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Club or Ball Technology - what do you think has had the biggest impact.


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I am sure this question had been asked before but with every new development things may change. So we all know the club technology has made hitting the ball more constantly better but what have you think has advanced the increased length to the modern game.

During this isolation period I have watched several videos and read a number of articles that asked the question - What has been the biggest improvement in golf equipment, the Ball or the Clubs.

In them they had clubs and balls from the late 70"s early 80's - Persimmon Woods and blades effectively and Balata pro golf balls vs the latest technology Drivers and Irons and Pro v1 golf balls. Add a swing robots and in one case 4 golfers a pro, a 3, 12, 24 handicap golfers and the latest Trackman.

I know that after a forced 7 years hiatus (2006-2013) I found a difference. I had always played with Titleist Ball so I asked at the pro shop for the latest balls and was given Pro V. Imaging my surprise when I hit a 8 iron in to the green and missed it by 10M. I initially thought I must have got it thin but it did feel that way. After it happened 3-4 times I realised that it had to be the ball as the clubs were the same.    

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Callaway Big Bertha Fusion 3 wood 15 Degree

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Recoil Graphite Shafts in all Callaway Clubs

Callaway Big Bertha Putter - for when it is wet

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Preferred ball - Currently Costco Kirkland Performance 3 Piece but Seed 001 is preferred.

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No piece of equipment made me go “what is that?” like a 3 piece urethane ball. It was a 2-day tournament my junior year of college. Day 1, I played my Titleist Professional 90 and played ok. Day 2 o

Surprised no one posted this TXG video. Seems like the ball has a pretty big impact

... Good to see when MB's or Balata balls are mentioned you are still like a dog with a bone Ed! 🤣  I know better than to debate these issues with you. 👍

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I'm going with balls for the bigger change in difference. At least once we went from persimmon woods to metal/titanium/whatever else they make clubs out of these days.

I really believe that if the ruling bodies wanted to roll back distance for professional and top amateur events, they could easily have companies come up with balls that maintain the feel around the greens and cut distance 5-10%.

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4 hours ago, rjwyborski said:

I'm going with balls for the bigger change in difference. At least once we went from persimmon woods to metal/titanium/whatever else they make clubs out of these days.

I really believe that if the ruling bodies wanted to roll back distance for professional and top amateur events, they could easily have companies come up with balls that maintain the feel around the greens and cut distance 5-10%.

I read some where that the R & A is looking at reducing the PGA driving average from 310 to 280 yards through changes to golf ball design. The issue is that most golf course cannot afford too so simply cannot be lengthened, the other alternative is simply to make 540-560yd par 4's.

Callaway Epic Flash 9 Degree

Callaway Big Bertha Fusion 3 wood 15 Degree

Callaway Epic Hybrid 18 Degree

Callaway Steelhead Pro 4-AW Irons

Cleveland 54 Degree Wedge Steel Shaft

Recoil Graphite Shafts in all Callaway Clubs

Callaway Big Bertha Putter - for when it is wet

La Jolla Putter with Flat Car Grip.

Preferred ball - Currently Costco Kirkland Performance 3 Piece but Seed 001 is preferred.

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The innovative technology in the driver design had changed the face of this game, for sure.  It used to be the best of the stronger golfers could drive over 250 yards on the average, but today that is a requirement for anyone holds a single digit handicap index.

Not to ignore the golf ball to maximize the new driver design.   I like it for the most part of it's durability without sacrificing performance.  I went through the balata era through the first generation of the two piece rock, to the craze of the first generation of the "lady's golf ball" , to the modern multi layer design.  One could find a golf ball which will best suited for the individual's golf game, at a comparatively bargain price than a few decades ago.  

Since the driver and golf ball design had reached the conforming limit set forth by the governing body, the next possible evolution will be the shaft material. 

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Well being a younger guy, I did not play regular golf with balatas, persimmons, old school irons (I've hit them but never had to play several rounds or a season with them) So my feedback is from some discussions and some research I have done.

The biggest Improvements in clubs in the last 50 years have been Persimmons to hollow Woods, Steel to graphite driver shafts, iron perimeter weight, and solid core golf ball.

The Hollow metal wood gave an advantage of more distance and better forgiveness. Graphite shafts brought more distance. Perimeter weighting brought iron forgiveness, and the golf ball combined distance, spin, control.

Each one of these club improvements was very important step in golf, but in that same amount of time Fitness has increased immensly and courses have better tools to maintain the grass.

I do think the solid core ball may be the most significant single change in golf but there are hundreds of changes and additions to golf that make it the amazing game we all love. If it hadn't we would be playing with hickory shafts and featheries around an empty field.

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I have to go with the golf ball. I saw something where they said Jack Nicklaus had a swing speed of 118 that's very similar to a lot of the guys now a days. Are these guys saved by greater forgiveness on the club heads sure. But building the ball to preform better under those types of speeds is what has made the difference.

