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Golf Academy at West Haven
Virgil Herring, 2002, 2003, 2005 & 2006 Middle-TN PGA Teacher of the Year and 2003 TN PGA Section Teacher of the Year.

Getting Comped
Why do so many new drivers have composite crowns? Carbon is lighter than titanium.
By SCOTT KRAMER

It's hard to find a driver from the 2005 lot that doesn't combine a carbon composite crown with a titanium soleplate and clubface. And with good reason. Carbon, a.k.a. graphite, is 75 percent lighter than titanium. When used in the crown of the average 400cc clubhead instead of titanium, it allows club designers to move about 20 grams of that saved weight to a low and deep position within the driver, which in turn helps the ball get up quicker and easier, and with less spin. Thus, tee shots carry longer and go further.

"The advantage is that by removing weight from the crown, we're putting it into other areas of the club to make it more functional," says Todd Harman, director of product marketing at Cleveland Golf, which will soon debut its 460cc Launcher Comp driver (481). "As a manufacturer, having more weight to play with allows us to better tune the clubhead's launch conditions."
Sure, there have been other such models on the market before, including the Kunnan EXT and last year's Callaway ERC Fusion. But even in the past year, materials and technology have advanced, allowing manufactures to take these drivers to the next level. In fact, Cleveland's Launcher Comp is in one way more ambitious than any other composite-crowned driver on the market in that it has reached the USGA maximum clubhead size.

Because of that, our designers were able to move 25 grams of weight, or 5g more on average, from the crown into the titanium sole and skirt," says Harman. "And we didn't weld that extra weight in; we thickened areas on the sole and skirt through an internal design."

Thus far, there's been one drawback of designing clubs with composite crowns: They sound less-than-adequate at impact because using a carbon crown alters the frequency of vibration waves as they travel through the clubhead. And sound is a huge factor for golfers who pay a lot for a driver.
"The sounds have ranged from dead to real clingy," says Harman. "We spent a ton of time working on sound for ours. It sounds more like a lively traditional sound of a titanium driver."

Aware that these clubs produce a better ball flight, PGA Professionals are still split as to whether golfers will want to pay top dollar for such a driver. "Virgil Herring, PGA director of instruction at Springhouse Links at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn., and owner/founder of the Higher Performance Golf Academy, is excited about the onset of this latest technology.

"People generally have trouble getting the driver airborne," says Herring. "Drivers for most golfers still have way too little loft and a shaft that's slightly too stiff. Although these designs with the carbon crowns have some effect on the flight, I'd love to see a driver at 400-to-460ccs with 15-to-17 degrees of loft. Being that most people hit the 3-wood longer and straighter than the driver anyway, let's give them a 3-wood that looks like a driver."

Regardless of the trajectory, golfers just want a driver that gets them more distance, says Scott Chaffin, PGA director of golf at Mile Square Park Golf Course in Fountain Valley, Calif. "I don't think it matters to them if they roll the ball down the fairway, as long as they hit is farther than their friends," he says.

Prices of carbon-crowned drivers are slightly higher than their all-titanium counterparts - most have suggested retail process hovering between $350 and $500 - but manufactures see that as opening up an otherwise stale market. "It's allowing manufactures to sell the technology at a higher price and take some pressure off the titanium driver market that has been in some-what of a download spiral lately," says Jay Hubbard, director of marketing at Tour Edge. "That will provide stability to the equipment market for at least a while."

Tom Dirscherl, PGA director of golf at North Shore Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., says he doubts golfers will buy a new driver at a more-expensive price solely to get the ball higher. "People will still choose their club based on price, playability, feel and to some extent, the popular driver on tour," he says. "The player looking to change his ball flight with any club is probably educated enough to have himself fir for the clubs that will be best suited for him."

A larger problem may loom from these new drivers, foresees Eric Lohman, PGA general manager at Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda, Calif., who loves the fact that golfers can essentially buy themselves strokes in the golf shop with the latest equipment. But he wonders "if golfers buy new drivers, but now hit it farther off center what have they actually accomplished?"

Regardless, expect to see more multiple-material golf clubs in the future. "Whether it'll include carbon is still in question," says Cleveland Golf's Harman. "But the basic multiple material concept makes perfect sense and is here to stay."

  • For information on Virgil Herring's instructional CD-ROM, click here.
  • If you have a question concerning an area of the golf swing or the short game, click here to email Higher Performance Golf Academy.

Virgil is Director of Instruction at:
Westhaven Golf Club
2140 Boyd Mill Pike
Franklin, TN 37064
(615) 579-5190
(Click here for directions)

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