Mickey Walker comments on the variety of clubs available today
I come into the age group that wasn’t born into the modern age of technology. Whilst I use a tablet, computer and mobile phone, I use them for what I need for my work, which I’m guessing is less than 10 per cent of what they’re capable of!
I saw that the mobile phone celebrated its 30th anniversary at the beginning of this year, which got me thinking about the revolution in golf club design that I’ve experienced throughout my playing career.
When I started playing in the late 1960s I had a limited choice of using Jessie Valentine clubs made by Dunlop, or Jean Donald clubs made by Slazenger, as these were all that were available in Britain at the time!
It was decided by my 2-handicap golfing father that I only needed a few irons, so I started with a 5, 7 and 9 irons, which were added to one at a time as I progressed. I was really fortunate that Wanda Morgan – one of the great female golfers of the early to mid 1900s and contracted to use Dunlop clubs – was an honorary member of Faversham in Kent where my family played.
Wanda agreed to sell me a set of Dunlop Peter Thomson men’s 1, 2, 3 and 4 woods which in those days constituted a set of woods!
I do remember those woods having heads that weren’t very much bigger than the size of the ball, which in those days was the smaller, 1.62 inches in circumference variety!
Having successfully got through the LPGA Qualifying School in January 1974, I then spent nearly a decade playing primarily in America under the management of Mark McCormack’s organisation IMG, who successfully negotiated various equipment contracts throughout my time with them.
Having started playing golf with small-headed irons and wooden woods, I remember when in 1975 TaylorMade produced their prototype metal wood, or Pittsberg Persimmon as it was then known. They naturally wanted to get professionals using and promoting their product, so I substituted my small persimmon headed driver for the innovative TaylorMade metal one, but still kept my other traditional fairway woods in my bag though.
I can remember absolutely hating the look of them I became increasingly impressed with my cutting-edge metal-headed driver, which also came with a graphite shaft, another recent innovation which allowed golfers to have more weight in the clubhead as well as acting as a shock absorber for mishits.
The big downside of graphite in the early days was the manufacturers’ inability to control the torque or twisting of the shaft during a swing, which in turn made it impossible to control what was happening to the clubhead at impact.
This was magnified by the more clubhead speed produced, so in those early days you never saw male Tour players using graphite.
Over time of course graphite has improved dramatically, so that it still has the benefits of being lighter than steel, but not the downside of the early shafts having inconsistent torque.
By the 1980s the major American equipment companies started to have a presence in the UK as well as some Japanese manufacturers. Suddenly it seemed that the choice of which clubs to play was overwhelming!
By the turn of the 21st century wooden ‘woods’ became virtually obsolete and custom fitting by all the major manufacturers the norm, with the make-up of a set of clubs being very much made for the individual.
The other revolution in the 1990s was the introduction of big and I do mean BIG headed drivers. I can remember absolutely hating the look of them and thinking that I could never hit ‘anything as ugly as that!’
But having tried one of the first big-headed drivers made by Ping, I fell in love with the fact that I could hit it further than my small one, and also, surprisingly, the big driver was easier to hit from the fairway!
I would say that the size of fairway woods nowadays is definitely larger than earlier ones, but not proportionate to the size of drivers these days – which are all huge!