Last week, during one of our Academy sessions, we discussed how to best utilize the new technologies available in golf equipment. I was asked if I thought the great players of past generations would be better had they been able to use modern equipment in their prime. As a former employee of Arnold Palmer and the fortunate observer of a number of great players during my career, I feel I have a few educated opinions on the subject and some of them might surprise you.
1. They would enjoy the distance control provided by the new golf ball technologies. The golf balls of my childhood and development years were really poor compared to today.
2. They would appreciate the consistency of equipment. Manufacturer’s specifications for golf clubs are much more specific than even 15 years ago. Finding a good driver is easy today compared with the search Mr. Palmer had to endure. Finding and compiling a set of playable golf clubs was hard work in his era. It is much easier today and a shame if you have not taken advantage of the improved fitting potential of the new technologies.
3. But for these instances and some other lesser points, the truth is they would not really notice much of a difference. Why? They hit the ball in the center of the clubface, every time. The new technology has not done much to improve the quality of a perfectly struck shot. What about distance? The distance increase is the same for everyone and not just a select few. So there would be no real competitive advantage. The long hitters are still longer.
So my answer to the question is no. They would still great, but not better as they had already achieved what the rest of us are looking for. Their scores might be lower, but so would the guys they were beating. What separates the great from the runners up is the ability to predict what the ball will do on any given shot. That ability only comes from hitting the ball on the same spot on the golf club every time.
Even though the modern equipment is much more forgiving and makes playing the game more fun, you still need to hit the ball on the sweet spot. The real benefit of a good club-fit is to help you find the center of the club on a more consistent basis. Mark the back of a ball, so impact marks the face of the club. How are you doing? If the strikes are all over the face you might want to get with a professional to find some help.