Friday, April 30, 2010

How do the Pros on the LPGA and PGA Tours hit it?

As many of you are aware, TrackMan has been the official ball flight analysis system on the PGA and LPGA Tours since 2006. Virtually every week over the past 4 years, TrackMan systems are set up on the driving range as well as on one hole during the tournament to record launch parameter data from all the competitors in each event.

Thanks to our friends at TrackMan, you may find it interesting to be able to view the average launch and flight parameters for players on the PGA and LPGA Tours to be able to see just how the pros hit the ball with each club in the bag. Please understand that the location and the weather have not been normalized for this data. However, because the averages are based on a huge number of shots over a period of several years, the data still offers a very good representation on the key launch parameters for the best men and women golfers in the world.

Keep in mind that the data represent average launch parameters, so there is a wide range between players for each parameter. Some of the interesting points of data from these average launch parameters include the following:

• The PGA Tour average shows the driver and fairway woods with a slight downward angle of attack while the LPGA average exhibits definite upward angle of attack with the driver. Overall, the PGA has a greater downward A of A for all clubs compared to the LPGA.

• The pros tend to hit every club in the bag within a very close range of the same height. Of course the LPGA pros achieve on average a lower shot height than the men because they have a much lower ball velocity for their shots, due to a lower clubhead speed.

•Driver spin rate is very similar for the driver between the men and women pros.
•The smash factor (ball speed divided by clubhead speed) is very similar for the same clubs for the men and women pros.
•Carry distance for the driver between the men and women is very definitely in line with the parameter of 2.8 yards per 1mph difference in clubhead speed.
•Launch angle for the women for the woods is definitely higher than that for the men, and slightly higher in the irons, which may be because of the difference in angle of attack or the use of different lofts per club. The average loft angles per club are not measured in any of this data so the main reason for the difference is likely from the difference in angle of attack for each club.
•The difference in clubhead speed for similar clubs between the men and women decreases progressively from 18mph in the driver down to 13 mph for the 9-iron and PW.
•While there is a significant difference in the spin generated by the men and women with the 3-wood, for all other clubs there is not as much difference in spin as might be expected.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I only hit about 6 fairways out of 10. How can I improve on this stat?

You may not be aware but the most accurate driver on the PGA tour at year's end is 80%. And this stat is not a driver only stat as it includes teeing off with a club other then a driver such as a fairway wood. Yup, 8 out of 10 fairway's hit wins every year and the winner is never a long driver of the ball but rather one of the shorter hitters out there such as Fred Funk who has won the most accurate driver title several times in his career. So 6 out of 10 fairways is not that bad but actually pretty good.

Let's look at an average golfer for a moment. If you go out to your local driving range and watch golfers hit their drivers, what do you see? If you see two or three golfers out of ten who can consistently hit the ball straight, on a nice trajectory, you're there on a good day. I am not talking about hitting 300 yard drives right down the middle but rather the ball flying high and straight, landing downrange at any reasonable distance, within 20 yards on either side of its intended target. Name any other recreational pursuit in which one of its most common goals seems so unattainable by so many people. It is safe to say that far less then half of all golfers can consistently get off the tee with a driver successfully - and that's being charitable. Now, imagine any other consumer product that works only half the time in the hands of an average user. A product like that would be off the market in a week; yet we golfers just shrug our shoulders and say, "Man, it is a tough game."

I looked the other day and this year's Masters Champion, Phil Mickelson, was ranked 132 out of 134 PGA Pros at 46% of fairways hit. Hard to believe.

But getting back to your question: the first thing to do would be to measure your current driver regarding length, loft, face angle, shaft flex, total weight, grip size, etc. Then have you hit some balls and record your swing characteristics/tendencies and see how well your swing matches up with your driver. Chances are good that a few changes may have you hitting an extra fairway or two. For example, if you are a RH golfer whose misses are usually out to the right and your current driver has a square or slightly open face angle, then you would do well with a driver whose face angle is 1 or 2 degrees closed. Just common sense, plain and simple.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I hear alot about ball spin as it relates to driver distance. What can be done in head design to lower spin?

FROM TOM WISHON: For the vast majority of golfers who have a higher swing speed and do fight excessive spin, the reason is more in the swing characteristics that bring about that higher spin than it is in the club - at least as long as the golfer is not using a shaft and ball that both really contribute to higher spin.

