The incredible story behind Arnold Palmer’s $275,000 irons from the 1960s
Arnold Palmer earned his nickname, “The King,” in multiple legendary ways. As part of his folklore, Palmer was, indeed, The King of tinkering with golf equipment.
For proof, look no further than the story of his personal Wilson Staff Model Dyna-Powered “Arnold Palmer” irons, which are selling for $275,000 at the Golf Links to the Past store, which is located at The Lodge at Pebble Beach.
Using this particular set of irons (2-9 iron), Palmer won 14 events in 1960-1961, including The 1960 Masters, the 1960 U.S. Open (at Cherry Hill), and the 1961 British Open (at Royal Birkdale).
A closer look at the irons reveals the lead weight plugs that he added to the toe sections of the irons. In general terms, adding weight to the toe portion of a golf club typically helps reduce a hook, whereas heavy heel weighting helps reduce a slice.
The “Golf Links to the Past” shop at Pebble Beach acquired the historic irons through Joe Black, who’s a former PGA Tour player, rules official, President of PGA America, and founder & director of Western Golf Properties (among many other roles in the golf industry throughout his career).
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How did Black get his hands on the irons in the first place? He tells the full – and fascinating – story in his book, “A Few Good Golf Stories,” which was published in 2011.
In the book, Black writes: We played the Dallas Open at Oak Cliff where I was a member. If you know Arnold Palmer, you know he has always fiddled with his clubs. He did everything in the world with his golf clubs. He would rewind the grips during the practice rounds and be in the bag room beating on them with a hammer. He went into the bag room at Oak Cliff to tinker with his clubs, and he saw my clubs in the bag room and started examining them. He couldn’t keep his hands off them. He came to me and said, “I’ve got to have your driver.”
Arnold was with Wilson at the time, and I was playing Wilson clubs. I had a driver that Joe Wolf, Wilson’s tour representative, had made for me. He said, “I’ve got to have it.”
I said, “Arnold, you can’t have that driver.”
Then he said, “I’ve got to have that driver.”
Again I told him no. Then he said, “Let me use it this week.”
So he used it that week and drove great with it. He was supposed to put it back in my bag at the end of the tournament.
Well, Arnold, Gary Player, and I were going to Chicago the next week to film a television match between Gary and Arnold.
Then Arnold said, “Why don’t you fly up there with me on Monday? Since the match isn’t until Friday we can mess around and play golf and go out to Wilson.”
I told him no, that I had been gone from home all summer, and I was going to stay home and would be in Chicago on Thursday. He said, “Okay.”
So I called him on Thursday when I got in and he said, “Hey, you’ve got to come over here and see your driver!”
I said,” What do you mean I have to see my driver?”
He said, “Well, I brought it with me and I took it out to Wilson and, boy, it’s really great now!”
So I went over to his room and he had taken a wood rasp and rasped the toe right off my driver. He hooked everything, so he did that to all his clubs. He had just destroyed my driver. I was really hot.
He went out the next day and drove it dreadfully. Then he tried to give it back to me. I said no, that he had ruined my driver and that he owed me. He asked me what I wanted, and I said I wanted his backup putter. He had that famous putter that he made by welding a flange on the back of a Tommy Armour putter. He had two of them. He refused, saying he would be in trouble if he lost his putter.
We went to Seattle from there, and every time I saw him I asked him about my putter. Next, we went to Portland for his last tournament, and every time I saw him, I asked, “Arnie, where is my putter?”
At the end of the tournament I was standing near the scoreboard when he finished and he came over to me and said, “Come out here!”
I walked into the parking lot and he pulled his irons out of his bag and handed them to me and said, “I don’t want to hear another damn word from you about my putter!”
Those irons were the ones he used to win fourteen tournaments, including the Masters, the British Open, and the (U.S.) Open – tournaments that enabled Arnold to set the all time money record of that time.
Palmer’s 1960-61 irons are a certified piece of golf history, and thanks to the store owners at the Golf Links to the Past store, GolfWRX was lucky enough to take in-hand photos of the 7-iron.
