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How Has Technology Changed Golf? Watch Rory McIlroy Hit a Persimmon Driver

Giving a wooden driver a try before the Genesis Scottish Open, McIlroy was roughly 60 yards shorter.

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In advance of the Genesis Scottish Open, Rory McIlroy experimented with an old persimmon wood driver on the driving range at the Renaissance Club. And the results, while not a surprise, were again an indication of how much technology has changed golf, especially in the last 30 years.

Wooden drivers and woods were the most popular choice for the better part of a century, until steel or metal drivers came along, followed by titanium and even carbon products.

The difference is profound. Wooden drivers are not nearly as forgiving. They produce more spin and less ball speed. Missing the center of the clubface meant a huge difference in accuracy, among the reasons why players such as Nick Price and Greg Norman were so successful in their era. They drove the ball straight with persimmon.

According to launch monitor results, McIlroy’s drive with the persimmon driver was clocked at 168.6 mph ball speed, with 255.7 yards of carry and 4410 rpm of spin.

On the PGA Tour, McIlroy averages 327.6 yards off the tee to hold the No. 1 spot with 184.5 mpg ball speed. The actual driving distance is probably 60 yards different.

"Roll back the clubs, roll back the ball, roll back everything," McIlroy joked, referencing the ongoing discussion in the game about the influence of modern equipment.

"I must say hitting a persimmon wood, you can't hit swing as hard it as a 460cc (metal driver) because you need to hit it in middle of the clubface and the persimmon wood looks as big as a golf ball.

"But a friend of mine, John Morgan, bought this old persimmon wood company and he's trying to make something of it. It's cool. It's a throwback and that's why we've got different tee boxes. We can go a few tee boxes forward if we want and play some old equipment. Every now and again, it's fun to do it."

McIlroy has spoken out in favor of the move to roll back the ball but he did note that all of the distance gains are not about the golf ball.