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The “real” firsts of the golf industry

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Any time a new club is introduced, the phrase “for the first time ever…” is usually not far behind. In some groundbreaking cases, the statement is completely true and applies to the entirety of the modern golf industry, while in other cases it’s only a “first” for that particular manufacturer—so watch for the asterisk.

This ultimately begs the question: What were the true firsts of modern golf technology, and how did they change the direction of design?

After some in-depth research here is my list of true firsts.

The first metal driver: TaylorMade Original (1979)

As the story goes, Gary Adams took out a $24,000 loan against his house to found TaylorMade Golf. The focus of this new endeavor was to create a driver made from metal and to make persimmon a thing of the past. The first product to market was a 12-degree metal driver; the very first of it’s kind. It still took more than a decade to make persimmon obsolete, but as they say, the rest is history.

Moveable weight: TaylorMade R7 (2004)

TaylorMade engulfed the driver space when it launched the 300 Series metal woods and went on an ever further tear when it introduced the 500 series (they skipped the 400 names). Interesting fact—the number four is mostly avoided in global marketing because “four” is pronounced almost exactly the same as the word “death” in Chinese. It’s the same reason Callaway went from FT3 to FT5.

When the R7 Quad debuted, it was a game-changer because it was the very first driver to offer the consumer easily adjustable weights to help golfers fine-tune ball flight. I say “consumer” because club builders and tour vans had been using hotmelt to adjust CG for some time, but on a consumer level, the ability to tweak your driver on the range was unheard of. It was a lot of weight too: 24g total—more than 10 percent of the clubhead’s mass. After the R7 Quad, drivers would never be the same!

Sliding weight: Mizuno MP-600 (2007)

When it comes to drivers, Mizuno’s reputation for irons overshadows its history of producing innovation in the metal woods space. The MP-600 was the very first driver to offer a sliding weight track to fine-tune CG. Although the weights were only 8g a piece is was extremely innovative at the time and created new options for OEMs to help reposition mass around larger heads.

They have utilized the technology on and off over the years, but the newest ST200G is by far the most adjustable Mizuno driver yet.

Graphite (composite) shaft: Golfcraft (1954)

In 1954, Golfcraft (the same Golfcraft discussed here: Greatest Titleist Irons of all Time) announced a breakthrough in golf shaft technology: a shaft made from fiberglass that could one-day make steel obsolete, the same way steel made wood obsolete.

Beyond just the promise of more consistent shots, Golfcraft also declared the shaft vibration-proof, rust-proof, and almost unbreakable, something that modern club throwers would know is quite untrue. Although they never took off like the steel they promised to replace, it was the very first non-steel shaft to enter the market.

Soon after, a few other companies started to enter the market to offer these new fiberglass shafts for golfers, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s when Frank Thomas (yes, the same Frank Thomas that went on to be the technical director of the USGA ) used graphite to produce shafts for Shakespeare—the fishing rod company.

This is when the market completely evolved, and not long after its introduction, graphite shaft manufactures started to pop up to get into the game. Thanks to a better understanding of materials, and the physics of the golf swing with the help of highspeed camera and tracking tools, graphite shafts have never been more advanced than they are today.

Carbon composite crown: Mizuno MP-001 (2003)

The Mizuno MP-001 was released the year after the much talked about, but often ridiculed, Callaway C4—the very first (and only) carbon composite driver. It came in three different models released in succession; 360cc, 400cc, and then eventually 460cc, which if you are on the lookout for a value, the 460cc driver is still high on the list.

Beyond what Callaway was up to with Fusion Technology, the MP-001 was the very first driver to utilize a multi-material crown to save weight, and the results speak for themselves. It sounds extremely solid, offered low spin, boosted MOI—and looked really cool too.

Multilayer solid core urethane ball

This is the one breakthrough that has a hard-to-find solid start date—no pun intended. The first multilayer performance balls were the Precept (Bridgestone brand) EV Extra Spin and Extra Distance. At the time of its introduction around 1995, the Precept EV was competing against the Titleist Professional, which was still a wound ball. The EV offered more distance and great control while still not quite competing from a short game control perspective.

The biggest mainstream change came when Mark O’Meara won the 1998 Masters with a multi-layer Strata ball and then went on to win the Open Championship the same year. Many attribute his win in part to the fact that he was using a new Strata multi-layer urethane ball that offered less spin off the driver and more spin around the greens.

A year later, in 1999, a year before Titleist introduced the Pro V1 (October 2000), Nike launched the Tour Accuracy ball (manufactured by Bridgestone), and with it came this…

Soon after, the Pro V1 arrived, and as the market leader, the impact was a seismic shift. The wound ball was officially dead, but we can’t forget the change that Precept/Bridgestone pioneered half a decade before.

What other “firsts” of the golf industry do you think are notable, GolfWRXers?

