At this time of the year, golfing columns are dominated by equipment stories. Many of the manufacturers use the turn of the year to release new models and at the same time the contracts of Tour Pro’s are often renewed, with any changes used widely in the new companies marketing.
This year, it is Justin Rose making the biggest adjustments to his bag. After 20 years of playing Taylor Made, he has made the surprising switch to Japanese luxury brand Honma, who seem to want to break the European market.
All of this has got me thinking about my own equipment. I am making a trip to the Titleist National Custom Fit centre next month to review my Driver, Fairways and hybrid options and will document my experience in a future blog. This week, however, I am going to reminisce a little and consider the equipment that left an impression early in my golfing career.
For me this was the early 1990’s – a time when metal’s were replacing persimmon and Europeans were dominating the Masters. Let’s take a look at the equipment that helped to shape my golfing upbringing.
Transline Firestick 3 Wood
In 1991, John Daly burst from nowhere to win the US PGA Championship with a brand of lager drinking, chain-smoking, over-swinging rebelliousness that was mesmerizing for a golf-mad young teenager.
Daly hit 300 yard drives in the days before they were commonplace and he did it with a super-cool metal Wilson Driver with a red and black graphite shaft branded ‘Firestick’.
Whilst I could not afford the premium priced Wilson version, it was not long before the budget brands started to rip-off the idea – and so it was that I proudly introduced a silver headed Transline Firestick 3 Wood to my bag. Unfortunately it has either been swapped, given away, lost or sold over the years, but I remember loving it like a favourite teddy bear.
Callaway Big Bertha Driver
Most people would not realize it now, but in the early 1990’s the equipment market was dominated by Ping, Wilson, Mizuno and McGregor. Callaway was a new brand and their Big Bertha Driver was a game-changer, not just for them, but for the whole industry.
For players used to heavy persimmon Drivers with tiny sweet spots, the lightweight and ultra-forgiving metal heads of the Bertha were a revelation. Suddenly, Driving went from being the most difficult aspect of the game to a much easier proposition.
At the time, the lighter material allowed Callaway to create clubhead’s that looked massive compared to what had gone before. Nowadays, of course, Driver heads are even bigger – see photo above right comparing the Big Bertha to the 2018 Epic model. It was the influx of lighter metals that forced the ruling bodies to introduce a maximum 460cc head size in the mid-1990’s. If they had not have done, then Clubhead’s would now look like frying pans!
Actually the head size and forgiveness of the Big Bertha allowed me to use the Club from both the tee and the fairway – something I dare not try with the super-size modern Drivers withhigh centers of gravity. I remember using mine from everywhere as a young golfer still needing to hit woods for most of my second shots into Par 4’s.
Lynx Black Cat irons
Junior sets did not really exist when I was taking up the game as an 11-year-old and so my first bag consisted of a rag-tag assortment of ancient cut-down mens clubs purchased from our local Pro-Shop. I later found out that we had been ripped off when my 4-iron was measured as the same loft as my 7!
My first set of ‘premium’ Clubs were the Lynx Black Cats. Freddie Couples was the coolest golfer around at the time (and come to think of it, probably still is) and he was signed up with Lynx, using their popular parallax irons. The Black Cats came after the Parallax and made an incredible difference to my game. Perimeter weighted cavity back irons were a new thing at the time (everybody used blades before) and they were so forgiving and powerful.
These were great clubs and a second-hand set would still make a good choice for the beginner golfer now.
Maxfli Revolution Golf Ball (Special mention to Penfold Commando)
This was before the days of the Titleist Pro V1. The most used ball at the time on the Pro Tours was the Titleist Tour Balata, but these were so expensive and they would cut if you thinned one, so my game did not justify them.
Instead I chose the Revolution, a slightly more budget and durable ball but absolutely fantastic. In those days, during the school holidays my parents would drop me up the golf club on their way to work and pick me up at 6pm on their way home. I would play 36 holes but also spend some time searching for lost balls in the undergrowth. If I found a Maxfli, it was more valuable than gold to me, and a Revolution was top of my list.
One of the cheapest and most common balls of the time was the Commando. These were so soft that they were like putty to hit. My mates and I used to collect them for our shag bags and then pitch them into the practice green from 70 yards to see who could get the most spin. Even for a 12-year-old it was easy to get 20 feet of chew back on these babies. On the flip side, you lost around 50 yards on your tee-shots so nobody actually played with them on the course.
If you google ‘Pringle Man’ in 2019, you will receive images of the figure from the tubes of potato chips pronouncing ‘When you pop…you just can’t stop’.
In the early 1990’s things were different, as World Number 1 golfer and my early hero Nick Faldo sported Geometric George on his Pringle sweaters. This was the height of chic in my world and I so wanted to be like Nick.
Unfortunately my budget at the time would not stretch to designer wear and in any case they did not make junior sizes. And then, on my very first trip to St Andrews as a 12-year-old, I spotted one in the window of a charity shop. It had to be mine. The fact it was 2 sizes too big was irrelevant. I loved that thing and combined with reading his instruction books every night in bed, in my mind at least, my swing and clothing looked just like my idol.