The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

Callaway pursues lighter weight for a faster driver

By Mike Stachura

In the latest version of golf equipment's worst-kept secret, Callaway today officially unveiled the Big Bertha V Series driver. As expected, the club, which has been on the USGA's list of conforming drivers for more than two weeks and was put in play by several players at the recent WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, reflects an approach to helping the golfer create more distance through increased swing speed.

BB-v1.jpgTaking a cue from the formula for kinetic energy, which is engraved on the sole of the clubhead, the Big Bertha V Series ($400, available in stores Aug. 22) is a lighter total weight driver. The key idea behind enhancing the club's kinetic energy, whose formula is one-half times the mass times the velocity squared, is that by increasing swing speed you can have a greater effect on the energy delivered to the ball at impact than if you choose instead to increase the weight of the head. One way to increase swingspeed is to slightly reduce total weight.

At its lightest configuration, the Big Bertha V Series is around 290 grams, or about 20 grams lighter than the current standard Big Bertha driver and 30 or more grams lighter than several other drivers being played by many players on the PGA Tour. According to Evan Gibbs, Callaway's senior manager of product performance in metalwoods, the V Series is one possible solution among many kinds of driver and many kinds of players.

"One of the philosophies behind this driver is there are a lot of different recipes for distance," Gibb said. "Some players benefit from having a very low spinning driver, a lot of players need a little bit more MOI [moment of inertia, or improved stability on off-center hits for more consistent ballspeed and spin across the face], and another segment of players can really benefit from a lightweight driver. It helps them generate more head speed and in turn get more distance.

"The focus on this driver is really about optimizing the properties of this head, but constraining it to a very lightweight configuration."

The Big Bertha V Series achieves this goal by fashioning the crown out of the company's lightweight "forged composite" material. In addition to a lightweight grip, the standard shaft on the higher lofted versions (10.5 and 13.5HT models) is just 42 grams (Mitsubishi Rayon Bassara).

Furthering this idea that there are different drivers for different players, the V Series' 9-degree model features a slightly lower center of gravity position (for decreased spin) and a heavier shaft. The total weight of the 9-degree model is just above 300 grams and features the heavier Fujikura Speeder 565 shaft.

"One of the unique things is how we've optimized the design progression through the lofts," Gibbs said. "We understand that all these players are looking for more head speed and a lighter weight. It's a question of how do we translate that head speed into more distance. That's a little bit different in the 9-degree head than in a HT head because it's really a different golfer type."

The Big Bertha V Series also features a similar face technology as found in the company's Big Bertha and X2 Hot drivers. The "Hyperspeed" design aims to save weight in the face insert (traditionally the heaviest section of a driver) yet still improve deflection on off-center hits through more precise thickness variation. 

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All three lofts (9, 10.5 and 13HT) feature the company's eight-way adjustable hosel, which allows the user to change independently between four lofts (minus-one degree, standard, plus-one degree and plus-two degrees) and two lie angles (neutral and upright).

The Big Bertha V Series also will be available in fairway woods ($250), including the return of the Heavenwood. The Heavenwood is a fairway wood featuring a 7-wood loft (20.5 degrees) with a 4-wood shaft length. The stainless steel fairway woods continue the lightweight design of the drivers and utilize Callaway's "Warbird" sole, whose slight V-shape and recessed heel and toe regions are designed to improve versatility in various lies and turf conditions. The fairways feature a variable thickness face similar in concept to the "Hyperspeed" design in the drivers. In addition to the Heavenwood, the V Series is available in 3-wood, 7-wood and 9-wood lofts. 

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Gear & Equipment

Ping explains the turbulators on its new G30 driver, and why you might like them

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."

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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. 

Related: Bubba Watson buys every Ping employee Chipotle

"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.

loop-ping-G30-fairway-290.jpgThe 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.

