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Did Golfers Of Yesteryear Have It Tougher?


csh19792001
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Note: This is NOT about field strength. That's already (pretty much) been decided. This was prompted by this post from the 15 year long, 7000+ post Tiger vs. Jack Thread. 

 

Look at the equipment differences between 1980 and today.  People who never played persimmon woods, forged player irons with minimal forgiveness, balata balls, and non-frequency matched iron shafts have no idea how much harder it was to hit the ball without an excellent, repeating swing.  Sweet spot a size of a dime, no more than a nickel.  Pretty hard to take when a shot was off the sweet spot.  A drive being 40-50 yards short just by being 1/2 an inch off. Comparing 2020-2021 to 1980 is like comparing a 1956 Corvette to a 2021 Corvette.  Simply a different machine that’s incomparable.
 

Also, tour course conditions were not as good back in 1980 as they are today.  Greens weren’t as smooth then, bunker sand was not as fine and consistent, fairways were softer.  Totally different game back then compared to today.  

 

I agree with all of this. I'll also add that the balata ball flew distinctly shorter (and more crooked) than the non wound composite balls of later (Pro V1 was introduced in early 2000, if memory serves). Truly changed the game forever.

 

 

I've been watching a ton of old Masters Final Rounds, thanks to someone who uploaded every single year 1968-2020 on Youtube.

 

My thinking is this- no personal trainers, no personal entourages for each player, no dieticians/nutritionists, no sports medicine, no kinesiology, no weight training, no advanced technologies to aid them/their analysis, a lot of driving to tournaments, drastically smaller prize pools/less luxury or even comfort/financial security (etc etc)........all for players before the 2000's, I'd estimate. To varying degrees, but most of these things in the 21st Century that are a given, simply weren't in Jack Nicklaus' era. 

 

My other thing is basically when that poster said in the above post. Nick Price said in 1999 that "We simply couldn't swing 100% like today's guys; it was an entirely losing proposition." Today's players can all swing 100% on every swing, and rarely make a massive mistake or lose a ton of distance.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_(golf)#/media/File:Golf_drivers_old_and_new.jpg

 

Watching those old Masters, I see players (on a drastically shorter Augusta National) consistently hitting 3 clubs more, or irons from the same length of shot, and see players (yes, even Nicklaus) hitting woods and 1 irons into par 5's, long irons into par 4's, etc. etc.

 

I thought the discussion here might be, something like, how much harder was golf for old time PGA Tour Pros versus today's players? If, at all? Or was it easier to play at the highest levels, then?

 

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I used to play a blonde persimmon Mac driver with an aluminum insert and Maxfli HT100’s

 

pure drives were a unique fantastical feeling … miss those days and the clicking of spikes on paths 

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i've always read that there's little difference when the ball is struck in the sweet spot ... but, that's the rub ... today's pros/golfers can mishit the ball and it will go further, as pointed out above ... that's what made jack's combo of length and accuracy so deadly ... i've pointed this out several times: in 1980, he finished 10th in distance and 13 in accuracy off the tee ... at age 40 ... that's incredible ... 

 

far as the swing goes, don't know that it's harder or easier, but in terms of just being a pro, it was much harder back then ... travel was harder, purses were smaller (requiring more focus/competition for the biggest checks), and the tour in general had few of the amenities they have now ... the 50th guy on the winnings list wasn't living it up ... 

 

i mean, they didn't have golfwrx to tell em what they're doing wrong ... imagine!

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33 minutes ago, Soloman1 said:

The problem with a topic like this is that talking about or watching golf played in the 1960's and 1970's is not the same as playing golf in the 1960's and 1970's.

 

"I've watched a lot of baseball and here's what it's like to stand at the plate in a MLB game..."

 

"I watched a lot of YouTube videos about Vietnam and here's what it was like..."

 

Oh, and wow, RobotDoctor. What a great barrel of goodies. 

 

 

There’s a couple good woods in there. 😉

Driver:  TaylorMade 300 Mini 11.5° (10.2°), Fujikura Ventus Blue 5S Velocore

3W:  TaylorMade M4 15°, Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7S

Hybrid:  TaylorMade Sim2 2 Iron Hybrid 17°, Mitsubishi Tensai AV Raw Blue 80 stiff

Irons:  Ben Hogan Icon blades 4-PW, Nippon Modus3 Tour 120 stiff

GW / LW:  Scratch Golf 1018 forged 50°/ 58° DS, Nippon Modus3 Tour 120 stiff

SW:  Callaway MD5 Jaws 54°, TT DG Tour Issue S200 115g wedge shaft

Putter: Byron Morgan DH89 GSS custom, Salty MidPlus cork grip

Grips: BestGrips Augusta Microperf leather slip on

 

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1 hour ago, RobotDoctor said:

 

 

 

 

IMG_8408.jpg

 

Jr M43T crown.JPEG

 

Jr M43T sole.JPEG

 

 

Persimmon collection 20211023.jpg
 

 

 

Everything you said is pretty spot on but I've gotta say that picture is just so awesome. just so sweet! 

