First of all, you can’t take much out the fact that Dustin Johnson hit Jack Nicklaus’ old persimmon driver 290 yards carry and 318 total distance, because I’m pretty sure he was hitting modern balls.
It’s not just the modern drivers that are allowing players to drive it longer – the driver specifications have been restricted for years now with maximum head size and trampoline limits – the balls have not seen any restrictions and they are flying much further than the old surlyn and balata balls did.
I actually discussed this when Rickie Fowler hit a persimmon driver – it’s almost as if every time discussion of the equipment advances hurting the game comes up, some PGA Tour pro picks up a persimmon driver and “Hey, look! I can hit this as far as my own clubs!”
Not true. If they are using modern balls, then they will indeed be able to get close to the distances they hit the balls with their own clubs if they get good contact, but if the point is to say that this proves anything, then it’s another exercise in cynicism, because we saw Tiger Woods a few weeks back hitting his 2 iron close to 300 yards off the tee.
If you’re going to try to tell me that he would be able to do that with a 70’s era 2 iron blade and a balata ball – which you wouldn’t, because you know that would be absurd – then you need a reality check.
I blogged last year as well about reaching a 600 yard par 5 hole in two, the second shot being a 275 yard or so blast with a Jack Nicklaus McGregor persimmon 4-wood – the catch is that I did it with a Pro V1, and I know there’s no way I could have done that with a balata ball from the 90’s.
So, this from Chris Kirk courtesy of Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard, is laughable:
“The driver and the ball don’t go any further than they did eight years ago. That’s the thing that everybody is missing,” said Kirk, who opened with a 67 for a share of the early lead at the Dell Technologies Championship. “Guys are making it go further. People wanting to change the rule and change the ball and change the stuff, it doesn’t matter.”
“… Every professional sport, it doesn’t matter, guys continue to get better, that’s just the way it goes. And I don’t see why everyone has such an issue with that,” he said.
The very proof of this being an exercise in cynicism is that Kirk, a Tour pro, would know very well that Drivers have been restricted since before the 8 years he conveniently uses as his marker – so the advances from the driver came in the years before things leveled out due to those imposed restrictions.
Not to mention, I mentioned in a post a while back:
Fast-Forward 20 years to 2016 and a now 50-year-old John Daly averaged 303 yards driving on the Champions Tour – so that’s 15 yards longer average drive from Long John, twenty years older.
16 yards longer than when he was half the age… sure, it isn’t the equipment, John Daly and Tom Watson were just younger, stronger and fitter playing the Champions Tour than they were in their prime playing years on the regular Tour… got it!!
So, if you ask Chris Kirk how a 60 year old Tom Watson is driving the ball 16 yards longer on average than he did at the age of 31 (when he would have been using persimmon and balata), he would probably stop talking.
Which would be a good idea – don’t we get subjected to ads every 10 minutes telling us how much longer today’s new golf balls are than yesterday’s?
Aren’t we always being told that today’s new driver will add 7 or 8 yards to your drives?
Plus, today’s pros have found loopholes in driving with the modern equipment.
And it’s not because they’re exceeding their limits – first of all, the trampoline rule only addresses the sweet spot in the face of the driver being tested, and pros have long since learned that impacting the ball above the sweet spot on the face gives you more trampoline than the sweet spot does – and they aren’t testing anywhere but in the sweet spot.
As well, the clubs of today are incredibly forgiving – you will drive it nearly as far off the heel or toe today with the modern drivers as you do off the sweet spot, and that’s the advantage – today’s players are swinging harder than the classic era guys, because they know as long as they can make contact, they’ll still get the ball out there a decent distance.
With the old equipment, you had to get it on the sweet spot or you couldn’t compete, let alone make millions hitting it sideways (but still 300 yards out) and punching out to the green with a wedge.
Not to mention, there are no restrictions placed on metal woods and irons – none whatsoever – which is why pros are hitting 3 metals 330 yards off the tee now, and why 42 year old Tiger Woods can get it out nearly 300 yards with an iron off the tee.
They are making a mockery of the so-called “equipment rules,” which only apply to the driver to begin with.
As for Kirk’s claim that performance increases in every other sport – other sports have taken measures to protect the game, like tennis with a slower ball for the pros, and baseball pros still having to use wooden bats when amateurs can use aluminium bats.
This is the thing – amateurs should be able to use easier-to-play equipment, but why would the pros need it?
The question I have is – why are Tour pros, the best in the world, insisting on using equipment designed to give the weekend hacker an easier time playing the game?
If they’re so good, why aren’t they using equipment that will show how good they are, rather than going around the track with training wheels on their bikes and claiming to be so great at handling the corners?
Pro equipment should not be easier to play than old standard equipment. If they’re going to use training wheel clubs and balls and make incredibly ingenious and self-serving claims, then they deserve to be called out and mocked.
There is a reason the pros are going to fight any equipment rollbacks tooth and nail, of course – many of them know that if they actually had to hit the sweet spot of the club to get the ball into play, they’d have to look for another line of work.
Something Jack Nicklaus or the Classic Golf Swing era players never worried about – if they were making a living on the Tour, they were great with that old equipment.
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