Tradition vs Technology

Certainly there are at least two schools of thought on golf and technology.

When you make radical changes to a game that is steep in tradition, you are bound to have a lot of controversy…

From my viewpoint I see golf in three ages…

The hickory age

The steel/ persimmon age

The Titanium age

The hickory age, your average expert would drive about 200-220
Steel shafts put that same player out 240-260
Now 280 plus.

I wonder if baseball went to grapefruit over-sized titanium bats, and a hotter ball… how would that effect the game? They could make bigger ball parks I suppose, and of course pitchers would be wearing protective gear too…

I see chess and golf as games of strategy and skill… the different pieces are like different clubs in the bag, in that they have different powers… would chess be more exciting and enjoyable if the pawns were given new powers? could move two spaces instead of one and also have full diagonal domain? Maybe the king could move like a queen?

If these changes were made in these sports or games, would that give more enjoyment to the player and or the fans as well?

There have always been long drive contests, and I agree that they do make a hit with fans, when I was playing the Canadian Tour in the late 80’s a fellow named Kelly Murray used to have long drive clinics each week, and he would be doing all kinds of things like hitting balls off the top of the CN Tower in Toronto or over some gorge or river… people loved it… but they would still come out to watch the tournament too.
even when Kelly would miss the cut…

I don’t see a problem with putting a clock on golfers or chess players…
speed of play has been a problem for decades… If I were king I would make a few rules changes to the game for sure, with regard to lost balls, and provisionals…


Are they still using wooden Cricket bats? is the ball hotter now?
how has that effected things?

If baseball went the high tech route in MLB, would fans really like to see shortstops hitting 100 homers a year?

If they made the bat 3 times as thick, easier to hit…? would that be good?

We could eliminate 3 putts in golf by making the hole 5 times a big.
We’d see a lot more golfer’s in the 70’s for sure, and tour pros would routinely be in the 50’s … Is that good for the game? it’s traditions?
maybe, why not?

I’m just putting these questions out there…

I think most believed golf was a game of tradition once everyone got used to steel shafts and the 250 yard drive in the 1930’s… it really didn’t change much for the next 50 years… nothing major really…

Golf is a different game now, and the cat is too far out of the bag for things to go back…

Is Tiger the best ever? I have no idea… not even a clue…
If he was playing persimmon with similar gear and shooting 20 under at Augusta with blade irons similar to those of golfs past… If Augusta was still only 6800 as it used to be with no rough … we could draw some safer conclusions…

I am one who welcomes controversy and alternative opinions. I was actually throw off a board last year for spouting my opinions about how corporate America has bullied the USGA and R and A and now makes the rules for the game regarding legal equipment. I am American and enjoy exercising my first Amendment rights regarding freedom of speech. I felt my arguments about the corporate take over of golf that has taken place were very legitimate, well articulated, and thought out. I also question why three of the worlds majors are on U.S. soil, and personally I view the Australian Open to be the 4rth major of the world.
If you look at the the list of champions through the 50’s – 80’s it certainly looks viable for such consideration, great tradition also.
The U.S. PGA Championship, being a major makes no sense to me.
My argument would be that The Open, The U.S. Open are viable,
the Australian Open, and since The Masters is regarded as such a hallowed venue, great tradition, and at one time, possibly greatest test of golf, makes sense, and I think most world tour players love the idea of playing in the Masters. I missed an invite by one shot in 1983 and still haunts me to this day!

I just returned from a road trip and played some golf with some old friends who also enjoy a good game of persimmon. The subject of technique vs. technology came up on more than one occasion. One of the young pros we played with had his first experience with persimmon . He had never tried hitting a one iron either. Needless to say it was a tough day for him. This led me to think…… would the average golfer benefit from practicing with “tough to hit” clubs? It certainly takes more skill to strike a long iron high and straight with consistency, than to chop down on a series of 5 wedges. Learning to hit good long iron shots would always be beneficial for any long clubs, especially a driver. The mid irons would benefit as well. After a bit more thought, it might seem the modern game of juiced up distance takes a lot of the need for long irons out of the game, and I am seeing a lot of golfers leaving those “tough to hit clubs” at home or replacing them with other easy to hit combo clubs.

The young pro told us he doesn’t carry long irons, yet was complaining about not being able to find his swing bottom. Nothing could teach you about your swing’s bottom more than a 1-2 or 3 iron. A ball too far back won’t get off the ground… too far forward and the ball would be skulled or hit thin.

Any one else having a similar problem?

