Sport: Sweetening the Sweet Spot

Courses are longer and sleeker, knickers have given way to bellbottoms, balls are livelier and travel farther, hickory staffs on clubs have been replaced by stainless steel or expensive graphite (up to $2,000 per set). Those are the obvious changes in golf since the game was first played in Scotland some 500 years ago.

Less visible improvements in equipment have contributed even more dramatically to lowered scores. By thickening the base of club heads, manufacturers have concentrated their weight as low as possible — adding power to even a duffer's swing. But for the...

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