Own Words Bridgestone Part II

By Casey BiererJuly 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
Editors note: Founded in 1931 by Shojiro Ishibashi, Bridgestone has always been guided by the founders philosophy: Serve Society with Superior Quality. Over the years, the pursuit of superior quality has resulted in Bridgestone becoming a global market leader in the rubber industry and in polymer science technologies.
 
Today Bridgestone shares the same passion for the game of golf as their founder. Mr. Ishibashi converted his golf passion into a commercial success when Bridgestone first produced golf balls in 1935. Along with technical developments in tire technology, breakthroughs in golf ball technology have led Bridgestone to be the number one golf ball producer in Japan.
 
Mike Moxie is the marketing manager for golf clubs here in the United States. Hes been with the company a little over two years. An Ohio State grad, Mike has grown up with golf all his life and has been involved in many different aspect of the game and the industry. I can tell you from my own personal experience playing with Mike, the guy can flat out hit it.

 
A Conversation with Mike Moxie, marketing manager for golf clubs for Bridgestone Golf.
 
Casey/Q:
Mike, a little bit of the right place at the right time for you. When you landed at Bridgestone it was still Bridgestone Sports USA and you were operating only the Precept brand.
 
Mike/A:
Thats right, Casey. Ive been lucky enough to be involved since the initial conception and eventual launch of Bridgestone as an ultra-premium brand. And Ive been fortunate to have a lot of responsibility for defining branding under the Bridgestone name as opposed to the Precept brand.
 
Casey/Q
This transition, Precept to Bridgestone, is pretty recent in fact?
 
Mike/A:
Yes, we launched to the trade in January on 2005. Its been an exciting two plus years for me. It was certainly a wild ride the first 9, 10, 12 months.
 
Casey/Q:
Whats the status of Precept now?
 
Mike/A:
Precept now is still going forward. Were certainly not getting rid of the Precept brand. It was a good thing and a bad thing for us with the MC Lady. We always had a great tour teamtons of tour wins and majors with Nick Faldo and Nick Price and Stuart Applebyit was always a high technology tour inspired brand. But then when the MC Lady took off, that phenomenon, it kind of repositioned the Precept brand more as a mid-priced game improvement brand. And to tell you the truth, we were lost there for a little while. It took us by surprise and changed the perception of the brand.
 
Casey/Q:
Were going to get to Bridgestone and clubs here in a second, but, its hard to deny the success of the Precept Lady ball, isnt it?
 
Mike/A:
Oh, theres no getting away from it. And believe me, were not unhappy about it. It was and is a fantastic golf ball for a wide range of players. Its just that the Lady MC golf ball became so popular it took the eye off the ball, no pun intended, of the tour end of things and repositioned it in to where it exists today. Its now positioned by our own accord as a mid-tier and value end ball at $19 and under a dozen. A golf ball designed for the mid-handicap playermore recreation than tournament or tour inspired play.
 
Casey/Q:
Lets get right in to the new irons.
 
Bridgestone Gravity Chamber Irons
Bridgestone's Gravity Chamber Irons.
Mike/A:
The Gravity Chamber series of irons are brand new. They will be out in mid-September.
 
Casey/Q:
Give us an overview of the technology.
 
Mike/A:
GC technology is the removal of inefficient weight and the repositioning of that mass to create better launch conditions, feel and performance. What weve done is take about 30 grams of weight out of the trailing edge of these irons and repositioned that weight in to what were calling Gravity Discs which protrude off the back of the cavity. These are helping to control the center of gravity not only in terms of how deep it is but also thinking along the lines of moment of inertia. So, were trying to move that weight deep and out as far as possible to increase moment of inertia.
 
Casey/Q:
What do the discs do in terms of playing characteristics?
 
Mike/A:
With the discs, were also able to control the sound and feel of the club. What weve done is developed two sets. One is called the Gravity Chamber mid-size, what were referring to as the GC-Mid. And then there is the GC over-size, called the GC-OS. The GC-Mid set is a mid-size club head designed for a player anywhere from 8 to 15 handicap. The OS has the same technology applied with a bit of a different twist on it. And its targeted at a player in the 12 to 25 handicap range. The discs are quite striking at first glance, as well as the chamber.
 
