For reasons both commercial and emotional, the world of golf has more than its fair share of space on this happy caravan. It has been well chronicled that the PGA TOUR has re-invented themselves with the introduction of the FedExCup and its season-long chase for a $10 million payday. As well, the Golf Channel appears to have fulfilled its destiny as the Home of [televised] Golf, a claim duly suited, as no other broadcast entity in the world can lay claim to even a fraction as much live golf coverage.
As such, I have grown accustomed to another annual January ritual whereby nearly every day I come home to find a long, brown, rectangular box on my doorstep. Within, neatly packed and protected, sits one of the bold new products sent from any of a myriad of golf equipment companies who hope it will be the product to take them (or keep them) to the top of the heap. They send them to me in the hope that I will weave the merits of their flagship into my journalistic endeavors. Dont get me wrong, I am not complaining, nor am I inconvenienced by this blatant attempt to influence the media. Its just part of the (public relations) game and for the most part the exercise does help me get prepared for our annual coverage of the PGA Merchandise Show, at the end of the month. In addition, there are a number of charity tournaments in my area that love all of the free stuff they reap as a result.
I am admittedly a golf equipment freak. Having started my career on the golf equipment side of the business, back at a time when stainless steel metalwoods were putting the final nails in the coffin of persimmon drivers, I was, and remain, amazed at the annual ingenuity and technology in new clubs. It should be noted, I am not talking about marketing here, I am talking about real innovation, real technology and real performance. Thankfully, there is plenty of the aforementioned in the annual crop of new clubs, but unfortunately, there is also a lot of marketing hype as well. The key is to wade through the fog and arrive at whats really there. Why, if I gained twenty yards from every new driver I have tried, I figure that by now, Id be hitting my drives nearly 800 yards (with a draw), extracting myself from every impossible lie, striking laser-like, accurate irons that are long, high and straight (and I would never hit a shank), hitting par 5s with my hybrids in two, fearlessly blasting from every bunker to within inches of the hole and of course, one-putting every green. Alas, as they say, its not the arrow and in many cases I have apparently failed to exploit the opportunity at hand.
Recently, I do not recall the exact day, when the rest of the world was otherwise engaged in watching a ball drop or some other fruitless activity, I was feeding my affliction. I stumbled upon the website belonging to Jeff Ellis, author of The Clubmakers Art, Second Edition, and his amazing collection of antique golf clubs. After gorging on niblicks and mashies I found myself struck with a moment of clarity. It would seem that when it comes to golf equipment technology, everything new is old again. Reflecting on the growing pile of the latest and greatest clubs in my garage and then perusing through the annuls of the games equipment history, it was clear to see that virtually every technological concept that comprises the cornerstone of modern club technology had been done, and done, and done, over and over again, in various incarnations during the games history. As evidence, I submit the following for your consideration (photos used with permission of www.antiqueclubs.com):
The Simplex Club:
Patented in 1897, this club incorporated a couple of modern day technological gems in the form of both a center shaft feature (for MOI stability) and a chunk of brass extending from below the hitting area all the way to the far back of the sole (lowering the center of gravity).
Walter Hagen Sand Wedge:
Patented in 1928, this sand wedge features a wide sole (for ease in getting the ball airborne) and a concave face! Bobby Jones used one of these when he won the 1930 Open Championship at Liverpool. Mark my words ' I give it less than a year before you see an infomercial touting the merits of a concave-face sand wedge ' you heard it here first!
Cochrane & Co. Super Giant Niblick:
Sure, weve all come to believe that the bigger the club, the better, right? Well, dont think the concept belongs to just our modern age, my friend
Lockwood & Brown Mashie:
No, this wasnt bent around some proper gents head, it is actually a shank-proof hosel!
A.G. Spalding Spring Face Iron:
Spring-like effect? Im afraid it is old news, my good man. A spring steel face is riveted on the front of the iron.
Copyright 2007 Matthew E. Adams Fairways of Life
Editor's Note: Matt Adams is a reporter for The Golf Channel, equipment expert, twenty-year veteran of the golf industry and speaker. In addition, he is a New York Times and USAToday bestselling coauthor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and author of Fairways of Life, Wisdom and Inspiration from the Greatest Game. Fairways of Life uses golf as a metaphor for life and features a Foreword by Arnold Palmer. To sign up for Adams Golf Wisdom email quotes or for more information, go to www.FairwaysofLife.com.