

    Speaking for myself, I prefer the persimmons. I like the feel, the sound. I miss the Titlleist Professional, the best ball ive ever played. Some of the new “soft” balls are pretty good with the persimmons.

    Is the equipment better today? Maybe. Certainly more consistant. Is the game better? Well, the game hasn’t reallly changed, the way it is played has. Not necessarily for the better.

    In 1960 Arnold Palmer drove the 346 yard first hole at Cherry Hills CC in the fourth round of the USOpen. Even allowing for altitude at 5%, he drove that tee shot 325 yards. With persimmon.

    The game is played differently today. If I can could only play one set for the rest of my life, I’ll take the persimmons.

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 3, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      I recall Davis Love III killing drivers in the mid-nineties with persimmon. If you get a good block, they’re hard to beat.

  17. Dave Bourne

    Nov 3, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Those Wilson Staff irons are from 1989 or 1990. The 1989 model has the diamonds along the scoring lines while the 1990 models don’t. Your loft values in the table aren’t correct either, although the ’89 Fluid Feel 8 iron is 41 degrees. This model of the Staff iron is one of their best ever IMHO and I restore and sell 10-20 sets per year.

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 3, 2017 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Dave, the lofts may be off from the standard spec, but this is what they measured at. Can you DM me and tell me more about your restoration process? I am definitely keeping these clubs and would like to know what I can do to make them a bit nicer.

  18. rex235

    Nov 3, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Nice article. It is more of an apples vs oranges comparison, since your OEMs are different.
    All of the newer clubs are available in a LH model, with few restrictions. They weren’t 30 years ago.
    Of the traditional club set of Cleveland Classic persimmon woods and Wilson Staff irons, both were very high end, as the Driver and fairway wood have 5 screw butterfly soleplates. Neither was offered in a LH model. Quote Cleveland Golf- “You get 4 screw sweepback soleplates-nothing else.” Even the drill thru hosel for LH models was by request only. This Wilson Staff Fluid Feel iron model has the “W/S” crest, and they were only offered RH as well. The Wilson Staff TPXVIII putter came in RH/LH. Perhaps the test would have been closer with early cavity back irons vs modern blades.

  19. Grover

    Nov 3, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Laz
    Love the article
    Seems to me you have to get the ball right with the old irons and woods
    Can’t hit these hard new balls with persimmon clubs

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 3, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Hi Grover, I seldom played the soft balatas back in the day, mostly the DT Titleist that were harder. I played mostly muni tracks that didn’t require the high spin softer balls.
      I hit some shots with the persimmon and the Vice ball and it was fine- as long as you hit it in the middle of the club face. There’s a few models of “deep face” persimmon drivers that have caught me eye recently. I may try one.

  20. Joseph dreitler

    Nov 3, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Great article. Thanks much. Hope i am around to read in 12 years what the writer’s number are when he is in his 60’s. For most amatuers, once you hit 60 or so, the numbers drop off a cliff. But, the biggest point was the original teaser — when i was 35 i could hit my irons close to the same distance and many Tour pros and the driver went about 250-260 including roll.
    Fast forward today and way too many courses have become irrelevant for the Tour pros unless they are gimmicked up around the greens or fairways narrowed and rough grown up like weeds. Absent that or making the course 8200 yards long, the only solution is to bifurcate rules on the ball.
    I have the proof (by the bucket every year) in my yard as i live across the street from the 15th green of The Ohio State Scarlet course of 450 yards and watch people hit 230 yard drives into the rough and then yank their 220 yard 3 woods into my yard.

  21. BB

    Nov 3, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Well done! Very interesting article.
    What shaft do you play in that Epic?

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 3, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks, BB. I play the Alida Silver Rogue Max X-75.

  22. david

    Nov 3, 2017 at 8:44 am

    I have a wooden tennis racket, Donnay Allwood a la vintage Borg, that I will warm up with before switching to my regular racket. Really makes me focus on form and watching the ball. I look forward to trying it with a persimmon.

  23. ActualFacts

    Nov 3, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Great article and fun experiment Laz!

  24. JB

    Nov 3, 2017 at 7:59 am

    What would you say the biggest difference was in tech?

    Was the blade harder to play than a CB tech hyped iron of today?

    Obviously there was distance issues off the drive. Do you think having to make up for that longer distance gap with an older longer iron (2 or 3 iron which are notoriously the hardest irons to play) played a part in why the scores differed?