Casey/Q:
Whats the basis for construction?
 
Mike/A:
We use a 431 stainless steel head. Its a cast construction process. We found that with this material its producing the mass properties we want as well the sound and feel which is so crucial in this day and age.
 
Casey/Q:
Now, Bridgestone making clubs for mid and higher handicap players is a departure, isnt it?
 
Mike/A:
It is. However, were seeing a trend at the tour level where theyre looking for a lot more forgiveness from their irons. The inspiration of the design of these new irons actually came from us anticipating what our tour staff might want in the future. And in fact, weve taken these new irons out to our tour players for testing and input. The feedback was so strong we knew we had something we could take to market right now.
 
Casey/Q:
You feel the tour is moving away from pure forged blades?
 
Mike/A:
I think theres a lot of evidence to support the idea that tour players are opening up to the idea of getting away from blades and pure forged tour inspired cavity backs. This game is hard enough, even at the tour level, and they are seeking more forgiveness. I mean, look at how many of them are using 460cc drivers. Not many people thought that tour players would ever want to look down at a driver head that big. So, if the best players in the world are open to new ideas and new technologies, why shouldnt we offer it to them. Were certainly not getting away from our premium forged products, but, we are looking at and developing new cutting edge technologies.
 
Casey/Q:
Whats the process of putting a project like this together?
 
Mike/A:
First of all, we have to believe ourselves we are designing a golf club that we know performs at the highest levels of the game. Then we figure out how to apply that technology to the market were looking to hit. Its a combination of marketing analysis and R&D input. Once we have the marketing component decided upon, we sit down with our R&D team. Weve really come a long way in the last two or three years with computer analyzed design, or CAD system.
 
Casey/Q:
This really speeds things up, doesnt it?
 
Mike/A:
Big time. Were using a software system where time to market has really been sped up. To where the mass properties that we look at on these computers tells us what the club is going to do before we ever hit it. Then, through the testing process, we get the validation of what our designers and engineers are producing in the computer model.
 
Casey/Q:
So, what did you come up with on the marketing side?
 
Mike/A:
We wanted a golf club with a lot of forgiveness built in to it, low and deep CG, and a high moment of inertia. But at the same time, we wanted to make it a very visible technology. In order to achieve these goals we had to come up with a design that was a bit radical. However, it couldnt be so radical that our tour players wouldnt use it if they wanted to. Its not that easy, believe me. So, we think its a very striking visual technology without looking weird.
 
Casey/Q:
How long does a project like this take to put together?
 
Mike/A:
From that initial sit down conceptual meeting to when weve got finished goods in hand is really under a year. Its a very quick, intense process. Whereas before these computer CAD and analysis technologies came along it was certainly a waiting game from vendors. But now that we control that process our time to market is much faster and its much easier to hit engineering and marketing goals in the first couple of go-rounds.
 
Casey/Q:
Whats the story with the discs?
 
Mike/A:
The discs are actuallythey are part of the one piece mold so its still 431 stainless steel.
 
Casey/Q:
Are the discs fixed?
 
Mike/A:
The discs are fixed, yes. The 30 grams removed from the gravity chamber is then re-distributed to these gravity discs. With these discs, were controlling center of gravity and moment of inertia. One thing that we did with the mid-size set, which is pretty unique, because of the better player were targeting, especially because we anticipate these golf clubs will be played on tour in some fashion by the end of the month or next month. Weve had them out on tour testing and its just a matter of dialing in shafts and those types of things right now. So, with the mid-size set, the discs are progressive in nature to where theyre farthest out in the long irons and then they begin to move closer together as the set shortens.
 
Casey/Q:
How does this affect performance?
 
Mike/A:
Well, what were doing here is creating long irons that fly high and are very forgiving. Then as the discs come closer together were changing center of gravity location to where its easier for a player to hit knock-down type of shots and control trajectory because the center of gravity is a bit higher and the ball is spinning more.
 