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Vokey - SM7 52* 56* 60* KBS Tour Black 120s

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Grips- Iomic Sticky 2.3 .60

 

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Being from the persimmon era(started playing in 1970 as a 7yo), one should never question Nicklaus' abilities. Saw him when I was 12 for the first time (and many times after) and when he hit a full swing shot it made a completely different sound than the other pros. Woods and irons. Launch angle was nothing compared to today as the ball would start out low and rise. His just kept rising. Was really amazing. Makes me wonder what he could do in his 20s.

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2 hours ago, Hawkeye77 said:

The feel and the sound of balata off the persimmon (or cycolac insert!).  

I prefer vulcanized paper fiber of the classic woods into the early 60s, especially the MacGregor pro line woods  of the early/mid 50s (1950-1955).  There's something about a M43, 945W, M85W or 693 that is just so classic.  Then add a LFF into the mix.  All with paper fiber inserts.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh ❤️

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Driver:  TaylorMade 300 Mini 11.5° (10.2°), Fujikura Ventus Blue 5S Velocore

3W:  TaylorMade M4 15°, Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7S

Hybrid:  TaylorMade Sim2 2 Iron Hybrid 17°, Mitsubishi Tensai AV Raw Blue 80 stiff

Irons:  Ben Hogan Icon blades 4-PW, Nippon Modus3 Tour 120 stiff

GW / LW:  Scratch Golf 1018 forged 50°/ 58° DS, Nippon Modus3 Tour 120 stiff

SW:  Callaway MD5 Jaws 54°, TT DG Tour Issue S200 115g wedge shaft

Putter: Byron Morgan DH89 GSS custom, Salty MidPlus cork grip

Grips: BestGrips Augusta Microperf leather slip on

 

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4 hours ago, RobotDoctor said:

If your going to use my comments from other threads I would appreciate a quote.

 

 

Also, have you ever hit a balata ball when they were current balls, or even one today with a persimmon wood?  While I might have agreed with you regarding the balata ball being shorter than current 2/3/4/5 piece balls, I hit a drive with a MacGregor M43T driver (pictured here) and a Titleist Tour 100 compression balata ball (from the mid 1990s) during a round last summer.  This was the same driver model that Greg Norman used in the 1980s and this particular wood is very close to Norman's except this one has 9° loft.  Norman's driver had 9 degrees of loft but had a face progression that when hit low it was like 7-8 degree loft and an extra stiff shaft (maybe X500).  That said, the drive with my M43T went 5 yards farther than a very well struck drive with my Taylormade M3 440cc 9.9° driver (with Graphite Design Tour AD DI 6S 44.5") and 2016 Taylormade Tour Preferred ball.  I couldn't believe the distance the drive produced but I nailed that balata perfectly between the screws and the ball carried very well (have to love the front range of Colorado). Both drives were shot with the range finder to be at 300 yards and 305 yards (balata and M43T driver).  This was verified by the on cart GPS.  I swung about 90% of my max.  The problem is that if the ball wasn't struck well, say towards one of the middle screws or even on the wood then there would have been a significant distance loss.  Middle screw on toe side would have resulted in probably a 15-20 yard loss in distance.  Any drive centered on the toe of the driver would have resulted in 50-60 yard loss of distance, possibly a little more.  Persimmon woods required precision to hit well.

 

With regard to personal trainers, personal entourages, dieticians/nutritionists, sports medicine, kinesiology, weight training, advanced technologies to aid with swing analysis, much of this was not available or even thought of up to the 1980s or even into the early 1990s.  Of course there was some weight training and exercise (see Gary Player) but most believed weight training built up the wrong muscles for golf and this was widely avoided.  Some tour players, including Jack Nicklaus, did benefit from personal coaching.  Jack's coach, Jack Grout was a heralded golf professional and was influential in developing young Jack and his swing.  Jack Grout was Jack Nicklaus' advanced technology for swing analysis up to a point that Nicklaus knew his swing so well he could monitor it himself.  As for travel, Jack Nicklaus had a private plane, as did Arnold Palmer and a few other touring pros in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Air travel became standard in the 70s for most exempt touring pros.

 

Today's professionals don't have a cake walk either.  The game is difficult and we are seeing a transformation of the game by unprecedented distances.  I am not as impressed with the general distances most professionals are hitting.  When we look at irons the lofts are much stronger than back in the early 90s and before.  Irons from the 70s and 80s had PW lofts at 50° or 51° compared to the new old standard of 46° but now at 42° or 44°.  The old 8 iron was around 42° so the distance with irons isn't impressive.  What is impressive is the distances with woods, especially drivers.  Pure insanity.  Then again course conditions at tour events, especially in the fairway when they are not soaked are firm and balls will roll.  Back in the 70s and 80s golf balls did not roll in the fairway as much as they do in the fairway today.  The fact of the matter is that golf back into the 80s and even around 1990 was a totally different than golf is today.  There has been an evolution and that is fine.  But to dismiss someone like Jack Nicklaus and his greatness, along with many other 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s contemporaries, based on scoring average comparison is simply naive.  Different eras, hard to compare.  It is like comparing Apples to a Rib Eye Steak, both are food but not in the same category.

