“Top 10 Most Important Golf Inventions!”
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“Top 10 Most Important Golf Inventions!”

“Top 10 Most Important Golf Inventions!”

TOP 10 GOLF INVENTIONS! – {MODERN ERA}

Almost every golfer dreams of coming up with the next BIG golf invention.  Hell…right now there are probably thousands of men sitting in a garage or basement somewhere building a prototype they think will change the golf world forever.  And you never know…one of those guys might just be on to something.  That’s one of the things I love most about the golf equipment industry…some of the best inventions in golf started out on something as simple as a napkin by a guy you had never heard of before.  And you never know the next BIG golf invention on a list like this might just come from a reader like you.

A few weeks ago I got an email from a reader that started the idea for this article.  They asked, “GolfSpy…What do you think the 10 most important golf inventions of all-time are?”  I quickly jotted down some thoughts…but his question gave me another idea.  Why not ask the guys that design the equipment you see in stores what their thoughts are on this subject.

So I reached out to some guys you might recognize the names of and if not you will definitely recognize the clubs they have designed:

Tom Stites

  • Head Designer, Nike Golf
  • Engineer, Ben Hogan
  • Impact Golf Technologies

John Hoeflich

  • President at Nickent Golf
  • Senior Director Product Marketing at TaylorMade-adidas Golf
  • Senior Director of Product Marketing at Titleist

Jeff Sheets

  • Owner, Sheets Design Group
  • Has designed products for Ben Hogan, MacGregor, Wilson Staff, Golfsmith
  • And Lynx, Zevo, Top-Flite, Founders Club and more

 

Tom Stites Interview

Head Designer Nike Golf (Holds over 50+ patents & over 130 Tour Wins with his designs)

TOM STITES – “TOP 10 GOLF INVENTIONS”

In no particular order:

HEEL AND TOE WEIGHTED PUTTERS – Putters with mass located on the heel and toe are more stable than other geometries. This increases greatly the MOI of putters and improves the performance of putts when hit off center. (example- the original Anser putter)

OPEN CORE METAL WOODS – Before the first stainless steel driver all woods were solid core. If the core is open the club will have a much higher MOI and be much more forgiving to hit. Bigger metal woods for over all footprint and size will also have higher MOI’s and higher performance. This is only possible if the core is open without material and mass. Solid core woods and irons do not have a chance to compete against the performance of open core clubs. (example all metal woods)

TITANIUM METAL WOOD DRIVERS – Titanium is the ideal material for metal woods. It is very strong compared to its weight and allows very large high MOI drivers. There is nothing even close for drivers. (Example all titanium metal woods.)

SUPER BREADTH DRIVERS – Before 2005 all drivers had a ratio of .83. This is breadth front to back (B) divided by the Face Length (F) or B/F. When this ratio is near 1.0 the center of mass and MOI relationships make the club significantly better and easier to play. The Nike SQ driver was the first driver to move this ratio from .83 to a ratio near 1.0. Since the introduction of SQ every other manufacture has improved their driver performance by making drivers near 1.0. (examples- almost every driver made today)

ADJUSTABLE FACE/SHAFT METALWOODS – Woods that have off center bore adjustments (Like STR8-fit) provide multiple adjustments for loft, lie and face angles. When the shaft bore line is off axis it allows the face relationship vs. the shaft to change. This change allows multiple combinations of loft/lie and face angle. Never before has a player been able to buy one metal wood and get multiple club type performance. It is like buying 1 club and getting 8 clubs. (example STR-8 fit metal woods)

LOW SKID ROLL PUTTERS – Putter faces that reduce the amount of back spin will turn over putts much faster. Reducing the back spin creates a faster truer roll to the cup. Normal face putters have high lofts and will back spin the ball as it comes off the face. The ball will bounce and skid out of control before it starts to stabilize and roll forward. Putter faces that send the ball off with zero or greatly reduced backspin improve putting performance significantly.