Casey/Q:
And in the oversize set, this is different?
 
Mike/A:
In the oversize set, were trying to make all the irons launch as high as possible for higher moment of inertia as well greater forgiveness. With this type of player weve found they are really concerned with hitting it high, straight and long. So the discs stay separated in the corners throughout the entire set whereas in the mid-size its a progressive nature.
 
Casey/Q:
Are you marketing them as traditionally configured sets or can you mix and match?
 
Mike/A:
Thats an interesting point. From our perspective you can basically throw the traditional 3-PW set out the window. In the past two years with the explosion of the hybrid market the demand for 4-PW and even 5-PW has increased dramatically. In addition to that, with these sets the geometry or lines, per se, are similar. The oversize set has more offset and a thicker top line, however, when you put the two sets down next to one another, the basic lines are the same. So, if someone wanted ' like myself, for example ' Im playing the three and four iron in the oversize and then 5-PW in the mid-size. Its a very seamless progression. So we can configure the set any way you want. If you want
5-iron through PW, great. If you want 3 and 4 in the oversize and 5 through PW in the mid-size, we can do that, too. Its really about tailoring it to your game.
 
Casey/Q:
This creates a lot of work on your end, doesnt it?
 
Mike/A:
Manufacturers have certainly come a long way in terms of being able to provide this type of custom option to consumers. Four or five years ago it was 3 thru PW, no questions asked. Back then, it was go and spend another couple of hundred dollars on a seven wood or nine-wood and then youre taking your three iron out. I think were trying to find more reasonable solutions now for set configurations.
 
Casey/Q:
Do you think people are more inclined to experiment more now than they used to be?
 
Mike/A:
I do, actually. And I think one of the things that has spurred this along is the resale value of golf clubs. There are so many more avenues now for people to unload their clubs when they want to buy a new set. Theyve got a lot more options to maybe get money some money back out of them.
 
Casey/Q:
Unless, youre like me. I fall in love with every golf club I buy and then even though it might not end up staying in my bag, it stays in my garage.
 
Mike/A:
Dont you just love that honeymoon period?
 
Casey/Q:
I do. And even if it doesnt work out I still love looking at it. Its a very similar analogy as to why Im still single.
 
Mike/A:
That is a riot. You change your golf clubs all the time and youre single. Definitely a connection there.
 
Casey/Q:
Moving right along, with regard to feel and sound, what were you trying to achieve?
 
Mike/A:
Taking a look at the competitive marketplace, especially when you start getting in to different metals that they are being used in the casting process, a lot of feedback weve heard is the irons feel too hot and they sound too clicky. Theres certainly a direct correlation between sound and feel. And that goes directly to modern golf balls as well. The more muted a ball is at impact the more the perception of a soft feel; even though it might not necessarily be the case. So, we wanted to create a golf club that felt and sounded soft and solid and with these discs were controlling that audible aspect to the clubs.
 
Casey/Q:
Were you in a way trying to mirror the soft feel and muted sound found in your J33 forged irons?
 
Mike/A:
Very much so. We wanted to retain that forged feel and sound in a game improvement type of series. Why should a player have to sacrifice on sound and feel just because the set is designed to hit the ball higher and with greater forgiveness? And, we always had in the back of our minds that these irons would make their way out on tour. So they have to sound right.
 
Casey/Q:
How early in the process do you go to the tour for testing and feedback on a new product like this?
 
Mike/A:
Its quite early in the process. When we start out with the design, we go with a stereo-lithography 3-D modeling which is basically like aits like a sand casting. Weve got this printer that pumps out these 3-D sand images in about an hour. We would take these models of the heads in this sand casting prototype out to tour for feedback and input. One of our greatest assets in terms of the design process is our tour teamespecially Stuart Appleby. Number one, his personality ishe definitely shoots from the hip. And if we provide him with something and it doesnt meet his standards, you know in the first 30 seconds. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
 
Casey/Q:
What about Fred Couples?
 
