By now we have all opened those gifts and found either gold or coal. Today one of the most popular gifts is a simple gift card. This allows you to use the funds on the card for whatever you want. Unless it's for a specific store or restaurant.
So your conundrum may be deciding which golf clubs you want to spend that money on. Are today's clubs worth the investment? One of the fortunate perks of my job is being able to test and review the latest in golf equipment technology. My bag usually has an extra club or three, or an extra sleeve of new balls to try out and then report my findings back to the manufacturer.
Many of my golf buddies get to try the clubs as I need input from more than just one person. The question I find myself asked most often by my fellow golfers is "Does the technology really change that much from year to year to warrant me spending money on new clubs?"
It's a good question. When most of us are watching every nickel and dime, spending a few hundred dollars on that new driver or even more on new irons may be difficult to justify. Especially if your spouse or partner doesn't play golf.
With the size limits on drivers set at a maximum of 460cc, manufacturers have taken to putting as much technology as possible into that space. They now use exotic materials and move weight around to put it to better use. They have also made it so that we can make adjustments ourselves to our drivers. We can set the loft, open or close the face, and more.
Drivers no longer have grooves on the face. They have etching that resembles grooves. This allows the face to be made thinner, with less chance of breakage. The thinner face is livelier, producing more ball speed and the weight savings allows designers to put that weight in places where it will help you hit the ball straighter. The result is a driver that is easier to hit farther and straighter than those from a few years ago.
The biggest leaps in clubs have come in the manufacturing process. Companies use CNC milling to make the faces of irons perfectly flat. They use lasers to cut the grooves to NASA-like precision.
With today's technology, it's possible to build irons with multiple materials instead of just steel. Titanium has a 42 percent lighter density than steel, while tungsten is twice as heavy. Using these materials allows designers to move weight to places that help optimize the center of gravity on the club. The lower and deeper they can place the COG, the higher and straighter the ball launches.
Today's irons are all strong-lofted. The loft of your new pitching wedge may be closer to what you had in your 9 or 8-iron years back. However, by using different materials in the head and moving the COG, they keep the same trajectory of the old iron, but with greater distance. Imagine a ball coming off the face of your 8-iron with the same high trajectory, but with 6-iron speed. You get a shot that drops softly, while traveling farther.
Casting processes have come a long way, too. Companies have the ability to cast faces less than two millimeters thick. Designers then use that weight savings to increase perimeter weighting, improving forgiveness.
Most important is that the ability to cast this technology and design improves mass production and lowers costs, giving us a more affordable club with state-of-the-art technology.
At one time all forged clubs were muscle-backs with little forgiveness, making them difficult for recreational golfers to play and enjoy. With CNC milling machines and lasers, designers can now carve portions from the forged heads giving them the same perimeter weighting once found only in cast clubs.
Computer simulators also play a role in measuring the drag forces of a design as it goes through the grass. This allows designers to adjust the sole of the iron to optimize how it reacts when it strikes the ground and then adjust their design to make the club more efficient for its target audience.
We all want feel in our clubs. It usually tells us how well or poorly we struck a shot. Designers are now able to measure the sound waves emitted by a club as it strikes a ball at various points on the face. Engineers then design and implement dampening inserts and stiffening ribs to make the club sound and feel better.
We've come a long way in terms of how well and how advanced we build golf equipment. If you have a few holiday bucks to spend on equipment, rest assured that it will be a good investment.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.