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Dustin Johnson hit Jack Nicklaus’ old persimmon driver 290 yards… IN THE AIR

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Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 golfer, hits the ball really far — he currently averages 314.0 yards off the tee in 2018, according to the PGA Tour. Yea, but that’s with today’s oversized, adjustable, high-MOI, low CG, fully-optimized drivers equipped with graphite shafts. What would he be able do with a persimmon driver… you know, a real driver?

Well, thanks to Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, we know that answer.

While at the Bears Club ahead of the 2018 Dell Technologies Championship, DJ took to the range with Jack’s old persimmon driver and 1-iron.

According to DJ’s Twitter, here are the results…

As AP Golf writer Mike Ferguson clarified, however, the “290” was DJ’s carry yardage with the driver; the total distance was actually 318 yards.

Jack Nicklaus was complimentary of the display… in his own way.

What do you think; should these Tweets be presented to the USGA for its distance-gain studies?

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51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. gene c

    Aug 31, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Jack said the ball is 50 yards longer than it was 39 years ago. No way Dusin hits it that far with the old balata. Nicklaus hit it 341 in a PGA long drive in 1971….translates to about 360 in today’s numbers. Jack was a beast with a magnificent golf swing.

  2. Regis

    Aug 31, 2018 at 11:53 am

    I grew up playing MacGregor persimmons. The biggest difference from today’s “woods” is the size of the sweet spot. The persimmons had an “eye O Matic” insert. MacGregor had 5 screws securing the insert because Jack hit it so hard he could distort the insert. Regardless, if you missed the sweet spot with a Persimmons, you got nothing except perhaps misshit rockets going dead left or right. With the modern clubface you can miss the sweet spot by 1/2 inch and still get a playable shot

  3. Tom Wishon

    Aug 31, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Starting in the mid to late 90s the USGA convinced the golf media and golfers to believe that the reason for the increase in driving distance on the tour was from the advent of the titanium driver so they knee-jerk enacted the COR limit in 1998 without one bit of testing to determine where all this distance increase had come from. The media still wants to believe that this distance increase among the elite player is chiefly from modern equipment. The reality is 70% of the distance increase is from tour players on average having 10mph more clubhead speed than they did in the old days, 20% from fairways being mowed like greens of the 70s/80s to which results in more roll and 10% from the higher COR of Titanium heads vs stainless steel heads.

    For those who want to reel back distance, put a limit on clubhead speed to take it back to what it was when the tour’s driving distance leader hit it 280 cuz that’s where the lion’s share of it has come from. Not from modern equipment. Of course that’s folly but so is blaming modern equipment for the ‘necessity’ to host tour events on 7500 yd courses.

    • carl spacker

      Aug 31, 2018 at 1:06 pm

      Spot on!

    • JP

      Aug 31, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      Spoken from the guy who knows! Truth has been laid down today!

    • Brad

      Aug 31, 2018 at 7:39 pm

      Amen to that Tom. All of this talk about the ball needing to be “rolled back” has been doing my head in. Glad to see someone with your expertise in golf equipment stating the truth that the USGA and R&A simply don’t seem to want to hear or believe.

      Let the fairways grow to a reasonably length so they aren’t like a airport runway and introduce trouble right in the landing spots of the big bombers off the tee in the PGA Tour and a good portion of the “problem” is solved.

    • On again off again

      Aug 31, 2018 at 11:14 pm

      You know, there are times when I tire of this site because of all the petty comments and overbearing censorship, then I remember people like Tom Wishon read and post occasionally…and that’s gold Jerry, gold! Seriously though, we’re lucky to have the ability to interact with the greatest minds on the business like that. So I come back ????

    • Rob Carter

      Sep 4, 2018 at 4:23 am

      “For those who want to reel back distance, put a limit on clubhead speed”

      How? And why would you want to limit this?

    • juststeve

      Sep 4, 2018 at 5:55 pm

      You forget the ball which flies longer and straighter than the old would balls.

    • larrybud

      Sep 10, 2018 at 10:32 am

      It’s the ball. That’s why the average distance made a huge jump with the prov1. But it’s also why average distance has been flat for 15 or so years.

  4. Dan Shepherd

    Aug 31, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Good topic here and interesting to see DJ’s results. Reminds me of similar story when Tiger Woods, then at the top of his game, hit some of Ben Hogan’s old clubs while at Tom Stites’ Nike place in Texas. Stites told me all of the Nike players would try them in town, and that the sweet spot on the long irons was pea sized. He said Tiger was pure-ing them after a couple swings. He also said Tiger was different than the other Nike staff players. He said they’d give him several points of feedback while testing clubs, while Tiger’s feedback was significantly more. I’m fine with today’s game and equipment. That’s the way of the world. Think the old MLB players played on manicured fields. Or how about old NBA players having to wear skin-tight short shorts. Should the trousers be rolled back for today’s NBA player? Ha! Joking, of course, but do believe we should go with the flow. The bigger question for me is, will modern designs be made bigger and bigger. I’m okay with it if that’s the caliber of player who will be mostly playing them. But if they’re public access courses that want the most players possible to enjoy a fun, recreational game of golf, that would be a problem.