Mike/A:
Fred is a little more laid back about it. He gives us great feedback as well, but, hes not quite as analytical about it. Its a lot about feel with Fred.
 
Casey/Q:
Stuart is very involved, is he?
 
Mike/A:
He is. Hes got a great eye for club head shaping. So we take these sand casting prototypes out there very early on when we feel like weve got something that we like. We show it to the guys out on tour and get their feedback. In the case of these new irons, they were quite happy even with the first go-round of prototypes. We made a few minor changes in the sole and different areas of the club.
 
Casey/Q:
Then you actually make prototypes?
 
Mike/A:
Right. From there, we go in to actual C&C milling of playable prototypes. Then we take those samples out and they can actually be hit. At that point, were collecting not only quantitative but also qualitative feedback from the tour guys. These clubs are a good example of where the sound and the feel was overwhelmingly well received. The first thing the tour guys said was how solid they feel and sound. That was a huge relief to us.
 
Casey/Q:
Its an interesting challenge for you because your guys are forged iron players. Thats all youve ever had in your line.
 
J33 Forged Cavity Back Irons
The J33 Forged Cavity Back Irons.
Mike/A:
You couldnt be more right. We were very sensitive to that. Stuart, for example, has had the blades in his bag from the start of the launch of the brand. He has all his three tour wins with his forged blades.
 
Casey/Q:
So, youre talking about a tough cookie to please where you are now putting a cast product in a tour players hands.
 
Mike/A:
And, you know, his feedback was 99% positive. There were just a few things shaping wise he suggested we change. It was really pretty quick. Our engineers really nailed it in the first couple of revisions.
 
Casey/Q:
Tell us about your design facilities.
 
Mike/A:
We have a domestic club development facility in Lake Forest, California which is just north of San Diego in the Carlsbad area. Weve got a team out there. Obviously, we have enormous design capabilities in Japan. But, with the time difference here in Georgia it was quite a struggle to get everybody together at the same time. We had to stay very late in Georgia and in Japan they had to come in extra early just to have a phone conversation or a video conference. One of the added benefits to having a design team in California is were only dealing with a three hour time difference. Plus, its easier for vendor relations as well. So, for us now, all the design work is done in the United States.
 
Casey/Q:
Do you still collaborate with the designers in Japan?
 
Mike/A:
We definitely still rely on the Japanese design influence. In fact, a couple of the designers from Japan regularly come and work in our design office in California. There is a lot of sharing going on between the two groups. Especially considering the size and scope of the design team in Japan, we are happy to be able to take advantage of that.
 
Casey/Q:
Do you find it to be a shared learning effort?
 
Mike/A:
There is a lot to be learned from both ends. So, its an effort with two teamseveryone working towards the same goal. There are designs and concepts that have come from both teams that have ended up being applied to both the U.S. market and Japanese market.
 
Casey/Q:
What is the launch date of new iron sets and what are the price points?
 
Mike/A:
The GC series will be in stores in mid-September and the MSRP is $699 in steel and $799 in graphite.
 
Casey/Q:
What about shaft choices?
 
Mike/A:
Our stock steel shaft will be Nippon NSpro1050GH which is a mid-kick point. Its a 105 gram shaft. In the oversize were going to use the 950GH which is 95 grams also in a mid-kick point. Weve got custom options and people can flip flop the two steel options around in the custom department. And then theres a graphite shaft thats common to the two models. Its manufactured by Aldila and co-designed by Bridgestone.
 
Casey/Q:
Challenging decision on graphite for the irons?
 
Mike/A:
It certainly took some time to get it right. This is the Aldila Gravity Chamber shaft and it has Aldilas Gamer shaft playing characteristics. It performs wonderfully. You know, theyre Gamer line doesnt get the same kind of advertising and marketing support that their NV flagship series gets, but, the Gamer shaft is a great shaft and the Gravity Chamber shaft that we designed along with Aldila feels quite similar to the Gamer.
 
Casey/Q:
Lets move on to the J33 line of irons.
 
Mike/A:
Its 1020 carbon steel and it comes from the Endo forging house. The manufacturing is done in Thailand and the finishing is done in Japan.
 