My preference for older gear is really simple. With irons I like the weight right behind the ball at impact not around the perimeter. If I could show you the set I used for the majority of my competitive days I think you would understand. As far as woods, I like the feel and sound of wood. I can work the ball better left and right off the tee, which I really need at my course, and I have no interest in hitting the ball 40 yards farther on a course that was built in 1886. I like hitting a few wedges a round but not on every hole. I have always preferred the old style gamy kind of courses… that’s why I loved playing in Australia. So many wonderful, lay of the land, courses,
tight fairways, fast greens, lot’s of wind and elements. It wasn’t always about hitting it far, and then chopping it out of the rough with a short iron. That wouldn’t work at “The Grange”, “New South Wales” or “The Golf Club of Tasmania”

The evolution of the modern courses. Looking back one might wonder is this a which came first?
The chicken or the egg?

Most of the games classic championship courses were around 6700 to 6900 yards. (not sure the metric conversion for you Aussies! lol)
The greens were small and well bunkered which really rewarded the accurate iron player. The fairways were typically tight, and carved out of the natural terrain, be it trees, gorse, or bush. Rough was not what it has become today. It didn’t need to be 4 inches high… it was hard to get it on the green, but not impossible. Greens were nicely manicured,
good enough that you would feel comfortable inside 6 to 10 feet. Nowadays, with the perfect greens and the speed, top players are almost expected to make 20 footers. By making the greens better,
it has essentially made putting much more important than it ever was before.

The new technology with the ball and jumbo drivers and shafts have added up to 20% to a typical players drives. When I was on tour I was about a 260 hitter… slightly longer than average. If I were to play the new gear I make the same swing and hit it over 300, about 20%.

The problem with golf the way I see it… is that the courses are not keeping up with the technology. A 20% increase in distance with the new clubs would need the courses to also be 20% longer to keep things equally relative. The classic 6800 yard Pebble Beach US Open course would have to be 8160 yards to keep the same perspective.

Ben Hogan talks about (In Five Lessons Preface) how he busted a drive and hit a 2 iron into the 18th a Merion on the 72 hole of the US Open. It was 440 yards I believe. That same hole would have to be 528 to fairly compare eras. It might even have to be longer as I think a driver and a comparable club to a 2 iron today might be
315 240 555. The modern course of course would have bigger greens to account for the extended accuracy angle vectors.

So from my more traditional perspective, I have a lot more reverence for Hogan’s feat than say Tiger hitting a drive and an 8 iron into a par 4 that’s 485.

What I saying is that today’s courses are not nearly long enough to challenge the world’s best in the ball striking arena. The paradox is that with the ball traveling so much farther, and the courses not keeping up % wise in length, we have a situation that the only way to keep the game a challenge at all is to dry out and slick the greens, grow the rough longer, so the game becomes drop it in from the sky with a short iron, and let the putting contest begin.

Alister MacKenzie said golf should be more about golf and not about walking (or in modern day, riding in a cart). I for one would tend to agree.

Just thinking that soccer, rugby, aussie rules, and American football are played on a rectangular grass field similar in size, there is a soft air filled ball, with goals on opposite sides of the playing field. The objective of moving the ball past and through opponents territory, with the only obstacles being players themselves. Someone seeing any of these games for the first time might see them as very similar upon first observation.

Croquet may have been a split from golf at one time, and I do wonder if we might be witnessing, or in the middle of an evolution of golf changing into something else.

The contagious idea of trying to make the game easier via equipment, ball, bigger greens, wider fairways, flatter landing areas, not to mention laser yardage scopes and so forth is in contrast to perfecting the technique of the individuals personal motion or swing.
Golfer’s today are much more likely to spend $1000 on a new set of clubs than series of lessons from a “qualified” instructor.

The changes in the swing we see, the more upright swings, the ball itself has changed again significantly, the playing fields (courses) are getting bigger, wider open, flatter, less trees, bigger greens… of course the clubs themselves have a different intent.

I personally doubt that Ben Hogan’s swing would have developed from today’s game and gear. As smart as he was, I think he would have applied himself totally differently and might be known as the best putter of all time, with the greatest most beautiful stroke, and a wedge game that might go down in history as the most accurate of all time. He would know that to become the world’s best, it would not be geared toward perfecting the two iron shot from various side hill lies.

The flat vs upright issue here has a lot to do with length vs accuracy.
Moe Norman, Hogan, Trevino look much different than Bubba or JB.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is the size of the hole… and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a coffee can cup evolve to make the game easier, so par golf could be more accessible for the weekend golfer. Would anyone ever three putt if the hole was the size of a five gallon paint bucket?

I think the reason for today’s rant (lol) stems from being invited to play in a pro event in November in Las Vegas, that will feature golf as it was, persimmon, blade irons, balata balls. It’s actually a classic club event, not sure what the cut off date is… but I think it will be pre 1978, before the first metal woods arrived. Not sure if Ping irons will be allowed, I don’t suspect they will. There will be a lot of tour pros there, and it will be interesting to see how it goes and if any momentum is created from the event. If it goes well, there is talk of several events around the states, and it could be the first sign of a split in the game. I’m actually looking forward to it.

