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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.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. CJ Werley

    Apr 12, 2019 at 3:26 am

    This topic cannot be discussed without mentioning the King Cobra 14* 3-Wood. IMO that was one of the hottest wood around in the mid-90s.

    There was no more popular club in the early 90s than the TaylorMade Burner Plus 9.5* (“Tour Preferred”), which arguably moved the dial more than any driver up until the Great Big Bertha.

    The 975D driver and their shortlived 681 irons were Titleist’s crème de la crème designs. The fact they rolled out during the same timeframe is no coincidence (google Terry McCabe).

    Also, though not a club, per the definition; “one of the key ingredients to the “cult” is when they were released and how technology advanced during that time,” I believe there’s a strong argument for FJ DryJoys to be included in this mix. Up until that point, golf shoes were either garbage (Mizuno shoes lasted a week) or $500.

    NOT ON THIS LIST:

    Cleveland VAS 972s
    Ping Zing 2s
    The Bubble
    The Bubble Grip
    The Bubble Headcover

  2. 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.

  3. 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”.

  4. Steve Meek

    Mar 9, 2019 at 12:39 am

    Anyone remember Sonartec Fairway woods and hybrids. They were fantastic clubs, really easy to hit, and really long in their day. Interesting story as well, look up Peter Pocklington (Edmonton Oilers owner)

    • Mike

      Mar 9, 2019 at 9:21 pm

      Seems like trouble followed Peter wherever he went.

    • Vansmack73

      Mar 14, 2019 at 12:24 am

      I loved mp 33 and still have a set. But remember mp9 and mp 7. Both were sweet with more offset that makes today’s blades look onset

  5. golf-doug

    Mar 8, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    who can forget the Pittsburg persimeon spoon (2-1/2) fairway metalwood and the trusty Hogan sand wedge with the huge bounce…..wow

    • Mike

      Mar 8, 2019 at 9:47 pm

      Or the Cleek!

    • Don

      Mar 17, 2019 at 7:29 pm

      I still use the Hogan Sure Out sand wedge with the monster bounce….cuts through anything and feels better than any other SW I’ve ever hit. I also use the VSteel 3 and 5 woods….bought a backup set a few years ago before they disappeared entirely. And as I type this I feel like an old geezer!!

  6. Michael Alonso

    Mar 8, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    While I’ve tried a few different fairway woods, I keep going back to my V Steel 3w. It’s the most consistent club in my bag.

  7. Tom54

    Mar 8, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Mizuno mp 29s were an awesome iron too. One of the best blades ever.Also the biggest big bertha driver was great too.So many great clubs were made back in the days. Remember back then,whatever was out was considered the best that was offered. That is today’s claim as well. Only time will tell as to which clubs today will be tomorrow’s must have collectibles. Would like to know from readers what club that is recently out do they think will still be in their bag 5-6 years from now. For me,it’s the putters that you latch on to that you always come back to. I agree with Robert about the old Wilson 8802 and Arnold Palmer cause I have em both. Something very nostalgic about bringing those out every once in a while.

  8. dtrain

    Mar 8, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Early Ping Putters, manganese bronze specifically.
    Cleveland 588 wedges
    MacGregor VIP irons were this way for many years.
    Wilson R90 SW as well.

  9. Ken s

    Mar 8, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Another reason irons ( such as eye two ) were great is because this was just before golf companies made the lofts less and less and the length of clubs longer and longer. This wS the worst thing to happen to all recreational golfers! They did this so the golfer hits his 8 iron longer as well has other irons. A big mistake! No wonder so many golfers loved those ping eye 2. If many still had them I bet they would be scoring better then today’s irons .

    • OM18V

      Mar 8, 2019 at 10:11 pm

      Old guy started with eye 2 a few years ago. Callaway XR OS improved my scores.

  10. 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.

    • MBU

      Apr 1, 2019 at 4:28 am

      I have a 905S, (400cc) in my bag permanently. Ive been through most of the newer drivers, but I hit this better and sweeter than any of them. It has a 77g Speeder shaft…
      Some of it is down to loving the look of the head, but really, ive complete trust in it, and middle for middle it is the same length as the newer ones i had, AND i hit it out of the middle much more often.

    • Anton

      Apr 8, 2019 at 7:29 pm

      Still play this with original diamana Blueboard 83. Cannot find a better driver.

  11. 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

  12. Bret Rogerson

    Mar 7, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    What make writer check spelling of title?

  13. 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

Forum Thread of the Day: “Anti-hook hybrid?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from kgeisler13 who is looking to replace his current 3-iron with an anti-hook hybrid. Our members give their thoughts on the subject to kgeisler13, with Ping’s G410, as well as Callaway’s ’19 Apex proving to be popular 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.

  • Joelsim: “Ping G410. I’ve hit about 60 shots with my new one and not a single hook. I sold the G400 as it was prone to hooking.”
  • Banker: “G410 flat setting, KBS hybrid 95x. Swing as hard as you want.”
  • Golfingguru11: “Callaway apex has the highest toe and most open face of any I’ve seen since the original idea pro.”
  • eaglestan66: “Titleist 818 H1 can be very fade biased if weight and lie angles are set correctly. This is one of the reasons I purchased the 3 and 4-hybrid version.”
  • phil75079: “The Callaway ’19 Apex hybrid. Everyone who has hit it agrees it is neutral to fade biased.”

Entire Thread: “Anti-hook hybrid?”