Casey/Q:
How do you account for the feel and sound of your forged irons? That hot knife through butter characteristic?
 
Mike/A:
The shaping of the golf club and pushing weight to the perimeter gives all the J33 family of clubs wonderful feel and sound characteristics. A lot of it has to do with the quality of the forging house and the level of the source material being used. 1020 carbon steel is used far less frequently than, say, 1025 or 1030which has more carbon in it. And in essence, the greater the carbon content the harder the material is. We think using the 1020 steel has added benefits when it comes to feel and sound. The quality in the forging and chroming process is second to none and this amplifies the great feel and sound.
 
Casey/Q:
What is the target audience for the different models?
 
Mike/A:
Theyre all really designed for about the same player ability. And, certainly, thats the better player. We make no bones about that. The pure blade set is intended for the seriously accomplished playerId say tour player to five handicap segment of the market. The Combo and Cavity Back sets are designed for tour pro up to a 10 to 12 handicap. Its tough to say exactly because you could have a 10 handicap that is actually a really good ball striker but doesnt putt too well and thats why hes a 10 handicap. Conversely, you can have a 10 handicap that has a stellar short game and knows how to score but doesnt really hit it all that great with his irons. So the good ball striking 10 handicap would be quite comfortable playing any of the J33 irons. The not such good ball striking playersame handicapI wouldnt necessarily suggest the J33 irons for that player. So, you have to use your best judgment about what fits your game.
 
Casey/Q:
How about the Combo set?
 
Mike/A:
Its a three part set. The 2 thru 5 irons are a perimeter weighted style club and in the trailing edge theres a twenty gram tungsten insert that lowers the center of gravity and pulls the weight away from the face allowing the ball to fly higher and straighter with the lower lofted clubs. In the 6 and 7 ironthe middle of the setits the same perimeter weighted forged cavity back design, however, the tungsten has been removed and you are really controlling those clubs not with the position of the weight but rather by the true loft. We find the 6 and 7 irons to be very stable and consistent in terms of performance. In the 8 thru PW, we refer to it as the forged trapezoid design. And what were doing here is concentrating more mass or muscle behind the club face where players are actually making contact thereby improving feel in the scoring irons.
 
Casey/Q:
Tell us about the sole design.
 
Mike/A:
The set also features a double-cut sole throughout which provides greater playability in varied turf conditions. You know, playing on Florida grasses versus playing Massachusetts, well, those are two different conditions to be sure. The double-cut sole moves effortlessly through these different conditions.
 
Casey/Q:
And the forged cavity back model?
 
Mike/A:
The clubs feature a progressive muscle thickness. As the clubs get shorter the muscle portion of the club gets thicker giving them a softer feel and better control. So, like the combo, your scoring irons are going to give the player a lot of playability options. You can hit them high and soft with a little cut, or, you can put the ball back in your stance and trap draw them with a low, boring trajectory. You know, throw a dart in there.
 
Casey/Q:
Whats the progressive horizontal center of gravity all about?
 
Mike/A:
The center of gravity on the horizontal axis is positioned closest to the heel in the 2-iron and then progresses outwards towards the toe as the clubs get shorter. The benefit of this to the player is that the longer irons are easier to square. We dont refer to them as draw biased. Rather, physics is dictating how the club squares relative to the CG on the horizontal access. As the set shortens, the scoring clubs per se, the CG moves out along this access keeping the face very square and stable through the impact zone. This provides a more consistent ball flight with greater workability.
 
Casey/Q:
Because the clubs are designed for better players, you want the player to be able to control ball flight?
 
Mike/A:
Right. In other words, if you want to move the ball you can. The scoring clubs arent going to arbitrarily close down on you or open up on you. Youre going to choose to make that happen or it isnt going to happen. All things being equal, with a neutral move through the ball, the face is going to want to stay square in the scoring clubs.
 
Casey/Q:
These are progressive offset and they have a rolled leading edge?
 