 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Delbert

    May 31, 2020 at 10:45 pm

    The first sand wedge by Gene Sarazen

  2. Psarro

    May 29, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    I would think range finders should be on the list?

  3. storm319

    May 18, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    Correction: The Precept EV Extra Spin was a 2-piece with a TPU cover. The first multilayer solid core ball was the Top Flite Strata in 1996 (cover was synthetic, but not urethane).

  4. arnaud

    May 16, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Tom Wishon (for SNAKE EYES, GOLFSMITH then WISHON GOLF) :

    1st driver with adjustable hosel sleeve (1994)
    1st heel weighted / draw bias driver (1996)
    1st metal wood with cup face construction (1997)
    1st driver with moveable weight for CG / draw / fade bias (2005)
    1st illegal driver to achieve a COR of 0.900 (2006)
    1st fairway wood to achieve a COR of 0.830 (2004)
    1st hybrid to achieve a COR of 0.830 (2008)
    1st set of irons to achieve a COR of 0.830 (2009)

    and this is a short list …

  5. andrew_s

    May 14, 2020 at 5:18 am

    COBRA E9 face technology (dual roll)

  6. ColinKelvin

    May 13, 2020 at 11:54 am

    Ping Anser – a headshape with bumpers and a plumber’s neck which has been #1 in golf ever since, copied by all the leading putter makers over and over and over again.

    Ping irons – peripheral weighting / game improvement through the ages.

  7. Jin Teh

    May 13, 2020 at 9:40 am

    You missed the world’s first two piece ball…the first non core wound golf ball…Dunlop
    DDH around 1980…I was the first to break the ball in half on with a driver!!!

    Another first bring launched today…Face thickness fitting…drivers with different face thickness for different swing speeds 20-40 yards more 1st swing..who cares if they are not USGA Conforming…go to http://www.krankgolf.com

    • Delbert

      May 31, 2020 at 10:41 pm

      My college golf team was given the DDH. They were workin out great until some started break in half.

  8. D

    May 13, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Ping putters
    Ping irons
    Adjustable hosels, who started that?
    Ping Hoofer with dual strap

  9. J-Dog

    May 12, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    I thought the Callaway C4 would technically be the first driver to have a carbon crown.

  10. Nicklaus#1

    May 12, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    I could of sworn Northwestern made the 1st metal driver.

  11. alexva

    May 12, 2020 at 11:51 am

    Precept Flying Lady was hot for a while among better men players

  12. Brandon

    May 11, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    How about that powerbilt driver with the nitrogen inside?

  13. Stanley

    May 11, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    Pxg and their foam filled irons

    • Jack

      May 12, 2020 at 8:20 am

      Not a first . Taylor made , and maybe even someone before that.

      • Nack Jicklaus

        May 31, 2020 at 4:35 pm

        And their woods were foam filled before they made the foam filled irons too.

  14. C

    May 11, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    Scotty Cameron Putter Headcovers changed everything in what a headcover could be…seems trivial but he certainly upped the ante…Inspired a whole new generation of designers over the years in the process!

  15. Holla

    May 11, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    Pedersen began making metal headed woods back in 1927.

  16. KP

    May 11, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Let’s not forget PING and the innovation of perimeter weighted irons!

  17. Daniel Howard

    May 11, 2020 at 7:22 pm

    Spalding Tour Edition

  18. Think A. Little

    May 11, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    First driver with removable/sliding weight???

    Whoever used lead tape first on whatever they were using.

  19. Eric Seatvet

    May 11, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    Adams Golf – Hybrids. They may have not been the first, but they made category big.

  20. BodineJCS

    May 11, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    Taylormade Golf …founded in Mchenry Illinois , my hometown were I still live … Those were the days …

  21. Lou Cesarek

    May 11, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Investment cast irons.
    Titleist AC 108 and Ram Accubar .
    The Accubar had the largest sweet spot of irons during this time frame .

  22. Regis

    May 11, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    First rescue (hybrid for non TMAG) Taylormade

  23. Richard Douglas

    May 11, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    Hogan Edge: the first perimeter-weighted, forged iron

    Cleveland VAS 792: the first set of garden tools to be converted into golf clubs

    Ping Anser

    TM Rocketbladz

    Polara Ball

    SoftSpikes

    • Nack Jicklaus

      May 11, 2020 at 9:53 pm

      I think I was one of about 10 people who thought the VAS irons were beautiful back then! I still laughed out loud when I read your comment though…

  24. dwayne bretzky

    May 11, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    tough luck for Mizuno making those great innovative moves in the driver industry and really never getting a hold of the market share at all over the years. I have used multiple mizuno drivers over the years and they were all great..I guess this really proves how marketing campaigns help a product.

  25. Nick

    May 11, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    I think you’d have to include the r11. First white driver, sparked a market frenzy. This club and Taylormade’s marketing made everyone seriously question “Should I be playing a white driver?” It allowed companies to see the success that selling a product predominantly a different color than black or grey. This same idea holds true to Taylormade’s red putters…now Odyssey had their own line of red putters too.