    I’m relating it to strokes gained, which just off the drives alone, you should already be up almost a whole stroke over the older clubs. Simply because your approach shots are now longer and inherently harder.

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 3, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Hi JB, Honestly 8-PW is the same feel. I think once you have that much loft, having a forgiving cavity is irrelevant. Hitting the AP2 4-iron vs. the Staff 4-iron is a different experience.
      But the driver was just an unfair fight. I’m currently looking around for a driver with a shaft that suits me a little better and maybe has a deeper face. The Old Wood Brothers drivers have my interest right now. We’ll see.

  25. The dude

    Nov 3, 2017 at 5:41 am

    Great article,…..now, do the same with hickory sticks ….now that’ll surprise you

    • alanp

      Nov 3, 2017 at 7:19 am

      agreed i just sent a group message to all the guys last week that we should do a hickory day at the club. that would be a lot of fun

  26. UnclePhil

    Nov 2, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    This was a great read!! I too miss my blonde TC15 Cleveland Classic persimmon driver with the diamond shaped black insert, and the walnut colored CC 3 wood. My first set of irons in ’89 were the Titleist Tour Model butter knives. Whew, those would still be tough to hit today, but when you “catch one out of the middle,” there is absolutely nothing like the impact’less feel. Like butt’a!!

    Great article and fun to flashback on!! Bravo

  27. Stuart

    Nov 2, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Ah, Rich Acres. Before it was a runway, it was one of two exotic golf destinations from my home in Apple Valley, the other being Hiawatha, which is not long for this world. Time has passed by more than just our old driver.

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 3, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      God bless you, Stuart. Hiawatha appears to be on the chopping block from what I’ve read but the city is blessed with many, many great courses. Every time I land at MSP I wonder if my plane is rolling over the old course (not St. Andrews). I hear that little exec course in Eagan is also gone.

  28. Paul

    Nov 2, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Very interesting article, I would love to see the pros play a “vintage” tournament, a 36 hole off-season event for charity on a classic course.

  29. Bernard

    Nov 2, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    “…….it was a lot more fun”.

    It’s why I still carry traditional irons, and will forever though the Driver will not be persimmon. The shot options on trajectory and maneuverability is 2nd to none. The good is greater the bad is worse, so it really becomes a more vivid time. It’s golf in 4K HD.

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 2, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      What kind of irons do you hit, Bernard?

      • Bernard

        Nov 2, 2017 at 8:42 pm

        Hi Laz,

        I have several in rotation, ’99 Hogan Apex, Greg Norman Signature MB, Titleist 681 and Wilson FG 59’s, another 6 sets that if had the right shafts I would play too. The Wilson’s are hot in the bag this moment.

      • Bernard

        Nov 2, 2017 at 8:44 pm

        Right now Wilson FG 59 but have 3 other in rotation plus more waiting on proper shaft fit.

      • SK

        Nov 2, 2017 at 9:15 pm

        I have a set (2-PW) of RAM Tour Grind model TW276 clubs (used by Tom Watson to win one of his Open claret jugs) in a beautiful brushed satin finish. I use them as training clubs because they are very small muscleback blades with a very low eccentricity between the shaft axis and sweet spot.
        This forces me to guide the shaft and hosel closer to impact point. This also creates an effortless supination of my left lead arm going into impact. It’s an interesting sensation and takes a few days to adapt. Then I return to my larger and higher eccentricity PINGs with some compensation and I can find the sweet spot more easily too. It’s like a refresh and reboot!
        The same thing would happen if you owned and played the Wilson Staff and Titleist AP2 clubs and alternated between each set of clubs.
        You see, there is no such thing as “grooving” a golf swing because the human body is not that accurate using the big slow twitch muscles at high speeds. It’s just an anatomical fact.

        • Bernard

          Nov 3, 2017 at 3:40 pm

          I really do not mind the miss hits on irons near as much as I mind the misses with metals. Truth is ball stays in play better with blades, coming up short on a misfire is 9/10 better than being offline to yardage.

  30. bill

    Nov 2, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    To GolfWRX Staff:
    That banner flashing ad you have at the top of the website is not only annoying, it gave me an epileptic seizure due to the rapid flashing. I did find the ‘Close Ad X-box’, but it a bit too much of an in-your-face promotion ad. Tone it down please.

  31. Jim Lahey

    Nov 2, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Now repeat the test using a modern golf ball with both sets. I’ve done a similar experiment and found that the Persimmon woods don’t lag that far behind the modern metal woods when hit out the middle. I got curious and bought some balata balls at a 2nd hand store, and could instantly see the distance drop off (much higher spin).