DRIVERS & IRONS WITH CENTERS OF GRAVITIES FAR FROM THE FACE AND LOW – irons and woods that have centers of mass/gravities that are as far as possible from the face will launch the ball higher. Most golfers benefit greatly from higher ball flights. Centers of gravity that are low in the head do the same thing. This combo makes for the optimum club for most people. Wide soles and low profile face geometries are ways to achieve these objectives. (example-Mach Speed irons)

HIGH PERFORMANCE GROOVES – The first U grooves removed grass and water from between the ball and face and helped greatly retain spin on high lofted iron shots. It was a big deal in the 70’s. Recently the ruling bodies have given us a new rule that moved performance back in time by their requirement for new grooves. Even with this new rule however there are some ways to make the spin better than was possible before U grooves. By close spacing and special edges grooves like the Nike X3X grooves it is possible to retain much greater spin on shots that are wet.

HEEL AND TOE AND CAVITIY BACK IRONS – This type of iron has a much higher MOI and is more forgiving than previous iron designs for off center hits. Before these types of irons all clubs were blade backs. (example all cavity back irons)

LIGHT WEIGHT SHAFTS – Steel first then graphite shafts made clubs overall lighter. The lighter weights allowed golfers to swing faster and hit it longer. Duh! The benefits should be obvious.

 

Jeff Sheets Interview

Owner –Sheets Design Group (Over 20+ patents, 400+ club designs, Jeff Sheets is one of the most prolific golf club designers in the industry today.

Jeff Sheets – “TOP 10 GOLF INVENTIONS” {MODERN ERA}

In no particular order:

STEEL SHAFTS –  Brought a level of consistency in shaft performance that didn’t exist with hickory. Led to today’s more upright swing plane. Hickory had about 14 degrees of torque and worked best with a flatter wristier swing plane.

MOLDED GOLF BALLS – Consistency in the product, speed in the production, consistency in the performance. Sure beats a feathery.

INVESTMENT CAST STEEL WOODS – Although aluminum and other metal woods pre-dated the first TaylorMades none of them cold hold a candle to the performance and versatility of the new generation launched in the late 1970’s.

TITANIUM DRIVERS – If stainless steel metal woods are good the larger titanium drivers are better. Deeper CG and the taller faces enabled the vertical gear effect to be a big distance factor (low/rear CG leads to higher launch and lower spin).

IRRIGATION – Agronomy has improved equally as much as equipment has over the past half century. Longer drives, better course conditions.

VERTICUTTERS – Just remember the greens of yesteryear.

DOUBLE SHOULDER STRAPS ON CARY BAGS –  Comfort!!!!

GRAPHITE SHAFTS – Physics

LAUNCH MONITORS – Get the most out of the equipment with the proper performance evaluation

CAD – Today’s equipment is as good as it gets. Couldn’t have been done without great computing power.

 

John Hoeflich Interview

PRESIDENT – Nickent (Designed the Tommy Armour® 845 iron, Titleist® DCI irons and TaylorMade® RAC irons and wedges.)

John Hoeflich – “TOP 10 GOLF INVENTIONS” {MODERN ERA}

In no particular order:

ETONIC CORFAM SHOE 1960’s – this was really the first “waterproof” shoe that sold in big quantities.  The fit was awful, but it started a revolution in shoes.

RAM/MAXFLI WOUND SURLYN BALLS – late 60’s/early 70s.  Started the synthetic cover revolution.

TAYLORMADE METALWOOD – Pinseeker bombshell was first, but TM perfected the art.

ALDILA GRAPHITE SHAFTS EARLY 70’s – Shakespeare and Frank Thomas started it all, but aldila made it a hit

SOLID GOLF BALL – Topflite solid ball.  Nike solid ball.  When Tiger switched, it was the beginning of the end for wound balls and paved the way for the Pro V1.

LYNX MASTER MODEL IRON EARLY 70’s – First real investment cast iron that sold in mass quantities.  Also started real availability of custom spec’s and started the “off course” revolution in distribution.

