This Jack v. Tiger v. Jack v. everyone else debate has evolved into a huge and well-deserved thread for so many reasons, both obvious and not-so-obvious. Every aspect, pro and con, can be supported with statistical data.
I would like the following to be open for discussion. As someone who has played since the 60's, I would like to attempt to put a host of topics into perspective for conversation. I offer the following as food for thought and discussion, not as absolute fact. These are observations and speculation only.
EXPOSE? How many of us are fed up with the least known facts of modern golf? So if you were to ask, how far did Nicklaus hit his 7 iron in comparison (cf.) to Tiger the answer will be seriously skewed. The following are observations and opinions, not intended as "facts."
The shorter the club the more important for accuracy is the lie angle for irons.
All things being equal, the heavier the shaft, the more accuracy.
Driver: Today's metal drivers typically spec at 44.5 to 45" with graphite shafts. Nicklaus played with a heavy, 130+ gm. steel-shafted 43" driver w/2.0 torque cf. to today's, lighter 65 to 80 gm graphite-shafted driver. Given the basic math, would someone be willing to do it for us? 2" more radius and less overall mass.
Across the board, mathematically, not experientially, today's increases in driver swing speed and distance are due to longer shafts and lighter, lower overall weight v. old days' shorter, heavier, more accurate, steel shaft.
Due to the gear effect, wooden drivers of the past were more accurate than today's.
Spec-wise, today's 7 iron is more like the 6 and 5 irons of my youth. Lengths and lofts have been jacked up for marketing and playability, both. Today's W is more like the 9 and 8 of my early years. Today's 3 woods are like the driver of my early years at 43".
Today's wedges are far, far more sophisticated and better than those of those of my early years,with way, way more options at every level of the game, bounce and sole options.
Today's course conditions, except for the rough and bunker sand (then awful!), are far more demanding today.
Green speeds today are far more demanding. Witness the attraction to shorted shafted putters.Dave Pelz and Sotty Cameron.
Please don't assume that you know where I am going with this.
In the Nicklaus era, the balls were good but were very spinny in all planes, so left-to- right and right-to-left were probably easier shots than with the modern ball. The modern ball is probably a better and more predictable ball for putting and short game. The older balls were easier to move in an intended direction left to right or right-to-left) than today's balls.
Green side tight lies, no difference, except today's Pros can have instant,accurate, on-site custom grinding at a tournament.
Today's courses are longer, but not necessarily more difficult. I would love to see Pebble played from its traditional 6,700 yard length with no one able to play it with a club longer than 43".
Today's putters (fitting, MOI and certain sweet spot in line with the middle of the head) are much, much better.
No. 1: Lie angles for irons, wedges, and putters are far better understood today. The shorter the club, the more important is the lie angle.
Did you know, the USGA and the ProTour have very demanding specs for their bunker sand? Check it out.
The modern golf ball is destroying golf. It goes too far. Land is expensive and so is the cost of maintaining it.