FRAMINGHAM (10/06/2003) - Golf is an old game, more than 500 years old, in fact. During that time, it's seen a lot of changes in the balls we use and the implements we hit them with. Not all that long ago, golf was played with hickory shaft clubs and a stitched leather ball tightly packed with goose feathers, known as the featherie. Prior to, say, 20 or 30 years ago, the most important technological changes in the game were the introduction of the metal shaft and the rubber core ball. But now, thanks to technological advances in materials and design, players can arm themselves with balls and clubs that are changing the game fundamentally--in ways that are not necessarily good.