Mike/A:
Thats right. This comes directly from the tour players. One of the most important things to them is how the golf club interacts with the turf. Divot pattern is hugely important especially with Couples and Appleby. Even if the club sounds great, feels just right, looks wonderfulprovides the trajectory and shot pattern theyre looking forif it doesnt react with the turf exactly how they imagine it should the golf club is not going to get put in to play. So, with their direct input, weve designed a leading edge thats more rounded off so the club neither digs nor skips. Now, Fred Couples is using the cavity back model J33 and Stuart Appleby uses the blades.
 
Casey/Q:
Anything interesting about Freds equipment you can tell us?
 
Mike/A:
Well, its interesting that you ask. Most of us avid golfers can pretty well picture Freds golf swing in our minds. That beautiful motion that he has. He is a natural fader of the ball. When you look at the wear marks on his irons you see that he makes impact way far out on the toe. You can see this really well on the face of the irons just after hes finished on the range and the marks are fresh. Hes actually making off-center contact, but, in his case, hes doing it on purpose and he does the same thing over and over and over again. His swing repeats, obviously. So, he likes that perimeter weighting that the cavity backs have because the sweet spot of the clubs extend out to the toe area of the club where he likes to hit it. Hes not hitting the ball in the dead center of the club face where you think of most pros hitting the ball.
 
Casey/Q:
Well, now, thats something we dont hear of or read about every day. So whats his divot pattern look like? Is it still an inside out pattern?
 
Mike/A:
Its actually just about square with Fred. His fade is quite gentle and subtle. Its not like hes slicing the ball. He is capable of hitting huge cuts if he wants to, and the clubs are going to let him work the ball like that. Either way, really. Left to right or right to left. From my perspective watching Fred practice on the range as much as I have, he actually hits it pretty straight. I mean, Id say the ball is going straight for 90% of its flight and then gently falls to the right for the last little bit of the trip. His divot pattern is normally quite shallow and pretty square.
 
Casey/Q:
Alright, lets talk about the J33 blades.
 
Mike/A:
The blades are as classic and as classy as you can get. Stuart Appleby plays the blades, he helped us shape them and hes been playing them from the get go. I cant imagine a finer set of blades in the world. If you want a true, pure, forged blade iron, I cant encourage you enough to try ours. There is something truly wonderful about them that you just have to experience to appreciate.
 
Casey/Q:
What about customization from Bridgestone?
 
Mike/A:
With the forged products, loft and lie is very easy for us to tweak for people. The soft, workable nature of the steel is ideal for this. In fact, you know, one of the things that people dont think about enough is that loft and lie in high end forged irons changes quite a bit over even short periods of time. Thats why the guys out on tour have their lofts and lies checked so often.
 
Casey/Q:
I see that on tour constantly. They are always checking.
 
Mike/A:
I mean, like all the time. These guys will check loft and lie after one practice session or one round of golf. 1020 carbon steel is soft. It will move on you. I dont mean the clubs are going to move a ton, but, if youre a better player and your lie angle changes a half a degree, thats a pretty big change. The same with the lofts. Its very common to see a guys loft go off a degree or two and have to get bent back to where its supposed to be. So, if you have a good set of forged irons, dont take for granted that they will stay tuned indefinitely. Get your lie angle and lofts checked frequently. This is crucial to the clubs performing up to your expectations.
 
Casey/Q:
And, how about shafts for the J33 line?
 
Mike/A:
True Tempers Dynamic Gold is our stock offering. Its hard to go wrong with that shaft. I mean, look at the success theyve had on tour with it. We also offer the newer Dynamic Gold Superlight which has received some great reviews from players since it came out. We also have some Rifle offerings: the Rifle model as well as Project X which you see win out on tour a lot now. In graphite were offering the Aldila NV Iron shaft, which in our opinion, and obviously the opinions of a lot of other people, is a phenomenal design. At a 105 gram weight, its giving you all the properties and playing characteristics of steel but with vibration reduction and enhanced feel. So, its a pretty cool option in iron shafts.
 
Casey/Q:
What happens to swing weight when you go to a lighter shaft? For example, going from a Dynamic Gold to an NV Iron?
 
