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Brent Kelley

More on 1950s Equipment vs. Modern Equipment

By May 30, 2009

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A few days ago we posted about the results of a long-drive exhibition that took place in 2003 at Carnoustie, in which PGA Tour and European Tour golfers used 1950s-era equipment. The longest drive was 251 yards; Vijay Singh managed only 219 yards (although, we assume, into a prevailing wind).

In the May 28 issue of Golf World, a similar experiment is described. Chad Campbell was the test subject at the recent HP Byron Nelson Championship, getting on the driving range and on the launch monitor both with his current equipment, and with a 1950s-era MacGregor Byron Nelson persimmon driver and a Titleist Tour Balata wound golf ball.

Golf World reports that with his current equipment, Campbell averaged 291 yards. With the persimmon driver and his current ball, 254 yards. With the persimmon driver and the wound ball, 247 yards. (I only wish they had also measured Campbell with his current driver and the wound ball - that would have made for more complete data.)

None of that is surprising, nor is the launch monitor data that showed modern equipment produces far better launch conditions. After all, that's what modern equipment has been targeted at doing for at least 15 years - tweaking the driver, tweaking the ball, better pairing the two to improve launch conditions such as launch angle and spin rate.

The author of the Golf World piece, Mike Stachura, does point out one piece of data that surprised everyone: Nearly half of the 44-yard difference between the old equipment and new equipment can be attributed to the lighter weight alone of the modern driver.

Campbell's current driver has a graphite shaft that weighs half of the weight of the steel shaft in the 1950s MacGregor Byron Nelson model driver. That difference in weight led to a 6-7 mph difference in swing speed - Campbell averaged 113 mph with his current driver, 106-107 mph with the persimmon driver. And for a tour player, that 6-7 mph difference in swing speed translates, Stachura writes, to about 15-20 more yards.

Read the full article.


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