  5. Johnny Penso

    Aug 31, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Jack, wooden driver, metal shaft, balata ball, aged 44, 311 yard drive in a skins game.

    https://youtu.be/6B5WHNuCSpo?t=1640

  6. moses

    Aug 31, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Jack would’ve converted half of his 19 2nd place finishes if he played the Pro V1. 🙂
    That McGregor Tourney ball he was playing was notorious for inconsistency. A famous USGA executive once mentioned how terrible the Tourney performed in their consistency tests.

    IMO Jack would’ve hit the ball like Rory does today.

  7. Harry Goss

    Aug 31, 2018 at 9:32 am

    They need to use balata to make good comparison.

  8. Greg V

    Aug 31, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Jack always had the best of persimmon drivers available. And, he didn’t play X shafts, just S shafts tipped.

    DJ has some remarkable talent. Great to see this little experiment.

  9. Rob

    Aug 31, 2018 at 8:04 am

    43” inch Steel shaft, time to get out the heat gun!
    The Rick Sheils test showed a lot two full clubs different between the PV1 and the Professional for the second shot, with the driver being roughly 10 yards longer, but the Professional was probably longer than the Tourney and Pro Trajectory of 1968.
    To me the biggest difference is consistency, the balls in a dozen PV1 are more consistent than the two closest in a box of Pro Tracs were..

    • TRUMP2020

      Sep 2, 2018 at 12:51 am

      Rick Sheils is an idiot. Golf advice from Rosie O’Donnell is better.

  10. Mike

    Aug 31, 2018 at 7:50 am

    They should make pros play with persimmon woods on the tour. You don’t see Major league baseball players using aluminum bats do you? It would make it more exciting imo and would be easier on course management not always having to “lengthen” courses to accommodate guys hitting it video game distances.

    • Grev V

      Aug 31, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      It would be fun to see them play designated tournaments with persimmon – especially on short courses like Colonial and Harbor Town.

  11. Jurren

    Aug 31, 2018 at 4:29 am

    I remember from my junior days (early 90ies) several players that could hit similar distances (mostly with the first generation TM metalwoods, which are not persimmon of course, but didn’t provide any distance gain compared to persimmon). Jack himself is known to have hit drives that long in his younger years. Actually surprised by the length of the 1-iron. That is not impressive at all.

    So looking at these numbers alone, yes Dustin is a long hitter, but not extremely long. (My guess, if he had played the PGA tour in the 90ies he would have battled with Davis Love III and John Daly for the title of longest driver every year, but wouldn’t have flat out demolished them (which his current driver stats would suggest).

  12. Bah

    Aug 31, 2018 at 2:17 am

    But it only went 290 carry. We should expect that, based on his swing speed and club length. Do the same swing same speed with his modern clubs and he’s now carrying it 330, rolling out to 360. Duh. People are so stupid to think old equipment was the same. It wasn’t.

    • ED

      Aug 31, 2018 at 9:30 am

      plus, he was using modern range balls. This shows Jack was longer!

    • Yep

      Sep 1, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      Ummm he’s may carry a couple a round that far, but most are around 300, don’t believe all the BS you see on tv.

  13. Baba

    Aug 30, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    Rick Shiels had made a test, hitting new old stock Professional 90 (1998) against modern Pro V1 with wedges, iron and driver. There wasn’t that much difference, 5-10 yards at most.

    • Johnny Penso

      Sep 3, 2018 at 8:50 pm

      It was 12 yards actually. He did another test comparing 1998 driver and balls to 2018 driver and balls and it was 40 yards different. It’s the combination of the two, the high COR driver and the low spinning ball off the driver face that produces all the distance gains of the last 30 years or so.

  14. kenstl

    Aug 30, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    I second that, those comments are very relevant to the discussion. I would love to see 10 balata balls hit with the persimmon driver and see where they land. I do think guys are stronger, the sweet spot is defiantly larger, but I think those that say it’s the ball are right on. My guess is he could still hit the balata ball straight at times, but there would be a much higher percentage that would not be in play and thus require players to make adjustments in their swings. I am not agains distance, but I think the best ball striker should have an advantage over someone that can swing out of their shoes and hit long, only because there is no downside / risk due to the modern ball.