Check out the full photo gallery of Palmer’s irons in our GolfWRX Forums
7 takeaways from an AWESOME equipment talk with Padraig Harrington
Fans of golf equipment have long known that Padraig Harrington is one of us. Throughout his career, Harrington has been willing to test new products, make changes from week to week, and play with a bag of mixed equipment brands.
What equipment fans may not know, however, is just how brilliant of an equipment mind Harrington truly has.
Ahead of the 2023 Valero Texas Open, I caught up with Harrington to pick his brain about what clubs are currently in his bag, and why. The conversation turned into Harrington discussing topics such as the broader equipment landscape, brand deals in 2023, his driver testing process, why he still uses a TaylorMade ZTP wedge from 2008, square grooves vs. V-grooves, and using a knockoff set of Ping Eye 1 irons as a junior.
Padraig Harrington’s 2023 WITB
Below are my 7 major takeaways from the extensive gear talk with Harrington.
1) Padraig’s stance on equipment contracts, and why he prefers Wilson
Harrington is a longtime Wilson staffer, and although he supports the brand and uses their equipment, he doesn’t use a full bag of Wilson clubs. He finds Wilson’s understanding of a player’s need for flexibility to be beneficial to the player, and it’s attracting more and more professional players to the company (such as Kevin Kisner and Trey Mullinax).
“Wilson wants me to play whatever I’m comfortable with. It’s very important. They’re not a manufacturer that says, ‘We want you to play 14 clubs.’ There’s always a club you don’t like. That’s just the way it is. So Wilson is like, ‘We want you playing well and playing the best clubs for you.’
“I am very comfortable with their irons. I’m very comfortable with their wedges, as you can see. They have an old hybrid 4 iron that I love. They have a new hybrid 4-iron that is too powerful. I put it in the bag last week and I had to take it out. The thing is, I use a 4-iron and a 5-wood. My 4-iron has to go somewhat relative to my 5-iron, and then I have to bridge that gap between 4-iron and 5-wood, so it has to do both. The new 4-iron was going 230 yards. My 4-iron goes about 215-235, maybe 240 on a warm day. And my 5-wood is like a warm-day 265 in the air, but I have no problem hitting it 235, so I can cross it over. But this 4-iron, the new version, it just went. I couldn’t hit the 215 shot with it; it’s just too powerful. That’s why I have the old 4-iron in the bag, but it does the job to bridge the gap…
“As players get more money, they’re less dependent on manufacturers. They need the service of a manufacturer – because, like I need to be on that truck and get things checked. But you’re seeing more players see Wilson as an attractive option because you don’t have to use 14 clubs. If you’re not happy this week with the putter; you know, Wilson has the putters, they have everything, but if you want to chase something else for a moment…remember, there’s two things you’re chasing. If you’re a free agent, it’s not good to be changing a lot. That is a distraction. But it’s nice to have the option that if somebody…like I feel Titleist has come out with a great driver. And I’m able to work my way straight into Titleist and say, ‘Hey, gimmie a go with that. Oh, this is a great driver, I’m going to use this.’ Wilson is aware of that. They want their players to be happy and playing well. Like it’s still 10 clubs, but it’s just not 14 and the ball.
“The irons are great, there’s no doubt about that. They’ve won the most majors. They make a gambit of irons. If you want to use a blade, they have the blade. If you want to use my iron, which is just a good tour composite, it has a bit of a cavity-back, you can do that. If you want to use the D irons that have rockets going off there, you can have them. Like the 4 iron, the one they gave me, it was a rocket! And guys are happy to carry driving irons like that, but mine has to match in with the 5-iron. It was just too high and too fast.
“So yeah, I think you’re going to see manufacturers go more of that way. Our players want to be independent, but the problem is that full independence is not great. You don’t want a situation where you’re turning up – as you see kids who make it into their first tournament, and the manufacturers start giving them stuff, and they’re changing. You don’t want to be the guy changing too much.”
