With two golf courses, one mini golf course, one golf emporium on River Street and the world famous Pebble Beach only a stone’s throw of a commute away, Santa Cruz is a golfer’s haven. The town’s courses and shops have been setting the stage for a battle over golf’s advancing technology.
According to an April 2012 article in the Carroll County Times, club makers focus on limiting the “moment of inertia,” a term for a measurement of resistance when the club hits the ball. Newer metal clubs are said to give a player a two to four mile per hour increase in ball speed, a significant increase from older wooden clubs.
Wooden golf clubs have been used since the sport’s evolution into a more modern game in the nineteenth century British empire. Metal clubs allow players to drive the ball further, giving rise to courses with longer fairways and more elaborate traps to trick the golfer.
Currently, all members of the UCSC women’s golf team use new metal clubs. It’s a far cry from the game UCSC women’s golf coach Paulette Pera played in her youth.
“Because new technology makes play longer, they are building longer courses and tougher greens,” said Pera.
Pera remembered learning to play golf with wooden clubs.
“Everyone had wood clubs when I started,” Pera said. “When I switched from wood to metal clubs, I couldn’t get used to the new sound they made.”
Pera said none of her players have ever golfed with a wooden club. She said that playing college golf requires new equipment, because the team would flounder compared to its competition.
“They [UCSC women’s golf team] don’t know how big of an advantage they have been given,” Pera said.
Pasatiempo Golf Club assistant golf professional Matt Mackey said more specialized golf gear adds to the evolving physicality of the game. Mackey finds that the new technology makes the game easier to learn at the amateur level.
“Technology has done a lot for the game in terms of amateur playability,” Mackey said. “The equipment and physical ability in the game today have both improved exponentially.”
DeLaveaga Golf and Lounge pro shop assistant Tom Garcia said wooden clubs weren’t out of the ordinary less than 20 years ago, even among the majors, although players don’t prefer them now.
“[Professional golfer] Davis Love III was the last player to win a Professional Golf Association (PGA) major tournament with a persimmon wooden driver head [in 1997],” said Garcia.
In the past 20 years, golf technology has improved for apparel, shoes, clubs and balls. Newer wind resistant materials for attire, more supportive and comfortable shoes, and balls with different cores meant for different distances, spinning or control preferences, are all normal for the Santa Cruz golfer.
Stan Hajduk, an emergency room doctor from Watsonville Community Hospital, was out for a morning round at DeLaveaga. He said technology can not account for lousy play.
“It’s not the club,” said Hadjuk. “It’s the golfer.”