By Mike Stachura
Ping officially unveiled its G30 driver to the public Thursday, and while the club's shape and its emphasis on stability continue the tradition of its G-series drivers dating back to the debut of the G2 in 2003, this iteration makes a fundamental and immediately visible change.
It's what Bubba Watson, who is expected to put the driver in play this week at The Greenbrier Classic, recently called "speed humps," but the scientific community recognizes as "turbulators."
The turbulators are a series of angled ridges on the crown of the G30. They are designed to improve the way the air flows around the clubhead. The result, according to a study Ping engineers will present at this month's Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association, is an average increase in clubhead speed of nearly 1 mile per hour when compared with a similar G30 head design without the crown features.
Why is that an especially important achievement? In simple terms, the G30's large footprint and low and deep center of gravity allow it to feature one of the highest moment-of-inertia readings of any driver on the market. (Moment of inertia refers to the clubhead's ability to remain stable on off-center hits. That stability means mis-hits will lose less ball speed, so they're likely to lose less distance.) But oversized drivers with large faces and long front-to-back measurements can be less aerodynamically efficient that more compact designs, such as fairway woods. Engineers at Ping wanted to maintain G30's forgiving size, but not compromise on the efficiency of the swing.
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"Let's get the clubhead speed gains we might see with a smaller head, but not give up any of the advantages of a driver with maximum volume," says Marty Jertson, senior design engineer at Ping. "Essentially what we're after is the stability of a pickup truck with the aerodynamics of a Prius."
Ping's efforts to improve the aerodynamics included wind-tunnel testing conducted at Arizona State University's School of Engineering, Matter, Transport and Energy. The results were documented in a research paper titled, "Experimental investigation of golf driver club head drag reduction through the use of aerodynamic features on the driver crown." Among its conclusions, "The use of these aerodynamic features has shown significant decreases in energy loss due to aerodynamic drag, which has led to significant increases in delivered club head speed and total distance. ... [Turbulators] are proven to delay flow separation over the driver crown by influencing the behavior of the boundary layer. The quantitative drag measurements indicated about a 25-percent reduction in drag for orientations and speeds toward the end of a typical downswing with a 100 mph impact club head speed."
That's a lot of science, but the gist is the clubhead with turbulators moved through the air with less turbulence. These are not drastic changes in clubhead speed, but a 1 mph increase in clubhead speed can lead to approximately 2-3 mph in ballspeed. That kind of increase could lead to 6-8 additional yards in driving distance.
While the aerodynamic effort is the most notable enhancement to the new G30 driver, the club shows several new features. First, the G30 expands its range of adjustability, offering five settings that change the loft by plus/minus one degree. Second, the G30 utilizes two kinds of titanium in the head. There's Ti 8-1-1 in the body and crown, while a new, higher strength-to-weight ratio T9S titanium used in the face means it can be made thinner and lighter, saving four grams to be redistributed throughout the head. Third, the saved weight allows for the club's center of gravity to be lower and farther back than any previous Ping driver. Fourth, the G30 line includes a heel-weighted and lighter swing weight SF Tec version of the driver that's designed to combat a slice. Finally, the G30 continues the company's high-balance-point shaft technology, which features a center of gravity in the shaft that's closer to the hands to increase a player's ability to swing the club faster.
The G30 driver (MSRP: $385) is available in 9- and 10.5-degree lofts, while the SF Tec version comes in 10- and 12-degree lofts.
The G30 line also includes adjustable fairway woods (five settings that range between plus or minus one degree of loft), which for the first time in company history will feature a thin Carpenter 475 face insert for improved ball speed. In addition to the faster face design -- for those who want to get really technical, Ping engineers say the characteristic time reading has improved from 160 to 225 -- the club also includes turbulators on the crown for improved aerodynamics. The adjustable G30 fairway woods (right, MSRP: $275) are available in 14.5-, 18- and 21-degree lofts.
There are also new G30 hybrids (MSRP: $242.50), which are constructed of a special 17-4 stainless steel that's been processed with an H900 heat treatment to improve face deflection for more ball speed. The five lofts (17, 19, 22, 26, 30 degrees) feature progressive offset and CG locations to optimize ballflight.
The G30 line of drivers, fairway woods and hybrids can be pre-ordered starting Thursday.