Jack Nicklaus's Drivers of Choice, 1960-2009

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When Jack Nicklaus burst onto the scene in the early 1960's, his fans and opponents were awed by his distance off the tee. He was one of the few players who could routinely drive the ball more than 300 yards with low-tech persimmon equipment. Here we highlight the tools of the Golden Bear's trade, and illuminate how far technology has brought the big stick in the past half-century.

Used by Jack: 1960-1966
Manufactured: 1960
Majors won: 1961 U.S. Amateur; '62 U.S. Open; '63 and '65 Masters; '63 PGA Championship.
Technology: Fifty years ago, MacGregor drivers were carved from blocks of "oil-hardened" persimmon wood. The SS1W has a medium-deep face, black leather Firma-Grip and light-brown head (Nicklaus's refurbished club is black).
History: Nicklaus broke the face insert nine times in 1961 and cracked the neck in a 1966 "Challenge of the Champions" match with Gary Player.

Used by Jack: 1976-1990
Manufactured: 1954-1955
Majors won: 1978 British Open; '80 U.S. Open and PGA Championship; '86 Masters.
Technology: The 945W (with mahogany glaze finish) features MacGregor's signature red-and-white "fibre" Eye-OMatic face insert. The company used the distinctive multi-color insert in 1952-1957.
History: Nicklaus played MacGregor's Tommy Armour 693 driver [not pictured] in 1975 during Major triumphs at The Masters and the PGA Championship.

Used by Jack: 1990-1991
Manufactured: 1989
Majors won: 1990 Senior Players; '91 Tradition, U.S. Senior Open and Senior PGA.
Technology: Small-headed stainless steel woods were more forgiving (and easier to mass-produce) than wooden clubs. This led to 44" graphite shafts.
History: The modern metal wood (Taylor Made Pittsburgh Persimmon) debuted in 1979. By 1988, wood woods were virtually extinct. In 1991, Callaway unveiled Big Bertha, the first thin-walled, oversize (190 cc) stainless steel driver.

Used by Jack: 1996
Manufactured: 1996Majors won: 1996 Tradition (Nicklaus's 100th professional win).
Technology: Early titanium drivers were larger and more forgiving than their steel predecessors. Bigger, lighter heads made 45" graphite shafts the norm.
History: In 1995, Callaway's Great Big Bertha Titanium (250 cc) and TaylorMade's Ti Bubble (one year later) redefined drivers with heads made from lightweight titanium, paving the way for today's 460 cc clubs. Previously, it was too difficult (and expensive) to produce cast titanium heads.

Used by Jack: 2003-2004
Manufactured: 2003Majors won: None
Technology: "Rigid" clubfaces become a thing of the past as manufacturers use strong, light materials to craft a flexible face (like a trampoline) for maximum power. This prompts the USGA to impose a "spring-like" effect test.
History: In 2000, the TaylorMade 300 Series was born. The company predicted that its "too large" 360 cc head would be the least popular model. In fact, the 360 Ti doubled sales of its two siblings and this consumer acceptance signaled the birth of 300 cc+ clubheads.

Used by Jack: 2005-present
Manufactured: 2005Majors won: None
Technology: Drivers today are more forgiving, with significantly more draw-bias. More efficient clubfaces ensure that mis-hits will perform almost as well as center strikes.
History: Titanium drivers reached the 460 cc size limit five years ago. Variations now include geometric head shapes, removable weights or changeable shaft systems. A handful of clubs offer adjustable face angles, lie angles and loft to achieve the optimal ball flight.