Golf clubs have all the bells and whistles these days. There are literally hundreds of shaft options, massive driver heads, counter-balanced putters ... you name it. Heck, there's even something called, "jailbreak technology," designed to increase the speed the ball comes off your driver to give you even more distance off the tee.
It's almost impossible to believe that, with all these incredible developments, it wasn't that long ago that persimmon-head drivers dominated the market.
A lot of golfers might not even remember what a persimmon-head driver is.
See the screws on the clubface, right in the sweet-spot? That's where the phrase, "hitting it on the screws" came from. With a persimmon driver, if you didn't hit it on the screws, it was anyone's guess where the ball was going.
The persimmon driver should have been known as a "precision driver."
Tour players loved it because of the feel and feedback they got from each strike. They could shape shots, which not many can do with today's drivers featuring heads that are up to 460cc in size. A persimmon driver head was roughly 190cc.
Imagine that: Today's driver heads are nearly two-and-a-half times larger than the persimmon driver heads from 30 years ago.
Metal woods, when they came along in the 1980s, weren't fully embraced on tour until some time in the mid-90s. Justin Leonard and Davis Love III were among the last to convert from persimmon to metal.
Interestingly, Leonard and Love each won their only majors within months of switching from a persimmon driver to the popular Titleist 975D at the 1997 Open Championship and PGA Championship, respectively.
But who was the last player to win a major using a persimmon driver?
For that answer, you need to go all the way back to the 1993 Masters.
That year, Bernhard Langer claimed his second Masters win, topping 1987 Masters winner Chip Beck by four strokes. Tom Kite (1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach) and Nick Faldo (1992 Open Championship at Muirfield) round out the last three players to win a major with persimmon.
Langer has done just fine since ditching the persimmon. The 42-time European Tour winner has been a force in senior golf, having won 32 times on the PGA Tour Champions since becoming a member in 2007. Nine of those 32 victories were majors, including the 2017 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
When it comes to the PGA Championship, the late Payne Stewart was the last player to capture the Wanamaker Trophy while yielding a persimmon driver when he did so in 1989 at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Long Grove, Illinois (site of the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship). Stewart’s winning total was 12-under 276, a stroke better than second-place finishers Andy Bean, Mike Reid and Curtis Strange.
Advancements in technology eventually made metal drivers lighter, longer, easier to hit and more forgiving than persimmon. And that was with a steel shaft. Things got even better — and easier — once graphite shafts and titanium heads came along.
So, as nice as it was to hit one on the screws once in a while, those days are gone. You won't be seeing anyone at the PGA Championship pulling a persimmon driver from the bag.
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