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Equipment

TaylorMade's new driver is a 3-wood


For many players, the lowest lofted fairway wood in the bag, usually one with 15 degrees of loft or less, has become at best a club of compromise, and at worst, somewhat useless.

the-loop-blog-taylormade-mini-driver.jpgHere's the problem: As fairway woods have gotten longer (their typical shaft lengths are near driver length compared to clubs of a generation ago), they've become much more difficult to hit off the ground for average golfers. In addition, as better players are hitting the driver increasingly farther, the need to hit a 3-wood off the deck is far and few between, if ever. So there are two resulting scenarios: Average players have a fairway wood they struggle to hit from the fairway, or better players have a 3-wood they don't need to hit off the fairway. In either case, the newest versions of these fairway woods boast the technology of thinner, hotter faces that promise more distance through lower spin and higher launch. 

But the technology that would make these clubs an ideal choice as a secondary option for tee shots isn't as easy to use because many of these clubs have been designed for use primarily off the fairway. All the elements that make a club more useful off the fairway (shallower face, smaller overall size) are either unnecessary, counterproductive or even intimidating when you ask a player to hit that same club off a tee.

TaylorMade's new SLDR Mini Driver is the company's answer to the issue of making a fairway wood that acts more like a driver. SLDR Mini is among the largest fairway woods on the market, checking in at 260 cubic centimeters. That's larger than the titanium drivers of the mid-1990s. (Both Callaway and Ping also have  introduced oversized fairway woods recently.) The extra size is designed to make the club more stable on off-center hits compared to most average fairway woods, which typically are a third smaller in size or more. The larger face also makes it easier to achieve a larger area of maximum flexibility for the highest ballspeeds and more distance.

“Tour pros and better amateurs often hit their 3-wood off the tee more often than from the fairway,” said Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade’s senior director of metalwood creation, indicating the company's research says. “We embraced that fact to create a metalwood that’s sized between a 3-wood and driver and is designed to be easy to hit off a tee.”

While Phil Mickelson made headlines using his 3-wood and completely eschewing the driver last summer, including during his British Open victory, this week it appears Justin Rose will be the story, after reports have him adding the SLDR Mini Driver to his bag for the Masters. 

SLDR Mini is made of high-strength steel and features the similar low-spin-producing center of gravity location found on the SLDR drivers. The idea with a low-forward CG is that shots launch higher with less spin, two keys to optimizing distance at any ballspeed. In addition, the low-forward CG is better aligned with the center of the face to produce better energy transfer. The higher loft of a fairway wood might even make it easier for average golfers to get shots launched more optimally than with a driver. The shorter shaft vs. the driver (43.5 inches on the SLDR Mini vs. 45.5 inches on the SLDR) might also help average golfers more consistently contact the center of the face and return the clubface to square at impact. 

The club also features the now familiar slot in the sole near the leading edge that's designed to improve ballspeed on shots hit lower on the face. 

SLDR Mini is available in three lofts (12, 14 and 16 degrees) and two versions. The standard version ($280) features the same Fujikura 57 shaft found in the SLDR, though two inches shorter. A TP version also is available ($380) and features a Fujikura Motore Speeder 7.3 shaft and is built to a heavier, D5 swing weight.

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Gear & Equipment

Callaway offers options off the tee with new X2 Hot Deep fairway woods

Phil Mickelson's victory in the 2013 British Open made hitting a 3-wood off the tee as popular as it is prudent.

Blog-Callaway-x2Hot.jpgThat club, the Callaway X Hot 3-Deep, has been updated this year to the X2 Hot ($230) to include three lofts: the 2-Deep (12.5 degrees, currently played by Mickelson), 3-Deep (14.5) and 5-Deep (18.5). These oversize versions are meant to be hit off the tee, but Evan Gibbs, Callaway's manager of performance analysis, says they've been tweaked to make them easier to hit off the fairway, too.

"Flattening the roll radius has been effective for increasing launch and optimizing spin for shots hit low on the face," he says.

The woods feature a Carpenter 455-steel cupface and measure 203, 182 and 154 cubic centimeters, respectively, to optimize stability on off-center hits.
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