    The thing that always makes me chuckle is how they are such masterful marketers. Not only did they convince the golfers around the world that the coolest drivers are white, they flip the market on it’s head and come out with the R1 SPECIAL EDITION BLACK DRIVER! I mean how genius…like it or not they know how to play the game, literally and figuratively!

  26. Kep

    May 11, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    I have an old Yonex Super ADX 0 driver with a pressure molded graphite head. I believe this was before the composite Callaway C4 mentioned here but i cant seem to find any info about it.

    • JIM

      May 11, 2020 at 6:21 pm

      My wife still has a C4 sitting in the garage, I know for a fact it lasted 2 rounds in her bag….I had to take her out to buy a new driver right away. Also the instructor at the range I use was the first to show us that grip pressure took most of the good away from movable weights in driver heads….his slog-gen the tighter the grip the more money you waste on movable weights in your driver.

    • Mark M

      May 13, 2020 at 9:21 am

      That’s exactly the club I was thinking of when I read the C4 listing. I think it was mid to late 90s – came out the same time as the Yonex Super ADX tour Forged cavity back irons which were magic.

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Equipment

GolfWRX Classifieds (12/1/20): TaylorMade SIM “Rocket”, Custom Olson, Callaway Apex MB raw

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member Bomber_11 – Raw Callaway Apex MB irons

Classic simple and classy blades are only made better without chrome plating and if rust is your thing, don’t rest on this set.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Raw Apex MB

Member darrickpe – TaylorMade SIM “Rocket” fairway

“Rocket” really is the best way to describe the strong-lofted TaylorMade SIM fairway wood. Whether it be off the tee or from the deck, if you catch this thing on the screws it launches rockets!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: TaylorMade SIM fairway

Member Puma74 – Custom Olson putter

Mamma Mia!!! This putter has everything a custom putter lover could ever want – mint condition, weld neck, lovely milled face… the only other thing you could possibly want would be to get it at a lower price, but good luck!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Olson Putter

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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Equipment

No tape, no solvent: New Golf Pride Concept Helix grip makes installation hassle-free

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If you have ever wanted to regrip your clubs but didn’t want to deal with the hassle of tape or solvent, Golf Pride has developed a revolutionary system to make regripping easier than ever before with the all-new Golf Pride Concept Helix.

The Concept Helix grip and the simple system used to install it removes the fear factor of installing grips and also brings a new level of accessibility to those that are looking to benefit from the performance advantage of new grips—it also requires zero drying time, meaning you can go from gripping clubs to hitting shots instantly.

To see how it works, check out the video from Golf Pride below.

Golf Pride Concept Helix grip: More details

Golf Pride’s new Concept Helix grip system uses a friction and torque-based installation method that ensures the grips are secure and are installed using a proprietary ‘horn’ device that is included with every order.

“Golf Pride stands at the forefront of innovation in grips, and Concept Helix builds on that legacy as the first-ever twist-on grip technology system. This is the first major new advanced concept to come out of the lab at our new Global Innovation Center in Pinehurst and innovates the installation process, requiring no tape, no solvent, and no drying time. Getting fresh grips on your clubs will be more seamless than ever.”
Greg Cavill – Global Project Engineer / Golf Pride

The other interesting note is that without the need for solvents or tape, the new Concept Helix grips and more environmentally friendly.

“We continue to explore new technologies that benefit golfers, both on and off the course. Concept Helix, in this regard, is this next step in the exploration of best practices for grip installation.”- Brandon Sowell, global director of sales and marketing for Golf Pride

For more information on the Concept Helix Grip-System, visit www.concepthelix.com, and to purchase, check out Golfpride.com/shop

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Whats in the Bag

Emily Kristine Pedersen WITB (Winningest golfer on Ladies European Tour in 2020)

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When it comes to winning, Emily Kristine Pedersen has made it look pretty easy recently with three straight wins on the Ladies European Tour to close out the 2020 season. Her most recent win was the Andalucia Open De Espana, and before that is was a pair of wins in Saudi Arabia with The Saudi Ladies Team International.

This is only the second time a player has won three straight events on the LET, and the last time it happened was in 1989 by Marie-Laure de Lorenzi.

This stellar play was not just out of nowhere either, she had five top 10s, including another win at the Tipsport Czech Ladies Open in August and also recorded an 11th place finish at the Women’s British Open. One of the last events on her schedule is the upcoming U.S. Open.

This is her WITB.

Driver: Titleist TS3 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana Limited B+ 60

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD GP

Hybrid: Titleist 818H1 (21 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue

Irons: Titleist T100 (4-9 iron)
Shaft: KBS Tour Stiff

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (46, 52, 56, 60 degrees)
Shafts: KBS Tour

Putter: Scotty Cameron Select Fastback 1.5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

 

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