PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club


Driver Faces Get Bigger

By Mike Stachua Photos by Jim Herity
October 08, 2008

For all the talk about how today's drivers have stretched the limits of shape and volume to approach mailbox dimensions, it's the face that does all the work. Designers want to make this area bigger, too, because a larger face means the possibility of a larger sweet spot. (In theory, more area on the face will produce ball speeds similar to the hottest spot on the face.) The challenge is how to do that and not lose the benefits, such as clubhead stability, of the overall bigger shape.

"Our intent is to maximize the face area above the center of gravity, because that's where you get the most efficient launch conditions," says Scott Rice, director of R&D at Cobra. Still, the problem with a bigger face is that it occupies more mass (the face is the thickest part of a driver), and to improve stability on off-center hits, the center of gravity needs to move away from the face.

But there are ways to deal with such weighty matters. TaylorMade uses thin-wall casting to leave the crown section of its 2009 Burner at a weight-saving 0.5 millimeters thick. Thin-crown strategies at Ping provide the opportunity to push the CG farther back in its Rapture V2 by using tungsten weight pads in the sole. Cobra mixes in large sections of lightweight composite material in the crown and across the sole of its L5V.

No surprise then that Burner, Rapture V2 and L5V have the largest faces in each of their companies' histories.

1) The Cobra L5V($400, uses carbon composite in the crown and sole, expands the dimensions to the USGA five-inch limit, pushes the face area to nearly 50 square centimeters and offers a hosel design that allows players to alternate between two face positions.

2) External tungsten weights in the heel and toe of the sole on the Ping Rapture V2 ($450, position the center of gravity low. The low CG is also achieved through a more aggressively sloped crown with a taller-face design than its predecessor.

3) Built on TaylorMade's Burner, the "bomber" player model, ($300, emphasizes distance through its larger face design and inverted cone face flex technology. A 49-gram, 46¼-inch shaft is designed to enhance speed as well.

4) The internal weighting of the Wilson Smooth ($300, changes with loft (the CG is low in the lower lofts and low and farther back in the higher lofts). The face is thinner at the heel, toe and top to improve ball speed.