From the clubhead's standpoint, there is very little that can be done to exert a significant effect on spin AND STILL KEEP THE CLUBHEAD'S DESIGN SHAPE WITHIN A RANGE THAT A GOLFER COULD STAND TO PLAY WITH.

From the head's standpoint, the only things you can do to bring about a change in spin are loft and center of gravity position. You don't really want to mess much with loft beyond about a +/-1* range from the loft that is optimum for your launch angle. At 100mph swing speed, a change of 1* in loft only changes spin by about 260rpm anyway.

CG wise, if golfers could stand to see and play with a driver that was smaller than 460cc or chopped off to the point that the face to back dimension was in the area of 60-80mm instead of the normal 125mm or so, we could push the CG much closer to the face and from that, bring about a more significant reduction in spin. But I rather think few golfers would want to play with such a radically shaped head, so we designers are not going to create it.

That leaves the shaft and the ball. Starting with the shaft, a player can experience less spin using a stiffer flex or a significantly stiffer tip shaft. But here again, at the expense of what? Using a shaft that no longer fits, no longer feels right and no longer generates the optimum launch angle for distance? No higher swing speed golfer with a decent release would ever want to use a shaft like that, and that is what it would take for the shaft to become a significant way to reduce the spin.

Which brings us to the ball. Not being a ball designer and not having done much more than cursory research in ball technology, there is no question the ball is an important way to change spin for higher swing speed players. In our robot hit testing, just as one example, we see a spin difference of a little more than 400 rpms between the ProV1 and ProV1* at a clubhead speed of 100mph. That increases as the clubhead speed increases.

Swing wise, from a ton of data we've been privy to from the folks at Trackman, the official launch monitor of the PGA and Euro Tours, we see that almost every time we see a pro with higher spin, a downward angle of attack in their swing comes with it. So if the player can deal with the work involved to change their angle of attack to be less downward moving toward slightly upward, along with that comes an automatic reduction in driver spin because they are then able to use a lower loft to achieve what becomes their optimum launch angle for max distance. And from the lower loft then comes the significant change in spin reduction.

Furthermore, 1) reducing head size to 420cc from 460cc is not enough to allow for enough of a CG movement to do anything significant for spin capability, and 2) the market of golfers out there is estimated by the industry mavens who research this sort of thing to be 98-99% polarized toward a 460cc driver and will not buy anything smaller because marketing has "convinced" them that 'bigger is better'.

So any company today that designs a smaller driver will choke on the inventory, unfortunately.

And as mentioned above, to move the CG close enough to the face that a golfer with a late release will instantly see a significant drop in spin would require that the driver head be designed so the face to back dimension would have to be at least 30% less than is average in driver shape dimensions today. And I have serious doubts as to whether there would be very many golfers who would like to look down on something like that in the playing position.

Hope this helps a little,

What about these longer and lighter drivers being advertised?

First of all, this isn't new by any means. A company no longer in business by the name of Goldwin Golf brought out a driver in the late 90s that had a total weight in the area of 285 grams.

Second point and by far the most important one, - no matter what ANY of the OEM drivers or clubs professes to do or be in their design technology, the OEM's models are nothing more than one size fits all offerings.

In this case of the very light total weight driver, if ALL golfers were well below average in physical and golf swing strength, with a very passive and smooth transition and tempo, and with a square to inside out swing path with a later to very late release, then and only then could you say that a company that makes a very light total weight driver would be applauded for doing so.

Why? Because that is the only type of golfer who would be considered to be well fit into a driver that weighs less than 300 grams and is also 46" in length.

As we all know, golfers come in all manner of strength and swing characteristics. Thus it is very important to understand when you look at ANY new club model from the OEMs, what you have to do is look at what type of golfer characteristics would be best matched to all the specifications of that club. Those golfers who deviate from those playing and swing characteristics would be wasting their money to buy that type of driver.

In the end, since golfers are so different in their combinations of size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics, the only clubs that are ever going to allow each golfer to play to the best if their ability will be clubs that are custom fit for each specification to each golfer's individual size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics.

I hate to keep sounding like a broken record on this, but until golfers understand this, they are going to continue to be drawn to any new club model the OEMs bring out and from that, will never understand that custom fitting is the only way to spend their money for clubs.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Marketing Ploys are Killing our Game!

By Dr. JJ King, President of KZG.

"The zeal for sales is really messing up the game of golf. Rather than focusing on game improvement, most major golf manufacturers focus on how to sell more clubs. Sadly, the clubs they keep producing don’t necessarily help your game.