Mike/A:
Well, the balance point of the NV Iron shaft is quite low so even though its lighter at 105 grams than a 130 gram Dynamic Gold, its going to swing weight the same. With graphite, it can be a bit frustrating at times. Especially when were determining what our stock graphite should be in our drivers, for example. If you take two 65 gram shafts from different manufacturers, they can actually swing weight completely different because of the balance points in the shafts. You can have two shafts that weigh exactly the same but they will play nothing alike. But I think it was a goal of Aldilas with the NV Iron shafts to have them swing weight just about the same as steel so that a player can make the change from steel to graphite in their irons without giving up or changing the performance characteristics they are used to.
 
Casey/Q:
It used to be that graphite shafts in irons had to be longer, or you had to compensate for the swing weight in some other way. You dont really have to do that anymore.
 
Mike/A:
No, you dont. The design and technology is outstanding now. Id actually like to see more people give graphite a shot in their irons.
 
Casey/Q:
Tell us about the rubber technology used in your wood line. We dont usually think about rubber being associated with golf clubs.
 
Mike/A:
Bridgestone being a rubber company, there is a lot of technology that we can co-opt from the parent company. And you know, not only do we take advantage of this on the golf ball side; weve found a great advantage for a rubber based technology in golf clubs.
 
Casey/Q:
How is this manifested in the metal woods, for example?
 
J33P Driver
The J33P Driver.
Mike/A:
In the sole of the clubs weve created an internal housing that we pressure inject this elastomer compound in to and then secure it with a permanent tungsten weight. Theres great benefit of this technology is at impact, especially with the driver.
 
Casey/Q:
How so?
 
Mike/A:
Think of someone swinging at 95 miles per hour with the driver and making contact with the stationary golf ball. This is quite a severe collision. There is a lot of vibration that occurs in the club head when the ball is struck. Most of that vibration is unwanted and not necessary. By concentrating the rubber in the sole of the golf club ' the elastomer compound ' we can reduce vibration. And, particularly on
off center hits. The reduction of vibration leads to more energy being transferred from the club head to the ball. The greater the energy transfer the farther the ball is going to fly.
 
Casey/Q:
What does it do to the feel?
 
Mike/A:
A secondary benefit is sound and feel. The driver sounds a little more muted and it feels really, really solid. A lot of the 460 cc titanium drivers have a very high-pitched, tinky and loud sound. You walk out on to a driving range anymore and it can actually be ear piercing at times. Some people like the really loud drivers because they have the impression that the ball must be going farther. Its not, actually, but a loud driver might give someone more confidence and thats important. But as a design group, and as golfers ourselves, we like a more muted sound.
 
Casey/Q:
So, is it kind of like the Fusion?
 
Mike/A:
Its not the same sound as a Fusion; thats its own unique sound. Ours is kind of like a thump rather than a tink sound. It sounds really solid, thats for sure. By and large our products are targeted towards the lower handicap player and they dont necessarily want that really loud, high-pitched sound. They tell us they find it a bit distracting. So the secondary benefit of the rubber in the metal woods, apart from the physics of energy transfer, is to make them sound and feel more solid.
 
Casey/Q:
Talk about the drivers in your line. You are unique in the sizes that you offer.
 
Mike/A:
We have a 375cc driver, a 420cc driver and a 460cc driver.
The 375cc J33P has more of a pear shaped profile. The J33R drivers, those are the 420cc and 460cc, have more of a round and deep face profile. The different designs all benefit from the same technologies, however, we know better players like a driver to look one way or another. No one driver fits all players. So we wanted to offer the same great technology but in different looks.
 
Casey/Q:
Are the drivers tour inspired as well?
 
Mike/A:
Oh, yes. When we went out on tour with these drivers initially, we took a whole bunch of different head sizes and shapes. Many of the players gravitated towards the smaller head size...the P model driver with the pear shape. They told us it looked very classic and traditional and they liked that. But many of the other players liked the R model drivers with the round look and deep face. So what that told us is, hey, you cant have just one shape driver for all players. Not just for our tour players, but also for the consumer.
 