PING PUTTERS LATE 60’s – Ping heel and toe weighted putters changed the entire putter market.

PING IRONS EARLY 70’s – First of the cavity back irons.

BIG BERTHA DRIVER EARLY 90’s – Started the oversize trend which eventually led to oversize everything.

TP MILLS MILLED PUTTERS – In the late 70s.  Started the milled putter trend.

What do you think the MOST IMPORTANT golf invention ever is?

 

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      gary simpson

      9 years ago

      Karsten Solheim for figuring out that proper loading of the shaft is the key to consistent club face impact. Without the aid of high speed digital video or computers to measure the club face angle at impact, his genius allowed him to figure out that higher handicappers needed an extra stiff lightweight shaft because their inability to load the shaft in a consistent accelerating manner was the root cause of their wide dispersion patterns. Even today higher handicappers are misfit by club fitters in more flexible shafts to aid club head speed but creating greater dispersion problems. Solheim was so far ahead of the curve in how shafts and position of the weighting in the club head affected the way the ball reacted post impact that even today the R and D guys at the shaft manufacturers are in awe of him.

      Reply

      ray claveran

      11 years ago

      The inventor of the first “metal woods” investment casting hollow body was a gentleman by the name Johnny Zibellion.. not sure of the spelling

      Reply

      terry

      11 years ago

      top 10 improvements/advancements/inventions
      1. the golf ball range picker
      2. the stand alone driving range
      3. hitting mats (artificial turf)
      4. golf course irrigation
      5. the metal head driver (titanium ruided the game)
      6. balata balls (pro Vs are ruining the game)
      7. steel shafts (light weight graphite is ruining the game)
      8. golf carts
      9. light weight stand bags
      10. verticutters

      Reply

      Ken Mooney

      12 years ago

      Comment on Steve Almo’s mention of Johnny Z from July 28, 2011. I recently found a really cool hollow putter marked Johnny Z II. Any info on this putter would be appreciated. Thanks, Ken

      Reply

      Jacob Buchanan

      12 years ago

      1) The little thing that goes on the end of your putter so you dont have to bend over to pick up the ball.
      2) Hitting mats. “no more divots”
      3) Brush tees!! now we can hit it further than ever.
      4) Travel bags.. Now your clubs are safe on planes.
      5) Jumbo putter grips. Enough said.
      6) The divot tool/ball marker combo.
      7) Training aids. The ones that fix everything.
      8) interchangable cleats.
      9) Shag bags. Just makes practice easier.
      10) Iron headcovers because they make you a better golfer.

      Reply

      john Domagal

      12 years ago

      uNFORTUNATELY, THE GOLF CART OR GOLF WOULD BE DEAD

      Reply

      Harry Becker

      13 years ago

      Idea of forging irons! That has made a big impact on the feel of the game.

      Reply

      Terry Smith

      13 years ago

      I can remember while working with John Hoeflich, Tommy Armour Golf introduced the Exculpator. It was a long iron replacememt that really worked. A very early hy-brid.

      I also think more recently, the Mizuno Shaft Optimizer. Playing the right shaft and flex
      is critical. We could only guess before.

      Reply

      STEVE ALMO

      13 years ago

      Is this the Terry Smith from Hawaii? If so…. Do you remember me…I was the Director of Sales at Stan Thompson Golf Company.

      Reply

      Golfspy Dave

      13 years ago

      What about power carts?

      Now I walk whenever I am allowed at a course, but I think that the riding cart has had a huge benefit for the game. Think about these advantages:

      Course Design: The ability to separate tee boxes from the previous green allows course designers to truly pay attention to the lay of the land when designing holes.

      Pace of Play: Carts will speed up play, especially for amateurs.

      Course Revenue: Carts allow for more players per day and also generate revenue via cart fees.

      Access: Power carts allow people to play who for whatever reason may not be physically able to complete 18 holes walking. This of course feeds into course revenue.