The biggest folly recently has been in the iron category. Only a few short years ago, a traditional iron set was comprised of #3-9, PW, AW and SW. The typical #5 iron had a loft of 28 degrees. Today, most major brands sell a #5 iron with a loft of 22 or 23 degrees. Why? Because when you hit it at the retail store with their launch monitor, it will definitely go further…and the one with the most distance wins. But this presents a big problem. Your #5 iron is really more like a #3 or #4 iron and is much more difficult to hit consistently. But you already bought the set… so who cares?

And now you have to buy more clubs to replace the clubs you cannot hit in the iron set. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the manufacturers have been doing a rip-roaring business in hybrid clubs over the past few years".

If you are in the market for a hybrid to replace one or more of your long irons, remember to replace the long iron with the same lofted hybrid. Just because the hybrid is stamped "3" on the sole does not mean it is the same loft as your conventional #3 iron you are replacing. The iron you are replacing must be measured for loft as well as measuring the new hybrid's loft to make sure they are the same. Just because a hybrid may be stamped "19 degrees" on the sole does not mean it is 19 degrees. There is a tolerence and it could very well be 2 degrees off it's stated loft. Get it measured.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I was recently "fitted" for irons at the club where I play. The pro didn't even have a device for recording swing speed. Did I get a real fitting?

It doesn't sound like it. Any basic iron fitting has to uncover what your swing speed is with a mid iron like a 5 or 6 iron. Then at least you will get a shaft that somewhat matches your swing speed. I say "somewhat" because there is no industry standard for shaft flex. One company's "R" flex is another company's "S" flex which may be another company's "A" flex. In other words, there can be a 3 flex difference in an "R" flex from one shaft maker to another.

Other aspects that should have been recorded is your tempo (how much time elapses from takeaway to impact), release (where your wrists uncock), transition from backswing to downswing (smooth, average, or forceful), physical strength (below average, average, above average), length (wrist to floor measurement coupled with your setup and comfort level), shaft weight (depending on your tempo, transition, and physical strength), shaft bend profile which will assist with trajectory providing you have a mid to late wrist cock release, lie angle, grip size and texture, clubhead design that will compliment your misdirection tendency and swing characteristics, and set makeup (lowest loft hit use buying a 3 or 4 iron if you can't hit it).

A friend of mine went through one of these "going through the motions" fitting and when he picked up his clubs there was nothing different about them from what anyone could have bought off the rack at any golf store...standard weight shaft, flex designated as "Uniflex" (whatever that means), standard length, standard size grip, standard lie angle, and standard set makeup 3-PW. If you don't know what's involved in a fitting, then you don't know what to expect. Not your fault.

Are there any "real" improvements yet to be discovered in driver head design? Every year the OEM ads promise more and more distance.

According to Tom Wishon: "The OEM golf equipment industry works in the realm of "tiny" improvements in clubheads, but we here at Tom Wishon Golf Technology don't. How do you define whether a clubhead design improvement is viable or worthwhile? By the marketing claim? By a scientific measurement difference? Or by a golfer hitting shots and being able to visibly or perceptibly notice a difference in the result of the shot?

TWGT lives in the area of the last point. The big companies tend to live in the area of the first two points.

Let's look at driver design to try to see what improvements are possible. . . .

This one's easy. The USGA/R&A have a limit of 0.830 (CT measurement of 257 usecs). In driver design, virtually every company makes their drivers as close to this limit as possible. Every company has to deal with +/- tolerances in all sorts of specs on their driver heads, including the COR. Yes, if you can find a company with a CT measurement machine that is willing to "hand select" a driver head to have its CT right at the 257 limit in the rules, maybe your current driver is somewhere around 239-245 or so. And in that case, you might see about 1 yard, maybe 2 yards more distance. But that's not really a significant design difference - that's more like squeezing a little blood out of the turnip.

This one's interesting for several reasons. First, the USGA for some odd reason chose to set the limit for drivers at 5900 g-cm2 with a +100 g-cm2 tolerance - a limit that no company can reach on a driver that is made to a normal headweight and to a size within the 460cc limit imposed in the rules. Remember the first year after the MOI Rule went into effect?

You had two or three companies marketing drivers they said had an MOI of 5250 g-cm2. Then a year later, NIke said one of their square SQ drivers had an MOI of 5900. Upon closer inspection of this driver, it was made to a swingweight of E2 to E4. In other words, Nike hit that 5900 MOI by simply adding weight to the head, taking advantage of the fact that for each 1 gram you increase the weight of the driver head, you increase the MOI by about 32 g-cm2.

