Wolstenholme: When I played in the Masters in 1992 John Daly hit a 3-wood over the top of the trees at the 13th so you knew then that equipment was starting to change and you could see the benefits of what technology was able to do.
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?
Wolstenholme: I remember having a chat with Greg Owen and he said the guys that he was outdriving previously by 30 yards were now as long as him as technology changed – and their short game was always better so he had to find a new way to compete. Which he did very well but without technology I think you would have very different players at the top of the tree.
Lane: In our day the ball was very soft and you had to hit it very hard and very much onto the ball to generate the spin to get the ball in the air. We used a lot of long irons to drill it, they call it stingers now but you had to hit it hard and late to get the ball in the air. You couldn’t do it now with the modern ball. If you hit it out the toe or heel it went absolutely nowhere.
We used one ball every hole as they were just so soft and an iron would leave three lines on the ball. When the greens were soft you had to hit easy shots so the ball was going low and not generating the spin.
I remember Norman using a Top Flite ball and he couldn’t keep it on the green as it span so much. Into the wind it would go nowhere and downwind it would go miles.
Wolstenholme: I can honestly say that when I was playing for England in the ’90s the big hitters had an advantage but it wasn’t anywhere as near as great as it is now. The ball span more so they had to hit it absolutely perfectly to be able to have a really big advantage as the ball would veer off more readily at high-speed impact so it was more about shaping shots. Bubba would have loved it.
Lane: You would never hit the ball straight even from 120 yards. It was all about shot making because of the equipment and the ball.
Wolstenholme: Short-game skills were incredibly important, they still are but now you have par 5s that are eagle chances even if it is a 600-yard hole. I find that so hard to conceive. When I was starting 480 was a par 5 and a decent par 5.
As technology was changing then the Pro V1 came on the market at the end of 2000 and that was the start of the modern ball. Nick Dougherty was given a blank box of them and played a big amateur event at Lake Macquarie and he won pretty comfortably. Yes he was a great player but he had the best ball on the market and he was the only one using it.
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 all of a sudden you don’t have to build new tees or buy extra land. People are making courses 8,000 yards which is ridiculous.
Wolstenholme: A good example is the 3rd at Lytham where there are bunkers down the right-hand side. It was already a hard hole but with a fairway that gets down to 15 yards in places with the bunkers and shaping of the rough and out of bounds down the right that was unnecessary. They stretched the hole too, nobody wants to redesign a green because of the cost.
Sawgrass isn’t long but it still sets a wonderful challenge. If you create decent rough, doglegs and fast greens then you have a real test. I’m not trying to say the long hitters shouldn’t be able to capitalise on their greatest weapon but too often they are taking out the challenge of what golf’s all about and I think the game has changed forever. I don’t think the R&A and USGA can do anything about it.
Years ago golf was a more genteel sport in some respects, now it is all about overcoming a course rather than working a way round it.