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What make cult golf clubs so great?

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As golf equipment nerds, myself included, it’s always fun to have the great debates like what is the “best ________ ever made?” This could be a putter, wedges, irons, bag, fairway woods (a highly contested one), or a driver.

But what really makes these clubs “the best”? Why do we love them, and what gives them their cult followings? Beyond the emotional connection, what are the factors or technology actually makes these clubs so great?

One of the key ingredients to the “cult” club is when they were released and how technology advanced during that time. Think of the first time you saw or heard someone hit a Titleist 983K; it looked massive, but combined with the modern golf ball, it was considered a game changer for both the tour pro and amateur alike. The shape, the sound, the jump in technology — all of these lead to it being one of the most popular drivers ever made from Titleist and it was produced back in 2005.

I want this to be an ongoing discussion, but to start, let’s break down three of the most famous cult clubs of the last 20 years.

TaylorMade V-Steel fairway woods

Released in the early 2000s, this club was everywhere! It could be found on the PGA Tour — in TaylorMade and non-TaylorMade staffers bags alike (I’m sure it helps that TM was spending big money on Tour during this period), but as a kid who was working big box golf retail, at the time, these were hot. Speaking of Tour, TaylorMade had at least three options available for Tour: standard paint break, the HFS (happy face steel — named for its very rounded sole and leading edge), and the VS II.

From a retail perspective what made this club great was a number of factors

  • It was introduced in an era when you could still buy a fairway wood with either steel or graphite shafts, I remember that it was usually $25-$30 extra for the graphite. This gave a lot of options to a big variety of players that wanted new tech and for the hold outs that still wanted steel. This helped with mass appeal.
  • The shape: It’s a simple thing but very important. The V-Steel had a small rounded profile that better players loved, while it was still shallow enough that average players could hit off of the deck. The shape of the sole was also vital for turf interaction and when you combine the sole and the profile together it made the 5 and 7-woods a delight to hit out of the rough.
  • We can’t underestimate the value of the glued hosel. The first adjustable fairway (by my recollection and research) was the R9, and compared to drivers during the same time period, fairway woods never saw that same advancement in technology and ball speed.  This resulted in players keeping these for a long period of time and so began their reign as a cult favorite.

Even up until three years ago, one of the best scratch players I knew still had one of these 4-woods in the bag. He used it like a 5-wood because it didn’t quite have the “pop” like the new stuff, but you knew when he pulled it out it was going to be good. The exact purpose of the go-to fairway wood.

The original ad was another beauty of the era

Ping Eye 2+ wedges

The Updated XG version had all the same design advantages

Going all the way back to 1982, Ping Eye 2s were a complete game changer. Karsten Solheim started with investment casting and was the very first to bring that method of manufacturing to the golf industry. Speaking to the longevity of the design, you can still buy the modern version of the Ping design with the Glide 2.0 ES wedges, not to mention other homages to the design in the Callaway PM, the TaylorMade High Toe, and the loved-or-loathed (I LOVED IT !) Nike Toe Sweep. So, what makes it work so well?

  • The offset and hosel design: Although it looks like it has a bunch of offset, if you look at the shaft to leading edge relationship its only about half a shaft. When you look at where the hosel enters the head it enters at the face and does not flow directly into the leading edge, add that to the to thin heel dimensions and when you open the face, the bounce moves back from the shaft, and it makes it easy to get through the turf without digging.
  • The face shape: One word BIG…big and beautiful. The High Toe (wink wink) allowed for more face to be exposed when you opened it. This, combined with the mass from the perimeter weighting, made it way more forgiving when you hit it high on the face — a common occurrence when you open it up…so let’s talk about opening that face and what happens to the bottom of the club.
  • The sole design: Taking queues from the original Wilson R90 (we’re going deep for this one) the sole is extremely rounded heel to toe but pre-worn in the middle with a touch of concave, TaylorMade ATV sole anyone? Add that rounded heel toe to the offset and what you get is a lot of bounce exposed away from the hosel and where the club initially enters the rough or sand and you have MAGIC!

The bounce moving back as you open the face – brilliant design

Mizuno MP-33 irons

Could we call these “the blades to end all blades?” Maybe, maybe not — that’s up for debate, which is what makes this game so much fun. BUT if you paid any attention to the tour before tee up money became a big thing, these were the irons that took Mizuno to the top. A simple muscleback design and subdued branding, these are the definition of “clean.” But what really makes them work:

  • The classic shaping and clean lines made these a favorite. We can’t underestimate the fact that when these were introduced there was a big transition occurring on Tour, and it was also around the time Tommy Armour 845s were introduced, and along with Ping, you were starting to see more cavity back irons show up in the bags of the world’s best.
  • The 33 was considered a fairly easy to hit blade compared to the iron it replaced in the MP-14. With this “easy to hit” factor, players that were on the fence for blades move into them easier. Everyone remembers their first blade!
  • Grain Flow Forged – Oh yes! This patented process of keeping the initial piece of raw steel in a solid yet very hot form during the entire process created unmatched feel and essentially coined the “Mizuno feel” identity.

