Editors' BlogAugust 22, 2009

When do you change drivers?

__Dear Editor, Looks like I'm in trouble. > Lucas Glover and I play the same model year Nike Sumo (although his is the Sumo2 while mine is the Sumo 5000). I guess I'm confused on two issues:

  1. The retain rate of drivers went from three years to two. Last year, Bomb & Gouge were saying to buy a post-2005 driver. Now, according to Gouge, it has to be within two years. What happens in 2010--we need to buy a new driver every four months?
  1. Going with Gouge's 'time to upgrade' idea (post-2007, perfectly fit, and NEVER miss the sweetspot), doesn't that make EVERY driver, regardless of year, obsolete? How many amateurs, regardless of handicap, age of driver, etc., hit the sweetspot 100% of the time?

I guess the part that bugs me the most is how wishy-washy the whole process is... and it only seems to be that way with drivers. At least this time, Bomb is the one making the most sense--it's the confidence your driver gives you, whatever it's age, more than the technology. Is there any consistent rules for knowing when it's time to upgrade (other than talking about it when the new models start rolling in)? Thanks.

Justin Blair >

Three Rivers, MI __

Golf Digest Equipment Editor, Mike "Gouge" Stachura, replies:

"The USGA hasn't changed the driver it uses to test golf balls on its swing robot since upgrading to a titanium model half a dozen years ago. It's not even at the size limit of 460 cc. When you ask USGA Technical Director Dick Rugge why the testing isn't being done on a driver introduced last week or even last year, he'll tell you that it's because when the USGA does testing it only hits balls in the center of the face where the highest spring-like effect is. In other words, mis-hits never happen, and more importantly for

this discussion, since maximum spring like effect is limited, every other spot on the face should produce less spring-like effect and therefore a shorter hit.

So where does that leave us? Engineers are working every day to figure out how to increase performance on those non-center hits. They are expanding that zone by the smallest amounts each and every year. Our robot testing shows that current drivers lose about 3 percent of ballspeed on a 3/4 inch mishit, which is maybe 12 yards or so on a 95 mph. The mission for an engineer every day is to eat into that deficit. As TaylorMade's Chief Technical Officer Benoit Vincent likes to say, "When I get a club to produce 100 percent ballspeed all over the face, then I'll be done."

Do you need a new driver every year? Define need. I wouldn't forgo the mortgage or the weekly groceries for the kids to buy a new driver, but again, if you're not trying a new driver against your current model on an annual basis, you're making a big mistake. That's what launch monitors are for. Making technology work for you doesn't mean buying something just because it's new. It means buying something because you know it's better. And right now you have the technology at your disposal to clearly show you

that yesterday's club is worse, or better, than today's club."

--Bob Carney

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