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Nicklaus era Tour players better skilled than today ?

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Through the 1960's, 70's and 80's Tour players were using wooden head clubs with steel shafts and wound balls covered with balata.

To consistently strike solid, accurate shots with this equipment required especially good rhythm-tempo-timing. Without these positive swing attributes , the equipment of decades past would often produce blocked, sliced, or duck hooked shots. Due to the lack of forgiveness of the clubs, these type misses were common for Tour players, especially during high pressure situation.

In contrast, the forgiveness of current technology metal woods and graphite shafts allows today's Tour players to go as hard as they can at the ball, sometimes falling out of tempo-rhythm-balance, yet still produce reasonably playable shots.

For irons and wedges, while the difference in forgiveness is not as significant as it is with metal woods vs wooden heads, today's Tour player "blades" are 20% larger than 70's blades and half the Tour players today use perimeter weighted cavity back irons. So slightly mishit irons shots are not penalized near as much today.

I believe most of today's Tour players are better athletes, better conditioned etc... than the previous generation of Tour players. But considering how much more demanding the equipment was of the Nicklaus era 60's, 70's and 80's, I think it required more skill (to be competitive, make cuts, win events) of a player back then than it does today.

Whether you agree or disagree with the above, please post your thoughts on the subject of Tour player skills today vs the Nicklaus-Trevino-Miller-Watson era of the 1960's, 70's, 80's.

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I think the best match up with the best, but the 'average' tour player today would wipe the floor with the 'average' tour player from yesteryear

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Different era different equipment and different agronomy on the courses. But I will say that it took a bit of ball striking ability to hit those tiny blades and small headed persimmon drivers. But then again most of your top players in the world still play blades. With proper shaft set up guys like DJ and Jason Day could take a set of my 60s and 70 Macgregors and hit them just as well as any modern blade. This leads to my next statement

 

A lot of people argue with me on this especially on WRX but I believe the single largest equipment evolution is in the shafts themselves and the materials they are made of now . Remember there is no USGA tec on shafts except the bend on some putter shafts and the length on certain clubs. Take a set of 50s 60s or 70s blade irons and put more modern shafts in them whether they be steel or graphite and watch them wake up. We know a lot more about tuning shafts too than we ever did. Basic muscle back blade design has not changed since the 50s. Now I will concede we do have different metals and properties of metal and processes on forging but basic design has not changed.

 

Now on drivers that is a real slippery slope. Yes you can hit a modern metal driver further than you can a persimmon. But some of those newer drivers including the one in my bag are hot faced as heck and I feel you give up some control despite what some manufacturers claim. Persimmon does not have as much side spin either way for me. I played strictly persimmon on the SE mini tours until around 02 or so. With age I got where I was giving up too much distance. Even when I switched to modern metal on occasion on certain short tight courses I would pull the metal 3 wood out and put one of my old persimmon drivers in In that case I had a Power Bilt Citation of 10 1/2 * that I could hit off the deck too if needed. Some of the old timers on WRX claim they hit the persimmon as far as a metal driver but IMHO that is total BS. In all reality I am 40 yards shorter with persimmon now versus a modern metal. On certain courses it does not matter with me but on others it makes a big difference.

 

Then you get into the loft thing with jacked lofts on irons. That does not bother me at all or affect my game in any way. I could give 2 hoots less if Joe Blow is hitting his jacked up TM or Cally 8 iron 150 yards when I am using an old blade 7 iron with a modern shaft or a blade 6 iron with a stock 50/60s shaft. 

 

On MGS I think only deejaid and myself play older blade irons and such. They may be others. Right now in my signature I am sorta modern with the Mizuno 68s they were made in 2012 but I can go back in the drop of a hat to one of my numerous sets of vintage Macs or Hogans. Some of my Macs have more modern shafts. All of my Hogan blade irons have stock Apex shafts which were way ahead of their time and IMHO can compete with any modern steel shaft made today. I will go back on one thing my 1954 Hogan Precisions do not have Apex Shafts because the Apex shaft was not made in 54 but they do have stock True Temper shafts in them. 

 

In a nutshell I do not get into the blade versus CB thing. I do not get into the modern versus vintage thing. I march to the beat of my own drum and do what I darn well please. I do not get into brand bashing either. I could care less who made it or what their company marketing policy is as long as I can hit it. I could care less what others play as in blade versus CB again or Callaway versus TM.

Play what makes you happy because I damn sure am

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Was Babe Ruth more skilled than Hank Aaron? Was Wilt Chamberlain more skilled than Michael Jordon? Was Johnny Unitis more skilled than Tom Brady? Was Rod Laver more skilled than Roger Federer?

