August 27, 2007

Equipment: Open thinking

A peek at what clubs and balls might look like if the restraints were taken off golf equipment manufacturers

If club designers had free run, Tiger Woods and others would be even longer.

If club designers had free run, Tiger Woods and others would be even longer.

With a nod to our Fiction Issue and the creativity it inspires in writers, we asked some of golf's most talented club designers to see what they might come up with if there were no rules to restrict them. Their answers -- given anonymously to encourage big thinking -- were intriguing.

Want to hit more fairways than Fred Funk? How about a 600cc center-shafted driver with a face 80mm tall and 125mm wide. The coefficient of restitution would be 0.922 and the moment of inertia 7,200. Oh, and a micro-graduated thickness titanium face would allow the COR to be the same across the face so no loss of distance on mis-hits. How to do it? Use a nano-magnesium alloy for the body to allow 185 grams of mass to be positioned in the corners of the head to boost the MOI. The shaft? A 28-gram nano-graphite at 44 inches in length (to again help the MOI) along with a 22-gram nano-polymer grip. Both help the club stay at a total weight of 275 grams.

Movable parts would be plentiful, too. Although the USGA has already decided to allow for greater freedom in this area, no rules might mean an adjustable face angle driver that could easily be changed between holes or clubs where the loft could readily be adjusted.

There was no shortage of ideas on how to get the ball into the hole easier, too. One proposed a putter shaft rectangular in cross section. Such a club would bend easily in the direction of the stroke, but very little in the "droop" direction. This would provide a putter that could be held against the left forearm and the left wrist would be rigid. The entire stroke and the non-symmetrical shaft would provide the action, allowing the head to remain in line. Another thought was to build a putter head longer front to back than toe to heel. The benefit: a putter that is easier to aim. Think of the original Pelz Three-Ball on steroids.

Of course, since rules weren't a concern, why not simply pop a training grip on the putter (or any club, for that matter) to ensure the same hand position every time? Such a grip would especially help in pressure situations where the grip has a tendency to change. Of course, you still would have to read the green and have the necessary touch to make a putt, but a lot of variables would be eliminated.

As for golf ball, "rollback" wasn't in anyone's vocabulary -- except when it came to size. Generally speaking, one yard can be gained for every .01 inch the ball's diameter is reduced. Decreasing the diameter from 1.68 inches to 1.62 (about the size of the old British ball), for example, would yield six yards. Heavier would work, too, with about a yard tacked on for every half-gram of weight added. In other words, if the ball is beefed up 2 grams it should deliver an additional four yards (heavier than that might be counterproductive). Want more distance? Boost the ball velocity a bit over the limit. As with most good ideas, there are tradeoffs. Such a ball, for example, would only benefit someone at a high swing speed and the only reward would be distance, not playability. Still, it's fun to look at the possibilities and into the minds of golf's "mad scientists" -- even if the clubs they propose could only be used in a fictional match.



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THE BAG ROOM

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Equipment scoop from the tours

Ping's tour trailer saw some action the week after the PGA Championship -- despite the fact it didn't move an inch. Staying in Tulsa during an off week, the new G10-branded van was stored at a (theoretically) secure facility, but when tour tech Chuck Bowden returned to drive it to Westchester, he found it had been burglarized. More than 100 clubheads (primarily G10 and Rapture metal woods) were taken along with some wedges and putters... Thankfully for Mark Calcavecchia, not all the putters were taken. That's because Calc used not one, but two Ping putters at the Barclays -- a Ping Redwood Anser for his long putts and a belly-length Ping G5i Craz-E H for the shorties. The results: Calcavecchia ranked second in both putting average and putts per GIR...Steve Flesch's bag has undergone an overhaul lately, but one of the tour's top tinkerers seems to have settled on his equipment. "I went to the new Cleveland GC Red irons and back to my old [Rifle] shafts," said Flesch. "I must have tried 15, 20 different sets of irons the last couple of years. ...I just was kind of looking for an answer. I finally decided on a golf ball [Srixon's Z-URC]. I got a little stability back in my game." ... NCAA champ Jamie Lovemark changed from his Titleist irons to Nike's CCi model at last week's U.S. Amateur. Lovemark, who also uses Nike's SasQuatch Tour driver, saw the irons during a summer event and had his coach contact Nike for a set built to his specs (one-half inch long and 2 degrees upright).