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How far does Rory McIlroy hit a persimmon driver? We got the shocking answer in Scotland

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Scotland is a place of nostalgia for golfers – even for those who have never been there. As the home of golf, and the mecca of the sport itself, Scotland offers all golfers a place to pay homage to those who blazed the golfing trails before them, learn about the game’s history, and to experience golf courses that were built hundreds of years ago.

Every year, PGA TOUR players make the trek overseas to the United Kingdom to play in the Genesis Scottish Open, and then the Open Championship the following week (this year, the Open is at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England).

In recent years, we’ve seen PGA TOUR players post some of their local adventures to social media. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, for example, visited the famed North Berwick Golf Club (West Links) this year for an evening round.

In the same nostalgic vein, Rory McIlroy experienced a different piece of history before the start of the Genesis Scottish Open: a persimmon driver.

Persimmon drivers, which are made from wood (and have screws on the face to attach face inserts), were the most popular drivers of choice for golfers from the 19th century until around the 1980’s, when they were overtaken by steel (and eventually titanium and carbon composites). Famous golfers such as Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer used persimmon drivers during their careers.

Obviously, persimmon drivers are no where to be found in the bags of PGA Tour players anymore, since they produce slower ball speeds, less forgiveness, more spin, and decreased durability when compared to modern designs and materials. They’re fun to revisit, though, especially when in Scotland.

Using his new-age TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus driver, McIlroy currently leads the PGA Tour in Driving Distance for the 2022-23 season, averaging 327.6 yards per drive. He also ranks 6th in ball speed at 184.6 mph per drive, on average.

But what happens when you hand McIlroy a persimmon driver?

According to the launch monitor results, McIlroy’s drive with the persimmon driver was clocked at 168.6 mph ball speed, with 255.7 yards of carry, and 4410 rpm of spin. It should be noted, he was using his modern TaylorMade TP5x golf ball.

McIlroy’s numbers with the persimmon driver certainly pale in comparison to his modern driver, which highlights how much technology has improved in the last 40 years. It also goes to show that golf doesn’t HAVE to be played with the newest and most expensive equipment for it to be enjoyable. Sometimes, mixing it up with older (and much less expensive!) clubs can provide a really fun challenge and memorable experience.

Not to make this about me or anything, but I recently got my own taste of what it’s like to play golf using an old wooden driver. In a recent match against my Two Guys Talking Golf podcast co-host Brian Knudson, I used just 3 clubs – one of them was a wooden Ben Hogan driver from last century. Technically speaking, it wasn’t a “persimmon” driver, but rather a “laminate.” Essentially, a laminated driver is built with sheets of wood, whereas a persimmon driver is made from a block of wood; persimmon drivers are currently more expensive and collectable, for the most part, while laminate drivers are arguably more durable. They’re similar in function, however, and equally technologically-stunted.

In my experience, I found the Ben Hogan laminate to produce drastically more spin and less ball speed compared to my 2023 driver, and it severely affected both direction and distance. While I typically average around 295 yards and 170 mph of ball speed with my gamer driver, I struggled to fly the ball more than 240 yards using the old wood driver.

By clicking on the video embedded below, you can check out the full 9-hole match between myself (0-handicap) and Knudson (9-handicap) to see my experience with the wood driver in action:

For more persimmon driver content, check out the links below:

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Pingback: How Long Is Rory Mcilroys Driver? Exploring His Impressive Golf Game

  2. Larry

    Jul 27, 2023 at 3:57 pm

    This is the answer to PGA and other Tours worries about distance, simple anything other than an Iron, (hybrids, fairway, drivers} must be made of wood. Simple distance taken care of and we move on all courses over 6,800 hundred yards would be fair play. And best of all reaching a par 5 would be a driver and a fairway wood not a driver and a 8 iron anymore and forget driving a 330 yard par 4 anymore.

  3. N

    Jul 13, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    Not shocking at all. It’s exactly how it should be. Why would you say it’s shocking? I don’t get it

  4. Pingback: How far does Rory McIlroy hit a persimmon driver? We got the shocking answer in Scotland - SOCAL Golfer

  5. Brian

    Jul 13, 2023 at 10:08 am

    Did Kamala Harris write this article:

    “persimmon drivers are made of wood.” “Woods were used by golfers”

    Lol. Terrible.

    • Rich D

      Jul 14, 2023 at 11:14 pm

      You mean the woman who graduated from Hastings with her law degree? The one who was California State Attorney General, US Senator, and it currently the Vice President of the United States? The one who has never lost a general election? That Kamala Harris?

      No.

  6. Jurren

    Jul 13, 2023 at 9:48 am

    Does anyone know how accurate these trackman numbers are with persimmon woods? Do they actually measure launch angle, spin and ballspeed a yard or two off the clubface, or do they calculate (predict) these based on the measured swingspeed and one or two other factors? Ball stays on the face of a persimmon driver a fraction longer than on a titanium or carbon driver for instance.

    • P

      Jul 13, 2023 at 2:10 pm

      Ballspeed is ballspeed. It doesn’t matter whether you hit the ball with a spatula, it just sees the ball flying and extrapolates that from the algorithm programmed into it

      • Jurren

        Jul 13, 2023 at 2:44 pm

        ok thanks. Wasn’t sure if trackman just measured clubheadspeed and calculated ballspeed based on that or if it also measured ballspeed.

  7. M

    Jul 13, 2023 at 12:36 am

    Yeah? But what length was it? 43.5?
    Rors TM driver is 45.75.
    If you can add that extra 2 inches to a persimmon driver without making it too heavy to swing, he’ll be right there at 290 carry and then you’ll know tech really hasn’t done much

    • Brian

      Jul 13, 2023 at 10:06 am

      The one thing I hate about these “persimmon” challenges is that whoever just grabs some random persimmon wood and gives it to somebody to hit. What’s the loft of it? What’s the shaft?