 

I don't know. Different eras in sporting history. I would say that in all cases, equipment and athletic conditioning is superior to the past. I'm not sure I would say skill level is better or worse, today. It's just different for the times and advances made in equipment and conditiong because of knowledge gained over the years. In 30 years, today's athletes and equipment will seem ho hum.

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Lots of differences in course setup, equipment, technology, athleticism. Pros regardless of era are able to find the center of the face frequently. Imo the top players in every era could compete in any era. They all have the ability to adjust to course conditions and such

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Good topic - fun to speculate on! But I think jlukes summed it up pretty succinctly above....

 

"I think the best match up with the best, but the 'average' tour player today would wipe the floor with the 'average' tour player from yesteryear"

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It's almost like saying that Kyle Busch is a better race car driver than Richard Petty.

 

New guy has endless technology.

 

RP... had not much technology.

 

Golf was definitely played differently in the “Golden Days”, took more imagination. Now there a thousands of dudes lined up to play on various different tours. Most of them can smoke a drive 300 yards, hit their 7 iron 200, and PW 160.

 

In the end, it's like watching the original version of Charley and the Chocolate factory, then directly following watch the new one. I'd pick the old one every single time.

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Guys in today's world are way way way better athletes. It's not even close in any sport.

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I blame it on protein shakes and golds gym.

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I agree with you that graphite shaft technology is one of the most significant differences. So large metal wood heads combined with modern graphite shafts make par 4 and par 5 tee box play much more consistently easy (for Tour pros) than ever before.

Whether a guy with a swing like Bubba Watson could drive the ball well with a steel shafted wood head driver I don't know. I think his swing (like

most all players younger than 40 years old) , was built swinging metal wood heads.

Regarding irons, I am reading that you have some traditional blade irons, such as Hogan and Macregor brand, from the Nicklaus era. When you set one of those down next to your more recent blade iron,  like your Mizuno 68, is the Mizuno head size significantly larger (heel-to-toe and top-to-bottom) ?

Not long ago I was in a golf store that had a nice condition set of mid 70's era Wilson muscle back blade irons. I looked at the Wilson  6-iron next to a current  Titleist MB 6-iron and was surprised to see what appeared to be about a 20% difference in head size.

The Mizuno is a little thicker at the top and a little thicker in the Toe than any Macgregor. Now Hogan irons can be a different animal. Those  54 Precisions at address look like any Macgregor of the time to me. I also have a set of Bob Toski Mighty Mite Macgregor irons also made in 54. The Hogan Grinds ( 82 vintage) have a thicker sole and thicker top line than any Macgregor. Now I also have a set of 2013 Callaway forged X irons and yes they look larger all the way around than any Mac or Hogan. Being strictly an instinct player I think it is with what equipment you learned the game with. Actually back in the day before I became a Macgregor man I was a Spalding man and played Elite 333 customs. Spaldings have a more rounded toe shape at address and thicker top line to my eye. In fact the 68s I have on address bear a striking resemblance to the 66 Spalding Elite customs which I have a set of too. The sole design is also strikingly similar. Most Macs have a flatter thin sole and thin leading edge as do most Wilson Staffs or FG-17s of that era. Really for me it is how the club fits my eye at address and how it feels when striking the ball. A lot of the newer blades I have seen and for example the newer TM blades at address look like a set of Mac VIPs to me. Most real Muzino blades look like Spalding Elites at address to me. In fact I gamed a set of MP-33s for years until I wore them out and at address those 68s I am hitting now look exactly like them at address . 

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It's almost like saying that Kyle Busch is a better race car driver than Richard Petty.

 

New guy has endless technology.

 

RP... had not much technology.

 

Golf was definitely played differently in the “Golden Days”, took more imagination. Now there a thousands of dudes lined up to play on various different tours. Most of them can smoke a drive 300 yards, hit their 7 iron 200, and PW 160.

 

In the end, it's like watching the original version of Charley and the Chocolate factory, then directly following watch the new one. I'd pick the old one every single time.

Richard Petty did not have power steering either and his cars were not as aerodynamic either (except the 70 Superbird) and were 1200 LBS heavier too. Their tires were now where near as good as the tires today. Now they tune shocks and have shock specialists RP and those guys used off the shelf shocks--- And the list could go on--- NASCAR has really evolved as has golf--- Time marches on

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Richard Petty did not have power steering either and his cars were not as aerodynamic either (except the 70 Superbird) and were 1200 LBS heavier too. Their tires were now where near as good as the tires today. Now they tune shocks and have shock specialists RP and those guys used off the shelf shocks--- And the list could go on--- NASCAR has really evolved as has golf--- Time marches on

....and Richard Petty had a 426 Hemi under the hood.

