June 8, 2007 There was once a time when Woods were actually made of wood and hickory shafts were at the cutting-edge of golfing technology, no-one had ever heard of carbon-fiber, titanium drivers or hybrid irons, and many would argue that the game was no worse off for it. But those days are long gone. With the rapid acceleration in development of golfing equipment over the last two decades has come the need to ban certain equipment that provides too great an advantage to the user and also makes golf courses redundant because players of the same skill level can now hit the ball much further. Serious business in the multi-million dollar world of professional golf, but for the average hack looking to get one up on their friends during a weekend social game, the legality of the equipment doesn't have quite the same bearing - in fact it almost seems to have become a selling point for some equipment manufacturers. One of the latest illegal enhancements to come to our attention is the simple but effective Poly Max Extreme, a shock absorbing pad that directs more energy into the ball when attached to the club-face.
According to the the manufacturers Layerco, the Poly Max Extremes "turn ordinarily conforming clubs into super hitting non-conforming clubs" by actually restricting the golf club's energy. While some non-conforming clubs rely on enhancing the rebound properties of the club, the Poly max extreme product works by absorbing some of the shock the ball endures when struck, reducing ball compression and in turn delivering more energy to drive the ball forward. The "peel and stick" pads cost $14.95 for a package of 18 and one can last for a full round of golf. Their clear finish makes them discreet and difficult to detect during a round and though designed for use with drivers, they can also be used with irons. Layerco estimate that non-conforming clubs make up a sizeable chunk of the $1.4 billion spent on clubs annually and that consumers who just want results on the course are driving this trend.
If that's still not solving your problem getting distance off the tee there are plenty of other non-conforming products on the market designed to give you an (unfair) edge. The aptly named "Desperado" ball for example claims to deliver an extra 20-25 yards by way of an illegal two-piece design that is slightly smaller and heavier than USGA approved balls.
You could also look to the over-sized drivers produced by Bang Golf in California. Not concerned about the "norm" in the golf industry, Bang lay claim to manufacturing the club that holds world's longest drive record - a massive 539 yards - and have sold tens of thousands of their non-conforming drivers. If holding the greens is your problem, try the reverse groove wedge insert produced by Spin Doctor that is said to increase backspin by at least 250%
For the record, the rules for what is considered legal equipment are set by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland. Each year the USGA reviews thousands of pieces of equipment submitted for official approval.
And before you rush out to buy the latest technological crutch to support your ailing golf game, remember that the only person ever to win a "grand slam"* in Golf - Bobby Jones - did so with hickory shafted clubs back in the 1930's.
*Note: Before The Masters, the two US national amateur championships were considered majors along with the two national opens. Only Bobby Jones has ever completed a grand slam with these and technically no-one has ever achieved a grand slam in the modern era (though Tiger Woods came very close by winning all four consecutively, but over two calendar years).