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 2, 2017 at 7:17 pm

      Jim, That’s a great idea. I hit a lot of shots with the persimmon and the modern ball. All the data from the drivers is using a modern Bridgesotne ball. I think if I had a modern shaft inserted into a persimmon it would get even more interesting. Maybe an Aerotech or KBS Tour C-Taper.

    • mM

      Nov 2, 2017 at 9:25 pm

      “when hit out the middle”
      Of course! But the modern clubs give you the size to miss the middle and still get a lot out of it. THAT’s the difference.

      • Jim Lahey

        Nov 3, 2017 at 3:24 pm

        Yes, that is true. But the main point I was trying to make is that the ball is making a majority of the difference. Laz was reporting 50 yards difference on the course between new and old equipment (including ball), but I think he will see a much smaller difference when using modern balls.

    • NRJyzr

      Nov 3, 2017 at 9:03 am

      The biggest issue with these sorts of comparisons is the golfball. Wound balls suffer a great deal of performance loss due to age, far more than solid balls, and the loss tends to be more apparent with the longer clubs.

      Unless someone really is still making a few wound balls for pros who never switched, we’ll never be able to know for sure. Other than ball test data from 2001…

  32. SK

    Nov 2, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    The modern equipment should be played from the tips and the old equipment a tee box step down or two.
    As the golf courses got longer the club lofts changed to compensate for the extra distances.

    • Scott Francis

      Nov 2, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      True that would be more of an even match play old equipment from one up tees.

      • Laz Versalles

        Nov 2, 2017 at 7:19 pm

        Scott, Teenage Me would have never gone up a tee box against anyone. Never. Honestly, I think if I get a persimmon driver with a better shaft it’s a much closer game.

    • mM

      Nov 2, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      SK,
      At Rancho Park, the new Black tees are what the Pros plays during the 50’s and 60’s at the LA Open at this site. So what you say is not true, as the old tee boxes were recently restored.
      Which says that some of the bombers in the old days really bombed it, as we know, Jack hit it past 300 easily with the soft balata and with persimmons.

  33. iutodd

    Nov 2, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Seems like you could have more fun on the course if you got a modern mini-driver!!!

    Or if you didn’t hit driver on 375 yard par 4s. The game CAN be more fun – you just have to think differently. For instance – the 381 yard par four first…I guess if it’s wide open hit driver…but with a bunker at 240 out…why not play short of the bunker and have ~140 in? That’s still a 8 or 9 iron right? I guess I just don’t think driver should be an automatic pull off the tee on every par four and if it is then maybe you’re playing the wrong tees.

    I don’t like playing with other people (that I don’t know) mainly for that reason – I’m hitting my 4 or 5 wood or even an iron and they’re hitting driver. And it’s always like…like they think that I’m too cool for school or something. “Look at Mr. Golf over here – hitting less than driver….(wanking motion)” is kind of the attitude. (There is also a masculinity element to it somehow – like I’m not man enough to hit driver or soemthing) It ups the pressure on me to execute and gets into my head a bit and makes the round less fun. Anyway…

    Enjoyed the article BTW.

    • Laz Versalles

      Nov 2, 2017 at 7:25 pm

      Todd, I’ve hit 3 wood on #1 at Rancho exactly twice. Both shots are still rolling down Pico Blvd (O.B. left.) Maybe it’s because I go from trunk to tee quite often, but I like taking driver off the first tee whenever possible.

      • iutodd

        Nov 3, 2017 at 9:24 am

        Thanks for the reply – obviously I don’t know the course.

        And I get it with going right from the car to the course.

        Just the thoughts that were rolling through my head. Again – enjoyed the article.

      • Chris Olseth, PGA

        Dec 7, 2017 at 6:43 pm

        “Never show fear on the 1st Tee, hit the driver!”
        T.J.H.

    • mM

      Nov 2, 2017 at 9:30 pm

      iutodd,
      You would normally hit driver on that hole because it’s uphill quite a bit and requires at least a 250 carry type shot to get over the bunker uphill and with your first swing of the day, you’re hard-pressed to hit that unless you hit it square, which, for most amateurs with mid-handicaps, we know it’s not easy. Not on the first tee.

  34. George

    Nov 2, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    The difference in score could be from the learning curve of using a set that does not get as much practice. When I got my new clubs it took at least a couple months before I was able to notice any difference. If I switch back i would have zero control over my old clubs.

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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