 

This is just the beginning of this series looking back on classic cult clubs. Please use the comment section or add your favorites to the thread: Talking Cult Classic Clubs. Hopefully, I can break down the most popular models from a historical technology standpoint, and we can have a fun discussion!

 

 

 

 

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Ryan Barath is a writer & the Digital Content Creation Lead for GolfWRX. He also hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on GolfWRX Radio discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club fitter & master club builder who has more than 16 years experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour professionals. He studied business and marketing at the Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop in Hamilton and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers, including True Temper. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, from course architecture to physics, and share his passion for club building, and wedge grinding.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Dustin

    Mar 21, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Tommy Armour 845’s.
    Callaway Warbird S2H2’s.
    The original GBB.
    The Zebra Putter.
    The Odyssey 2-ball.

  2. G March

    Mar 20, 2019 at 10:53 pm

    I have to admit that I am biased. I have a set of MP33’s and while the “best” I always debatable, I’m happy to see that you chose those as the “the blades”.

  3. Ken

    Mar 18, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    OMG, how could you miss the GBB driver? I was a marshal on the 18th tee box at Dye’s Valley Course during a Senior Tour Pro Am NFL event, when Jim Dent pulled it out, something from outer space. He bombed one down the fairway, then I asked him what the heck was that club? He handed me the club, I made a few practice swings then he handed me a ball to tee up. I swatted it long and straight, thanked him and told him I loved it. The next day I had a new Great Big Bertha in my bag and probably helped sell 200 of them at my club.

  4. Joe Taylor

    Mar 17, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    I have nearly worn the “S” off my old Ping sw.

  5. Frank

    Mar 16, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Now approaching my 80th birthday I have gone retro. Ping Eye 2+ wedges with new shafts and grips. Goes nicely with my Ping B60 putter except when the putter misbehaves then out comes my Rossie putter. Sometimes putters need a timeout.

  6. Back in my day

    Mar 8, 2019 at 10:52 am

    Titleist 905R reigned supreme. Forgiving (460). Long (max C.O.R.). Accurate (bore-thru design). Anti-Left (flat lie angle, neutral weighting). Looks (sexy, clean classic pear shape). Sound (solid, dynamic crack) Value (great shaft options– V2,NV,Speeder,Ys-6+)

    Honestly I could play it today and still hit bombs.

    • Ken

      Mar 18, 2019 at 10:18 pm

      Have one in the garage. Got me thinking? Will go to the range and test it against my M2

  7. Jeff Young

    Mar 7, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    I have the long wedge and still take it out for a spin
    The “33” are the grail of amazing irons. To pretty to hit
    I would like to add the titleist 975d driver and woods to the list.
    FW came in steel

  8. Bret Rogerson

    Mar 7, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    What make writer check spelling of title?

  9. Eric Larson

    Mar 7, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Titleist 975d a lot of people were using it. It was the best looking driver to date and was deep off of the tee.

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Equipment

GolfWRX Spotlight: P2 putter grips

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Product: P2 putter grips

Pitch: From P2: “The patented P2 technology is based on the way the shaft is housed through the bottom of the grip. This effectively elevates the golfer’s hands at address, locks the wrists in place and creates sought after shaft-forearm symmetry.”

Our take on P2 putter grips

Putting is the one part of golf that truly levels the playing field – a sliding two-footer is worth just as many shots as a 345-yard drive, and from beginner to pro, we’ve all experienced the simple agony of missing one we know we really should have made. With so much recent focus on redefining putter technology the one part of the club that is still highly overlooked is the grip — but P2 is trying to change that.

The key part of the P2 design is the Bottom Shaft Housing that positions the grip asymmetrically around the shaft – on the vertical plane (don’t worry the grip are 100 percent symmetrical). This design, fully legal under the rules of golf, has scientifically proven through the use of Quintic, results that show both improved strike pattern on the face as well as getting more putts started on line at the intended target.

Part of the reason this design helps golfers putt more consistently is that it puts the putter more inline and on plane with the forearm to help create a single motion. As much as we would all love a putting stroke that flows as smoothly as Ben Crenshaw or Brad Faxon the amount timing needed in the hands to produce great results through these methods is often too difficult even for the better player to achieve. In a way, the P2 Grip design helps you get into an “armlock” position without fully overhauling your putting technique (and it allows you to keep your current putter).

