Advances in golf technology, 1989-2004

I used to be a decent golfer. Back in 1989, in my last year of high school, I had a handicap of 14. Then I went to university and discovered trampolining and MUDs girls and booze, and it all went out the window. Ironically, my university was St. Andrews, which is also the home of golf. Even with the enormous discount that students and residents get, guess how often I played the hallowed Old Course in the four years I was there? Exactly once.

Since leaving university, I’ve generally played golf about three or four times a year. That handicap of 14 is now long forgotten, even though I do pull the occasional magic round out of my hat. As a matter of fact, I had one just last week. Since we bought Alex his first set of golf clubs for his 3rd birthday, he and I have been going along to the local driving range once or twice a week. All the practice paid off. When Scott and I played Longniddry on Monday, I managed to score a grand 90. Okay, so it’s a par 68 course, but the last time I broke 100 anywhere was back in 1997. I even had a short putt for 89 on the 18th, but I fluffed it. The last time I broke 90 was, I think, 1990. Yowza.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about in this entry was the difference between golf equipment now and back in 1989. First of all: golf bags have come a long way since then. The bag I had since 1989 had one shoulder strap, and when you put it down, it lay on the ground. Last week I bought a fantastically lightweight new bag with two shoulder straps (for carrying the bag backpack-stylee) and a built in fold-out stand. All this was supplied for the decidedly un-princely sum of £17.99. Carrying a bag of clubs over both shoulders is a great advance. No more aching shoulders at the end of a round.

Next: balls. I remember paying about 10 Dutch guilders (about £3) for a sleeve of three moderate-quality balls in 1989. Last week I bought fifteen decent balls for £7.99. That’s half the price they were fifteen years ago, without even having to take inflation into account. And I’m sure the balls feature spangly new composite core technology, with advanced dimple patterns for extra feel and distance. Or whatever.

Lastly: woods. In the 1980s metal woods were all the fashion. Persimmon was out, aluminium was in. Metal woods were lighter, cheaper to manufacture, and could be die-cast in clever ways to optimize the sweet spot. The 1990s, it seems, were all about big woods. With clubheads the size of dinner plates, these babies make my tiny 80s-style metal woods look puny. Whenever I pull them out of my bag, I can feel the amused and somewhat pitying stares of other golfers upon me. It almost feels like I’m walking around with hickory-shafted clubs. I’m a quaint golfing throwback to another century.

I’ve upgraded my bag and my balls. How long will it be before I upgrade my woods as well? At the range on Wednesday I was hitting my 3 wood quite well. My driver, however, has never been a pipeline to good scores, so I’d say there’s at least a chance of my moving into the 21st century at some point this year….

One Reply to “Advances in golf technology, 1989-2004”

  1. Martin, my dear, it’s not how big it is that matters. It’s what you do with it. Even wood.


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