Game Changers: Spotlighting influential innovations over the last 50 years
Remember the first time you tried the original Big Bertha, the Eye2, or a Pro V1? How about when launch monitors seemed positively futuristic? Wax nostalgic as you check out some of the innovations that changed the golf equipment landscape over the last 50 years. And things are only getting better—just something to keep in mind as you unsheathe your shiny, new, adjustable 460cc driver.
1966: PING ANSER PUTTER
Designed with heel-and-toe weighting and a center of gravity below the equator of the ball, the Anser putter creates a quick forward roll and is adopted by pros and amateurs alike. George Archer uses an Anser to win the 1969 Masters.
1972: COLOR CODING SYSTEM
Ping introduces a Color Coding System that indicates the lie angle of the club. The public becomes aware of the game-improving importance of having irons with the proper lie angle for your swing.
1979: TAYLORMADE "PERSIMMON" WOOD
Gary Adams designs a cast stainless steel driver and calls his new company TaylorMade. The club was nicknamed the "Pittsburgh Persimmon." In 1981, Ron Streck wields one to win the PGA Tour's Michelob Houston Open.
1982: PING EYE2 IRONS
Ping releases its Ping Eye2 irons. Two years later, the company adds revolutionary square grooves to increase spin. Additional offset and perimeter weighting help make the user-friendly club among the most popular of all time.
1988: CLEVELAND 588 WEDGE
Cleveland's iconic 588 wedge becomes the model for almost all modern wedges that follow. Cast from soft carbon steel and featuring high-spinning U-grooves, the 588 and its offshoots have been used by pros and amateurs alike for a quarter-century.
1989: FOOTJOY DRYJOY SHOE
Shortly after its introduction, the FootJoy DryJoy shoe becomes the standard in waterproof footwear, matching the popularity of the company's StaSof glove, which is now celebrating its 25th anniversary as the most popular glove in golf.
1990: MIZUNO FORGED IRONS
Nick Faldo uses Mizuno Forged irons to win the green jacket [and does it again in 1996], and the public takes notice. Made with a patented grain-flow forging process that aligns the grain structure throughout the clubhead to provide reduced vibration and a buttery-smooth feel, these irons for a time become the hottest on Tour.
1991: CALLAWAY BIG BERTHA DRIVER
Callaway introduces the 190cc stainless steel Big Bertha driver. With its unique shape and a shaft tip that extends through the clubhead, the Bertha is the rarest of things: a club designed to maximize performance for amateurs that is then adopted by pros. Four years later the company introduces its first titanium driver, the Great Big Bertha, measuring 265cc.
Odyssey unveils a mallet made of a black material called Stronomic. In 1994 the company introduces Dual Force putters made from stainless steel with lightweight Stronomic inserts. The Rossie I and Rossie II mallets—the latter of which Nick Faldo will use to win the 1996 Masters—are a hit.
1993: SOFTSPIKES PLASTIC CLEATS
The Softspikes plastic spike makes its debut, courtesy of Boise, Idaho duo Faris McMullin and Ernie Deacon. "A side benefit to plastic cleats, apart from less damage to greens and carpets, was that they were more comfortable," says Doug Robinson, VP of product design and development worldwide for FootJoy. In time, metal spikes all but disappear from the game.
1994: TITLEIST PROFESSIONAL BALL
The Titleist Professional ball bridges the gap between traditional wound and liquid-filled models [like the Tour Balata] and solid-core, multilayer models yet to take over the game. The Professional's proprietary urethane cover makes it nearly indestructible compared to balata models. "While our interest in urethanes dates as far back as the 1960s, we had worked on what would become the Professional ball from the mid-1980s until its introduction in 1994," says Bill Morgan, senior vice president of golf ball R&D, Titleist. "It required a new process for covering the golf ball. And this pointed the way to thinner layers and multilayer designs."
1996: TOP-FLITE STRATA BALL
Top-Flite introduces the Strata, the first multilayer ball played on Tour. Mark O'Meara uses it to win the 1999 Masters.
CLUB GLOVE LAST BAG
With a zipper on top and wheels that can go over rugged surfaces, Club Glove's Last Bag travel bag earns its name.
ADAMS TIGHT LIES
The Tight Lies low-profile fairway wood captivates amateurs.
1997: MAXFLI REVOLUTION BALL
Maxfli launches the Revolution ball, its answer to the Titleist Professional. Similar to the Professional in terms of construction [urethane cover and wound layer], the Revolution features a significant difference: a solid core. The new ball provides distance off the tee and feel around the greens.
