Of all the weapons in a golfer's bag, the driver offers the most power and distance off the tee. But it's notoriously difficult to hit and control where the ball lands. This has golfers on a never-ending quest to find the elusive club that will magically combine long drives with pinpoint accuracy.
One hurdle is that golfers often don't strike the ball where they're supposed to in the center of the clubface. Another is that no two players have exactly the same swing. To overcome these shortcomings, club designers increasingly rely on advanced materials to match mass-produced clubs to individual swings.
The new r7 quad ht titanium driver from TaylorMade Golf, Carlsbad, Calif., gives users the freedom to change the clubhead's weight distribution and create the best impact conditions for an individual golfer's abilities.
Typical drivers deliver a single set of "launch" conditions the clubhead's angle, pitch, and weighting as the face impacts the ball. If those conditions are not ideal for a particular swing, however, the player sacrifices distance and control. TaylorMade Launch Control (TLC) technology is said to help overcome less than ideal swings.
TLC repositions 48 gm of weight within the head by including four ports that hold four movable weights: two 2-gm titanium cartridges and two 10-gm tungsten ones.
Installing cartridges in different configurations shifts the clubhead's center of gravity to different locations. Each of the six possible CGs changes the trajectory that helps players hit balls higher or lower, and adjusts the ball's flight to the right or left by up to 10 yd.
A key challenge posed by TLC was freeing up 48 gm of discretionary weight from within the 400-cm 3 clubhead. Part of the solution was to use high-strength titanium that reduced wall thickness without sacrificing durability. The r7 quad driver has 0.8-mm walls versus 1.0 to 1.2 mm in typical titanium drivers.
Another weight-saving feature is an inverted cone milled onto the inner side of the cold-rolled titanium clubface. It is said to increase the portion of the clubface that delivers a coefficient of restitution (COR) greater than 0.80. The U.S. Golf Association's COR test measures the springlike effect of the clubface. USGA rules limit the rebound speed of a ball striking the clubface to no more than 0.83 of impact speed. The inverted cone lets a larger area of the face deliver high-ball velocities, resulting in longer drives even on off-center hits. It also lightens the clubface, and the saved weight was invested in the TLC ports and cartridges.
The W-403AD driver from Norcross, Ga.-based Srixon Sports features a proprietary design where not only the face, but the sole and backwall of the driver vary in thickness.
According to company officials,-many drivers on the market have a "sweet spot" that gives the ball a rebound velocity right at the USGA COR limit. The key to modern driver design, they say, is maximizing the high-COR zone across the face for good distance even on off-center hits.
In the W-403AD's Impact Power Body, the face, sole, and backwall all work together, letting the entire clubhead deform at impact. This controlled deformation keeps the ball on the clubface fractionally longer, compared to other drivers. This is said to take advantage of the aerodynamics and rebound characteristics of modern golf balls, resulting in high trajectories and low spin for maximum distance.
The head is made of a thin, forged titanium face with a precision vacuum-cast titanium body.
Clubface thickness varies in three places, which maximizes energy transfer across a large, high-COR zone. The zone's elliptical shape extends from the high toe to the low heel, consistent with the strike patterns of most golfers.
A low center of gravity reportedly ensures stabilityat impact. And the company moves the CG progressively towards the heel as lofts increase, making higher-loft drivers easier to square at impact for slower-swinging recreational players.
The MacTec NVG driver from MacGregor Golf, Albany, Ga., carries a clubhead and weighting system the company claims will increase distance, forgiveness, and accuracy, regardless of skill level.
The NVG features a thin, 0.4-mm 15-3 titanium crown silver brazed into a 6-4 titanium body. This effectively shifts weight from crown to sole and dramatically lowers the center of gravity for higher launch, less spin, and more distance.
Drivers with 7.5 and 8.5° lofts have harder 15-3 titanium face inserts for highimpact response and low spin, which should provide more roll and distance. A higher-elongation titanium face insert is used in 9.5, 10.5 and 11.5° lofts for more flexing and rebound across the entire face and better results on off-center hits. Four tungsten weights totaling 19 gm mount in the heel and toe. Eight and 6-gm weights in the heel create a low, deep CG to improve launch properties the tendency to slightly draw the ball. Two 2.5-gm weights, one each in the extreme heel and toe make the clubhead more stable.
King Cobra Comp drivers from Cobra Golf, Carlsbad, Calif., rely on a carbon-composite top and titanium body. Replacing heavier titanium with a lightweight composite crown shaves up to 15 gm off the top of the club, depending on head size. This allows for larger faces and heads as well as a lower, deeper center of gravity.
Two weights are precisely positioned in the head to promote a high launch angle, low spin rate, and ball flight biased to the left. Weighting varies by model to optimize trajectory and spin for individual-players.
The large face flexes with the goal of generating longer, more-accurate drives. A milled-titanium rhombus-shaped insert within the face increases flex at impact on both center and off-center hits, according to the company. This equates to greater ball speed and a larger sweet spot.
Cleveland Golf, Cypress, Calif., and Wilson Sporting Goods, Chicago, have introduced the Launcher 460 Comp and Wilson Staff Dd5, respectively. Both are 460 cm3, multimaterial drivers that combine the benefits of lightweight carbon-fiber composite with the strength of titanium. The extra-large clubfaces offer more forgiveness on off-center hits.
Composite crowns let manufacturers distribute weight lower and deeper around the clubhead perimeter. This lowers the CG and puts it further away from the face, which should produce drives with the sought-after high launch and low spin and expand the sweet spot.
The Launcher includes additional perimeter weighting that increases resistance to twisting on off-center shots. Engineers at Cleveland Golf have also used analysis and testing to improve acoustic characteristics so the driver generates a more solid-sounding impact reportedly a drawback with most multimaterial drivers.
Wilson's Staff Dd5 has an ultrathin face for maximum COR and is plasma welded for a thinner bead than with standard welds. This further reduces unwanted weight that once again can be transferred deeper in the clubhead for the desired low center of gravity. In addition, weight pads on the rear sole precisely position the center of gravity in line with the high-COR face, working together to generate longdistance drives.
DRIVE FOR $HOW
|r7 quad ht||$600|
|Launcher 460 Comp||$479|
|King Cobra Comp||$450|
|Redline RPM 430Q||$449.99|
|Wilson Staff Dd5||$300|
The latest drivers carry a hefty manufacturer's suggested retail price.
Cobra Golf Co.
Srixon Sports USA
TaylorMade Golf Co.
Wilson Sporting Goods Co.