Playing Persimmon in the Titanium Age

Out of self interest I thought I would spark up a thread looking at the thrills and the challenges of playing persimmon in the age of titanium. So this is for those who play persimmon regularly, just occasionally, or who might even just be considering it. Hopefully we might be able to pull together some stories, tips and advice.

I’ll kick off with some thoughts and observations:

Making the transition:

Having played titanium exclusively since I came back to golf (I hadn’t really played since my college days) 10 years ago there was some adjustment to be done when I got interested through Lags thread on ISG towards the end of last year. On the positive side I found that the mind really does adapt quite quickly to the 150-200 cc club head and playing alone or with those also playing persimmon as a “one-off” the transition is relatively easy. It’s really not as scary as you think it might be. But the reality is if you want to keep playing with your buddies or competitively you will probably have to deal with the full range of reactions from people viewing it as a passing fad that you will shrug off quickly or simply a sign of eccentricity! In fairness many golfers who remember the persimmon age may well be intrigued and curious about it. If you are lucky you will get lots of those “nothing sounds better than a balata on persimmon” comments! With the under 30’s I usually find a puzzled vacant look is the order of the day – but I usually find that anyway – :laughing:

First tee nerves:

I must admit the I struggled with first tee nerves in competitive play. I am not the type who likes to draw attention to himself (not deliberately anyway!) and the persimmon obviously marks you out as “different” and you will find people paying attention to you and your play because of that. There were a few times having seen my playing partners fire a couple of titanium mortars down the 1st I would have gladly reached for the frying pan if it had been available. This is a confidence thing and has largely faded with time but will resurface if I am hitting the ball poorly.

Reaction to ball velocity / speed and sound:

I would love to understand the science behind this but I can unequivocally say that your perception of how much further a “well struck” ball will go with titanium compared to persimmon is not matched by reality. I think it’s a combination of sound and the initial velocity off the clubface that makes the ball struck by the titanium driver appear that it will go so much farther than that struck by persimmon. I have seen it I don’t know how many times now as my playing partner blasts a cannonball after I have driven well. When we get to the balls the difference is rarely more than 20 yards at most. Perhaps the winter may be different with less run and where carry is more important, we will see! Miss hits are a different story but the gear effect is real and will help keep you in play I find.

Reaction to Partners playing titanium:

I remember Lag saying that he made a conscious decision not to watch his playing partners drive during US Open qualifying so it would not influence what he was trying to do. I haven’t tried this but I probably should. The problem with watching your partners hitting titanium is not just the mental picture you form of the sound/velocity/shape of shot you want to play. To me the major problem is one of the effect on rhythm as so many players swing out of their shoes with the big dog now. I really don’t think that works with persimmon. Even long, long drivers with persimmon like Norman, Davis Love and Two kept everything nicely balanced.

The pleasure of playing a course that feels the right size again:

Obviously it depends what type of course you play on but for me playing persimmon has made my home course more fun to play. A 100 year old Harry Colt course my home club is 6,200 yards (par 70) from the tips. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t exactly dominating it in the first place but it’s nice to be able to play it more as it was intended and not be hitting a series of wedges all day.

Anyone else have any thought, tips or experiences to share?

Cheers, Arnie


Those are some wonderful observations…
Ideally it’s great to play with other persimmon players, but at the same time, if we enjoy the challenge of golf, it’s quite fun to compete against the new stuff with the old stuff.

Playing courses that are appropriate for the gear is what makes the most sense to me. I feel fine playing persimmon under normal conditions up into the 6800 to even 7000 yard range. I think much beyond that, I would tend to agree with Dr Alister MacKenzie that the game starts to become too much about walking and not enough about golf.

Playing a 7400 yard course would be a monster with 250 yard drives. But by adding the extra yardage of the modern titanium driver and modern ball, those courses I suspect play shorter than a 7000 yarder with the persimmon and balata. I remember
when the Western Open was played at Butler National in Chicago, and how long that course was for the tour players. I think Doral was one of the longer tests years ago… now it’s a lot of short irons.

The bigger heads certainly tempt the players now to take a bigger rip at it… and this has in many ways made golf much less of a precision oriented game in particular the golf swing itself… especially the driver.

When I have played the odd round at some of the wonderful persimmon era courses around the Bay Area here, I have noticed that the average hacker can look quite impressive with the driver if you don’t look at the swing… often the ball catapulting 280 yards often right down the middle… something that would absolutely not happen if I handed them my persimmon Penna.
But once you put an iron in their hands… it’s all over… just horrible stuff… and they shoot in the mid 80’s or 90’s due to the truth being revealed that their golf swing is terribly flawed.

These players will be absolutely amazed when I card a 73 or even better… because of course technique will win out on these kinds of stages every time.

