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8 Ways That Golf Has Changed For The Better

By: | Tue 25 Apr 2023 | Comments


IT WAS recently pointed out to me that I have been playing golf for longer than I care to remember (thank you Golfshake Digital Editor Kieran Clark!). And it got me thinking about how much the game has changed - equipment, courses. You name it.

So here, in no particular order, are a just a few of the changes that I have seen…

The Golf Ball

Do any of you remember the Penfold Commando? I do. It was like a piece of stone. And it was indestructible, which meant that a lot of the tight-fisted Scots I played with absolutely swore by it. I, on the other hand, used to swear at it. It was a shocking golf ball

Those of us who actually fancied ourselves as “proper” golfers, plumped instead for balata golf balls. My weapon of choice was the Dunlop 65. They would come in boxes of three and each ball was wrapped in red see-through paper. There was no feeling quite like peeling off that paper.

There was also nothing quite like the feeling when you had to hit a balata golf ball from a bunker - it would leave a mark on the surface. And the same thing would happen if you didn’t catch it properly with an iron - you would end up with an ugly scar on the surface and you would be digging into your bag for another ball.

Driving Ranges

Driving Range

Driving ranges used to be places to be avoided at all costs. The mats were diabolical, the golf balls were like misshapen bricks. There was no possibility of buying yourself a drink or a bite to eat. There were no floodlights, no targets, no yardage markers. Essentially, you were hitting the ball into a giant field. And you often had to take your own golf balls and then take your life in your hands to retrieve them.

Waterproofs

We all take waterproof clothing entirely for granted now - mainly because it actually works and keeps the rain out. But it was a very different story back in the day. If you were playing in anything other than a gentle shower you just knew that you were going to get wet. 

But that was only half the story. Now, one of the selling points of good waterproof clothing is that it is “breathable”. Back in the day there was no such thing. If you thought rain was on the way you would don your waterproofs and you would be soaked through before the rain got anywhere near you because you would sweat - profusely!

Golf Shoes

You may not believe this but back in the day I owned a pair of rubber golf shoes - and I wasn’t the only one. I also owned a pair of white leather shoes. So why did I own two pairs of shoes? I played golf in Scotland and during the winter it tends to be very wet. Back then, leather shoes were not waterproof. So during the winter I would wear rubber shoes. Did they keep the water out? Yes they did. Did they keep your feet warm? What do you think? No, they would not! They were dreadful. They were also very heavy. And why on earth did I ever think it was a good idea to play golf in Scotland wearing a pair of white leather shoes?

Umbrellas

You may not think that umbrellas have changed very much over the years. They have. Brollies always kept you dry but way back when if the wind blew you knew that it would probably destroy your umbrella - and it invariably did. I used to go through three or four a year. Today’s lightweight umbrellas are much stronger.

Clubs

In my prime, a Wilson Staff forged iron would propel the ball 140 yards. And then along came Karsten Solheim and his team of innovative club designers. Cavity-backed irons changed the game forever. I am now well into my sixties and I can hit a nine iron 140 yards. It has been life changing.

And then there are drivers. My Wilson persimmon driver used to be my pride and joy, but boy did it need some tender love and care. When you had played in the wet you had to remove the woods covers and allow the driver head to dry out - if you didn’t it would swell. And you needed to regularly treat it with linseed oil to protect it and keep it in tip-top shape. Today’s drivers are an entirely different animal. You can leave the head covers on and just stick it in a bucket of warm water to clean it.

And, of course, the biggest change in all clubs is that the sweet spot is no longer the size of a pin-head. Everything is so much more forgiving. 

Thankfully, leather grips are also a thing of the past. Have you ever tried to hit a shot with a wet leather grip?

Courses

Golf Courses

Course maintenance has changed beyond all recognition. Greens are playable all year round, fairways are neat and well prepared and most bunkers no longer contain builders’ sand! Tees today are more like the greens I used to play on when I first took up this wonderful game.

Clubhouses

You may find this hard to believe but when I first started playing golf in Glasgow, women were not allowed in the main clubhouse unless they were with their husbands. And they were not allowed on the course at weekends. They used to have to share tee-times - and clubhouse facilities - with the juniors. And clubhouses were cold, damp unwelcoming places selling flat beer and stale sandwiches.

But there is one glaring negative...

Pace of Play

This is the one area where we have gone backwards - and for that I blame the tour professionals, who spend forever selecting clubs, checking the wind direction, checking and rechecking yardages. When I was a teenager, anybody taking four hours to play 18 holes of golf would have been shown the door! Now, it is common for medal rounds to take five hours - and more!


Related Content

What Golfers REALLY Think About Slow Play

The Evolution of Golf Clubs Through History

10 of The Best Golf Umbrellas For This Year

The Best Golf Shoes to Buy This Year

The Best Golf Jackets You Can Buy


What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)


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