In my personal testing, I decided to use the P2 Core Classic. This was my preferred grip since it offers the smaller width while giving the full experience of the Botton Shaft Housing tech. My putter specs are generally flatter than most with a lie angle around 68 degrees, when using a traditional grip this results in having the butt end point more towards my belly button and, as I’m fully willing to admit, a more rotational stroke. I never had to adjust any of the specs on my putter to get the grip to do exactly what it says it will. The grip plane became more aligned with my forearm and after a small adjustment period to the new shape, I was 100 percent making a more pendulum stroke with less arc. So far, results inside have proven to be a success, and I’m looking forward to taking it out to the course once the season really gets started.

Within the P2 lineup, there are four shapes and two weight categories to choose from to allow the player to find the exact fit for both grip method and balance. The original “Core” series is on the heavier side of the grip weight spectrum, but for many players using modern heavier putter heads this could be a huge advantage to help give your putter a higher balance point, and at the end of the day, produce a smoother putting stroke. As the current trend of research from multiple OEMs has proven, a higher balance point through weight distribution can lead to some big improvements in stroke consistency.

Whether its a claw, cross-handed, or more of a traditional grip method you use, there is a P2 grip that should fit your style and hopefully help you sink a few more putts.

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Apparel Reviews

WRX Spotlight: Puma polos

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Product: Puma polos

Pitch:  From Puma “A world leader in high-performance sports clothing, Puma launched their first golf collection in 2004 complete with Puma golf shoes and clothing. The collection has gone from strength to strength ever since its creation, with tour pro golfers wearing the range out on the course. With bold colorful clothing to classically sporty and smart pieces, Puma golf is a versatile collection certain to appeal to golfers of all preferences.”

Our take on Puma’s polos

It’s difficult to look past Puma’s 2019 polo collection without seeing its Paradise golf shirt. Showcased by Rickie Fowler during the Island stretch of golf to begin the new year, the unconventional all button up shirt may not be to everyone’s taste, but anyone who pulls the shirt on will likely agree on its comfort. The shirt will channel your inner Ned Flanders, “feels like I’m wearing nothing at all,” and the ultra-lightweight feel combined with the looseness makes it an ideal summer shirt for swinging the club freely on the golf course.

Puma has a lot more polos on offer in 2019 than its Paradise shirt though, and one of the most visually striking shirts of theirs is the Aletknit Radius Golf Polo. The shirt comes in three vibrant colors (blue, white and green), and its camo inspired pattern is subtle and discreet which gives the shirt a cool look without being distracting. Also a lightweight polo, the Aletknit Radius Golf Polo features a clean three button look, as well as a very comfortable fit, and its dryCell technology means you won’t be drenched in sweat this summer.

Then there’s the Rotation Golf Polo which comes in both solid and stripes styles. The shirts offer a very modern feel and look, and you certainly won’t be disappointed with the selection of colors which the shirts come in, with an abundance on offer.

On the throwback front, Puma has you covered with their Nineties Golf Polo, with a striped shirt style and color. There are five different color blocks to choose from which are about as representative of spring/summer as I’ve seen, and the shirts also come with Ultraviolet Protection Factor, which is a nice summer touch.

The Faraday Polo is according to the company itself “one of our best”. Lightweight and one of the softest shirts they provide, it’s hard to disagree with them in terms of comfort level. The only off-putting feature of this shirt for me is the odd unfinished lining around the pocket.

The exhaustive selection of golf polos provided by Puma is impressive, and they’ve covered everything you’d want in a golf shirt in each of their styles. Prices range from $50-$70, and no matter what your taste, you’re bound to find a great summer golf shirt to add to your collection from their 2019 lineup.

 

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Equipment

Forum Thread of the Day: “Sexy, slick, minimal irons?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from Glowbal who is on the lookout for sexy, slick, minimal irons ala Scratch Golf’s old SB-1 iron set. Clean, as little branding or markings as possible and lofts instead of numbers on the club, are all the things Glowbal wants from an iron set, and our members have been on hand sharing their suggestions.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Fried Slice: “National Custom Works are Scratch. Same grinders and owners I believe. I’m sure they can hook you up. http://www.nationalcustomworks.com 
  • 11forgedblades: “When I was looking for irons without any logo, Geotech blades only had the numbers on them…completely blank.”
  • ivygynonc: “I have a set of Kyoei MB’s black.  They are nicer than my BBs as far as feel and looks.  Look great at set up.  Can’t go wrong with these.  And they are on the low end as far as costs for JDM blades, at least they were when I bought mine.”
  • kmay: “Another for National Custom works, incredible products, and from what I see watching there IG every day, they will make them to your exact requests, any stamping you want (or don’t) any shape muscle you want, sole grinds you want, seems like everything can be customized starting from forged blanks. True craftsmen.”

Entire Thread: “Sexy, slick, minimal irons?”

 

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