2) The dangers of a 64-degree wedge
Although Harrington himself uses a Wilson Staff High Toe 64-degree wedge, he seldom practices with it. Here’s why he warns against it:
“The big key with a 64 wedge is DO NOT use it. No, seriously, do not use it. It’s a terrible wedge for your technique. That club is in the bag and it gets used on the golf course, and it gets used when it’s needed, but you don’t practice with it, because it’s awful. So much loft will get you leading too much, and you’re going to deloft it. Hit one or two shots with it, then put it away. You’re better off practicing with a pitching wedge and adding loft to be a good chipper instead of practicing with a lob wedge and taking loft off. A 64-degree wedge is accentuating that problem. It’s a dangerous club. It does a great job at times, but it certainly can do harm.
“It’s not bad having it in the bag for a certain shot, but it’s a terrible club to practice with. I literally hit one or two full shots with it, a couple chips with it, and that’s it. I know if I spend too long with it, I’ll start de-lofting.”
3) The interchangeable faces on TaylorMade’s ZTP wedges from 2008 were Padraig’s idea?!
I couldn’t believe it myself, but Harrington says that the idea for TaylorMade to offer interchangeable face technology on its ZTP wedges in 2008 was originally his idea…
“The TaylorMade is obviously attracting a lot of attention, but that was my idea! Myself and a consultant for Wilson, I got him to build changeable faces and he sold that to TaylorMade…that’s fully my idea. He sold that then to TaylorMade, and TaylorMade produced them, which I was happy about. But TaylorMade couldn’t sell them. You can’t get people to clean the grooves, so they weren’t going to buy a new face. Why have 400 faces at home? So I went out and bought these faces to make sure I had them for life. And I was home chipping a while ago, and I have a nice 58. I like the grind on that wedge, and the fact I can just replace the face and have a fresh face every three weeks, it’s just easy, so that’s why that’s in there.”
4) Driver testing isn’t all about speed
“The driver companies know I’m a free agent when it comes to drivers, so every time a new driver comes out, they’ll come to me and say, ‘Hey, would you have a look at this?’
“I will test everything, yeah, but it has to beat what I have in the bag. And Wilson’s new driver is the same. They brought out a new driver and it’s great, but I love the driver I’m using. So I say, ‘Look, guys, not only do you have to be as good as the incumbent, you have to be better, because I already know this and I’m familiar with it.’
“Wilson has built a very, very good driver. There’s know doubt about it. But I love the driver I’m using. And none of these manufacturers can build me a driver that’s better.
“Ball speed gets a driver into the conversation, and then you bring it to the golf course. So the driver has to be going as good as my current driver, and then I bring it to the course and see if I can hit the thing straight. I have gone down the road [of prioritizing speed]…I used a driver in 2014, and it never worked weekends. But it was fast. I used it for about six weeks I’d say – six tournaments – and I missed six straight cuts. It never worked the weekend. It was really fast on the range, but it just wasn’t good on the course.”
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5) Playing with knockoff irons as a junior
“I played as a junior for Ireland, under 18’s, and I owned half a set of golf clubs, and they were imitation Ping Eye 1’s. I borrowed the other half set off my brother. We had a half set each. I had the evens, he had the odds. In that tournament, there was a guy playing with Ping Berylliums with graphite shafts. They cost 1,900 pounds. Mine cost 100 pounds, and they were knockoffs. So I played, for my country, with a set of knockoffs. Before I used those knockoff clubs, I used a mixed bag of clubs. As in, I picked up whatever club they had. The 6-iron might go farther than the 5-iron. The 5-iron might go with a fade and the 7-iron might go with a hook, but I knew what my clubs did. Each club had a purpose.”
6) Using square grooves and V-grooves simultaneously
Square grooves – or “box grooves” – were outlawed by the USGA in 2010 because they were said to help golfers spin the ball too much. V grooves are said to provide less of an advantage because they restrict the sharp edges of the grooves, thus reducing the amount of friction imparted on the golf ball. Prior to the rule change, however, Harrington actually used both V grooves and box grooves, and he’d adjust his setup depending on the golf course.