      Be a fan of them or not, power carts are an important innovation in golf.

      Reply

      MyBluC4

      13 years ago

      Ben Hogan’s 5 Lessons

      cavity back irons

      club fitting systems

      underground green drainage systems

      Reply

      skip

      13 years ago

      the hybrid iron set and velocity slot technology, both introduced by Adams, will go down as 2 of the most important innovations in golf history. this fall you’ll see both innovations together…
      Better buckle up!

      Reply

      STEVE ALMO

      13 years ago

      Velocity Slot Technology…….take a look at the Bang-O-Matic Driver from early 2000.

      Hybrids…Spaulding really introduced this type of flow hollow head from 1 iron up to Driver…perfectly matched ‘flow’ of head size and one of the first Hybrid type set. The first was the Browning 440…a low profile hollow iron set. Both way ahead of their time. . .

      Reply

      skip

      13 years ago

      The VST I was referring to was that of their fairway woods. (The deep slots along the crown and the sole) They are the real deal performance wise. I had a chance to compare the a7 hybrid to their new ones (coming in october) the other night at the range and…….wow, Wow, WOW!

      (I own a BangOMatic driver BTW, and it was a good stick in it’s day.)

      dean

      13 years ago

      the lawnmower, what else???

      Reply

      The youth low handicapper

      13 years ago

      may i interject that it is simply the ball. you can tee off with an r11 and hit a ball of string it will simply not go. if anyone can give me a chllange plaese reply

      Reply

      Jerry Foley

      13 years ago

      As I mentioned earlier, low-spin balls (and low spin drivers) contribute to less drag allowing longer distance but also contribute to less shot shaping ability for the player. Bubba Watson plays as much spin out on tour as anyone but most tour players simply don’t shape their shots like in the old days. Tiger still does but the game has changed and probably for the better. But it was fun watching pro’s hit cuts and draws to tight pin positions. 20-30 years ago players would hit much lower shots with way more club compared to today’s guys hitting 9-irons 175 yards sky high. Maybe I’m just getting old but when they have to make the majors play to such long lengths it’s kinda weird.

      Reply

      The youth low handicapper

      13 years ago

      bubba watson(my idol because i also am a lefty) uses prov1x’s those have less spin than the prov1’s

      xxio

      13 years ago

      manufacturing techniques for

      1. castings/forgings/finishings
      2. milling
      3. CAD designs.

      Reply

      STEVE ALMO

      13 years ago

      Oh, yes…and the single most important technology in the last 5 years?

      Drum roll please:

      WHITE PAINT

      Bingo! We have a Winner!

      Reply

      STEVE ALMO

      13 years ago

      #1) Custom fitting and building by Professional clubbuilders and all the technology and knowledge that has come with it over the last 10+ years. Quite a revolution vs. the old eye ball fitting of old.

      #2) Investment cast game improvment irons and woods. You can thank Johnny Z. Patterns for the S.S. metal woods (and Gary Adams taking advantage and starting up TaylorMade and Bobby Clampett for hitting the (TM) metalwood on T.V. in the 1978 Buick Open…Monday every golf shop in America..the phone was ringing off the hook) and Karsten for the irons with a big nod to Carl Ross at Lynx.

      #3) Ping again for the Anser series putter (and design simplicity that you could see) with a nod to Duke at Slotline for the Inertial Slotline putter that really put the perspective (for the consumer) on heel and toe weighting.

      #4) Graphite shafts. The real revolution in graphite came with the popularity of Aldila HM40 shaft. But, the Yonex ADX 200 Driver changed everything, first. Compression molded oversize graphite heads with the COG up and back from the face and making the shaft at 45″ stock (std. was 43″ and 43 1/2″). Yonex singlehandedly introduced the first popular wave of stock graphite shafts in all clubs with Callaway sweeping the trenches in the second wave. More importantly, the Yonex ADX 200 was the first Driver that looked like it was worth $399.00. Callaway ran with it and took it to the next level.