At the high levels of Pro Tour comp… I have no doubt that persimmon players could still win on certain courses. Having witnessed some amazing golf scores shot… I doubt any amount of technology in the hands of modern players would take down
Greg Norman shooting back to back 66’s at Royal Melbourne when he won the Australian Open by a landslide there in the late 80’s.

I play persimmon for many reasons… the biggest reason is because it keeps my golf swing in shape. I welcome the feedback.
I feel I can control and shape my shots much better, and the courses I play are meant to be played from “persimmon drive” yardages. Next, I enjoy the aesthetic reasons, and the sound, and the feel… and all those kind of qualities that for me are
very real.

What I find most disturbing about the modern era, is the intentions of the whole thing… the man behind the curtain. The obvious exploitation of such a beautiful game. The everything has become only for the well being of the equipment manufacturers.

I refuse to believe golf is more enjoyable now than it was 50 years ago.

The modern gear is not helping golfers technique and is actually hurting their golf swings by depriving them of necessary feedback that is absolutely imperative for improvement. The shift away from proper instruction and practice toward “the
clubs will make you better” screams of false prophecy. We are seeing this on the tour as well. We don’t have a Ben Hogan

So getting back to this topic here… I do think to play persimmon and proper gear is a noble cause… and you will certainly gain more than proper respect when you go out at beat players with all the latest gadgets. So for those who dare to venture into persimmon golf… you will become a better player, you will develop a more proper golf swing, and you might find yourself beating some of these titanium giants and have people asking you questions that might not have otherwise been evoked :open_mouth:

Inspired by Lags post about he and Two playing persimmon and blades at Pasa Tiempo GC and the Olympic Club I thought I would try and breath some life into this thread. I play persimmon 99% of the time now and older style blades 100% of the time. In fact the only time I don’t play persimmon is a couple of golf dates each year where I am a guest of a club doing some amateur course reviews for a magazine or similar and I don’t want to have to explain my equipment choices etc.

I have also become an avid scourer of ebay for old sets of irons and persimmon and I like to play them all rather than have them sit in a cupboard, not on a strict rota but just whenever I feel like ringing the changes. Its tremendous fun to get to feel the differences between the difference sets. So yesterday I played at my home course and put together a bag containing no clubs that I had ever played 18 holes with! So I had a Toney Penna MOD 65 driver and 4 wood. A set of Mizuno TP9 irons from the late 80’s and an old Tom Watson Ram Wizard putter. For a ball I use the old Maxfli Revolution Multilayer 90 compression which is the best non balata compromise option I have found to date. See attached pic.

I struggled a little with my short game in particular on the front 9. I find that is quite often the case if you are changing iron sets and putters all the time. The grind on the leading edges of the TP9s seemed quite sharp and it took a little while to get my chipping and pitching working to an acceptable standard. Things looked up when I used Two’s tip about using the bounce of the shorter clubs. It was the same with the putter. I had slapped lead tape all over the blade style putter but it still felt light as a feather. Probably not surprising as the old style putter I had been using previously weighed over half a kilo! Anyway it all added up to a rather sorry bogey a hole +9 on the way out. But things got better from there with 7 straight pars and some very close birdie calls. The highlight of which was driver, 4 wood to 8 feet into a 430 yard par 4 into a reasonable breeze. Yes left the putt on the lip! Conspired to miss a couple of short ones to bogey the last couple of and to finish +11, two over my handicap and level on points with my big hitting titanium loving playing partner. 7/14 fairways. 9/18 GIR and 36 putts :open_mouth: but all good fun and I feel good about the way things are going and that rounds close to par are achievable for me with the old stuff.

Tune in next time for my review of a set of 1965 Dynapowers I have just bought from ebay for £10!

Cheers, Arnie
Pennas & TP9.jpg

Love the TP9s, I have a set of those myself but they have regular shafts in them.

I have to admit that while I enjoy using the old blades, I absolutely hate using the old persimmon. Nothing worse in this world than being outdriven by a guy playing off double figures!

Hi Styles,

I guess its inevitable that we will have slightly different motivations in playing the game. Actually I have found using persimmon quite liberating in this regard as it has removed any conscious or subsconscious thoughts about length off the tee vis a vis my playing partners. It has freed me up to just play the course. The guys I play with don’t tend to expect me to sneak it past them and I am not really thinking about it, but it does happen often enough to be fun when it does. Hit one off the screws with persimmon and the other guy playing titanium doesn’t have to be too far off to be behind. If you don’t like being outdriven by double digit handicappers how are you going to feel when you get outdriven by an old guy like me with a bit of timber in his hand :wink: I’ll remind you of that just before we tee off the 1st at Ardglass…and then you can remind me of it again as I buy the drinks in the bar afterwards :laughing:

Here are some of my feelings/observations regarding playing persimmon & blades in 2009.