“What’s interesting is, when the box grooves were around – very few people know this – I carried two sets of clubs at all times. I carried a V groove and a box groove.
“Yeah, see, the box grooves were unbelievable out of the rough, spin wise, but if the rough got to a certain level, the ball would come out so low and with spin that it wouldn’t go very far. Your 7-iron coming out of this rough would only go like 140 yards and it wouldn’t get over any trees because it would come out so low. What I was doing was, if I got to a golf course with this sort of a rough, I’d put in a box groove 7-iron and a V-groove 8-iron. If I got in the rough and I had 170 yards, I’d hit an 8 iron and get a flyer, because the 7 iron wouldn’t get there depending on the lie. And I couldn’t get it over things. So if there were trees, you needed the V groove to get over the trees. A box groove wouldn’t get up in the air.
“No one else was doing it. I played with the box groove for a couple years before I realized that in certain rough, you need the V groove to get there. Hale Irwin played a U.S. Open seemingly with no grooves. Off the fairway it’s meant to make no difference. I would disagree, but that’s what the officials would say. But out of the rough you needed the flyers to get to the green. The V grooves were doing that for me. You get your flyer to get of the rough to get the ball there, but then if it was the first cut of rough, or light rough, or Bermuda rough, or chip shots, it would come out so low and spinny that you’d have no problem.
“I can’t believe that people didn’t realize that I was doing this two-groove thing all the time. I swear to you, you could stand here, you would not launch a 7-iron over that fence there if it was box grooves out of light rough, and V groove would launch over it. The launch characteristics were massively different.”
7) Blame the person, not the putter
Interestingly, Harrington, for all his tinkering, has only used a handful of putters. It turns out, there’s a good reason for that — although he’d like his current model to be a few millimeters taller.
“I used a 2-ball when it came out. Then I used a 2-ball blade, which I won my majors with. I always had a hook in my putts, so not long after I won my majors, I went to face-balanced putter because it helps reduce the left-to-right spin. I started putting really badly in 2013 and 2014 – I had some issues. And then come 2016-2017, I just said, look, I putted well with this putter. If I use this putter, I can’t go back and say it’s the putter’s problem. It’s gotta be me. So I went back to the face-balanced 2-ball blade because I’ve had good times with it. I may have only used 5 or 6 putters in my career.
“I’m really happy that I’ve got a putter that I know I’ve putted well with, and I don’t blame the putter. I can’t say that anymore. I don’t blame my tools, I blame myself if I miss a putt. So it comes down to…I know the putter works, then it’s me. Me, me, me.
“You know, I’ve toyed with using other shafts in the putter, and I will look at other putters, but things are askew to me when I look down. So I can’t have a putter with a line on it. It doesn’t look square to the face. I’ve never putted with a putter that has a line on it for that reason. I line up by feel. I know that putter works, I know it suits me, so that’s why I go with that…
“I prefer a deeper putter (a taller face). The one issue I have is I hit the ball too high on the face, but they won’t remodel the whole system to make me a deeper putter. I’ve tried some optical illusions to try and get it where I hit the ball more in the center, but I hit it high. It seems to be going in the hole so I’m not going to worry about it too much. But in an ideal world, if someone came along and said they could make the putter 3-4 millimeters higher, I’d be happy with that.”
See more photos of Padraig Harrington’s 2023 WITB here
TaylorMade survey on ball rollback finds everyday golfers massively against introduction of Model Local Rule
In response to the USGA and R&A’s recent announcement that they plan on rolling back the golf ball for the professional game, TaylorMade Golf issued a survey asking everyday golfers to voice their opinion regarding the topic of golf ball bifurcation. Today, they are sharing the results.
Almost 45,000 golfers across more than 100 countries spanning a variety of ages, abilities and participation levels took the time to complete the survey and have their voice heard, with some of the major findings shown below:
- To the best of your knowledge, do you agree with the proposed golf ball rule?
- 81% No
- 19% Yes
- Do you think average hitting distances in professional golf need to be reduced?