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My comment that current blade irons (such as Titleist MB, or whatever is the current Mizuno MB, I think the MP was recently discontinued, but I am not sure about that) , appear to me to be 20% larger head size. That is , head-to-toe length and top-to-bottom height, than 70's era blade irons.

A player like Jason Day may be playing blade irons, but I think his irons are probably 20% larger in head size than the 1980 era irons Greg Norman played.

I've not done a playing test of these two era irons myself, but my guess is that the modern larger heads will allow a slight mis hit shot to carry farther than the previous generation smaller heads. From sloped, grassy, sandy, or other less than ideal lies, the smaller heads might be a bit easier to square at impact.

So, unlike the clear advantage that graphite shafted metal woods have over steel shafted wooden heads, I think the actual playing difference in 40 years worth of iron design changes is negligible. *cavity backs iron designs are relatively new and were not readily available for most of the Nicklaus era.

Didn't you start a thread not long ago about club head size or something?

 

 

Blake

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Guys in today's world are way way way better athletes. It's not even close in any sport.

Some, in golf.  Patrick Reed, Jason Dufner, Phil Mickelson and quite a few others aren't exactly what I would call better athletes.  Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson and his chicken arms along with a host of other players don't look like they've ever done any kind of resistance training.  Overall they are definitely better athletes today but guys who could fit right in to any era in golf due to their average and sometimes less than average physiques, still win tournaments and win big tournaments. 

 

For what it's worth, Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe were both elite hockey players way back in the 50s and 60s.  Tell me these guys couldn't hold their own on the ice today given access to the same training and equipment of any current player.   Take guys with the sheer determination and raw power of an Arnold Palmer or a Jack Nicklaus and give them access to modern training and equipment and they'd be shooting the lights out and winning tournaments, although probably not as many given the overall competitiveness of the tour these days. 

 

hull_howe.jpg

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....and Richard Petty had a 426 Hemi under the hood.

Yep and that was the motor too in those days--- Now days a Small block Ford or Chevy puts out just as much HP. The late Cotton Owens told me in 2000 that if they had kept the 426 Hemi and did the R&D on it that had been done on the small blocks that it would have been capable of over 1000 HP on a carburetor and pump gas. 

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Anyone can lift weights. Athletic ability has nothing to do with how strong you are.

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Lots of differences in course setup, equipment, technology, athleticism. Pros regardless of era are able to find the center of the face frequently. Imo the top players in every era could compete in any era. They all have the ability to adjust to course conditions and such

This.

 

If Bobby Jones were 25 years old today, he'd likely be playing today's irons with the longer length blade. He certainly wouldn't be playing hickory.

 

Meanwhile, top players with speed to burn would slow down to find the center of club face with the clubs of yesteryear. DJ would have been a great player in any generation.

 

If you're saying that we would have a different crop of stars at the top of the tour with older equipment, I doubt it.

 

Sent from my SM-T550 using Tapatalk

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I have been avidly watching the Masters youtube channel and really shows that the guys in the 60s, 70s and 80s played a different game to the modern guys. They had to think their way around the golf course and were far more likely to lay up on par 5s. Go and watch it and you will see Jack, Tom, Arnie and Gary hitting 3 wood into the 13th and 15th at Augusta. Gary Player had to literally jump at the ball to get it far enough in 1978. These days they get to hit 6 iron into 13. Technology has meant that the modern player has more chance of holding the green and shooting low scores.

 

I'm not saying that old is better, it was just different.

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This.

 

If Bobby Jones were 25 years old today, he'd likely be playing today's irons with the longer length blade. He certainly wouldn't be playing hickory.

 

Meanwhile, top players with speed to burn would slow down to find the center of club face with the clubs of yesteryear. DJ would have been a great player in any generation.

 

If you're saying that we would have a different crop of stars at the top of the tour with older equipment, I doubt it.

 

Sent from my SM-T550 using Tapatalk

 

You just said everything I would have. Good golfers are good golfers, regardless of the year. They all adapt to the situations they are in.

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....and Richard Petty had a 426 Hemi under the hood.

Additionally, back in the days of Richard Petty, actual stock cars were raced--back in the days of "win on Sunday, sell on Monday".   There is absolutely nothing stock about the race cars in current use.  

 

Regarding the topic of the relative skills of tour professionals at any given time or era, I refer to the often stated "it ain't the arrow, its the Indian".   At any snapshot in time, it's my guess that given the available arrows at such time, the Indians with the better talent would rise to the top.  As another poster has suggested, I think that if Bobby Jones  and Jack Nicklaus were playing currently, with their talents and abilities, they would still rise to the top.

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