Luke Donald tees it up with vintage clubs

Thursday February 22nd, 2007

Sure, your equipment is better than the stuff that was in your dad's golf bag but how much better? We put GOLF MAGAZINE Contributing Player Luke Donald on the case, turning him loose at Desert Forest Golf Club in Carefree, Arizona, armed with 45-year-old clubs: MacGregor's Eye-O-Matic 60 driver and Tourney Velocitized fairway woods, Wilson Staff Dyna-Powered irons and sand wedge, a Ben Hogan Equalizer pitching wedge, a Bulls Eye putter, and an original Ping 1-A putter. He used two types of Titleist balls his current model, the Pro V1x, and a new sleeve of Tour 90 balatas from a decade ago, the softest ball we could find that we were sure wouldn't implode. For comparison's sake, he also hit shots with his current clubs, including a 365cc titanium-headed driver with a graphite shaft.

Here is Donald's report:



Though the heads are much smaller than what I'm used to, these woods are real good-looking, especially considering they're decades older than I am. The sweetspot may be tiny, but you can tell these clubs have great balance; everything's in proportion. Today's drivers are more head-heavy.

Well, here goes nothing....

There's a big difference in the sound and feel at impact. The persimmon feels dead, like I'm hitting a grapefruit. It's a struggle to get the ball into the air with the driver. The balata ball has a low, flat trajectory that dives quickly at the end. (My Pro V1x proves easier to get airborne, but only just.) On the 1st hole, I make a decent swing at least the contact feels fine. But when I look up the ball is knee-high. Almost gives the photographer a haircut.

My current driver sends it 50 yards past the old MacGregor with modern balls, 20-35 yards with the balata. I don't see as much difference in the fairway woods. At the 7th hole, a par 5, I have 245 yards left. With the 3-wood I hit a balata straight and get it to the green, but my second attempt, with a Pro V1x, takes off just as straight but much higher and stays in the air a lot longer. The difference between the old and new balls is amazing. Jack Nicklaus always says the modern ball is the biggest reason for the length we get these days. Now I have to agree.

The '59 Wilson irons are comparable to my Mizuno MP-33s. The hosel on the old ones is thicker and the blade shorter, but the shape, offset and topline are similar. I notice the Wilson 4-iron has more loft than my Mizuno 4-iron, and the shaft is about an inch and a half shorter. Not surprisingly, my current set plays about a club longer throughout the bag. The old pitching and sand wedges perform like I'm used to wedge design has stayed pretty classical. But on shorter shots the balata ball produces a different feeling, like it wants to stick to the clubface. I thought I might tear the cover off the ball. You'd think the balata would be much easier to control, but the Pro V1x spins almost as much.

Putting is easy with the old Bulls Eye there's a reason this model lives on. The Ping takes some getting used to. Never mind the high-pitched ping; it's so light and the metal so thin that judging distance takes some time.So what did I learn? Modern technology has definitely made the game easier. I've gained a new measure of respect for the old-timers, who couldn't just crush the ball; they had to be true shotmakers.

Great Moments In Gear
1963 Golf Pride's Victory slip-on rubber grip catches on.
Wrapped leather loses its chokehold as rubber proves cheaper, easier to make and just as effective.
1967 Spalding debuts modern solid-core, two-piece ball.
The technology behind that pill, the Executive, is now at the center of virtually every golf ball.
1969 Jacobsen rolls out Greens King triplex riding mower.
Produces smoother, more consistent greens than hand mowers, in a fraction of the time.
1969 Ping K1 cast, cavity-back irons forge a new path.
New manufacturing method yields perimeter-weighted irons less expensive and more reliable than forged blades.
1972 Aldila ushers in the graphite-shaft era.
Aldila makes the exotic acceptable; company sales are $79,000 in 1972 and $8.6 million in 1973.
1979 Led by TaylorMade, woods turn to metal.
Gary Adams unveils the first modern metalwood; in the ensuing quarter-century, "wood woods" are relegated to collectibles.
1982 True Temper creates the gold standard in steel.
Consumers buy more Dynamic Gold steel shafts in the next 20-plus years than all other shafts combined.
1988 Cleveland's 588 series hits the scene.
Sixteen years later, the best-selling wedge is still going strong.
1991 Callaway introduces the Big Bertha.
The first thin-walled, oversized steel driver, named for a German cannon from World War I, creates an industry powerhouse.
1994 Softspikes plastic cleats tiptoe into the picture.
Wynstone Golf Club in Illinois becomes the first course to ban metal spikes; over the next decade, the rest of golf follows.
1995 Titanium drivers cast their spell.
Callaway's Great Big Bertha, TaylorMade's Titanium Burner and the oversized class of '95 pave the road to 460cc heads.
2001 Titleist's Pro V1 ends wound balls' reign.
Tiger Woods's switch to Nike's solid-core, multilayer, urethane-cover ball changes the benchmark on Tour, but Titleist's entrant soon dominates the category. -Rob Sauerhaft

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