Time to up­grade?

We in­ves­ti­gate whether the old clubs in your bag are cost­ing you shots

Golf Monthly - - Old Vs New -

three gen­er­a­tions older, new mod­els come into their own. Still, many golfers per­se­vere with clubs much older than this, and still ex­pect to im­prove.

We took mat­ters into our own hands and pit­ted a five­and ten-year-old set against the clubs of to­day. For this trial of old ver­sus new, we teamed up with Golf­bid­der – an on­line sec­ond-hand golf equip­ment re­tailer – which pro­vided sets that were in good con­di­tion. Ad­mit­tedly, they were not cus­tom fit­ted for us and had the usual dents and dinks you’d ex­pect from clubs of this age, but the specs were very sim­i­lar to what we cur­rently em­ploy.

We com­pared the clubs on our Fore­sight Sports GC2 launch mon­i­tor and out on the course over 18 holes at West Hill Golf Club to see where the real dif­fer­ences in per­for­mance lie, and whether the lat­est it­er­a­tions present a tan­gi­ble scor­ing ad­van­tage over pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

So would the golden oldies pre­vail, or would they floun­der in the face of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy?

“con­trol around the green was where I saw the bIg­gest drop off In per­for­mance”

Driver: Tay­lorMade R11 (2011), 9° stiff

Tay­lorMade is known for be­ing a driver com­pany, so it came as lit­tle sur­prise that I got on very well with the R11 al­most straight away. From the mid­dle it felt just as hot as my cur­rent driver and sure enough, my long­est shots with it on the launch mon­i­tor were car­ry­ing only a few yards shorter. For­give­ness lev­els on the R11 were cer­tainly lower and I no­ticed a bigger drop off in ball speed away from the sweetspot, but out on the course these misses were still playable. If funds were lim­ited and I could only up­grade one or two ar­eas of the bag, I’d prob­a­bly leave the R11 alone.

Fair­way wood: Call­away Di­ablo Oc­tane Tour (2011), 15° stiff

My favourite club in the bag. Its de­sign looks just as cur­rent as to­day’s fair­ways and it felt just as ex­plo­sive, plus the con­trol it gave me off the tee blew me away. Many golfers, even tour play­ers, use a fair­way wood that’s a few gen­er­a­tions old, be­cause fa­mil­iar­ity and com­fort plays a big part in a club that has to hit a lot of dif­fer­ent shots. Again, for­give­ness was a slight worry, but over­all there is lit­tle rea­son why com­pe­tent ball strik­ers who own this club would need to fork out for to­day’s mod­els, un­less they wanted some­thing ad­justable that could dial in ball flight and launch an­gle to a more pre­cise de­gree.

Hy­brid: Cleveland Mashie (2011), 20.5° stiff

Sole rails are a fea­ture that def­i­nitely work to make a club of this size more ver­sa­tile and for­giv­ing, so this re­ally was a joy to hit from dif­fer­ent lies. Many hy­brids to­day are ad­justable – mean­ing more golfers can plug dis­tance gaps in the top end of their bag ap­pro­pri­ately – and the face thick­nesses and weight­ing in­side the heads has be­come much more user­friendly. This club per­haps lacks the punch and tweak­a­bil­ity of mod­ern-day hy­brids, but it was an ad­mirable per­former for its age.

Irons: Titleist 710 AP2 (2010) 4-8, 710 CB (2010) 9-PW stiff

The look of these forged Titleist game-im­prover iron mod­els re­ally hasn’t changed much over the years. The club­faces looked a lit­tle tired and, as a re­sult, I didn’t quite get the spin or flight con­sis­tency I was ex­pect­ing, es­pe­cially from the rough. I got quite a few fliers with the ball run­ning out sig­nif­i­cantly on the greens. The feel was firmer than the cur­rent 716 AP2s, which I’ve tested, plus they weren’t as sta­ble at im­pact on off-cen­tre hits. Launch-mon­i­tor data sug­gested I was ten yards shorter, but some of this will be down to the stan­dard length and lie an­gle – not my spec.

