Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category
What do racing tires have in common with wedge play in golf? Read on because there might be a lot more to this than you might think.
It’s all about traction or friction, or more simply put – grip. The more the tires grip the road, the faster the driver can go and the more our clubface grips the ball, the lower the flight and the more the ball spins. Let’s look at how these tires work and see if we can draw a few parallels to how the specialized clubface on our wedges interact with the golf ball….
On a dry, sunny day day a race car will have tires that are wide, soft and completely grooveless. The tires are wide and grooveless in order to get as much rubber in contact with the road. Any grooves simply decrease the amount of traction the tire exerts on the road. They are softer than normal tires to increase traction. In rainy conditions the drivers will switch to tires with grooves (as seen above). The grooves on the tires channel water away from the road and thus allow the flat portion of the tire to grip the road cleanly. Grooves reduce the amount of rubber in contact with the road, thus reducing traction.
Club manufacturers now make their top tier wedges with a milled, legally grooved clubface. The milling on the clubface represents the softness of the racing tire as it allows the cover of the ball to settle into the mini grooves, even on these partial shots, and friction is increased. Our clubface needs grooves because we encounter many different lies during a round of golf. Many of those lies dictate that matter (grass/moisture) will be trapped between the face and the ball, greatly reducing friction. Grooves are not on the clubface for spin, but primarily as a channel to keep matter from being caught between the face and ball thus decreasing grip. Race car drivers have the luxury of changing tires for rainy conditions, while golfers do not have the luxury of changing their clubface for a variety of lies.
If we hit all our pitch or partial wedge shots off a tee using a premium ball and there was no way any grass or moisture could interrupt friction I actually believe a non-grooved, yet milled clubface would actually spin the ball as much or slightly more than the current grooved clubface designs. Good luck trying to convince your playing partners to go for that idea, but isn’t it helpful to know how the clubface is really designed to interact with the cover of the ball?
A milled clubface will increase friction in a similar fashion that softer racing tires will, but those milling lines also wear out like a softer tire does. If you are a competitive golfer have a practice set and a tournament set of wedges. This way you’ll always have that lower, spinning wedge shot when it matters most….
I was recently contacted by Swingbyte and asked to test their device to see how the data it generated held up against data generated by TrackMan. Please remember this is not a contest and I am not saying that TrackMan is perfect (I’m not sure there is such a thing), but I do believe TrackMan is the benchmark when it comes to reporting club and ball data in golf and I was interested to see how a $150 swing aid held up.
Swingbyte is a swing analyzing device that attaches to your club just below the grip and sends data to a mobile phone or tablet via Bluetooth. With a price point of $150 it provides a tremendous amount of data and sifting through the information on the App might be a little confusing at first, but with patience you will eventually find what you’re looking for.
Having used TrackMan for a long time one of the notable things I’ve found with passionate golfers is that the direction the clubhead is travelling through impact (attack angle and club path) is generally quite consistent. When testing/comparing other devices to TrackMan, whenever I see a dramatic change from one swing to the next in either attack angle or club path numbers a red flag goes up. With the Swingbyte I hit pitching wedges, 7 irons and drivers and I primarily keyed in on club speed, attack angle, club path and face angle. Here are my ratings out of a possible 5 stars:
If you purchased the device to simply know your club speed you are ahead of the game. It is important to enter detailed specs from each club into the App, but once you’ve got that done the feedback is surprisingly accurate. All the numbers I saw were within 4 mph of where TrackMan reported. (4.5 out of 5)
It is important to know that TrackMan and Swingbyte report attack angle from slightly different portions of the swing and thus differences should be expected, however I thought the device did a fairly accurate job most of the time. With the irons I felt the numbers indicated were close enough to “actual” in order to be actionable. It did seem that attack angles with the driver were a little too ascending. Their were also a few crazy numbers reported, but as you use the device more you’ll easily be able to recognize any outliers. (3.5 out of 5)
These numbers were a long way from what TrackMan was reporting and I would not put too much into this particular parameter. For example with the driver TrackMan reported my average club path on multiple shots was 0.2 degrees out to in, while Swingbyte indicated that every swing I made was from in to out with a range of 1.7 degrees to 13.6 degrees from in to out. (1 out of 5)
Even with TrackMan I seldom give much credence to the reported face angle as it is too easily influenced by off center hits and I most often use the reported number to determine where the ball was struck on the face. The original Swingbyte reports face angle at impact relative to where it was aligned at address. Assuming you have aligned the device on the club correctly, start with a square clubface and no twisting occurs, you might get an actionable reading – otherwise, I’d move on. (1 out of 5)
The problem Swingbyte has faced is that it could not latch onto a target – it only registered where the device was aligned at address. This means that any data regarding club path and face angle is based around where the device was aimed at address. The Swingbyte 2 addresses this issue. Founder and CEO, Alex Pedenko had the following to say:
You can now point your iPad and it will know what your target is and figure out all the numbers based on that. So now you have true, accurate numbers about what you did, not just in general but relative to the target line, relative to where you want it to go.
