What’s changed most in golf equipment over the last 50 years? | Fully Equipped Mailbag

A lot has changed in golf club technology

Ryan Barath

Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped Mailbag, sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive GOLF.com series in which we field your hard-hitting gear questions.

I’m turning 50 this year and I’m gifting myself a new set of clubs. Curious, what’s changed in gear since the day I was born? – Richard N., Oregon

Happy birthday, Rich!

Check this out: In 1973, Jack Nicklaus won the PGA Championship, shooting 72-68-68-69 to book his 12th major and secure a four-stroke victory over runner-up Bruce Crampton. Unsurprisingly, Nicklaus utilized straightforward clubs—a persimmon driver, blade-style irons with flat soles, and back then, a balata golf ball that barely lasted a few holes at a time. That’s just the kind of stuff they used back then and one can only imagine the heights he would have reached in his prime if he had access to the clubs available today.

In honor of the Golden Bear’s 12th major championship, let’s examine the most significant changes in golf equipment over the last 50 years, listed in no particular order:

Metal Woods

While it took some time for players to fully embrace steel driver and fairway wood technology, once it became the norm, persimmon and laminate woods quickly became obsolete. Interestingly, the technology has continued to evolve, with mixed-material composite technology starting to surpass metal alloys in wood construction.

All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy a linked product, GOLF.COM may earn a fee. Pricing may vary.

Srixon ZX5 MKII Driver

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Composite Shafts

From hickory to aluminum, steel, and now carbon composite, modern golf shafts have significantly advanced to help more golfers hit the ball higher, farther, and also straighter.

Golf shafts have come a long way in 50 years Golf.com

Some of the most significant improvements have occurred not just over the last 50 years, but within just the last five.

Perimeter Weighting

A major development occurred in the 1980s when golf club manufacturers incorporated perimeter weighting in irons and putters. This design distributed the weight around the outside of the back of the club, increasing forgiveness on off-center hits and improving overall shot consistency. This advancement made the game much more playable for amateurs, sparking a huge boom in the number of people playing golf. Hollow-body technology has pushed this envelope further, benefiting players of all skill levels.

Alternative Spikes

While it took time for them to gain popularity, polymer-based spikes and rugged outsoles are now a mainstay. These advancements have made golf shoes significantly lighter and more comfortable and have contributed to a reduction in the spread of turf disease.

Club Adjustability

In the 2010s, golfers gained the ability to customize their clubs with the introduction of adjustable clubhead and hosel technologies. This allowed golfers to modify loft, lie angle, and face angle to fine-tune their equipment according to their swing preferences and course conditions.

New Putter Technology

High MOI and inserts have be a huge advancement for putters Ryan Barath

Fifty years ago, putters were considered the most mundane club in the bag. Today, they offer the most variety, with endless designs and fitting options available. Many putters now feature visual aids and face technology that were nonexistent in the past.

Solid-Core Golf Ball Technology/Urethane Covers

Golf balls have come a long way from having liquid-based cores and rubber windings. Modern golf balls are composed of multiple layers using different materials and firmness levels to optimize performance. The introduction of urethane cover technology revolutionized the game, making high-performance balls far more durable than ever before.

Srixon Z-STAR

Z-STAR provides maximum greenside spin for unmatched control and stopping power. Its premium 3-piece construction gives skilled players complete tour performance, tee to green.

Launch Monitors/High-Speed Motion Capture

Launch monitors and high-speed motion capture have not only transformed golf instruction but have also aided custom club fitters in understanding club performance during the swing. This includes analyzing shaft bending and torque, clubface flex, and other crucial factors.

With these advancements, golf equipment has significantly evolved over the past 50 years, enhancing the playing experience for professionals and amateurs alike.

We’re not saying you’re old Rich, but golf equipment sure has sure come a long way since 1973!

Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find an industry-leading True Spec Golf fitting facility near you. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.

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Ryan Noll

Golf.com Contributor