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I'll have to chime in with... both clubs and balls are most impactful and improved for everyone. Especially for us amateurs.

I've been playing for over 50 years. (65 now) Obviously I started my life long obsession using blades, and other clubs made from wood, old miniature golf style putter and rock- balls of some kind. Golf courses back in "the day" were not that long. 6500 yds. was long for example. But, they fit and suited the distances the players and their equipment produced. Sure, newer courses have pushed out lengths but that hasn't effected me. Just because a designer builds a course tipping out a 7500 yds doesn't mean me or anyone else has or should to play from that distance. ie... most amateurs. Modern day clubs and balls have had a huge impact. I know this because I made the gradual-evolving transition year over year and decade over decade from the old days to the modern era. Forget what the TV Pros on the 3-club tour do. Don't make the mistake of comparing your game to theirs. I can promise you most guys/amateurs/forum members would not buy balata balls if available the same as they gobble up PV1's today. One thinly hit shot or one into a tree or off a cart path and balatas were ruined. If modern "tour" balls performed that way today no one would buy them. And...modern balls do not go/fly/carry too far today. If you think they do for your game you might want to consider buying reduced flight balls. And while you're at it get yourself a set of "old" blades and a wooden driver. 🏌️‍♂️

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I have to go with the golf ball. I saw something where they said Jack Nicklaus had a swing speed of 118 that's very similar to a lot of the guys now a days. Are these guys saved by greater forgiveness on the club heads sure. But building the ball to preform better under those types of speeds is what has made the difference.

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Yea there's Nicklaus interview somewhere out there where he talks about the difference in the ball.

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No piece of equipment made me go “what is that?” like a 3 piece urethane ball.

It was a 2-day tournament my junior year of college. Day 1, I played my Titleist Professional 90 and played ok. Day 2 on the tee box, coach hands us a sleeve of a ball I had never seen. It was the first generation 392 ProV1. He said just play it.

Long story short...every tee shot was 10-20 yards longer. I was carrying the ball further and I shot level par to finish top 10.

I finished that round with the same ball and I had a lot of questions. Nick, what is this and where are the rest of them

I had never used and still haven’t used a single piece of equipment that wow’ed me like that ball.

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... Tough question. While going from a MacGregor M85 persimmon wood to a Taylor Made Pittsburg Persimmon was a good change, comparing the M85 to a modern 460cc driver is such a huge change. I can't argue with the solid ball being a major change from balata, but no doubt my scores would be lower with a balata ball and a graphite shafted Cobra Extreme driver than using a TP5 and a M85 steel shafted persimmon wood. 

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On 4/30/2020 at 6:00 PM, Firebird said:

I am sure this question had been asked before but with every new development things may change. So we all know the club technology has made hitting the ball more constantly better but what have you think has advanced the increased length to the modern game.

During this isolation period I have watched several videos and read a number of articles that asked the question - What has been the biggest improvement in golf equipment, the Ball or the Clubs.

In them they had clubs and balls from the late 70"s early 80's - Persimmon Woods and blades effectively and Balata pro golf balls vs the latest technology Drivers and Irons and Pro v1 golf balls. Add a swing robots and in one case 4 golfers a pro, a 3, 12, 24 handicap golfers and the latest Trackman.

I know that after a forced 7 years hiatus (2006-2013) I found a difference. I had always played with Titleist Ball so I asked at the pro shop for the latest balls and was given Pro V. Imaging my surprise when I hit a 8 iron in to the green and missed it by 10M. I initially thought I must have got it thin but it did feel that way. After it happened 3-4 times I realised that it had to be the ball as the clubs were the same.    

My research on this is that the newer balls actually spin just a bit less which optimizes distance on all clubs. Plus the newer balls are more efficient in transferring energy which means higher ball speeds.

The regulations on balls has been the same for at least 20 years but the tech available to the manufacturers has greatly increased to make it easier for the ball manufacturers to measure their improvements quantifiably. 

My opinion is that the new irons have thinner faces that launch the ball with more ball speed than older irons. The last 8 years have seen the most gains with very little limitations coming from the USGA. 

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Yes, I sat next to the country manager for Acushnet (Titleist) at a charity event a few years ago and he said the the Pro V1 was the first ball to reach the maximum speed of 76.2 m per second. Now they were working on ways to get it to he max speed quicker.

Interesting thing with regard to irons. I still have all my old sets, which includes Blades and CB's and the difference between them distance wise hitting my preferred ball Pro v1x is minimal. Blades longer irons are generally 5-10m Shorter, however by the time we get to the wedges they are the same as I always have hit Clevland blade wedges.