      Maybe if we put a 44” graphite shaft and fit the loft of the persimmon and matched it up to a ball with the correct spin, I bet we would see a huge difference.

      Knowing what we know now, do you think Rory would be happy with such low launch and high spin on that driver. This could easily be tweaked with a different ball and loft.

  8. Mike

    Jul 12, 2023 at 10:01 pm

    Makes me feel better about how I could hit the ball in my youth and wish I had today’s technology “back in the day” when all we played was blades and persimmon or strata block woods. If you found a good driver back then, you would replace the insert because a good cut of persimmon was hard to find.

  9. LivvyDivvy

    Jul 12, 2023 at 9:49 pm

    Jack Nicklaus “roll back the ball, roll back the ball, roll back the ball”…

    Oops

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Whats in the Bag

Lanto Griffin WITB 2024 (February)

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Driver: Titleist TSR2 (10 degrees @9.25)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Black 60 TX

3-wood: Titleist TSR3 (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black 80 6.5 TX

Irons: Titleist U505 Black (2), Titleist T100 Black (4-9)
Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 130 S (2, 4-9)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM10 (46-10F, 50-12F, 54-10S, 60-08M)
Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 130 S (46, 50), Modus3 N.S. Pro 125 Wedge (54,60)

Putter: Sik Flo C
Grip: SuperStroke Zenergy Tour 3.0

Grips: Lamkin Crossline Cord, Iomic

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Check out more in-hand photos of Lanto Griffin’s clubs here.

More WITBs this way…

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Whats in the Bag

Brendon Todd WITB 2023 (February)

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Driver: Ping G430 Max (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus TR Red 6 X

3-wood: Ping G430 Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus TR Red 8 X

5-wood: Ping G425 Max (17.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus TR Red 8 X

Hybrid: Ping G425 (22 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK 80 HY TX

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (5), Titleist 718 CB (4-9)
Shafts: True Temper AMT Tour White S400 (4-9)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM10 (46-10F, 50, 54-10S, 59), WedgeWorks Proto (59)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT S400 (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 (50), KBS Tour MT 125g S+ (59)

Putter: Odyssey White Hot Rossie OG, Toulon Design San Diego

Grip: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

Check out more in-hand photos of Brendon Todd’s clubs here.

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Equipment

Toulon Golf introduces First Run Collection putters for 2024

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Complementing its Small Batch putter releases, Toulon Golf today announced its First Run Collection line of putters.

The First Run Collection sits at a price point below the once-a-month Small Batch offerings and will be produced in larger quantities.

Eight different head shapes — four blades, four mallets — are included in the collection. Six models — Madison, San Diego, Austin, Memphis, Atlanta, and Las Vegas — are previous Toulon designs that have been refined for this release. Two models are new for 2024: New York City, a wide-body blade, and Alcatraz, a large mallet.

“We couldn’t be more excited to share the 2024 First Run Collection line with the world,” said Toulon Golf founder Sean Toulon. “At our core, my sons and I are golfers. We get excited about putters and how they uniquely evoke emotion and make golfers feel. Our putters are a labor of love and we feel that shines through in the final product.”

Toulon utilizes its Chocolate PVD finish across the line of 303 stainless steel putters, opting for Heritage Green and Cream paintfills throughout. Face milling is mid-depth Double Fly Cut. All First Run Collection putter soles feature two interchangeable weights. Final head weight are around 360 grams across the line. However, adjustable weighting allows golfers to reduce the head weight by 10 grams or add up to 30 grams via the interchangeable weights.

Additionally, catering to the trend of longer, heavier putters, the entire First Run Collection lineup is available in Toulon’s Heavy-Spec package. Heavy-Spec putters are built with heavier head weights and a 15-inch, oversize grip.

Toulon First Run Collection: Additional model details

Toulon Golf Madison: A new hosel, softer bumpers, and front-loaded weights define Toulon’s updated Madison design.

Toulon Golf San Diego (LH available): Toulon’s most popular design features softened shoulders, a thinner topline, and more aggressive bumper blending for 2024.

Toulon Golf Austin: Toulon widened the cavity and flattened the topline for the 2024 First Run Austin. Bumpers were also softened.

Toulon Golf New York City (new for 2024): Billed as “a longer and wider cousin to our previous Chicago design,” the multi-material New York City has a milled 6061 aluminum sole plate to push mass to the perimeter and a slightly longer H1.5 crank neck hosel design. Toulon bills the NYC as its most forgiving blade design.

Toulon Golf Atlanta: Relative to the previous design, the 2024 Atlanta is slightly smaller. Toulon refined the topline, shoulders, and bumper for a “crisper appearance.”

Toulon Golf Memphis: The multi-material mid-mallet Memphis is more “ear-shaped” than the previous design, according to the company. A 6061 aluminum sole plate is again incorporated here to allow for more perimeter mass distribution.

Toulon Golf Las Vegas (LH available): Toulon increased the profile of the Las Vegas from the previous design and offers the design with a double bend hosel for decreased toe hang. The 6061 aluminum sole plate is again utilized here.

Toulon Golf Alcatraz (new for 2024, LH available): New for 2024, Toulon’s iteration of the popular “Jailbird” design, the Alcatraz, is the largest mallet in the First Run Collection. Face-balanced with a double bend shaft, the multi-material design is built with MOI in mind. Also available with an H1 crank neck.

Toulon First Run Collection: Pricing, availability

Price: $600 (standard spec), $650 (heavy spec)

Standard grip: Toulon First Run Pistol Midsize (standard spec), Toulon First Run XL Pistol (heavy spec)

At retail: Now, via toulongolf.com

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