      #5) Synthetic balls. Ram/Maxfli. I believe Ram owned the patent.

      #6) The Stan Thompson GINTY…the first modern utility club. I guess you can say..first hybrid.

      #7) Titanium woods…what can you say…essentially changed the golfing World!

      Sorry…no time for more…and let me give a nod to John Hoeflich…jezzz we think alike…LOL!

      Reply

      Ari

      13 years ago

      Has to be the wooden tee.

      Reply

      keith

      13 years ago

      What about rubber/synthetic grips?Way different than leather.

      Reply

      Palm Trees

      13 years ago

      Bushnell Lasers

      Reply

      Pat Polzin

      13 years ago

      I saw it mentioned at least once. I would say the lawn mower. Look at Arnold Palmer video and how hard they had to hit putts. Likely the main reason why a lot of older players are more wristy. Today they can cut them and roll them to the point that you can’t believe it’s grass, which brings me to #2. All the genetics work that has been done to improve playing surfaces is truly remarkable.

      Reply

      Nelson

      13 years ago

      Agree with @The Real Easy-E, Stites’ seems too consumed with his own world… Adjustable Face/Shaft Metalwoods… Really?…

      Reply

      I’m sorry my last comment does not apply to Jeffs’ list. His is ok.

      Reply

      Re-inventing the wheel top ten maybe.
      I found that most on these lists are not actually “Inventions” but rather improvement or modifications of existing golf tools, ie The Putter; putters have been around since the game was created, not a new invention, same as the driver. Anything you can do to those are simply modification. I kinda think that these modification have actually reduced a players need to develop golfing skills, if you need a new club to be a better golfer or correct a problem then you are doing something wrong and relying on your equipment to play for you., thus making you a better consumer not a better golfer.
      I am not sure how a glove rates as a Top golf invention either. I hope it was me that dropped the ball 4 feet above the pin from 250 yards out and not my glove or even club for that matter.
      The game has been the same for many many years and the rule have stayed the same as well so If you really want to talk about advancements in golf and a real invention list then we should be talking about things like; course design, the advancements in water drainage and irrigation or seed and grass technology, but i guess that stuff is boring and not marketable to the general public.
      As I see it this site is commercial driven so it is no surprise to see a top ten product list and not a true representation top golf “Inventions”

      Reply

      RoyalewithCheese

      13 years ago

      John Hoeflich is no longer associated with Nickent and has not been for 2 years.

      How does something like loft and lie machines along with the custom fitting process not get a mention? Also no mention of perimeter weighted irons which made golf easier for the average joe.

      Reply

      mygolfspy

      13 years ago

      Yes we are aware of that. We listed his former and most recent employment positions.

      Reply

      Jerry Foley

      13 years ago

      What about the Konica Minolta BizHub SwingVision camera that captures all those great swings and allows Peter Kostas to critique the tour guy’s swings? And isn’t TrackMan great showing ballflight characteristics so we viewers can visualize the how these guys shape their shots. Iron Byron levels the playing field in testing equipment and balls and makes tests less subjective which is good. As for the professional comments on club technology there is a secondary argument. If Bobby Jones and his contemporaries played with such inferior equipment how did they hit the ball so well? Granted courses were shorter but the answer is they were forced to “play” better. By that I mean if the rest of us are hitting all this forgiving technology doesn’t that diminish our need to hit the ball in the middle of the clubface? I actually grew up hitting some old hickory shaft clubs in my back yard as a kid and I can tell you that you learn quickly to hit it square or you got a “stinger”. Not that we are soft nowadays but rather this is somewhat the argument of “blades” vs “perimeter weighted” irons and “cast” vs “forged”. Many bypass a forged blade because they think it is more difficult to hit when in reality they may be doing themselves an disservice. Blades perform better if you hit them square. Learn to hit the ball square. A similar argument can be made for new ball technology. Balls from 20-30 years ago would spin like tops especially with old driver technology (new drivers put low spin on the ball). Good news if you hook or slice today but if you are trying to shape a shot it’s more difficult than in days gone by. No one would go back to old tech but we have given up some things to get to where we are today.

