Friday, July 30, 2010

Is there any truth to the rumors about making the golf ball less lively to scale down distance?

If the USGA and R&A would ever wake up they would see that the majority of the distance gain by the elite players of the world has come not from titanium drivers and not from their mistake in re-doing the Overall Distance Standard for balls in the early 2000s, but it has come from the sheer fact that the average driver clubhead speed of elite players has increased by some 10mph over the past 25 yrs.

For each 1mph you can increase driver clubhead speed, you gain 2.8 yards of carry distance. Add on what we all have learned in the past 15 yrs about driver fitting to allow elite, high speed players to get into drivers that optimize launch angle, spin and angle of descent to the fairway, and you have the main reason why the USGA/R&A/PGA Tour have been compelled to stretch tournament courses to 7400 yds +.

Yes, when the industry went from 200cc size 17-4 stainless drivers to 460cc size titanium drivers, no question the COR increase added some distance. And there is a serious debate as well that when the USGA re-configured their ODS rule for balls, they made some mistakes that also allowed the ball makers to bring out balls that flew farther.

But the lion's share of this big distance increase among the world's elite players has not come from club and ball design technology, but from golfers who are better "golf athletes" and who undergo serious physical training to increase their clubhead speed.

Reeling back the ball would be a serious mistake, especially if it extends to recreational golfers. Who wants to play this game if all of a sudden you find yourself 10-20 yds shorter off the tee and having to hit 2 more clubs into the green than before?

The game is already in a down cycle for participation because of the effects of the recession and the effect of people having to work longer hours to make enough/more money to stave off the effects of the recession. To reel back the ball would kick this great game in the teeth even harder.

In addition, reeling back the ball for elite tournaments would also be a disaster for the game. One of the great things about this game has been the fact we all, from Tiger to the 90 yr old senior golfer, all play under the same rules. Also, one of the greatest thrills for many fans of elite tournament golf is witnessing these guys hit the ball so far. Take that away, and you kick the game and its popularity in the teeth once more.

If you look at the stats on tour over the past 4-5 yrs, you see that this increase in driving distance is pretty much over. There haven't been any real increases lately because this matter of equipment + golf athletes has reached a limit. Sure, you might see a guy here or there who is 6'9" tall, 310 lbs who is blessed with the neuro-muscular repetitive physiology to train to be a tour player with a 145 mph clubhead speed. But that would be a freak situation.

Distance increases on the tour are pretty much over now. So courses won't have to be stretched to 7800 yds. Where they're at with all the ones built to 7400 are fine. And in the end, what's wrong with a player winning a tournament shooting 20 under par. I think most golf fans like to see birdies, and not suffer through par being the winning score.

Anyway, I'm done. But I sure do get tired of seeing the people who run the rule making bodies of the game use such an utter lack of common sense.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What's up with some companies offering their irons in lower lofts? What's the trade-off?

Yes, many golfers who notice a 12 yard increase in distance per iron will think this new iron is "better" because it goes farther. In the irons, for all golfers, the lower the loft and higher the COR, the farther they'll hit the ball. Some golfers are "wise" to the companies that move lofts down just to create more distance to sell more clubs. Many are not, and only think of irons in terms of the head number on the sole. So for these golfers, they can be tricked into thinking that since they hit their new 9 iron a club longer than their old 9 iron, that must mean the company has a really gee whiz design technology, when in reality it may just be a lower loft than they played before.

Then too you have the situation with some golfers in which they don't want to hit each iron number longer than they do now. These golfers know if they get a club more distance from whatever reason, be it lower loft or higher COR, they know they are going to suffer from some sort of a distance gap problem somewhere in their set.

Typically a golfer does not start to think about going for more distance in the irons and thus shopping for a higher COR iron unless, because of injury or age or whatever reason, they are losing distance. We all tend to play the same courses so we all get used to hitting a certain number iron on each hole. When a golfer starts to realize he has to grab one more club or two more clubs to get the ball to the green, that's when the thought of " gee I wish I could still hit my X-iron from here like I used to " starts to come into the brain.

Thus in the market today, higher COR irons, such as the Wishon 770's or 870's, tend to be more for golfers who have lost clubhead speed, or, never had the clubhead speed to begin with because they were just not that athletically inclined or never developed a good turn and good wrist cock release.

But really, as long as the golfer makes sure he has a club for each distance he faces, there's really nothing wrong with using a higher COR iron to gain distance to hit less club into the green. That tends to breed more confidence because we all feel better when we know we're hitting less club into a hole than before.

But this isn't the way it works with lower lofted irons - no matter what, it is always more difficult to hit a lower loft club as consistently well as one with higher loft. So if a golfer buys a set with tricked up lofts, they might think they feel better about hitting a 7 iron into a green where before they had to hit a 6 iron. But after several rounds, they'll find that "hey, I don't hit my new 7 iron as consistently well as I hit my old 7 iron, even though when I hit it well it goes farther." That is because you're not hitting a 7 iron, you're hitting a 6 with a number 7 on the sole!

This is why a higher COR iron is better in the end - to get more distance with the same loft also allows for keeping consistency.