Wedges: Tay­lorMade ATV (2012), 52° and Ping Tour S (2011), 56°

On full shots from tight lies, the five-year-old sand wedge per­formed very sim­i­larly to my cur­rent model. In fact, the launch-mon­i­tor data told us that launch an­gle and back­spin on full shots from the range mat were not too dif­fer­ent at all. But on green­side chips and pitches from the rough, the level of con­trol dropped sig­nif­i­cantly, mean­ing the reper­toire of

shots you could ex­e­cute suc­cess­fully was much smaller. The one-di­men­sional short game this cre­ates is go­ing to cost you shots even­tu­ally; fresh grooves on a new wedge make a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to the level of con­trol.

Put­ter: Ping Anser V2 iN Se­ries (2010)

An un­usual and dated de­sign with holes in the bot­tom of the sole, this put­ter of­fered quite a firm feel – even with an insert – com­pared with mod­ern-day put­ters. It was also not quite as for­giv­ing on heel and toe strikes. It em­ployed a tra­di­tional-sized grip, but the pref­er­ence of many golfers to­day, my­self in­cluded, is for a larger-style grip to en­hance the feel and club­face con­trol through min­imis­ing hand ac­tion. I would cer­tainly pre­fer some­thing with a softer face and larger grip, but it was by no means un­us­able.

Ver­dict

Are any of these clubs fa­mil­iar to you? If so, you don’t need to panic. But it’s prob­a­bly time to con­tem­plate up­grad­ing, if at least grad­u­ally, by start­ing at the bot­tom end of the bag and work­ing your way up. It was on and around the greens where I no­ticed the big­gest drop off in per­for­mance, and I'd cer­tainly look to add in some fresh wedges and a put­ter to boost my con­fi­dence in get­ting up and down, es­pe­cially from poor lies and bunkers. The irons would be my next up­grade. Tech­nol­ogy, in terms of dis­tance, feel and for­give­ness, has moved on sig­nif­i­cantly in the last five years, and you are mak­ing ap­proach shots much harder by us­ing a set that doesn’t ben­e­fit from this. In the wood sec­tion, the per­for­mance pleas­antly sur­prised me. The Tay­lorMade R11 is a very good driver and it has ad­justable loft and face an­gles, too, mean­ing you’re only re­ally los­ing out on a bit of for­give­ness. Re­mem­ber, brands are lim­ited by what they can do with the sweetspot, so mid­dle a 2011 driver and it will per­form sim­i­larly to its mod­ern equiv­a­lent. Over­all, com­par­ing my cur­rent set, which would re­tail at around £2k, with one from five years ago was a real eye-opener. It made me ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of the short-game con­trol you take for granted. But it also showed that clubs from that era can per­form at a sim­i­lar level to those from 2016.

Driver: Ping G5 (2008), 9° stiff

If you play enough club golf you’re likely to come across this driver now and again, and af­ter test­ing it I’m not sur­prised so many golfers have kept it in their bags. From the mid­dle it kept my cur­rent driver hon­est, car­ry­ing within ten yards of it, but it was on low strikes that it showed its age. Un­like my Nike Va­por Fly, which has a Com­pres­sion Chan­nel close to the bot­tom of the face, the G5 didn’t seem to spring as pow­er­fully on my low-club­face strikes. As a re­sult, my mishits were more pun­ish­ing, cost­ing me around 20 or so yards off the tee.

Fair­way: Titleist 908F (2007), 15° stiff

I have to say the 908F’s com­pact size didn’t fill me with as much con­fi­dence as my mod­ern fair­way, which has a longer head and shal­lower face to make it more ver­sa­tile, es­pe­cially off the deck. Its club­face didn’t feel as ex­plo­sive, ei­ther, and as with the driver, off-cen­tre for­give­ness was a slight worry. This was launched be­fore the time of hosel ad­justa­bil­ity, so tun­ing your tra­jec­tory to cater for tech­nique changes isn’t a lux­ury you have. That all said, when I found the mid­dle of the face it got the job done nicely. So, if you’re a steady ball striker, don’t reach for your wal­let just yet.

