Johnny Miller and Vintage Golf Clubs

What we consider vintage clubs were the top of the line back in 1973. Well, for the most part anyway. “In 1973, Johnny Miller shot a final-round 63 to win the U.S. Open. Miller said, “It was the oldest set of clubs [in relation] to the year it was played on Tour in the history of golf.” A recent tweet from Brian Schneider gave an incredible insight into the clubs in Miller’s bag for that event.” If you think about it, a great swing makes up for what many perceived as poor technology by today’s standards. Well, I am not so sure about that!

The following is a break down of the clubs used to win the 1973 US Open:

Driver: 1961 McGregor Velocitized Tourney (10.5 degrees) D9 swing weight
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Steel, X Flex, 43.5 inches

270 yards

Miller: “I had to have everything just right, so I refinished my clubs and re-faced them. In ’73, they used persimmon that wasn’t the hard work, I wanted the heavier blocks that had a real tight grain. I wanted a little bit of movement, which means [wood] from the knotty area of the tree.” 

3-wood: 1945 MacGregor Tommy Armour (15 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Steel, X Flex

235-240 yards

4-wood:1941 MacGregor Tommy Armour (19 degrees)
Shaft:True Temper Dynamic Steel, X Flex

225 yards

Irons: 1945 MacGregor Tommy Armour 915T (2-7), 1972 MacGregor Tourney Custom (8-PW)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Steel, Stiff Flex, +0.5″ shaft length

2-iron: 210 yards

3-iron:  200 yards

4-iron: 185 yards

5-iron: 175 yards

6-iron:  160 yards

7-iron: 150 yards

8-iron: 140 yards

9-iron: 125 yards

PW (10-iron): 115 yards

Miller: “I cut the irons and reground the bottoms [soles] and the top. You didn’t have much club left, so they had to have a lot of lead tape to bring them up [to proper swingweight numbers]. An extra wrap on the right hand made the grip not so V-shaped.” 

Wedge: 1959 Wilson Dyna-Power  Sand Wedge (58 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic steel shaft, stiff flex

85 yards

Putter: 1952 Acushnet Bullseye Old Standard (36″ shaft)

Miller: “No putter ever made feels better than a Bullseye, it’s so soft. The ones before the late ’60’s had a heavier brass alloy, which kept them from getting dinged up all over.” 

Ball: MacGregor Tourney

Miller: “In ’73, I switched to the Tourney ball that Jack [Nicklaus] was using. It was a heck of a ball. It was so hard [101 compression] that it wouldn’t spin and back up quite as much as the softer balata balls. When I switched, my scoring definitely improved.”  (Source: Golf WRX)

Interestingly, many golfers would scoff at the clubs used by Miller back in the day. I would suggest that Miller’s ball striking skill made up for the lack of technology. The greats of that time (Nicklaus, Player, Watson and Trevino) would likely have used ‘modern technology’ more than Miller. The fact that Miller’s clubs were consider very old in 1973 attests to the fact that a player with a great swing can hit any club.

I think the change or evolution in golf club making has drastically changed the game. In the year that I started playing golf (1974), creating a swing that was controlled and repeatable was the norm. Now, it is all about hitting with power. Once that is achieved controlled and touch will be taught. There is nothing wrong with this approach, however I would suggest that the pendulum has swung too far to the distance side of the equation. There is an equilibrium in there and each player must find the right mix for their game. In the meantime, modern technology allows for a false sense of ability by creating the most forgiving clubs in history. I guess that is what sells, so they will continue to follow this advancement path.

If you have never swung vintage clubs, I recommend you give it a try. This also applies to hickory shafts as well. They offer a different feel for your game and who knows, you just might like it better.

Just a reminder:

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


2 thoughts on “Johnny Miller and Vintage Golf Clubs

  1. A good article Jim. As a golfer that likes to try out a variety of clubs, I have learned that good clubs existed in all eras. If anything, golfers in the early days were more hands on in finding what worked best. The understanding of swing weight and turf interaction were well established.

    When it comes to irons, I can play just as well with a well designed blade from the 60’s or 70’s. Even in the hickory era, clubs such as the Tom Stewarts were great players and still are today. For my “modern” set, I have decided to go retro with my irons. In November and December, a couple of us decided to play classic clubs for the winter. I played 16 rounds with my old 76’ Wilson Staffs and a myriad of old woods. 8 of the rounds were in the 70’s. Make sure you know the lofts and it is not hard to play great golf. Of course, make sure the flex of the shaft is right. I have also put into play a set of 61’ Henry Cotton irons that play just as well. The quality of sets like these should not be underestimated.

    The greatest difference in modern equipment is in the woods. Technology has been more of a factor, but playing old persimmon or laminate woods is still a lot of fun, you just will not hit them as far.

    My only advice is to take some of the claims of equipment makers with a grain of salt. Don’t be afraid to try out some of the old clubs, you will be surprised. Good clubs are good clubs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorne

      I agree that just because the clubs are vintage does not mean they are not worth the effort to try. I found that out and I am enjoying a new found passion for golf. Have fun tomorrow at the tradeshow.

      Cheers Jim


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