Is anyone out there still using persimmon woods?
If you are, then you're in the minority.
Golf course architects are designing courses that are longer and more demanding, all in an effort to keep up with the new breed of young guns who are heavily armed with the latest club technology.
If you aren't using metal drivers and fairway woods, you are at a distinct disadvantage to playing partners who do show their metal.
Whether to use metal or persimmon was a choice that players had to make in the late 1980s and early '90s. Many opted to stick with their older, wooden clubs for specific reasons - the feel of wood was superior, and the ability to fade or draw shots was limited with some metal wood designs.
Those factors explain why top PGA professionals Justin Leonard and Davis Love III were still playing persimmon drivers during the 1996 season.
Metal drivers just didn't sound right, and they resembled the rental clubs found at driving ranges. Little did we know that metal would eventually dominate, in the marketplace and on the course.
Now, here's the rest of the story - Love and Leonard both won major championships in 1997, after switching to titanium drivers.
Leonard won the British Open, and Love followed with a victory in the PGA Championship. That was the death knell for wooden drivers on the PGA tour.
Persimmon's gone, but not forgotten. There's some sentimental value attached to the old sticks. I've got about 20 wooden clubs, which all were manufactured between 1950 and 1970. They once were considered classics, and were collector's items.
They now fall into the category of "antiques," but I'll still keep them around, in my closet or displayed on the wall. They're old friends, and they're not for sale.
It was easy to become attached to a wooden driver, because each one had its own personality. Different finishes, different grains. Every so often, they had to be refinished, and that provided an opportunity to change the appearance of the club with the color of stain used.
A player also could have the bulge and/or roll of the clubface tweaked in order to alter the ball flight.
Those were great times, but you can't argue with the new technology of metal-wood designs.
Today's drivers and fairway woods (fairway metals?) are easier to hit and produce longer, straighter shots. They are typically longer in length, weigh less, and have graphite shafts. Additionally, most feature titanium construction, which has allowed current head styles that are twice the size of their persimmon counterparts.
The manufacturing process is also very consistent, and that's extremely helpful if you ever need to replace a club and want one with exactly the same specifications.
Don't get me wrong - I love persimmon woods. But there haven't been any in my bag since 1990. That year I advanced through the first stage of PGA tour school while using a Tommy Armour driver which was made in the '50s.
Subsequently, I failed to advance through the second stage of qualifying and decided to get a real job. I went to work at Jones Creek as an assistant golf professional, a decision I've never regretted.
I also don't regret upgrading from wood to metal, and you'll soon find out why.
This week I will be assisting News-Times Sports Editor Mike Howell in a golf club experiment. The test will pit my old Tommy Armour driver against my current weapon of choice - a 45 1/2 inch Callaway titanium model with the latest Graffaloy shaft.
The plan is to hit a certain number of shots with each club, and then compare the results. As a bonus, I'll secure a Callaway ERC driver, a club ruled non-conforming by the United States Golf Association.
PGA statistics can prove that titanium is more powerful than persimmon, but does the "illegal" club hit that much further?
Results from the club tests will be detailed in an upcoming issue of The Columbia News-Times.
My guess is that there will be a 10-15 yard distance difference between persimmon and titanium. That doesn't sound like much, until you consider that equates to hitting one less club to the green on every driver hole.
I also think there won't be much difference in accuracy, but we shall soon see.
I am very interested in finding out how much technology has changed my game. Hopefully, you'll be intrigued enough to watch for the upcoming article and read about the outcome of this experiment.
Greg Hemann is teaching pro and tournament director for The Club at Jones Creek.
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