    • MikeB

      Aug 30, 2018 at 10:44 pm

      Dustin is the best ball striker. Hits it flush every time. Don’t mistake his length and athletic talent with a lack of skill. If anything his speed sets him apart, more compression, and that matters with the modern ball being much firmer. He can do things others can’t. And his wedge game is now a strength, not a weekness…

    • Brad

      Aug 30, 2018 at 10:48 pm

      I do not understand your comments about the balata ball not being as straight or not being in play as often. I believe there is a general misunderstanding about the modern ball being “straighter” not just amongst amateur golfers, but the PGA officials as well apparently. The ballata ball spun more than the “modern” ball. back spin has almost no influence on curvature as it is the tilt of the spin axis that causes that. The “modern” ball is not straighter. The increased MOI and higher forgiveness of modern clubs does help to make the ball go straighter though. As for there being more lost balls with the ballata, that again makes no sense. If the ballata goes shorter, then offline hits will be LESS offline than the modern ball that goes further and therefore would travel further offline on errant shots. A 200 yard slice is more findable than a 300 yard slice that is entirely off the planet. I would bet that if DJ hit that persimmon driver using a balata ball, he would be no more than 15-20 yards behind the modern ball. And, 232 with a 1 iron is not that far at all. I can hit my “modern” 2 iron that far if I flush it. So, it is the club technology that appears to be helping more than the ball…

      • Smchooooo

        Aug 31, 2018 at 9:12 am

        How can you say a ball only spins more in one direction? thats not how physics works.

        • Brian Forrester

          Aug 31, 2018 at 10:20 am

          There’s a reason a wedge curves less than a driver…more backspin.

        • Brad

          Aug 31, 2018 at 7:28 pm

          Golf balls curve due to the Magnus effect. A few hundred RPMs of spin is not going to influence the curvature of a golf ball very much at all. Most golfers simply do not understand why higher back spin rates do NOT cause the ball to curve more. In any case, the balata ball does not actually spin much more than the modern ball (see link below if you don’t believe that).

          https://www.golfdigest.com/story/gwar-johnson-equipment-0423

          And, as I stated, if the balata really is dramatically shorter than the modern ball (it isn’t) then even if the balata DID have more sidespin it would still be less offline as it wouldn’t travel as far.

      • JOHN C HILLER

        Aug 31, 2018 at 7:31 pm

        I have a set of MT Tourney black face irons,x shaft, in the early 60’s , hit the two iron from 190- 220 depending on set up. Still have the woods but they need to be restored

      • Enough Already

        Sep 2, 2018 at 11:14 pm

        This is pretty funny…and clearly spoken by someone who never hit an old wound ball, lol.

      • Joe

        Sep 5, 2018 at 10:59 am

        According to PING, most wound balls after being hit once MAY come back to truly round after 24 hours of rest. Wound balls with a liquid core were a lot harder to manufacture consistently like today’s solid core balls. For these 2 reasons the old balls were inherently less accurate.

  15. dat

    Aug 30, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    All about the impact. DJ has that perfected.

  16. rex235

    Aug 30, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    Am glad DJ got the privilege. Steel shafts, Persimmon wood, forged 1 iron.

    The iron looked like the MacGregor “VIP” model.

    Couldn’t tell about the MacGregor Driver- TA 945? VIP? Nicklaus 271?

    Apples vs Oranges…

    Different equipment for the same game.

  17. Rob

    Aug 30, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    The current ball at DJ’s clubhead speed is at least 25 yards longer than a Titleist Pro Trajectory.

  18. Jack

    Aug 30, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Nicklaus smiling because his ball argument has just been strengthened.

  19. TwoLegsMcManus

    Aug 30, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Jack hit it 290 in the air in his day too, perhaps not as often as Dustin would. But the game was played differently – in it’s modern infancy.

    If you broke it down scientifically, you’d find modern distance gains are less than 5 yards for any given change. Add together shaft length, shaft weight, clubface trampoline effect, forgiveness and weighting, MOI, shaft fitting and optimization/Trackman fitting, ball and ball fitting (spin/launch), course conditioning, training, diet, fitness trailers, physios, coaches… If you get rid of ALL those things, you can go back to “yesterday’s numbers”. If you change one (eg, “the ball”), you will have very little effect and the gap will be made up in a year or two in some other way…

    Remember the panic over grooves a few years back? [crickets]

  20. Lamont Cranston

    Aug 30, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    So he hits it as far as his modern 440cc, titanium, Taylormade M3? Yeah I’m not buying it. Either those yardages are off or the wind you can hear in the video was helping. Also unless he uses a MacGregor Tourney wound balata ball it’s not really a fair comparison.

  21. moses

    Aug 30, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    So when are the comments of “yeah but he did it with a Pro V1 or a TP Ball” coming? That is an impressive feat by the way.

    • Johnny Penso

      Aug 30, 2018 at 9:46 pm

      Those comments are coming because they are relevant to the discussion.

      • NRJyzr

        Aug 30, 2018 at 10:56 pm

        No, not really relevant. Balls have been limited by ODS for quite a long time. The new ODS test methodology resulted in the ball being rolled back, due to fewer yds per mph allowed, as well as the increase in distance from the switch away from a laminate driver.

        It’s not the fault of the modern players that ball manufacturers chose to produce something lower than the maximum allowed distance, and that players allowed them to do so.

        • Johnny Penso

          Aug 31, 2018 at 11:21 am

          I didn’t say it was anyone’s fault I said it was relevant to the discussion. As is wind conditions, fairway conditions etc. Any data point that might influence the result is relevant. Only those with a preconceived bias think otherwise.

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