Equipment RulesDecember 12, 2016

Wilson's Triton driver ruled nonconforming—for now

When the winner of Wilson’s Driver vs. Driver competition—the Triton—was announced, there was some talk about the club not being on the USGA’s list of conforming driver heads. At first that appeared to be a mere formality as the company simply wasn’t taking any chances on the winning club being leaked in advance. Today, however, Wilson acknowledged that after speaking with the USGA, the ruling body does in fact have some minor issues with the club, resulting in Wilson having to make a pair of adjustments to bring the clubs into conformance.

The necessary alterations appear, on the surface, to be nitpicks at best. The first involved slightly reducing the rear edge of the adjustable sole plate by a few millimeters. According to Michael Vrska, Wilson’s global innovation director for golf, the USGA referenced the plain in shape rule, claiming the club had multiple cavities in the rear of the club.

“They admit that the original plain in shape rules and multiple cavity rules were written to stop people from trying to cheat volume, from people trying to cheat MOI and they understand that there was no intent in this case.” Vrska told GolfDigest.com. “They obviously agree that this is not a factor in that, but that’s been their ruling.

“We disagree with their interpretation of that rule. Frank Thomas [who served as one of the three primary judges on the Driver vs. Driver show] wrote the plain in shape rule and disagrees with that interpretation. But in this case their interpretation wins. We’re trying to be good citizens and good partners in the golf space so we are modifying the sole plates.”

The other change had to do with the adjustable weights. When using a pair of six-gram weights along with the heavier 12-gram weight and the heavier titanium sole plate, the USGA found the club had a characteristic time of 258—just one microsecond outside conformance of the USGA’s spring-like effect test. According to Wilson, that configuration is one that virtually no one would use as it would produce a heavy fade bias along with a swingweight in the E-2 to E-5 range—or something a lumberjack might use. The standard version of the Triton clubhead weighs 204 grams and the configuration of the non-conforming version of the driver weighs 214 grams, and the sense is that a heavier driver might produce a higher reading of the USGA’s pendulum CT test.

“We tried to do an energetic product to bring excitement to golf,” said Tim Clarke, president of Wilson Golf. “So it’s disappointing that we’re in a position to have to make adjustments to the product. We have 100 years of conforming products in the market and we’re a conformance product brand, so although we disagree with the ruling, we will make the necessary changes.”

Those changes will require some nifty logistical handiwork. Luckily for Wilson, it only involves adjustable components rather than entire clubheads. Upon producing the conforming soleplates, Wilson will send them to its retail accounts (the company said it is asking retailers to take the Triton off store shelves until then) to swap out. Those who already have purchased the Triton can register online at wilsongolf.com/Triton to receive the new soleplate. Regarding the weights, Wilson simply is removing the 12-gram weight from the accompanying accessory kit.

“There was no road map for this kind of project,” said Vrska. “Internally, we thought we would know the winner well in advance. But the two drivers that made the final were in a dogfight to the end. It’s disappointing, but at this point we’re focused on doing what’s right for the consumer and moving forward.”

Currently, a 9-degree version of the Wilson Triton is already on the conforming list, and it is being tried by Wilson staff members Kevin Streelman and Ricky Barnes.

The company anticipates all lofts of the driver will be on the USGA conforming list either this coming Monday when the USGA releases its next list of conforming drivers or shortly thereafter.

The Evolution of the Driver