- 77% No
- 23% Yes
- Are you for or against bifurcation in the game of golf (i.e., different rule(s) for professional golfers versus amateurs)?
- 81% Against
- 19% For
- How important is it for you to play with the same equipment professional golfers use?
- 48% Extremely important
- 35% Moderately important
- 17% Not important
- If the proposed golf ball rule were to go into effect, would it have an impact on your interest in professional golf?
- 45% Less interested
- 49% No impact
- 6% More Interested
The results also show that 57 percent of golfers aged 18-34 years old would be less interested in the pro game should the rule come into effect, while five percent said they would be more interested.
“The goal of our survey was to give golfers the opportunity to voice their opinion on this proposed ruling as we absorb the MLR and its potential effects on the everyday golfer. We are grateful that nearly 45,000 golfers across the world felt the need for their voice to be heard. The overwhelming amount of responses show the passion, knowledge and care for the game our audience possesses. Each response and data point is being reviewed as we will utilize this feedback in our preparation to provide a response to the USGA and R&A.” – David Abeles, TaylorMade Golf President & CEO
You can check out the survey results in full here.
Spotted: Odyssey Tri-Hot 5K Three “anti-right” prototype putter
Odyssey Tri-Hot 5K putters have really taken off on tour, and we have seen a handful of models in tour player’s bags. The latest version we spotted out on tour is a very unique design.
Odyssey makes this putter head with a standard flow neck that offers plenty of toe hang for golfers who prefer or need that weighting. This prototype has a long slant neck installed more near the center of the putter head that lets the toe sit slightly up in the air when held horizontally. This is pretty different since most putters sit with the toe hanging down towards the ground or are face balanced (face sits parallel to the ground). A full shaft offset looks to be achieved with the slant neck and the look at address is definitely different.
We spoke to Callaway PGA Tour manager Joe Toulon about the putter and he had the following to say
“On course [we had a player who] had a little push bias that didn’t necessarily show up in practice but it is something that he felt on course. So we wanted to build something that was a little easier to release and maybe not necessarily open the toe as much in the back stroke and not have to work as hard to release it in the through stroke. That was kind of designed to give a little offset and when you rested it on your finger it would rest toe up a little bit. We thought for that player it would help him square the putter face at impact rather than leave it open a little bit.
“It was more of a concept we had and will continue to work on it. When we had it on the truck and we were hitting some putts with it we noticed that you had to work really hard to push this putter. We wanted to make an anti-right putter. Just a fun little concept that we have an idea and work with our tour department to test things out.
“It isn’t something that ended up in a player’s bag but we learned some things in that process and will keep in mind for future builds and projects.”
The finish also looks to be a little different than the standard Tri-Hot 5K putter’s black and silver motif. The face and neck are finished in silver and the rear done in more of a blueish-gray tone. The White Hot insert looks to be standard and the sole still contains two interchangeable weights.
The shaft looks to be painted in the same metallic red as their standard Stroke Lab shaft, but we don’t see a steel tip section. Not sure if this putter has a full graphite shaft or painted steel.
Check out more photos of the Odyssey Tri-Hot 5K Three Putter.
More “Spotted” pieces
- Spotted: S.H. Kim’s Custom Scotty Cameron Circle T Newport putter
- Spotted: Brent Grant’s Scotty Cameron Circle T T5W putter
- Spotted: Beau Hossler’s custom Scotty Cameron Circle T TG6 putter
- Spotted: Tom Kim’s 2 new Scotty Cameron Circle T putters
- Spotted: Bettinardi BB41 Flow 25th anniversary putter
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Feb 5, 2023 at 1:45 pm
Where’s the fluid feel plug in the heel?
Feb 4, 2023 at 8:36 am
Palmer has always been praised as a saint.. and maybe he was in his later years. He kinda sounds like a piece of sh*t here though. He deserved to get some teeth kicked in for the driver stunt.
Feb 5, 2023 at 4:29 pm
Golfer just being d*ck golfers lol
Feb 3, 2023 at 11:29 pm
At the end of the day most golf stories really aren’t that exciting. Like this one.