Time to upgrade?
We investigate whether the old clubs in your bag are costing you shots
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.
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.
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