1999: TAYLORMADE RESCUE
TaylorMade releases Rescue clubs designed to help golfers get the ball airborne. The much-imitated club borrows design features from early-1900s irons and woods.
2000: TITLEIST PRO V1 BALL
Titleist introduces the Pro V1 in October, and Billy Andrade wins with one before year's end. Soon the Pro V1 is the most popular ball on Tour [Pro V1 and Pro V1x remain on top of the ball game today].
GOLF LOGIX GPS
Few could ever imagine using a GPS device to figure out yardages, but Golf Logix GPS becomes the first handheld GPS unit made for golf. [Today it has more than three million users.]
TAYLORMADE 300 SERIES DRIVERS
The 300 Series drivers come in 300cc, 320cc, and 360cc. The first mainstream driver with a flexible face [COR of USGA limit .830], the club introduces the idea of fitting a driver to a swing.
2001: ODYSSEY 2-BALL PUTTER
The Odyssey 2-Ball putter sports a quirky clubhead design and responsive insert, helping it become one of the most popular clubs on the planet.
AEROTECH STEELFIBER SHAFTS
In the mid-1990s this company, known for its composite hockey sticks, starts applying the same technology to golf. In 2001, engineers make a shaft with the consistency and stability of steel and the weight and vibration-dampening benefits of composite. SteelFiber has since been adopted by such top players as Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, and Fred Couples.
2003: TRACKMAN TRAINING DEVICE
Created by Danish scientist Fredrik Tuxen, TrackMan is a radar revelation and quickly becomes the industry standard, so much so that Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher Brian Manzella says, "On Tour, where 'close' isn't good enough, TrackMan is king." The ability to instantaneously and accurately measure ball flight, club delivery, and launch parameters is a game-changer that continues to transform clubfitting and teaching today. "If you're not working with it," says Manzella, "you're guessing way more than you need to and giving up too much to others who aren't."
2004: TAYLORMADE R7 QUAD
TaylorMade brings out the R7 Quad. It's the first driver that allows the center of gravity to be moved [with weights] to alter and optimize launch conditions, becoming the model for many drivers to come.
2009: NIKE SQ DYMO 2 STR8-FIT DRIVER
Nike's SQ Dymo 2 Str8-Fit driver has a hosel that for the first time can be adjusted to provide eight possible clubface and lie-angle settings. Like the TaylorMade R9, it's a major advancement in driver design.
TAYLORMADE BURNER IRONS
Featuring a flexible face [COR of .810], TaylorMade Burner is the first mass-market iron to utilize wood-like technology to provide significantly higher ballspeeds and distance.
2010: ECCO "STREET" SHOES
When Fred Couples plays the Masters in a pair of what appear to be sneakers, they look casual but cool. Couples says the widely imitated Ecco Golf Street shoes relieve pressure on his back.
TITLEIST VOKEY SPIN MILLED C-C WEDGE
Designed in response to USGA and R&A rule changes on grooves, the Titleist Vokey Spin Milled C-C [Condition of Competition] wedge has lower-spinning grooves that conform to new guidelines. It also provides a higher trajectory on full shots.
2011: iPING PUTTER APP
To help fit players to the right putter, Ping develops the iPing Putter app. Made to work with a smartphone, the app measures stroke type, impact angle, and tempo. Not only can it be used on any putter [with a simple mount], but it can double as an instruction tool. The app coincided with another advancement: the Ping Anser Milled series marks the first time the venerable Anser line of putters is offered as a milled, stainless steel product.
2012: TAYLORMADE ROCKETBALLZ WOODS
The RocketBallz is the first fairway wood to offer the maximum allowable COR of .830. The club promises 17 more yards, but for many players delivers even more than that. A year later TaylorMade's RocketBladez Tour irons debut as a forged, better-player's club that features a lively, more flexible face for added distance. Tour players who embrace the iron include Justin Rose, who wins the U.S. Open.
2013: ODYSSEY TANK PUTTER
On the heels of the USGA decision banning anchored putting, the industry responds with counterbalanced designs, such as Odyssey's Tank. A heavy head, grip and shaft stabilize the club through the stroke, giving anchorers new life on the greens.
TAYLORMADE SLDR DRIVER
The low-forward center-of-gravity location in the SLDR driver flies against the typical approach that places the CG low and farther back in the head. With proper loft fitting, the club's low-spin characteristics [and faster ball speeds] can lead to distance gains. Also, a 20-gram sliding weight along the sole is used to tweak shot shape.