While everyone is down with the idea of retro basketball sneakers that feature outdated tech but (arguably) superior aesthetics, why is no one willing to play with older golf clubs in the name of looks? Probably because the game is frustrating enough as is without additional, self-imposed handicaps (pun intended). But to Cole Young—former college golfer and founder of apparel brand Metalwood Studio—it’s a sacrifice worth making. Not that he would even consider what he does a trade-off.
His philosophy could be described as Deion Sandersian, i.e., look good, play good, etc. That means you’re just as likely if not more to see Young out on the links swinging a driver that first debuted in 1999 as you are to spot him with the latest and greatest 460cc “game-changing” model. And trust me, as someone who’s played several rounds with Young, losing to a guy jovially slapping around a persimmon wood he bought for $22 on eBay is hilariously demoralizing.
To Young, golf really isn’t about a number on a card, but an overall experience that’s a combination of aesthetics, environment, and company. If his tee shots travel 20 yards less and his irons have a 35% smaller sweet spot, so be it. He’d rather channel the vibes of Freddie Couples than Scottie Scheffler, anyway.
This philosophy carries over to his on-course wardrobe. It seems like nowadays every polo shirt from major golf brands is crafted of the stuff you’ll also see in a yoga studio. As such, Cole’s label Metalwood makes the kind of ‘80s and ‘90s inspired gear that was popular when golf cleats looked like saddle shoes, sleeve lengths were elbow length, and pleats were popping.
I spoke to Young about why he plays almost exclusively with what others might consider outdated clubs and how you can get in the vintage gear game, too. We also hit up iconic LA vintage outpost American Rag to see what course-ready gems he could find in the rough.
Jake Woolf: Why play with older clubs versus the new stuff when golf is hard enough?
I play with what I like and what makes me feel good and what brings me joy. I don't necessarily think that the latest and greatest is going to bring me the most joy. Sure, shooting great scores and having an advantage using modern day technology is nice but I don't think that's what I'm trying to get out of golf. What I'm trying to get out of golf is pure enjoyment of what kind of bag I put together on that day, the look of it, and if I got a good deal on it.
Is part of it that you don't want to chase “new?” The golf companies' whole marketing is that every year they come out with the newest game changing technology that's going to totally change your game and shave five strokes off your game.
Yeah, I don't play that shit. I don't want to get sucked into that vortex because I really think it does stifle creativity. And there's less than 10 legit OEM club manufacturers. Looking at older generation clubs, you have way more to choose from and put together a bag that resonates with you.
What's the biggest fallacy or to put it bluntly, a line of BS, that manufacturers sell people on new clubs?
I think that this is a through-line with almost every club manufacturer. In 2009, I entered a golf company and in the research and development department, they had made technological advances which would bring them all the way up until 2015 or '16. So we're talking about seven years ahead. But they don't jam all that technology into one club, they have to draw that out across seven different iterations of a certain club to make money. And with these technological advances they're making every year, I think people are falling out of love with what makes a golf club great.
What makes a golf club great to you?
It's like cars. There are certain angles or bends or shapes that are really aesthetically pleasing. And I think that with drivers, for instance, higher moment of inertia is preferred because it makes the golf club more forgiving but in order to achieve high MOI, the golf club's just got to be really flat and long and looks like it's stretched out when I like a deeper face driver or a more compact size, but you can't achieve high MOI with that. So I don't know, there's just different shapes, different muscle backs, different cavities, different things that are, for lack of a better word, sexy.
Since you've gotten off the carousel, do you think it's made you a better golfer because you have to be more precise and focus more on mechanics and precision versus relying on the club to help you?
The way that I play golf didn't change and considering that the sweet spots of these clubs are much smaller than what they would be, I think I'm actually worse but I'm definitely enjoying myself a lot more.
If you had to build an ideal, no limitations on what you can find, perfect set, what's your driver? What are your irons, your wedges, your putter, all of that?
Damn. GOAT driver? SuperQuad TP Driver. Fairway [wood] would be the Titleist 970. 13 degrees. I have a 5-wood, which would be Titleist PT-18. Irons are Mizuno MP-14.
Do you like to do more of your vintage club shopping IRL or do you do most of your shopping online. What are the tips that you have for each?
Just got to be patient. I like shopping online more than IRL, there's obviously a couple stores that I really like to go to in person. But it's like thrift shopping or going to a flea market, you have to go in with zero expectations because there's obviously not a search bar and windows at the golf store IRL.
I think they're little tricks to it. Using saved searches and Google alerts to help you find stuff is helpful. If you're shopping IRL, I don't know, checking grooves, checking serial numbers, especially being from the West Coast and growing up in San Diego near all the golf club companies, just a lot of employees would just dump all their stuff to Roger Dunns and golf clubs down there. So if you were paying attention to serial numbers, you can come up pretty good.
Is that how you first got into it? Was it just being around and wanting to get new clubs and then realizing like, "Oh, they're really expensive." How much of that played into it? I just texted you a link to a Sasquatch 3-wood that I think is dope.
Yeah, I've got this literal exact club. It's got a Tiger Diamana Blue Board in it. If you want to give it a run.