Casey/Q:
This would seem to be a departure from most of the rest of the industry. The smaller sizes, I mean.
 
Mike/A:
We certainly think it is a point of differentiation between us and our friends at the other golf companies. One of the things we hear all the time from our targeted market ' 12 handicap players and under ' is that they cant find a driver that has all the technology they want that is not 460cc. For the most part, if you want to play a smaller driver you are going to be playing with older technology. Not the case with our 375cc and 420cc drivers. They pack every bit as much technology as the highest end 460cc drivers in the world, but in a smaller package. I actually think it is one of the most unique things in the golf industry today. A 375cc driver built right up to the USGAs legal COR limit is pretty cool. And the driver is clearly validated by the fact that Stuart Appleby is playing it; and hes one of the longest hitting drivers on the PGA Tour. Our club staff professionals who grew up playing persimmon wood drivers love it, low handicap club champion caliber players love itits a really cool driver. Im proud of the fact that weve made the investment to offer these choices in our drivers and not abandoned the smaller sizes just because bigger drivers are what are hot right now from a marketing standpoint.
 
Casey/Q:
I know my own driving game has never been the same since the onslaught of 460cc drivers. Its a different swing that makes the larger driver heads work to their full potential. At least it is for me.
 
Mike/A:
Well, so much of being a good driver of the ball is confidence. Its not all technology. If you have more confidence standing over your tee ball you are going to put a better swing on it. A lot of people standing over the big 460cc chassis, they just dont have the same confidence they had with their older smaller head drivers. So even though from a technology standpoint the performance of high-end 460cc drivers can be wonderful, if you dont like the way it looks at address you might not hit it as well. If youve got a severely tight par-4 hole at your club, and you have a driver in your hand that doesnt inspire confidence, all the technology in the world isnt going to matter. It works differently for different players. For some people the confidence comes from the biggest head they can play, and for other players confidence comes from looking down at a smaller driver head. We want to give players the option.
 
Casey/Q:
Whats up with the sole design we see in the drivers and fairway woods?
 

Mike/A:
At the lower handicap levels of golf, most players want a very square looking face angle. One of the ways that we achieve that in our metal woods line ' drivers and fairway woods, is through the sole design. There is greater trailing edge relief in the sole which, when the player puts the golf club down, makes the club sit more squarely. The feedback from this has been quite good regarding the club at its resting address position.
Casey/Q:
So youre not advocating different face anglesdraw or fade biased?
 
Mike/A:
You know, a draw biased face angle is very good for a player that might have a harder time squaring up the club in time for impact. But, when you take that draw biased club and put it the hands of an accomplished player theyre going to say, cant do it. This ball is going to go left. It can be terrifying for a better player who naturally draws the ball to look down at a draw biased driver. So, for our target market, players that are controlling trajectory and ball flight, we want to offer a square, neutral look at address. We think this trailing edge relief helps achieve this.
 
Casey/Q:
I want to get back to the new irons as an opportunity to wrap this up. Bridgestone is known throughout the world for being a company dedicated to the better player. But, the new irons have a lot of game improvement technology built in. Is this sending a mixed message?
 
Mike/A:
Well, heres the deal on that. The Bridgestone line was founded upon targeting the better player. Thats not going away. However, weve found there is a segment of players out there that love the fact that we are considered a technology leader out on tour. But they are also realistic enough to know that the golf clubs that Stuart Appleby is using might not be right for their game. And theyve been asking us for a technology from Bridgestone in a package that does fit their mid-level handicap game. And thats what the introduction of the new product is all about. All of the technology that Bridgestone can harness, and that traditionally we have reserved for tour and low handicap caliber players, but now, we have our newest technologies at work for mid-handicap players as well. Were making the best and brightest of what we do here available to a little bit of a wider market. But we are by no stretch of the imagination abandoning the forged tour influence in our club line. And, I must reiterate, the new Gravity Chamber irons will make their way out on tour because the technology is just that good.
 
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If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''