I’d been away from the game since I retired from the Tour in 1993.
I felt I needed to really remove myself from golf to focus and be productive in other things in life. Being a weekend golfer never really interested me, in that my goals and ambitions have always been very high, probably to my detriment (quite sure of that!)

I didn’t take a club job, or even teach or sell clubs or move into golf management.

My return to the game this year has been very interesting, not only to me, but to others as well. Many of my contemporaries are still in the game in one way or another, and they have all seen the changes happen slowly, mostly with equipment. Metal woods have been around a long time, but they didn’t really do much in the early days
other than make it a bit easier to hit a driver off the deck. The early Talyor Made Tour Burners still had steel shafts, similar dead weights and so forth.

In my absence, a lot has changed… I really had no idea to the extent
that it did. I had heard about the “new ball” and this or that, but really had no idea how huge these changes were. There was always some new ball! The titleist 384 or the Maxfi DDH or even
a Topflite ball created controversy back when I was playing.

So in conversing with some of my contemporaries, of course these
things come up… and ideas get bounced around… and word gets around that John is back or whatever, and I am offering a very unique perspective in that I have been gone from the game for over
a decade.

I just can’t express enough how shocking it is to see this modern game. I could go on and on about what I see, and I realize it is just my observation. I clearly understand the argument for making the game easier to play for the average Joe, but this new gear is also
available to the Tour guys, and the implications of that are huge.

So of course things change, but I can say this… from 1935 when
Gene Sarazen hole the 4 wood from 235 yards at Augusta, to when I last played in 1993, we are looking at about 60 years of very small changes in the distance the ball travels. I’m a fairly long hitter, and if I pulled a 4 wood from my bag in 1993 I might expect to hit it about the same as Sarazen 58 years prior. Some of my contemporaries are saying that the new ball in combo with the new drivers are going 20% farther. So a guy hitting it 250 is now around 300. I think that is about right. My own unscientific evaluation is saying about 40 yards farther with my swing. (D3 13.5 ounce, 43.5 inch persimmon club) vs the latest and greatest whatever…

The Cat is too far out of the bag now for things to go back, I know this, and am under no illusion that we are going back to persimmon and small blade irons.

But if I am involved in an event or a series of events that cater to those pretentious purists who feel golf was just fine the way it was,
then since we will be evaluating the equipment issues, and rolling back the clock there… why not take this time to re evaluate the rules in general. Change is change, and if we all so openly accept that fact, then it would also seem logical that change could also mean
going backwards too… that would certainly be change as well…

One of the charms of the game being that it was not uncommon to see a 30 or 40 year old club in the bag of a tour player in the 1980’s.
Tommy Armour 693 or an R 90 sand wedge were common place.
Could you imagine that now?

I think that was wonderful for golf to have such a link to the past.
To host National Championships on courses built 80 years ago
is wonderful for golf… and not some lengthened redesigned version,
but the real deal. I would love to see how Tiger could compare to Jack or Arnie, Hogan or Player, Norman or Faldo.

In Australia, who’s going to erase all of Billy Dunk’s course records
with the new gear? A young kid smashing 340 yard drives and flipping wedges into four pars and short irons into 5 pars, shoots
63 and now he’s better than Dunk was?.. who used all the clubs in his bag and was back there hitting mid irons and long irons and shooting 64’s and 63’s… who are we kidding? :unamused:

Found this interesting footnote flicking through a book.-- A diagram about the distance Hogan hit his clubs

His iron distances seem quite low compared to his woods, even considering the older lofts I think. Did yesterday’s ball have anything to do with it?

Fascinating stuff TM and good observation Pip. My frst guess would be focused on changes in course set up /agronomy i.e. fairways wouldn’t have been as heavily watered back in the day so perhaps this helps explain the spread in distance as well as weaker lofts etc.

My educated?? guess may be they are talking about------ carry distance with his irons AND total distance (carry and roll) with his woods? … makes sense for there to be a gap if done that way

Interview with Norman a few years back

When the USGA can’t set up a course that is considered “a true masterpiece” to play the way it was designed (i.e play par 5’s as par 5’s and not par 4’s) you know the game has gotten way out of hand and the governing body is just scrambling to take cover. Its a real shame and an insult to “tradition” IMO.

I always thought that the best way you could set up the 5 pars on a par 72 was to have one that everybody could reach, one that nobody could reach and two where you got a chance but a risk too. Like Pebble and LACC. If you have a tough par 70 just have the two with a chance like Baltusrol. That’s a perfect world type deal but that seems like the most interesting and fair way.

Article from 1990 talking about persimmon woods- just when the trend to move away from them started according to PGA stats and figures