But who on the planet should be playing with a driver with a swingweight in the E range? Few if any. So all NIke did was create something unplayable by the masses simply to be able to market that they hit the MOI limit of the rules. What's more interesting is the fact that since this time, no OEM driver has come out with an MOI higher than 5300 with a normal swingweight.

This is another way of saying that none of the companies have figured out how to make a "reasonably affordable" driver within the rule for size, and within the range of normal headweight, that would be able to have an MOI higher than around 5300.

Could one be made? And if so, how much better would it be? If the driver body is made from something lighter like Aluminum or Magnesium or Graphite and made to be 460cc in size/volume, one could probably attach a bunch of tungsten around the perimeter of the head and possibly get the MOI higher than 5300 while still keeping the headweight within a normal (playable) range.

But such a driver would cost a LOT more than current drivers because of the materials and manufacturing cost to make something like that. And few if any of the OEM companies are ready to try to pin all their marketing hopes on a driver that would have to sell 700,000 units in a year which would retail for around $500-600. Such a price point won't fly in today's market, and the OEMs know that.

But what if price were not an issue? What difference would a golfer note in playing a driver with a 5900 MOI compared to one at 5000 or 5200?

One of the engineering groups we do consulting work for and from which we get some modeling work done did a very carefully constructed FEA modeling project to determine the effect of MOI increases on the amount the head would twist in response to an off center hit.

To make a long story short, they found that for a 3/4" off center hit at 109mph, a driver head with an MOI that would be 1400 g-cm2 higher would see a reduction in twisting of the head of 1/4*. Put this into a more "normal" golfer's hands - by normal golfer I mean a golfer with a 90mph swing speed. Now you are talking about a 1400 g-cm2 increase in MOI bringing about a reduction in twisting more along the line of 1/8*. That's pretty small. Not exactly what you would say would be a very pronounced improvement.

As we have done here at TWGT, we focus more on trying to keep the smash factor high for off center hits by working with the variable thickness design of the face. After we completed the work on the 919THI Driver face, we did a CT test all around the face on one sample 919 head that we were able to create that had a perfect 0.830 COR right in the geometric center of the face. The CT drop off for off center areas of the 919 face was only equivalent to a COR drop of about 0.008 or so. VERY little drop off.

And TWGT is not the only company able to design a variable thickness face that keeps the smash factor pretty high for off center hits. So this means even if a technology came about which allowed the face to be designed to have a perfect 0.830 COR all over the face, the distance improvement for off center hits would be pretty darn small -only on the order of about 2, maybe 3 more yards for a golfer with a 100-110mph swing speed.

So then, what's left after COR, MOI, FACE DESIGN for outright driver head design improvement that a golfer can notice in the first time he goes out to hit the club?

Well for 98+ per cent of all golfers there is professional, full specifications custom fitting. Since about that many golfers have never, ever experienced real custom fitting, that's a pretty strong number of golfers who are sitting on their butts wanting to play better golf, hoping for the next great design technology, while out there under their noses lies the greatest single technology they could ever hope to find for being able to hit the ball better.

As long as there are golfers who hang on every word of the OEM companies and who think the OEM companies are the best club companies on the planet, then there are going to be a lot of golfers who are going to be sorely disappointed.

But on the other hand, if these golfers could somehow open their minds to listen to the facts about fitting, then you could have a TON of golfers who could hit the ball better and enjoy the game more".

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I am a female golfer who has a slow swing speed. Do I need a full set of clubs?

Very likely you do not need a full set of clubs (13 clubs and a putter is the legal limit of clubs you may carry). Any golfer who swings a 5 iron under 60 mph will not see enough of a distance gap between a #6 iron (31* loft) and #7 iron (35* loft) for example. In other words, these 2 irons go almost the same distance for a slow swinging player. Lofts in irons are traditionally spaced apart by 4 degrees.

I have sets available (such as the Wishon 730CL set) where lofts are 6* between clubs allowing for normal 10 - 12 yard distance increments between each club. This set is an 8 club set: High lofted driver (16*); (2) fairway woods of 20* and 26*;
(3) irons of 30*, 36*, 42*; and (2) wedges of 48* and 54*. Very simple to understand this set make-up and you are not carrying around several clubs that you have no use for.

I see many, many slow swinging golfers who have 14 clubs in their bag and it is confusing for them to know which club to hit from certain distances. Plus they spent money on clubs they do not need.