I am slowly returning to the game of golf after hardly having played for about 10 years untill this past winter. I managed to play once or twice a year on average the past 10 years. This winter I decided to put some more time into this game. I still only managed to play 3 1/2 rounds this year thusfar but did get to hit a couple of balls on the driving range, which to me is an ok alternative as playing 18 holes usually just takes too much time when you’ve also got to little kids in the house (23 month old daughter en 1 1/2 month old son).

I quit playing round about the time those big bertha woods got serious attention. I never could take anyone serious that played one of those huge drivers (small compared to todays standards) and i myself couldn’t hit a decent ball with those clubs if my life depended on it. The few times i did play the past years i couldn’t get over the fact how rediculously big drivers had become. I was “forced” to play 18 holes with modern equipment one day in a business related tournament where i was the last minute replacement for a coleague. I could use his clubs. I played a texas scramble with another colleague (hcp 36) and ended up shooting 2 under par. I think we used 4 or 5 of his shots during the entire round (all of which were chips/putts that were nearer to the hole than my chip/putt). Scorewise it was one of my better rounds ever, but I think I felt I only hit one or two decent shots that entire day. Even misshits ended up on the fairway/green or close. So eventhough we scored well, I wasn’t enjoying it.

When i started again this winter i started again using my old clubs blades and an old 80ies TM driver. I also started reading the various fora that weren’t available back when i played a lot. That gave me tons of information on equipment i had never heard about before. I was especially interested in older clubs as that was what i grew up with (my first set was a set of Slazenger Ben Hogan Precision’s, it’s hard to settle for something less after that). I loved all the pictures of persimmon woods that i had never seen before (mostly MacGregors and Wood Brothers). In the Netherlands you only got to see the 80ies versions of all those classic woods. Now with access to ebay I had quickly found an old M85W Eye-O-Matic driver (5-screw insert). I’ve been using it all year thusfar and love it! It’s a little harder to hit than my old TM driver, but it’s getting better every round i play. Can’t really comment on distances (yet) as my distances have been way off this entire year. I hit my irons 10-15 meters shorter than before, but am slowely picking up the distance again. My drives are now around 230-250 meters which is a little shorter than they used to be, but i expect to gain some distance (with the modern balls) once my swing is back in shape (and i’m back into shape, eventhough round is a shape too i hear).

Obeservations thusfar have been from being ridiculed by my parents and former teammates for using a persimmon driver, to admiration by palying partners that would love to be able to hit a driver like that. I also get comments on the pleasant sound the wood makes compared to titanium. What surprises me is that the people i used to out-drive by 50-60 meters now are only 10-20 meters behind and have no trouble whatsover hitting their drives in the fairway. this used to be different in the past. I can remember i didn’t even play a driver untill i was a single digit handicapper. On the other hand i try not to pay too much attention to other peoples drives. Afterall, i play persimmon and blades because that gives me the most enjoyment in the game. Not because i’m trying (in the short term) to play the lowest score i can play. I play golf for the challenge and that challenge comes from hitting good shots, not from hitting lousy shots that get covered up by the equipment.

I can second what 84425 has to say. I’m in it more or less for what Arnie’s in it for. I want to become a better ballstriker. I love to hit good shots, and feel good shots. The feel, the sound, and the feedback is what I want. The ball also has something to do with it. Hey Arnie, where can I find some vintage Revolutions? I have begun to switch back to Titleist Professionals. What do you think about them as compared to the Revolutions?

84425 (would you mind if I called you J, sounds a little more polite than a numeric!) - thanks so much for sharing those insights and thoughts. Personally I actually find it quite uplifting to think of a community of golfers out there playing persimmon and blades and enjoying the same feelings as me. I’m definitely going soft, been reading too much Bagger Vance! Those M85s certainly are a wonderful to look at and play - some pics of the original driver here for those who might not have seen it and also the 90’s Centennial version (2nd from the left) which was released in 1996 with three others in celebration of the MacGregor centenary. I have just been speaking to our friend persimmonpal about some refinishing work he is doing on a full set (1,2,3,4) for me. The guy is really terrific as you know and does it pretty much for the love rather than for financial gain. This evening he was asking me about the paintfill colors for the toe and crown stamps: (Gold), face scoring lines: (Brick red) and the soleplate stamps: (Black). Then you need to choose if you would like original linen whipping, or nylon whipping and whether you like a satin finish or a high gloss finish. All good fun. Hopefully we can have a game some time both playing that driver!

