Bomb & GougeOctober 18, 2010

Even the greatest skeptics can experience faith

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- Day one of the Hot List Summit commenced with seven and a half hours of discussion on the industry's latest solutions to make the tee ball fly farther. With driver volume, moment of inertia and spring-like effect all capped by the Rules of Golf, it might seem making a more powerful driver is like trying to draw water from a stone. With rational severity, our panel of six Ph.D.s systematically cut down to size the prospective yardage gains touted by several emerging technologies. These technologies included, but were not limited to, adjustable hosels for better custom-fits, lighter and longer drivers to help you swing faster, more aerodynamically shaped heads, and a new lighter and stronger type of carbon. In no case did the panel's math suggest that more than a few more yards were possible. Calling out calculations without calculators (showoffs), they used things like singular pendulum models with assumed linear torques. By no means perfect, but good enough for class.

"I like to be convinced," said George Springer, Paul Pigott professor of engineering, aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University. "And right now there is no data that makes me convinced."

academics_putting.jpg

Dr. John McPhee tries the Ghost Putter as Dr. George Springer (left) and Dr. John Axe look on.

"Evolutionary but not revolutionary," said Thomas Lacy, associate professor of aerospace engineering at Mississippi State University.

If you're a golfer looking for more distance (and who isn't), don't let these docs quash your hopes just yet. The potential for what can happen when the right club gets in the right golfer's hands, the magic meeting of several elements, well, there is no math for that. Indeed, one leading club company has evidence that by just matching the right club appearance to the right player, psychologically it can enable that player to swing much freer and faster.

At three p.m., when we released our docs from the meeting room so they could have their reward of nine holes in the Arizona sunshine, we quickly saw that they too were not immune to such psychology. After striping three in a row on the range, David Lee, associate professor of physics at Gordon College, turned with a boyish grin and simply said, "I like this one."

Later at dinner, professor Martin Brouillette of Sherbrooke University, had to be told no, he was not allowed to keep the driver he played with.

-- Max Adler