Callaway Epic Flash 9 Degree

Callaway Big Bertha Fusion 3 wood 15 Degree

Callaway Epic Hybrid 18 Degree

Callaway Steelhead Pro 4-AW Irons

Cleveland 54 Degree Wedge Steel Shaft

Recoil Graphite Shafts in all Callaway Clubs

Callaway Big Bertha Putter - for when it is wet

La Jolla Putter with Flat Car Grip.

Preferred ball - Currently Costco Kirkland Performance 3 Piece but Seed 001 is preferred.

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I still have my Wilson Persimmon Driver and Blades for the 70's and with a Pro V1x I used to be able too hit it 260m. With the irons there is a no more than <10m difference when compared to my CB irons.

The one big difference between my old driver and my latest is that the shaft is 2.5" longer. Why because the sweet spot on the latest drivers is so much bigger. That also applies to the latest CB irons. You miss the sweet spot on an old driver and you are lucky to go 200m. Miss it on the latest driver, you may loose 20-30M. 

Callaway Epic Flash 9 Degree

Callaway Big Bertha Fusion 3 wood 15 Degree

Callaway Epic Hybrid 18 Degree

Callaway Steelhead Pro 4-AW Irons

Cleveland 54 Degree Wedge Steel Shaft

Recoil Graphite Shafts in all Callaway Clubs

Callaway Big Bertha Putter - for when it is wet

La Jolla Putter with Flat Car Grip.

Preferred ball - Currently Costco Kirkland Performance 3 Piece but Seed 001 is preferred.

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The last objective data I’ve seen says the ball advancements had more impact and over a short period from 2000-2004. But clubs, specifically drivers, advanced almost as much from 1992-2000 - a slower rate of change. It seems athleticism began with Tiger around 2000, but mostly only with touring pros. FWIW.

8AEFBEFB-91E8-40CD-8B5D-9259994FC9D0.jpeg

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2 hours ago, Middler said:

The last objective data I’ve seen says the ball advancements had more impact and over a short period from 2000-2004. But clubs, specifically drivers, advanced almost as much from 1992-2000 - a slower rate of change. It seems athleticism began with Tiger around 2000, but mostly only with touring pros. FWIW.

8AEFBEFB-91E8-40CD-8B5D-9259994FC9D0.jpeg

This graph attempts to isolate introductions of key technological advancements but that is not really possible from 1998-2004 as there was a lot of overlapping change occurring during that time (mass adoption of multilayer ball, larger driver heads, weight reduction via composite shafts, and the largest increases in COR to date). From an equipment standpoint, all of these factors saw the largest advancements/increases in adoption during this period even though the some of the technology had been available in for many years prior.

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11 hours ago, storm319 said:

This graph attempts to isolate introductions of key technological advancements but that is not really possible from 1998-2004 as there was a lot of overlapping change occurring during that time (mass adoption of multilayer ball, larger driver heads, weight reduction via composite shafts, and the largest increases in COR to date). From an equipment standpoint, all of these factors saw the largest advancements/increases in adoption during this period even though the some of the technology had been available in for many years prior.

Of course that’s true. However the data is all from pros only, and they would probably adopt changes more in sync than the general public. Please share your better data...

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27 minutes ago, Middler said:

Of course that’s true. However the data is all from pros only, and they would probably adopt changes more in sync than the general public. Please share your better data...

The point is that there was too much change going on during the period of 1998-2004 to be able to attribute gains to any one variable so the graph is a bit disingenuous to imply that the gains from 2000-2004 were attributed to the ball (basically there is no reliable data that will show a single variable's isolated impact on distance during that time).

Keep in mind that while pros do adopt new equipment from their sponsored OEM fairly quickly today, many OEMs at the time were not early adopters to new trends. One example of this is with the multilayer urethane ball that was first put into play on tour in either late 1997 or early 1998, but Titleist staffers who were the overwhelming majority were stuck with a wound ball due to contractual obligations until October 2000 when the ProV1 was made available. 

Another example is driver head size. Ping was the first in 1998 with the TISI to release a 300+ cc driver head as well as being the instigator for the implementation of the USGA's COR limit. Callaway and Taylormade did not cross this threshold until 2000, Titleist in 2001, and Cobra in 2002 which is factor in the jump in distance on tour during that time (along with weight reduction via composite shafts). 

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I'd say the ball has had the marginally bigger impact. If you think about how professionals actually played balata balls and look at club specs from yesteryear, you'll see that they are quite different from what we have today. The way clubs are designed and spec'd today is a direct response to the modern golf ball, which is why 7 & 8-degree driver heads on tour are a rarity - players aren't having to fight spin as much as they used to. This may be an oversimplification, but if you listen to any interview where Tiger discusses how he used to have to play the balata balls vs. the modern golf ball it's the same story. I'll trust that Cat knows a thing or two. 😉

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