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Golf Swing Play-off Against Golf Driver Technology


There is no sweeter shot in golf than a ripping drive, perfectly straight, landing just where you want it to, with the right amount of run. The sound alone is music to the ears. It got me wondering how much technology plays in the shot compared to swing technique. This is what I found.

Just 20 years since the majority of professionals were using persimmon drivers. Since then we have doubled the golf speak to include: cc size, sweet spot technology, launch angle, composition, forgiveness, ball speed and aerodynamics. With so many golf drivers on the market, it is difficult to really know just which one is best for you! They say the right driver can add 20 more yards to your ball – that may just make the difference getting you two to the green on a par 5.

Golf driver technology is a combination of head and shaft.

Golf Driver Head

The golf driver head can be either made of steel, titanium or a composite material the combines non-metal materials with titanium.

Steel headed drivers are slightly less expensive but heavier than titanium drivers. Due to the increased weight of the steel and its relative weakness, the head of a steel driver is smaller. Golf drivers made of steel are extremely durable and offer a solid, consistent ball strike.

The titanium driver head is probably the biggest breakthrough in recent golf technology. The light weight of titanium allows larger headed drivers, which both increases the sweet spot and the forgiveness of the club. The forgiveness means that a decent shot can still be achieved from an off centre connection. This is one place where technology out drives technique. Titanium is currently the most expensive golf driver material, but it is long lasting and resistant to impact damage or corrosion.

In an attempt to get the weight of the driver head even lower, thereby enabling the size of the head to be even bigger, composites such as carbon were introduced. Carbon is generally used for the crown of the club and the entire rear section, with a titanium face giving more weight and strength to the driver at impact point. By using the weight differential between the two materials, the centre of gravity of the club head can be positioned nearer the face, giving more forgiveness and a larger sweet spot.

Golf Driver Shafts

Golf driver shafts are either made of steel, graphite or multiple materials.

Steel shafts are stronger, more durable and generally less expensive than graphite. Steel shafts are best suited to mid level golfer with normal swing speeds. The provide better shaft to shaft consistency and more control. Being heavier, the steel shaft requires a faster swing speed to effect the same driving distance as a graphite shaft.

Lady golfers and seniors who cannot produce a fast enough swing speed to use a steel shaft, have better results with graphite shafts. Being lighter than steel, they produce greater swing speed, giving more power to the shot. Unfortunately this comes at a cost. The flex generated during the swing results in less control. Graphite shafts are more expensive and less durable than steel shafts, but with a range of flexes, they are popular with professionals and amateurs alike. Many players also find that the vibration absorbed by the shaft reduces occurrences of tendonitis.

Multi-Material shafts are the most recent addition to the shaft selection. The shaft is typically mainly steel with a graphite tip. The steel section gives better ball control, whilst the graphite tip gives just the right amount of whip action to propel the ball further. The graphite tip also helps filter out unwanted vibrations at contact, giving more feel to the shot.

Once you have determined your preference for head and shaft materials, the design factors come into play. There are some R&A limits here to consider.

Design Factors

The design factors include: head size, launch angle, COR, length and weight, and weighting.

Head Size - The maximum permitted head size [everything below the shaft], set by the R&A is 460cc.

Launch Angle - the angle from the ground at which the ball is struck into the air. Most drivers will have a launch angle of between 11 and 18 degrees. The lower the angle, the easier the hit, but shorter the distance. Most mid handicap players use a 9-11 degree angle. The perfect launch angle will maximise both carry and roll.

COR – [Coefficient of Restitution] is the amount of energy transferred between the clubface and the ball at impact. The higher the COR, the more energy is retained and the ball rebounds further. A perfect COR would be 1.00 [100%]. The USGA and the R&A Tour professional maximum COR is 0.83. The R&A allows drivers to be used in general play by amateurs to have a maximum COR of 0.89 up until 1 January 2008.

Length & Weight - the length of drivers are typically 43 to 47 inches long. The longer the length of your driver, the greater its driving distance, and the less control factor. Long drivers are only recommended for low handicap players. The lighter the driver, the faster the swing speed, again producing more distance and less control.

Plugs and Weights – the latest driver technology is the use of plugs or weights in the driver head. Tungsten inserts placed behind the face of the driver add to the sweet spot; the position of the weight affects the way in which it works. The further the weight is away from the face, the higher the ball flight Weights are generally removable, with up to four weights placed giving different shapes and velocities. The Rules of Golf do not permit weight changes during a round, but can be played between rounds to adjust the ball flight for different wind conditions.

It seems that technology has been winning the game a little too much for R&A. A recent announcement that the rules will be changed to “restore the historic importance of driving accuracy in the game based on extensive research into the effect of club face groove markings on spin generation for balls hit from the rough”. Whilst this is not directed at drivers as such, it does indicate that the rules of the game are going to keep it as fairly matched to skill as possible. Read full article.

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