Whenever golf equipment comes to the forefront of the discourse about the game lately, it's usually for concerning reasons: namely, that the ball goes too far and the drivers are too forgiving for the best golfers in the world.
This week, though, there's good reason to take a momentary break from all that. Michael Thompson notched his first PGA Tour win in more than seven years on Sunday at the 3M Open, and he did it old-school, with a putter whose design goes back to 1982, the year it came out in a stainless steel finish. Senior Writer Tim Gavrich is fond of that particular model as well, having used it with some success his senior year in college.
Sometimes, "vintage" equipment works just as well - dare we say better? - than the modern stuff. Our staff looks back on some of the best old-school equipment they've used or dream of trying:
Brandon Tucker: The 8802
To me, golf clubs are a lot like music: nothing great has been made since I graduated high school. In the 90s I fell for the bubble shaft. I thought my Burner Bubble driver was the best on the planet until one of my teammates rolled up with the Titleist 975D and started bombing it past me 20 yards.
Chasing distance hasn't stopped 20+ years later, but it's been wild to watch OEMs continually try to redefine putter designs well into the 21st century. Can technology truly improve with a putter? They're certainly trying. But there's something endearing about the look of an old blade putter. I've never owned one, but the Wilson 8802 has a timeless design with a legendary history. Having hit the original 8802s in the past I've always loved the feel. I find when I set up to it, I elongate and slow down my stroke like Ben Crenshaw.
A few years ago in Austin I caught wind of an estate sale at the Crenshaws' old house. Maybe there's an old Little Ben lying around! I pondered. But alas, by the time I got there at lunch time the joint was cleaned out of any decent golf gear. A few times a year I peruse eBay and look at old 8802 models for sale. Wilson relaunched their greatest creation in 2014 but I think I'd prefer the original. The next time my bulky, modern, Odyssey Two-Ball putter has a bad outing, I'll likely start thinking again about how I could transform my short game with that shiny old blade.
Jason Scott Deegan: The 7-wood
I’m still reeling from the biggest regret of my golf career. At least 15 years ago, I gave up my 7-wood to force myself to hit modern hybrids that were all the rage at the time. My game from 180 to 190 yards has never been the same.
There was nothing magical about the club. I’m pretty sure I got it at a Play It Again Sports from a bargain bin in the late 1990s when I began playing more post-college. I don’t even recall the brand - maybe a Pro Staff, I believe, with a gray head and a giant orange ‘7’ painted on the bottom. But it was money. Whenever I needed to hit a shot with a carry longer than 160 yards, it came out of the bag. The 165-yard shot was a simple swing with a choke-down grip. When I was playing well, it was a go-to for those tough 200-yard par 3s that can wreck a round. Where I miss it most is as a fairway wood as the second shot on par 5s. Its head could cut through rough and the extra loft boosted my confidence.
I was glad to see Michael Thompson use a Ping G410 7-wood (loft 20.5 degrees) to hit a par 5 in two this weekend and ultimately win the 3M Championship with the club in the bag. I’m a firm believer that more of us, no matter our handicap, should have one in the bag. Don’t look down on those who do. It’s such a versatile club. Seven is considered the luckiest of numbers, remember?
Tim Gavrich: An arrow-straight driver
I swear I never missed a fairway my freshman year of high school. Growing up in Connecticut, I remember picking out one of those mower-width fairway stripes and bunting a 240-yard tee shot into it on command with my trusty TaylorMade r540 driver with a Grafalloy Blue shaft that seemingly half of the junior golf scene was using circa 2004. Traveling without my own clubs for the first time in a while and instead using some old ones my father brought up from my childhood home, I got a chance to bust it out again last year during an outing in Vermont before my sister's wedding. To my delight, the r540 could still find fairways with the greatest of ease. I just had to deal with giving up 25 yards to my current TaylorMade M3, not to mention 100 cubic centimeters in volume.
Let me also echo Jason's affinity for the 7 wood, as I still carry one (a TaylorMade V Steel) and enjoy its sharp leading edge and compact wood head shape as compared to hybrids.
What is your favorite "nostalgic" golf club from yesteryear? Is it still in the bag? Let us know in the comments below.