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)


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.


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.



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.)


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?