 

So I get back to my initial question, have you ever hit a balata ball with a persimmon wood?  If not I would encourage this so that you might have an idea in comparison between equipment of today and the woods of yesterday.  I bring out a few of my drivers from time to time just for nostalgia's sake.  It is a blast to hit them.   There is nothing like the sound or feel of a perfectly struck balata ball with persimmon woods.  eBay has woods for sale for inexpensive prices and there are balata balls for sale (not as inexpensive).  Buy one and try it.  Tee the ball lower than what you would with metal woods today.  I would recommend NOT swinging as hard as you might with your modern day driver.  Try 85% because my finding is that anything more than 90% will lead to miss hits and anything at 100% will most likely produce a poor shot, unless you're lucky to strike the center of the wood.

 

 

 

 

If you're going to make such long posts I would appreciate you breaking it up into many more paragraphs to make it easier to read.

 

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10 hours ago, bladehunter said:

It’s weird.  I pulled this little powerbuilt citation persimmon 5 wood out of my garden shed the other day.  with the mind of giving it to that buddy who is on a persimmon journey.  I couldn’t resist hitting it since I have room at home to do so.  5 balls in I was hooked.  It’s so dang easy to hit. And somehow promotes the upright , tempoed swing that is my natural one.  I don’t naturally lash at the ball.  But I do with modern clubs. It’s just is a result of them.  I’ve always known it.  It just happens.  And since they forgive and I hit it pretty far , it will work for score.  BUT….. it’s not really satisfying in a way.  
 

i went ahead and gave him that 5 wood. But the feeling of hitting it.  The heft of the Steel shaft etc , hasn’t left my mind. So much so that I also pulled a 975D 7.5 head out of that garden shed and a separate off brand driver with a s400u dynamic gold shaft , and am contemplating marrying the two. Not persimmon I know. But from the era of my late youth.  And would have the same heft.  
 

 

 

I popped my 975D in my bag over the weekend. Weather meant that I was not even able to head to the driving range but I wanted in my bag for my next range trip. Just the thought of hitting it felt like a treat.

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11 hours ago, Forged4life said:

975D paired with pro V1 changed the game 

Driver used to be a difficult club to hit, a guy had to really sack up on 18 with a tournament, a cut, a club championship or a press on the line. If a hole had trouble on both sides there was a time when the 1 iron came out. You would be INSANE today to choose a 1 iron over a driver, it’s now the easiest club in the bag to hit. 

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Yes, it was harder. The Big Bertha driver was considered revolutionary for a reason. 
I played in the  persimmon, blades, and balata era. I am not nostalgic for it.
Metal woods, graphite shafts for woods, cavity back irons, options in iron shafts, and solid core urethane balls are progressive and not bad things.
Different than the previous era but so was hickory over steel and balata over gutta percha or whatever. 

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I played persimmon and old irons in college - it was definitely a harder game.  I played hickory for 5 or 6 years up until a few years ago.  That, I think, is harder still.

 

The game became easier for me when we put a light weight shaft in my Spaulding persimmon driver, and when I received a set of Lynx irons in 1978.  The Lynx irons were somewhat perimeter weighted, and had a bit of offset, which helped to draw the ball with my irons.

 

Regarding fitness, Jack Nicklaus had a tennis court built at his home in Florida, and used that to stay fit.  He also became a good friend with Rod Laver.  During the winter in which he decided to lose a lot of weight, he would take 5 or 6 clubs and play at La Gorce, running between shots.  True story.

 

We stayed fit by playing squash and platform tennis in the winter.  Bobby Jones played a form of badminton that they named after a movie star who introduced it to him and his friends back in 1929 before his big year.

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Robotdoctor, I love that bag of persimmon woods you have. I have a similar bag, although not quite as many as you in steel shafts. My hickory collection is another story since I play with them more.

 

I would encourage anyone to pick up a couple persimmon woods and try them out first before making any comparisons with modern equipment and of course balls. Today’s Driver has a huge head, long shaft length and is more forgiving. A Driver from 1980 and before was typically 43” compared to 45.5” today. I play my historical clubs more than my modern one’s because they inspire creativity and I just enjoy playing with them. What’s more, I usually score close to what I do with modern equipment as long as I am playing from the appropriate tee blocks. Typically, my drives are about 20 yards shorter with the old equipment. 
 

I also play the old irons a lot and find that they have actually improved my game since I focus better on clean contact and smooth tempo.

 

The result is that I better appreciate what Arnie, Jack and others could do. They played a more multi dimensional game than what we see today. They were very good.

 

 

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