All the best Arnie
M85 second from back.JPG

jgradds, great to hear you are also on board. :smiley: I don’t think the revolutions are quite as nice to play as the Professionals or other “proper” balatas but the shelf life is definitely longer. And they don’t feel as heavy as the modern balls do to me. You have to a bit careful when searching for the Revolutions as that badge has been used by Maxfli any number of times on their range. The ones I use are in the pics below - the give away is the multilayer 90 bit. They crop up on ebay UK ocassionally but not sure about US and elsewhere.

Cheers, Arnie
Multilayer 90.JPG

Thanks Arnie. I’ll be looking out for them on ebay. In my conversion to persimmon, I had no problem switching. I began the year with Sevam1 and a few of his swing thoughts while going persimmon at the same time. I’ve never hit the ball better so it’s a no brainer. I feel like I want to prove something to other players, but at the same time I know they’re thinking that they’re supposed to hit it longer/better than a guy hitting those “outdated” clubs. So I’ve really got nothing to lose. Anyway, I’ve quit hitting balls or playing until I get through a majority of the modules. So far I’ve resisited the urge to play and I just work on the lagbag. :wink:

Grad, I’m impressed with your discipline…

AA, Thanks for the compliments on the Equipment thread about the Dynas…Also, I tend to practice with an old shag bag with old balls inside…Anyway, I’ve found the Maxfli Rev is one of the best too…I’ve got an old Topflight II in there which goes pretty good…

But the ball that everyone might be able to find is some original Nike Gold’s when they first came out…

Mashie - can you tell us a little about the Golds and why you like them? I might pick some up to try.

Cheers, Arnie

A couple times I played at The Presidio Golf Club in SF, showed up with an old bag, and of course my persimmons and vintage gear. I didn’t say a thing to my playing partners… about being a former tour pro or anything. Shot 70 and 73, while they all shot 85 and 96 or whatever all decked out with that latest gear and fashion.

My only explanation was that I said the greatest golfers used the greatest gear, so that’s why I use what I use. I never did tell them. Who knows what kind of impression that left… but I can tell you they were shocked. :open_mouth:


The Nike Gold’s are in my shag bag…At the end of my practice when I pick them up, I noticed the Nike Gold’s and the Maxfli Rev’s seem to to fly the best in terms of distance…Then later with the next shag bag the same thing seems to happen with these balls that they seem to go well with the old gear…

Here’s what was in play last weekend in our intraclub match. The PC’s have become my iron of choice. I have one practice set and 2 “gamers” which I was able to get in amazingly good condition for being some 25 years old. You can still see the white paint on the lower groove of the irons in this particular set. The deep face TP was another ebay purchase… tough to find these in this good of a condition:

persimmonnblades 001.jpg
persimmonnblades 002.jpg
persimmonnblades 003.jpg

persimmonnblades 009.jpg
persimmonnblades 010.jpg
persimmonnblades 008.jpg

Wonderful stuff Robbo - I havn’t had a set of PCs but I am tempted by what you and Two have said about the weight in them. They pop up from time to time in the UK but rarely in the condition you have there. That Toney Penna JS has me feeling :mrgreen: I have always coveted Lags - see the depth below on Lags monster version!


You can’t go wrong with the PC’s. My sets are in the D3 to D5 range with midsize grips on them (which I suspect moves the swingweight down some). They have a nice clean look to them and a great feel.

My Penna is actually the same model as Lag’s but is probably a year or 2 newer. The “JS” was their deep face model and stands for “Jupiter Slugger” (the Penna factory was located in Jupiter, Florida). I think the older model (1977?) was available only in black (like Lag’s) while the slightly newer one (79?) was available in mahogany.


So we had a first gathering of the newborn UK Persimmon Golf Society today. Just the 3 of us but from little acorns…!

The venue was Huntercombe GC a lovely old course in the heart of england designed by Willie Park Jr in 1901. Not long but quite tight and lots of fun. Very little bunkering but plenty of hollows some of which were the result of wartime bombing rather than the architects original design! The weather wasn’t kind (poured down most of the time) but we had a great time both on and off the course. Its the first time I have actually played with other people also playing persimmon and I have to say it was really nice. I wish I could do it it more often. The pace of play was brisk with no hunting for lost balls and the scoring at 76, 81, 82 (me) was pretty good given the conditions. Some pics of the course, soaking wet players and weaponry on show attached!

Cheers, Arnie
Huntercombe GC.jpg
Chris tees off.jpg
Graham & Christian Morris.jpg
Graham & Christian McMillan.jpg

great stuff…

I wouldn’t be surprised if you double the membership in a year!
how about 300 members in 3 years?

Everyone should start a society… I might have to do that here in SF!

nice job Arnie!

playing persimmon and surrounded by christians :open_mouth:

hope you had a good one mate, sure sounds like fun