Pros advice

“I’m 25 years older and I'm hitting it 25 yards further” – Was golf harder in the 80s?

We spoke to four stars of the European Tour in the 1980s – Gary Wolstenholme, Andrew Oldcorn, Peter Baker and Roger Chapman – to hear what it was like to play with persimmon woods and the difference between equipment now and then.

Wolstenholme: The beauty of the courses was that a 400-yard hole was a strong hole particularly into the wind. Now a 420-yard uphill par 4, even played into the wind, would be a drive and a short iron for most tour pros. It’s a shame as course designers come in and ‘Tiger proof’ these courses and quite often they ruin a good hole.

Baker: Players are more one-dimensional now but they are also much fitter and stronger these days and they swing it better than we did, we did it more by feel. Today’s equipment allows you to hit it harder with the way the ball is and the bigger sweet spot, now it is hard to shape it – particularly off the tee. I used to have 12 degrees on my driver and Ian Woosnam used to have 8 degrees, so when he got a new driver he would get me to hit it. If I was only able to get the ball about six feet in the air then he knew that was right for him.

Chapman: If you were behind a tree you could manoeuvre the ball 30-40 yards. These days it just reaches its peak and then falls out of the air. The old ball would carry on bending. I was in the top third of driving distances on the European Tour in the Persimmon days with about 260 yards, now I’m 25 years older and hitting it 25 yards further. Everyone has to go with technology but I preferred it before, the sound of Persimmon was just a great noise. Now it is just get it in the air quickly and let it fly. The combination of club and ball means they can hit it 340 yards which is all wrong, the ball should be reined back. Just move it back 10-20 per cent and suddenly you don’t have to build new tees or buy extra land. People are making courses 8,000 yards which is ridiculous.

Oldcorn: The first metal wood I ever used was on the range at a tournament in 1983 so I played all my amateur golf with wooden clubs. There was no graphite to be seen anywhere so a lot of the work was done with your hands rather than your body, the total opposite of these days where it is more athletic. The driver was always my favourite club and still is, even with advancement of technology but size of old driver would be same as a hybrid these days.

My technique has pretty much stayed the same, I was never a hitter, it was always more about rhythm. In those days there was no TrackMan but I can’t imagine my swing speed has changed much in the past 30 years. With the advent of technology you are able to hit the ball harder and the ball goes straighter, if you tried to swing harder in the ’80s with wooden clubs and steel shafts the dispersion would be huge compared to these days. Then again technology in my era was much more advanced than the likes of Henry Cotton, Ben Hogan or Sam Snead so how on earth can you measure careers in terms of achievements?



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  • AG News: Was golf harder in the 80s?

    “I’m 25 years older and I'm hitting it 25 yards further.” We spoke to four stars of the European Tour in the 1980s to hear what it was like to play with persimmon woods and the difference between equipment now and then
    Read more

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