Golf

8 Technologies That Changed the World of Golf

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2014

8 Technologies That Changed the World of Golf

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    Bob Leverone

    You still have to swing the club yourself but technology has had a huge impact on golf in the last 15-20 years. Changes in clubs, balls, shoes and the equipment that helps make the game easier and more enjoyable have altered the game dramatically.

    If you listen to the manufacturers' commercials, you will be able to make huge strides in your game just by stepping up the equipment you use. It's not quite that simple but improved equipment will turn an average golfer into a good one, a good golfer into a great one and help the top amateurs consider making a run at the professional ranks.

    Here's our look at eight of the technologies that have impacted the game.

Golf Club Technology

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    Bob Leverone

    Golf clubs have changed perhaps more than any other single aspect of the game in the last 15 years. Factors like aerodynamics, component weight and better graphite shafts have allowed golfers to hit the ball longer and straighter.

    The head of the driver is now built with aerodynamics in mind. New technology in this area results in less wind resistance and more club head speed. 

    The components inside the golf club are lighter and stronger than they were just two or three years ago. Today's average driver may weigh 50 grams lighter than previous generations of the equipment, and that will result in more distance over the course of a round or golf season.

    That's why today's driver heads are so much bigger than they were in previous generations. The rules of golf allow manufacturers to construct drivers that measure 460 cubic centimeters (cc) and today's huge drivers are far more forgiving for less-than-perfect contact with the ball.

    Graphite has been used on shafts for decades, but the graphite shafts used now are more consistent than they were 10-to-20 years ago. This allows golfers to hit the ball straighter than they did in previous years.

Golf Balls for All Levels of Play

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    TOM GANNAM

    Golf balls have changed quite a bit as well. Manufacturers construct one-, two-, three-, four- and five-piece golf balls.

    A one-piece ball is less complex and may fly straighter than any of the other balls, but they won't get the type of distance that most golfers want. The greater the number of layers—or pieces—the more distance the golfer will get off the tee or from the fairway.

    One-piece golf balls are generally used by beginners, while a majority of golfers opt for the two-piece ball. As golfers improve their game, they are more likely to use golf balls with more layers. The top pro golfers have the kind of sophistication to take advantage of a five-piece ball and many good amateurs like to think they can use the same equipment the pros do and gain a similar advantage.

    That type of thinking is ego-driven and often faulty.

Hybrid Golf Clubs

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    Many golfers find it difficult to hit fairway metals or irons. The mechanics of striking the ball consistently from an uneven lie can cause trouble for the large majority of amateur golfers, and that's why they have turned to hybrid clubs.

    Hybrids have a greater launch capability that will help the golfer get the ball up in the air more easily. They are also more forgiving of less-than-perfect swings, and that means that an ordinary swing does not have to produce poor results. 

    Changes in golf ball technology dovetail with the increased popularity of hybrid golf clubs, according to Laird Small, the director of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy. In order to get today's golf ball up in the air with greater frequency, Small says a hybrid club is ideal because of its increased launch angle compared to traditional irons.

Better Balanced Putters for Straighter Putts

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    The opening of the putter face when it makes contact with the ball is what tends to make most putts veer off course. 

    Modern technology has made putters more balanced, and that gives golfers the opportunity to keep their putts on target. A golfer who takes his putter straight back wants to use a face-balanced putter, while a golfer with an arcing stroke does better with a "toe-hang putter."

    It's important for golfers to understand what kind of putting stroke they have before purchasing their putter. However, both types give golfers an improved chance to succeed on the green.

Golf Shoes for Comfort

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Golf shoes were once the bane of most golfers' existence. They were heavy, ugly and they were not waterproof. The only advantage that they gave golfers was that the metal spikes would allow them to grip the turf with some certainty.

    Then manufacturers started to look at shoes with a more serious eye. Golf shoes became lighter, more comfortable, more attractive to look at and far more effective.

    Today's golf shoes have more padding, support, top-quality materials and water proofing. Manufacturers build the shoe with comfort as the top priority, and that has helped golfers get through a round of walking 18 holes without pain or blisters.

    That's a welcome relief to any golfer who does not have a golf cart at their disposal.

Golf Range Finders

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    Peace of mind.

    That's what golf range finders are all about. Most golfers know how they hit each of their clubs, and that they will feel more comfortable with one club over another, depending on the type of shot and the distance they have to consider.

    A range finder will help a golfer make a more precise decision. There may be a marker in the middle of the fairway that tells the golfer he is 150 yards from the hole but what if the golfer isn't close to that marker and is on one fairway or another? Perhaps the golfer is in the rough. It's much harder to gauge distances under those circumstances.

    A rangefinder is a binoculars-like device that uses laser technology to find out exactly how far the golfer is from the hole. Knowing this information gives the golfer a better chance to choose the right club and get the ball closer to the hole.

    You still have to swing the club properly, but you are armed with knowledge and peace of mind that the right swing will result in a shot that is close to the pin.

Golf Gloves

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    Golf gloves are not just a fashion statement. Golf gloves help golfers secure their grip on the club and protect their hands from blisters.

    Most right-handed golfers will wear their gloves on their left or lead hand, while left-handed golfers will do the opposite.

    Older generation golf gloves had a tendency to dry out, bunch up and lose their effectiveness. Modern technology has allowed today's golf gloves to retain their elasticity, which gives the golfer a firmer grip on the club and greater longevity than previous versions. 

    Modern golf glove technology uses improved ventilation to keep the golfer's hand from getting wet and forcing the club to slip.

Golf Club Fitting

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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

    One of the most difficult things about the game of golf is getting started. You may have played a round or two with your friend's or uncle's old clubs, but they are not going to help you improve your game over the long haul.

    At some point you have to purchase your own clubs, and that's where the trouble begins. How does anyone determine which are the right clubs for his game?

    Technology has advanced this field quite a bit. Professional club fitters can help golfers find the right clubs through the use of computer analysis of their swing. 

    Club fitters can measure club head speed, launch angle, ball flight and grip strength. All of these factors will help the fitter make the proper recommendation and give the golfer the opportunity to purchase the correct clubs for his game.

    Those tools did not exist in previous years, and they give the golfer a better chance to enjoy the game and improve.

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