      Reply

      pooch

      13 years ago

      Karsten Solheim

      Reply

      Joe

      13 years ago

      Yes, how is Karsten’s name not on the list?

      Reply

      keith

      13 years ago

      I’ve never been a Ping fan,Other than the Anser putters,but Karsten found a cheap way to mass produce very user friendly equipment.

      Reply

      GreenWasabe

      13 years ago

      Looking at how things are evolving, I predict there will be an evolutionary “smoothing” out of club characteristics and construction from driver to fairway wood to hybrid-iron to scoring iron to wedge in volume, shape, material, and shaft length.

      Short hybrid clubs (#7 to #9 irons) are unnecessary but a #6 hybrid is my favorite club (both Acer XDS & Tour Edge). The club length difference from #7 fairway wood to hybrid #3 is a big jump.

      Mixing brands from woods to hybrids to irons and wedges are also creating havoc in the golf bag because of loft specifications. I say, forget about numbering irons—let’s call them by their loft angles, like we do wedges.

      I suppose there might be a resistance to change but is anyone out there listening?

      Reply

      GreenWasabe

      13 years ago

      Although I seldom use them myself, considering the numbers being sold and used, many probably consider GPS rangefinders necessary.

      The few times is use “FreeCaddie” on my Android phone is when I don’t believe the number the course gives me. But I mostly eyeball the distance; plus fairway marker/pin color system is always reliable. Who needs more than 5 yard accuracy.

      My swing isn’t THAT good!

      Reply

      Pete

      13 years ago

      I would add soft spikes to that list, nothing worse than trying to putt on a green where a 4 some of steel spike wearing tap dancing 3 putters has destroyed the putting surface ahead of you.

      Reply

      Keith

      13 years ago

      Like to bring you up to date with the latest thoughts between cleats and spikes. It is now thought spikes have less impact on the green. It is the way people walk that spoils them. Spikes or cleats, if you drag your feet the damage is the same. In normal walking I would say spikes cause less..

      Reply

      Springbok

      13 years ago

      Agreed with P-Gunna. How on earth can you leave out Hybrids. You just have to look at how many pros have them in their bag rather than long irons.

      Reply

      clam fist

      13 years ago

      I am in agreement with the panel on the graphite shafts.

      Reply

      The Real Easy-E

      13 years ago

      Tom Stites’ list has too much Nike type marketing stuff. Of course he lists the stuff he’s been a part of for Nike.
      I like Jeff Sheets list the best.

      Reply

      GolfSpy T

      13 years ago

      Really great read. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what we think of as the latest and greatest in modern technology while not considering the little things. I never in a million years would have thought about solid golf balls, waterproof shoes, and verticutters. I guess I sometimes forget that these modern golf conveniences haven’t always existed.

      Reply

      P-Gunna

      13 years ago

      Nothing about hybrids? I appreciate that hybrids are a combination of the things discussed but they made a huge impact on the game. Who came out with the first hybrid anyways?

      Reply

      hoefy

      13 years ago

      It agree and it was hard to leave hybrids off my list but I view it as more of an evolution than a revolution. Hybrids, like so many other equipment trends, became popular in Japan in the 90s. The Zoom was a big seller there for many years. TaylorMade marketed the original copper Rescue in 1998 but it was a dud. In 2001 our design team, Clay Long, Brett Wahl and I, revised the design and it became the Rescue Mid. It actually was developed to be sold only in Asia, but a few Japanese Tour players brought some over to the States and some of the US players asked to try it. Needless to say, it became a hit and the equipment market was changed forever!
      If you look in any good golf museum, you will notice that the “hybrid” has been around for hundreds of years but the heads were made of wood not metal.

      Reply

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