Hy­brid: Tay­lorMade Res­cue Dual (2005), 21° stiff

This club was some­thing of a ground­breaker 11 years ago, in­tro­duc­ing Mov­able Weight Tech­nol­ogy to hy­brids to give golfers the chance to switch be­tween a higher-launch­ing neu­tral bias and a more for­giv­ing draw bias. Com­pared to to­day’s of­fer­ings, it per­formed ad­mirably both off the tee and into greens on long par 4s. It wasn't quite as long as my cur­rent model on the launch mon­i­tor – prob­a­bly due to light­weight mod­ern heads and thin­ner faces – but it was more for­giv­ing off-cen­tre than most of the other op­tions in this older bag.

Irons: Ping S59 (2004), 4-PW stiff steel

This set has enough brand hall­marks to make any Ping fan com­fort­able at ad­dress. But, un­sur­pris­ingly, there were some very clear dif­fer­ences to my cur­rent irons, Mizuno’s JPX 850 Pro. Side by side, the two sets are al­most iden­ti­cal in size, but therein lies the prob­lem. The S59s were launched as a bet­ter-player set, while mine are aimed at 8- to 15-hand­i­cap­pers. That’s the won­der of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy – light­weight ma­te­ri­als mean you can put so much more for­give­ness into a com­pact shape. This – and the fact the S59s are around 1° weaker in lofts – meant I lost around ten to 12 yards in carry on the GC2, not to men­tion more for­give­ness than a mid-hand­i­cap­per can af­ford to lose, both on off-cen­tre hits and in terms of spin con­trol.

Wedge: Mizuno Tour Style (2006), 52°

On full shots, the flight looked sim­i­lar

to my cur­rent wedge, and you could still feel the strike of the forged head eas­ily. The chrome fin­ish has also aged well, but when it came to those one-hop-and-stop chips, the ten-year-old grooves showed their age, with shots run­ning on more akin to a 9-iron than a gap wedge. Sacri­fic­ing this short-game spin dra­mat­i­cally re­duces your chances of pulling off short-sided lob shots, as well as bunker shots, which will fre­quently cost you strokes when you're in close prox­im­ity to the green. Put­ter: Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball (2005) A fan favourite, this early ver­sion of the 2-Ball de­liv­ered a firmer feel to what I’m used to with my mod­ern Odyssey White Hot RX put­ter, which has an insert and ad­di­tional roll tech­nol­ogy. That said, put­ting feel is very sub­jec­tive, so this may not bother a lot of golfers. If you’ve still got one of these in the bag I wouldn’t be rush­ing to change it – it still rolls the ball well enough. While its lack of a mod­ern insert means you might have to give longer putts a bit more oomph, the fa­mous 2-Ball align­ment has stood the test of time. It cer­tainly helped me line up the club­face with con­fi­dence and swing the put­ter on a neu­tral arc.

Ver­dict

Head­ing back a decade cer­tainly gave me a lot of tough choices to make when it came to what I’d be happy keep­ing, and what would be get­ting the el­bow. For me, the wedges would need a swift up­grade, and with so many op­tions out there for £70-£100, do­ing this wouldn’t break the bank. As an in­con­sis­tent ball striker and mid-hand­i­cap­per, the lure of heel and toe for­give­ness – with­out need­ing a huge head – would mean swap­ping to some newer irons soon af­ter. Af­ter that it be­comes trick­ier to com­mit to an up­grade, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the price of mod­ern met­al­woods. If I were a short hit­ter, or some­one with a poor shot shape who could re­ally make the most of ad­justa­bil­ity, it would be a clear-cut de­ci­sion. How­ever, I have a steady long game, so it would be trick­ier to jus­tify spend­ing more than £300 on a shiny new driver for an ex­tra ten yards and some off-cen­tre for­give­ness.

“MY WEDGES WOULD NEED A SWIFT UP­GRADE, ES­PE­CIALLY AS THIS WOULD NOT BREAK THE BANK”

We tested the two sets of old clubs against mod­ern-day equiv­a­lents at West Hill Golf Club

Dis­cussing the virtues of dated equip­ment West Hill was a fit­ting venue for our trial The five-year-old driver im­pressed

Put­ter tech­nol­ogy has moved on sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years Con­trol from sand was found to be lack­ing

Jake’s old wedge of­fered roll out closer to that of a 9-iron Sim­i­lar size, but for­give­ness lev­els were very dif­fer­ent There was much to dis­cuss, from driver to put­ter Jake crunches the im­por­tant num­bers GC2 data played a big role in our com­par­i­son

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