 

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Whats in the Bag

Shane Lowry’s winning WITB: 2019 Open Championship

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Driver: Srixon Z 585 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70X (45.25″, tipped .75″, D3 swing weight)

3-wood: TaylorMade M4 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-8X

Irons: Srixon Z U85 (2 [18 degrees], 3 [20 degrees bent to 21]), Srixon Z 585 (4 [23 degrees], 5 [26 degrees]), Srixon Z 785 (6-PW)
Shafts: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White TX Hybrid (2), KBS Tour 130X (3-PW)

Wedges: Cleveland RTX 4 (50 [bent to 51, 35.75″, D5], 58 degrees [35.25″, D7.5)
Shafts: KBS Tour Wedge X

Putter: Odyssey Stroke Lab Exo 2-Ball (Lowry’s putter has an all-black finish, and he switched into it earlier this year at the RBC; 34″)
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT 1.0 (custom shamrock)

Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV Pure White

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 58R (logo down)

Image c/o Srixon (obviously, Lowry does not have all wedges pictured in play)

Additional Shane Lowry WITB notes, via Johnny Wunder

2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry, compared to Tommy Fleetwood, is on the other side of the spectrum in regards to brand loyalty. He is Cleveland/Srixon in 12 clubs including the ball with the only two exceptions being the TaylorMade M4 3-wood and his Odyssey Putter. In this case, that makes sense, those clubs seem to be a challenge to swap, especially the 3-wood, and Cleveland/Srixon isn’t really known for putters on the PGA Tour.

I got some interesting intel on his driver Switch from the TaylorMade M2 into the Srixon Z585.

According to Rodney McDonald, VP of Tour Operations for Cleveland/Srixon, Shane is a dedicated staff member that is always willing to get all Cleveland/Srixon in the bag.

On Lowry switching into the Z585 Driver McDonald had this to say

“The switch was very easy. Even though he had won early in the year with another driver, he was not driving it good at all. He is very loyal to our team and our products that he came to us to find a new driver. He instantly loved the look of the Z 585 and once we started testing the numbers were exactly what he was looking for. His main comment about the driver is how his misses are minimal and he can hit all the shots he wants to.”

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Equipment

Tommy Fleetwood’s bag is as awesome as he is (Tommy Fleetwood WITB)

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I’m obsessed with this guy. If there was a movie about his life, Aaron Taylor Johnson would play him…can we make that happen?

His bag has taken over for my past obsession with Charles Howell III, David Toms, and Rocco Mediate. I’m drawn to players that tweak a bit, it keeps it fun for me on Getty Images at 3 a.m.

Much like a Bernhard Langer, there is no telling what OEM sticks will land in Fleetwood’s bag. It’s awesome and a sign of the non-contract “eat what you kill” mentality shared by some of the biggest names out there (BK and Patrick Reed to name a couple).

Tommy has messed around quite a bit in the past two years with his bag and the fun part is, he’s not afraid to shake it up.

Here is a partial list of clubs that were previously in the bag since ’17 leading up to his current setup

  • TaylorMade M3 driver (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 70X shaft)
  • Titleist 917 D2 driver (@ 8.5 degrees) (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 70X shaft)
  • Nike Vapor Fly 3-wood (13 degrees) (UST Mamiya VTS ProForce Red 7X shaft)
  • Nike Vapor Fly 5-wood (Mitsubishi Diamana Blue 80TX shaft)
  • Titleist 917 3-wood (14 degrees) (UST Mamiya VTS ProForce Red 7X shaft)
  • Titleist TS3 3-wood (12.75 degrees) (UST Mamiya ProForce Black 7X shaft)
  • Nike VR Pro Blades
  • Callaway MD4 wedges
  • Ping G410 3-wood (14 degrees) (UST Mamiya ProForce Black 7X shaft)
  • Ping G410 7-wood (18 degrees) (Mitsubishi Diamana BF 80T shaft)
  • Odyssey 2-Ball (plumbers neck)

His grips are also a fun one, he goes Blue Golf Pride TVC in his woods, Iomic Sticky in his irons, and black Golf Pride TVC in his wedges. God, I love this guy!

Tommy Fleetwood WITB @The Open

Driver: TaylorMade M6 (9 degrees @7.5)
*has lofted up a bit, his driver has been down to 6.5 I’ve heard.
Shaft: Mitsubishi DF 70X (45 inches)

3-wood: TaylorMade M6 (15 degrees @14)
Shaft: Mitsubishi DF 70X (42.5 inches)
*was in a Ping G410 until the Scottish Open where he switched into the M6.

Irons: TaylorMade GAPR Lo (@18.75), Srixon Z785 (4-iron, 23 degrees), TaylorMade P7TW (5-9)
Shafts: GAPR: Project X 6.5 (39.5 inches), 4-iron: Project X 6.5 (38.5 inches), 5-9: Project X 6.5 (38 inches @ 5-iron, minus 1/2 inch from there) (26, 30, 34, 38, 42 degrees)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (47, 52, 55, 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Wedge notes: 48.10F (bent to 47) Tour chrome finish
52.08F raw
56.10 (bent 55) raw
60.08 raw

Putter: Odyssey White Hot Pro #3
Grip: Super Stroke Mid Slim 2.0


Quick thought: I do see a specific trend when it comes to free agents, and it’s mildly telling. Keep in mind I understand that it’s not 100 percent, but the trends are there.

In woods and wedges specifically, TaylorMade seems to be a popular choice in the overall woods category for non-signed players and Vokey is hands down the wedge of choice. Makes sense in my opinion, I’m not a big “best company” guy, but I do understand the choice. Both companies make and have made extremely high-performing sticks for many years. Consistency in anything is a hard opponent to beat. When Nike bounced out of clubs Rory, BK, Casey, and a few others put Vokeys straight in, and a BK and Casey put TM woods in the bag. (Just an example for context)

Anyway, Tommy Fleetwood is four back going into the final round. I have a weird feeling if it blows he could be holding a trophy.

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