Q . Does my 9-degree driver really have 9 degrees of loft?
BOMB: Three words, my friend: Not. Even. Close. OK, that might be a little harsh, but the fact is, the majority of manufacturers are fudging the numbers. Why? Because those of you who hit tee shots that don't have enough height to clear a volleyball net insist on using nothing more than a 9- or 10-degree driver, believing that your manhood has somehow been assailed by the suggestion of trying a 12-degree bat. Most everyday players are using far too little loft in their drivers. But don't feel bad. The companies often pull the same chicanery with tour pros, too. Tom Stites of Nike told me a few years ago that Trevor Immelman was using an 11-degree driver, but the company didn't put the number on the soleplate for fear Immelman would balk at using it. And back when Mark Brooks was with Cleveland, he had a driver stamped "8," but it had 10.5 degrees of loft. Today the differences are less drastic, but they're still there. It's certainly not uncommon to find companies adding a degree or two to those big sticks out in the market, now is it?
GOUGE: Because it tends to be my special talent, let me make this as complicated as possible. First, a 9-degree driver might not measure as 9 degrees of loft, because it's designed primarily for us chops. Some of the lofts we've measured recently have been close to the number (within a half degree), but many of the anti-slice, closed-face-angle drivers tend to have more loft than the stated number on their soles. Of course, two players with the same swing speed could take the same 9-degree driver and launch it differently. A player swinging steeply down at the ball will launch it lower (like most average golfers, who need more loft), and another player might be swinging up at the ball so he'll launch it higher (like the long-drive guys do, which is why they use lower lofts). And don't forget about roll (the vertical curvature of the face). The loft might measure 9 degrees in the center of the face, but 11 or 12 at the top and even 7 or 8 at the bottom. Bottom line: Ignore the number on the sole, and get on a launch monitor. Those numbers never lie.
BOMB: Take a breath, would you? By the way, Stephen Hawking called. He wants his joystick back.
NEXT: MIX & MATCH DRIVERS
The U.S. Golf Association announced in August that it would relax the rules governing clubhead adjustability, starting in 2008. Midround adjustments still are a no-no, but it allows for a rash of shaft-clubhead mix-and-match systems. Several companies, including CALLAWAY, TAYLORMADE and HENRY-GRIFFITTS, already have interchangeable shaft-clubhead fitting systems, but the new rule would allow these types of clubs to be used in play. The upshot is, the driver you try in a fitting could be the actual driver you buy. Moreover, having a collection to match to certain courses and conditions is a real, perhaps even financially feasible possibility.
Callaway is expected to unveil a new interchangeable shaft-clubhead system with its FT-i driver in early 2008, and other companies have developed or are working on plans that could be launched soon. TaylorMade, NIKE, NICKENT, VERSUS and NAKASHIMA already have introduced clubs that presumably would be conforming under the new rule. Nakashima is even developing a driver with an adjustable face angle.
"No store could have ever had demo clubs in every possible shaft and loft combination for every brand," says Ken Morton Jr., director of retail at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento, Calif. "There are a ton of positives for the average golfer with this rule."