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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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Whats in the Bag

Stewart Hagestad WITB

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Driver: TaylorMade M6 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7 X

3-wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana S+ 80 X

Driving iron: TaylorMade P790
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD HY 85 X

Irons: TaylorMade P770 (4), TaylorMade P730 (5-PW)
Shafts: KBS Tour 125 S+

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM6 (50, 54, 60)
Shafts: KBS Tour 610 Wedge 120

Putter: Scotty Cameron XPerimental Rev10

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

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WRX Spotted at U.S. Open: Justin playing just Rosey with new TPT

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We are a little more than halfway through the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and so far the course is giving and taking as much as you would expect from a perfect setup by the USGA.

Taking the lead on Thursday and continuing to lurk into the weekend is Justin Rose. Since we have been paying close attention to his Honma golf bag all year, we noticed a shaft change in his Tour World driver.

We reached out to TPT to see if we could get an update on what Rose has put in play for what is often referred to as one of the toughest driving weeks of the year. Here’s the inside info

“Justin has put into play a TPT Golf 14 MKP-LT-SW shaft in his Honma driver. This shaft is a full 10 CPM ( Cycles per Minute ) stiffer than the 15 LKP-LT-SW shaft that he put in play at The Memorial after testing it that week. It’s also different in that it has a Mid Kick Point (MKP), where as the 15 LKP-LT-SW has a Low-Kick-Point (LKP) design.”

From a technical and fitting perspective (generally speaking) a lower kick point shaft will hit the ball higher with more spin compared to a mid or high kick point shaft if all other factors are equal. We don’t have access to his driver numbers but with the U.S. Open being played on what can always end up as a windy venue the theory would be that this change to the MKP is to help keep ball flight lower and more controlled — which will also be a benefit next month at the Open Championship.

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Forum Thread of the Day: “Best budget driver?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from Ivyguy who is on the lookout for the best driver to be had at an affordable price ($300 or less). Our members give their suggestions, with plenty of different drivers getting a mention.

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.

  • tbsbama: “Cobra King LTD is a wonderful driver. The pro model has lofts from 7 to 10 with fade settings. The regular from 9 to 12 with draw settings. Both heads are absolute bombers and can be found pretty cheap. Best driver I have hit in several years.”
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  • Badshaft: “I have the F8+ and bought the extra weights off of eBay (inexpensive, shipped from China)- 12g front 7g back- Blue Tensei 70g stiff. Longest for me – straight and as accurate as anything. Nice well-balanced combo. Looks to me it has the same moveable weight strategy as the F9.”

Entire Thread: “Best budget driver?”

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