My question is about driver heads. Is there any significant difference between a carbon composite vs titanium head? Is one generally any better than the other?
To your question about the performance differences between a carbon composite and Titanium in a driver clubhead.
Let me start by letting you know that it is becoming increasingly more difficult for club designers to improve the performance of driver heads. There are limits, mostly dictated by nature as well as some controlling standards introduced by the USGA, which restrict what can be done by the designer to build a better performing driver.
We have now come close to a performance ceiling for drivers. The ball cannot be projected any faster – given a specific club head speed – than the present driver or those which were introduced five or more years ago. The MOI (forgiveness factor) is at the limit set by the USGA but this limit is too high to do anything of consequence and may in fact be beyond the point of maximum efficiency without introducing other dynamic issues.
So where else can the designer of driver heads go – other than giving up? They can work on optimizing the launch conditions to get maximum distance. In most cases this has already been done, but to tweak it further one can take weight from certain portions of the crown of the driver head by using a carbon composite (graphite composite) in that section. This is lighter than titanium but just as sound structurally and gives the designer some discretionary weight to play with which can be positioned elsewhere – such as lower in the head and farther back both of which will change the launch conditions very slightly.
Brian, composites have been used in combination with titanium for some time with limited success. These drivers are more expensive to make without enough improvement in performance to warrant the additional cost. It is something to talk about from a marketing perspective and if you want something new that looks a little more high tech then these hybrid material drivers may help but the difference will be more in your wallet and your head than anything that will show up on your scorecard.
Hope this helps
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org