I only comment on the ball because I have some experience playing current tour balls and older tour and distance balls. The modern driver hits the ball farther and the modern ball goes straighter. It's a deadly combination. I don't recall hitting the ball > 325 yards on any drives before 2000. A drive over 300 was a rarity. Surely at 45 I can't be that much more fit than I was at 25, can I?
Persimmon vs Metal - Page 4
Poll Results: Persimmon or Metal
20% (12)I perfer Persimmon
79% (46)I prefer metal
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Given the same size head, I prefer a persimmon over metal. Solid wood beats hollow metal for feel any day. However, today's large head metal and composite drivers are forgiving and fun to hit. You tend to take a whole different kind of swing when you have a 460cc flyswatter. I think that Nick Price once said that he would never dare to swing much higher that 85% when he used persimmon - you just needed to be that much more careful and precise. Persimmon fairway woods, on the other hand, are more similar in size to today's metal fairway woods. I would suggest giving them a try - you will be pleasantly surprised.
It's not a matter of hesitation. I could press the old persimmons for a little extra distance. Metal drivers are more consistent in how they hit it, just don't seem to have that extra "gear" you could get from persimmon (and, possibly, from only being 35 years old at the time).
And, I don't need a new driver. I have found this "smoothness premium" with five metal-headed drivers I have used at least a season, and some others I got to test out seriously on more than one day.
For daily play, I am spoiled to the forgiveness and more consistent distance of the titanium head and graphite shaft.
I do have a few persimmon clubs though, and occasionally play around with a Joe Powell driver and 3-wood mated with my old Wilson Staff Tour Blades. I love the feel of a (rare) well-struck drive or an expertly worked (more rare) 3-wood. Hmm-may have to take them out next time!
I voted for persimmon. If you've ever hit persimmon and balata, you'd understand. There is nothing like the feeling of putting one on the screws. Back in the day, there were actual screws in the clubfaces of woods. Of course, if you didn't flush it, you'd pay a hefty price. Still have some persimmon in the old staff bag. They'd make great paperweights now. Both Tiger and Phil have said that persimmon will go as far as metal, it's the mishits and lack of forgiveness that are the difference.
I second that - used to use a persimmon 3 wood and the 3 piece Hogan 392 balls. Wow did they feel great together. But forgiveness was definitely an issue. Also maintenance - I would have to strip mine down most winters and recoat with polyurethane.
There's a big difference between "related to" and "the cause of." A balata ball would be driven 25 yards farther by the modern PGA Tour pro swinging the way they swing.
And we'll disagree that "players are able to swing harder because the ball spins less." If you suddenly reverted to balata balls players would STILL swing about as hard as they do now and would learn to play a bit more curve. That's all.
I agree that 90% of the increases in distance are related to the ball. A 460cc, 46-inch titanium driver will definitely be easier to smash than a persimmon club. The sweet spot on modern drivers is huge, but it's still a sweet spot--hit the dead center of a persimmon driver and the other 420cc's just don't matter. The extra 3 inches on the shaft will give you about 10-15 additional yards.
The big hits on Tour today are 350-360; during persimmon days, the big hits were 300. After accounting for the 3 extra inches in shaft length, where is the other 40 yards coming from? It's coming from the ball.
Loft aside, a blade 4-iron hasn't changed much (and it you're using Titleist or Mizuno MBs, the loft is still basically the same). So why are guys hitting 4-iron 235 now? The ball.
I'll accept that fitness has accounted for a big part of the distance increase from top to bottom on tour, but not among the bombers. Fact is that there were guys that could smash it then (Jack, Greg, Sammie, etc.) and there are guys that can smash it now--fitness wasn't the distinguishing factor for those guys. And the guys that smash it now are 60-75 yards longer on big hits than Jack was. That's mostly the ball.