I am hoping that these upgrades will make this already useful device even better. While the device is not perfect (what is?) and should not replace quality coaching I feel that with a few practice sessions any golfer can start to gain a better understanding of what they need to do in order to make progress.
We should all be looking to spin the ball around the greens. Which of the current crop of wedges will give us the best chance to do that? If you have read any of my previous research on wedges you will know that friction between the face and the ball plays a huge role, not only in generating spin, but also in lowering trajectory – both vitally important for control.
The most important part of the clubface of any wedge is not the grooves, but the texturing of the flat areas between the grooves. Keep in mind that the primary purpose of grooves is to channel “matter” away from being caught between the flat areas and the ball – they are not in place to create spin. When you look carefully at the flat areas between the grooves of your wedge you should see some fine milling which looks like corduroy to me. Most club manufacturers will mill the clubface of their premium wedges and it makes a massive difference to the control and ball flight.
The idea behind the test was to see which wedge generated the better grip between face and ball. I had four very new 58 degree wedges available for the test:
- Titleist Vokey SM4 with a DG Spinner shaft – conforming grooves with standard mill pattern on face
- Ping Gorge Tour with a DG Spinner shaft – conforming “gorge” grooves with standard mill pattern on face
- Callaway X Series Jaws CC with a stock steel shaft – additional conforming grooves with no apparent milling on face
- TaylorMade ATV with a KBS shaft – conforming grooves with two-way mill pattern on face
You may notice that the wedges had differing shafts – I obviously would have preferred to have had all the clubs built to the exact same specs, but that was not feasible for this test. Apologies to all Cleveland Golf fans – would love to have had a Cleveland wedge in the mix, but did not have a new version. I had four golf professionals each hit four shots with each wedge. All shots were hit off a mat in order to limit friction being interrupted by matter being caught between face and ball. Titleist ProV1 golf balls were used and each shot had to land somewhere between 40 and 60 yards (ideally at 50 yards). The clubface was cleaned often even though it never appeared to need it. The “normalize” feature on TrackMan was off.
Here are the results:
- ATV 7365 rpm average
- Vokey 7210 rpm average
- Gorge 7193 rpm average
- Jaws 7163 rpm average
As you can see the ATV wedge led the way in generating the highest spin of the four – albeit by a slender 2%. If I was a betting man I would have bet the ATV would generate the most spin as I have always loved the two-way milling treatment on the face. I would also have placed the Jaws wedge at the bottom of the pack, as no matter how many groove edges come in contact with the ball, there is way more flat surface area contacting the ball and it should be milled.
If you do take one thing from this research let it be the following: A fresh wedge with a clean, milled clubface will allow you to generate more spin and a lower trajectory – both important factors in controlling your golf ball around the greens.
Thanks to Zack, Mark, Rick and Joe for your help with this article!
It’s always nice to get an unbiased opinion from an expert. As a result I recently spent some time with friend and clubfitting guru Ian Fraser from Modern Golf in Toronto Canada, discussing what he deemed to be the top driver and shaft options available for 2013. Ian has no affiliation with any one club or shaft manufacturer so I really value his opinions. Here are his selections for the top shafts available this year:
- higher launch and low spin
- stronger mid-section helps to increase ball speed
- BB – blue bullet
- designed to produce less spin with a lower launch
- designed with feedback from ENSO technology
- lower launching and lower spinning shaft
- excellent price point
I also wanted to hear Ian’s take on the new crop of drivers that have been on the market for a few months now and he had some interesting things to say. Here are his choices:
- improved design and ball speed over the 910 series
- D2 and D3 different in size, yet similar in spin rates
- massive adjustability with very high ball speed
- slightly heavier than the R11S
- highest MOI of any driver available and best paint job!
- slightly less spin and higher ball speed than the G20
I suppose my optimal driver would one that had the looks of the Titleist 913 D3, the stability and matte black finish of the Ping G25 along with the adjustability and ball speed of the TaylorMade R1….one can dream!
Please be aware that going out and simply purchasing and combining one of the above options might not be the best thing for you. I would recommend getting with a professional clubfitter who uses TrackMan technology to find the appropriate head and shaft match for your particular swing. You should be looking for the optimal launch and spin characteristics that match your swing speed.
