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Smoke & Mirrors of Drivers
OK, you all know that I’m “the wedge guy”, and that I’m a firm believer that your route to lower scores is going to be at the short end of the set rather than from the tee. But this industry is driven by the noise around drivers and big companies’ endless promises of hitting the ball further. I received an email the other day from Pat in Yorktown, VA, a reader who is trying to make sense of the claims by the driver makers. It is so good, that I’m going to re-print it here:
Recently, driver technology has been working on generating more clubhead speed to get more distance by improving aerodynamics to lighter clubs to shaft length, etc. If we look at the simple physics formula: F=ma (Force = mass times acceleration), by increasing clubhead speed of a standard driver head mass, I can see how distance can be increased. But if we can increase our clubhead speed by 3-4 mph with a mass that may be 25 grams lighter, I can’t see how the math works out to increase the force we put on the ball to get more distance. Besides that, swingweight would change and that can affect the rhythm, tempo, and timing to square the clubhead and strike the ball solidly and accurately. I hope you can elaborate on this topic before I run out and buy the latest and greatest driver with all the promises and marketing hype. Thanks.
Well, Pat, I think you nailed it pretty well here. If we make the driver lighter so you can swing it faster, we’ve also reduced the mass with which you are making impact, so what’s the gain? For weekend and other regular-guy golfers, I’m betting it’s not much. The driver market has been driven by technology for decades now, and they have all pretty much pushed the envelope as far as the USGA will allow. But they surely cannot admit that, can they? They have drivers to sell.

In my opinion, unless your current driver is over 5-6 years old, there’s not going to be much distance improvement available to you with the newest whiz-bang model. In fact, I’ll bet that each and every one of you hits drives with some frequency that are super-long, and that’s because every once in a while you get all the hitches and idiosyncrasies of your swing just right and make dead solid perfect impact. And it’s no secret that even with the most advanced drivers in the market today, a miss by 1/2” will cost you 7-9% of optimum distance. And a miss by 3/4” will increase that loss to 12-15%.

But just for fun, you should see what 15 more yards would really do for your scores . . . if that was even “for sale” out there in the marketplace. The next time you play a recreational round, after each drive, pick up your ball and walk it 15 yards further down the line it was traveling when it came to rest. Whether it was headed straight down the fairway, or towards the OB stakes, water or bunker . . . 15 more yards, OK?

My bet is that it would not change your scores even one stroke for the better. But I’d sure like to hear what you guys find out with this little experiment.

Any takers?
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


[ comments ]
Gordon 1955 says:
Most of us golfers today are like a single 25 year old woman, obsessed with length! We all want to hit longer drivers than our playing partners. But as far I as I concerned I would rather sacrifice some distance and hit far more fairways in regulation. Also if I was also to practice more on my short game than my long game I would hit more greens in regulation!

So here is a thought – instead of hitting 200 balls on the nearest golf driving range to try and get that elusive extra 10 yards why not practice your short game?

If we use modern technology to help us select the right club and hit it straighter, rather than longer, we can all improve our golf and watch our handicaps fall! This in turn will help eliminate slow play – now that can’t be a bad thing!
2/21/12
 
Hio32206 says:
I purposely gave up 10-15 yards off the driver - Why? Because I believe the 'scoring' part of the game is on the short end.

I Changed balls to get the best performance 'into the green'... and lost 10-15 yards off the driver (depending on fairway firmness). I'm happy to lose the driving contest and win on the scorecard - you don't have to post driver distances.
2/22/12
 
Golfguy3 says:
I couldn't agree more. And, just to be clear, let's set the proverbial record straight by cleaning up the terminology. It's the obsession with LENGTH that's the real problem. Not "distance". Distance could be 3 yards or 300 yards. Getting in a little extra practice dialing in your distances isn't a bad thing in my book. But, I do agree that spending the bulk of your time trying to wrench out extra "length" from each club in your bag is a fool's errand. I believe that accuracy can and should go hand-in-hand with distance (control). But, "length" has very little substance in the game of golf, if any at all. Just ask current #1 Luke Donald. One of the shorter hitters on tour, but he won the money titles on both the PGA and Euro tours last year. Accuracy over length? Yes.

For me, I am currently working through my entire bag with my coach and a club fitter to gain accuracy, not length. Fairways and greens, my friend. The only numbers that truly matter in this game are 3s and 4s, not 300s and 350s.
2/24/12
 
shootermagavin says:
Playing the right ball for your swing type can give you more distance and wont cost $400 or $500 dollars. I think that part of the obsession for extra distance is the Ego in guys and for some thats all they care about. But the fact is if you can hit the ball further then your Irons/approach shots are going to be shorter and essentially should be easier. Personally I never try and kill the ball and am quite happy to let my playing partners bomb it past me,I am comfortable with my all round game and course management is higher on my list than trying to hit 300 yards off the Tee(i wouldnt mind it though). Try a few different balls and you might just find that you have gained a few yards,but that is only one aspect of the game. I practice a lot on 150 yards and in and also putting and thats where the game is won and lost in my opinion. The Caveman Golfer certainly would not not agree with that though.
2/27/12
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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