Read THIS to know where you should be launching and spinning the ball based on your current club speed.
My good friends Tim and Simon Cooke from GolfPrep on Hilton Head Island recently brought their new Flightscope X2 out to Berkeley Hall. Our objective was to learn more about the numbers that TrackMan and Flightscope are putting out and we wanted to get a sense of how well one machine performed relative to the other.
I have pondered the best way in which to convey my findings and have finally committed to just simply jotting down my thoughts. My intent is certainly not to create controversy or confrontation – these are simply my own honest impressions from the day. Please also keep in mind that I am a TrackMan owner and supporter and no matter how I attempt to remove my bias I doubt whether I am able to remove all of it…
- Prior to the test I had been having trouble with my TM unit giving unusual spin numbers every 30-40 shots, something it had never done before. As a result I had contacted TM support and was informed that I more than likely had a bad USB cable. I was also informed that the classic indicator of a bad cable would be a “double” or “half” spin. Sure enough during the test TM gave out three spin numbers from the 60 shots we hit that were right around double what the FS reported. I have since replaced the cable and have yet to see a spin rate that seems odd.
- As you peruse the following thoughts keep in mind that good players , which all three of the test subjects were, are very good at controlling the direction the clubhead travels (angle of attack and club path) from shot to shot. The direction may not be ideal, but better players are consistent with clubhead direction. That means that dramatic changes in either of those categories, along with sizable changes from shot to shot in club speed, were going to draw my attention and raise a red flag.
- Since running the tests I have spoken to many “in the biz” people about radar interference. It was mentioned that the machines, when set up side by side as we had them, will occasionally give corrupted data due to the influence of the outside radar. I have not run enough tests to ascertain if this is or is not the case, but during the testing the FS seemed to give a few numbers that were incorrect and this could be due to the TM being directly alongside the unit. The TM did not do anything different to what it normally does as it seemed to be unaffected by the additional radar.
- If a shot off turf has a decent size divot TM will only provide ball data and no club data, whereas FS reported both ball and club data for just about every shot hit off the ground. On the occasions that FS reported club data and TM did not the numbers did not look correct – meaning the attack angle and/or club path seemed to be too far from what the subject would normally generate. We hit numerous 50 yard pitch shots and TM did not offer any club data while FS reported for most of these shots. The problem was that the club path was said to be almost 15 degrees from in to out along with a spin rate of 14,000 rpm – just not happening! I actually preferred that TM did not provide club data as I would rather have no information than have to explain away improper information. That being said I would love a radar that provided correct club data on all shots.
- With both units unplugged and PC’s powered down the TM (2:05) was aligned and ready to roll in about half the time of the FS (4:16). I was told that with an iPad the FS can be aligned and operational in far less time.
- We noticed that both machines reported different Swing Plane numbers when they were moved (flipped positions) relative to the same golfer. I have tested this before and the changes in data are due to the hardware in the TM II. Each machine appeared to provide better data when the golfer is hitting shots aligned with the center of the unit – something that was not possible when running two machines.
- We tested the ability of each unit to report gear effect, by logging the point of contact on certain drives and then comparing each units Face to Path and Spin Axis numbers. The TM reported gear effect as I would have anticipated and most of the time FS reported along similar lines. However the first shot we examined, a big heel hit, was actually reported by FS as being a slight toe side hit. TM reported a Face to Path of -9.3 and a Spin Axis of -5.4 while FS reported a Face to Path of -2.2 and a Spin Axis of -11.0
- I was amazed at how closely aligned the Spin Rate numbers were for each machine. Unless there were dramatic differences the spin rates were almost always within 100 rpm’s.
- There seemed to be quite a few instances during the testing where the attack angles were not even in the same ball park. I had nothing to help me determine which machine was correct, other than the aforementioned fact that better players tend to be very consistent, and all too often it was FS reporting wide ranges of variation from the player.
Keep in mind that my intent is merely to report what I observed and not to offend anybody or any entity. I could tell that Tim and Simon were a little concerned with the results and they went home and performed additional tests. I am happy to report that the FS performed much better without the influence of additional radar and when shots are hit from the center of the unit. Tim’s follow up comment to me was:
I believe that side by side testing, although seeming to be a good idea, does not work. Clearly there was some radar interference at work as the inconsistent numbers were not reproduced in stand alone tests. Maybe the only way you can really compare the units is with extreme high speed cameras with the units working independently of one another.
I would have to agree with Tim’s sentiments and I have started to make plans to have each unit test the same golfer on the same day, but without the potential interference of outside radar.
You know I’ll report back on that one….