Persimmon vs Titanium

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Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Every week we will select the best question and Frank will send one lucky golfer a personally signed copy of 'Just Hit It'. Last week's lucky winner was Paul with his question about golf balls.
 
To reserve your own copy of 'Just Hit It', please Click Here We are now shipping! The first 25 copies ordered this week will received a signed copy, direct from Frank.
 
Please also note new international shipping options for those outside the US. Thanks to all who have ordered over the last few weeks!
 
Persimmon vs Titanium
 
Frank,

I truly enjoyed the honesty you imparted in your book, it was refreshing to read straight forward comments such as the 'the barn door being open a little'.
 
I was wondering that in all your years of testing equipment was there ever a test of actual performance between titanium and persimmon? As a student of physics, I always wondered if loft, shaft flex, face angle and mass were constant, how much could the actual material of construction matter?
 
Thanks,
 
Ric

 
Ric,
 
Thank you for your kind comments about the new book, Just Hit It. I am really pleased you enjoyed it. I hope it will help you and others the next time you are ready to select new equipment but more important, to help us make the game more enjoyable by encouraging change to help save our game.
 
Your question about persimmon vs. titanium is interesting and requires a little discussion. Even though the weight, head speed, loft, and shaft flex were identical in both cases the results of collision will be different.
 
The reason for this is that todays titanium driver has a higher Coefficient of Restitution (COR) than a persimmon driver and the face acts like a trampoline which gives it a spring-like effect. The face of a persimmon driver does deform a little at impact but not very much and the resulting ball velocity off persimmon is dependent on the resilience of the ball ' head mass and head speed being the same ' and not the spring in the face. See http://www.franklygolf.com/tgc/spring2.html Understanding COR
 
The ball will stay in contact with titanium driver face for longer ' by approximately 0.000035 of a second ' than it will with a persimmon driver face and will be launched, not only faster because of the spring like effect ' high COR ' but a little lower and with less spin.
 

These differences, of lower spin and increased ball speed will, by themselves, result in at least 10 -11 yards increase in distance. Because of these differences one can use a higher lofted titanium driver and launch the ball higher with less spin than its persimmon counterpart giving one another 5-8 yards.
 
Add to this, a ball which spins less off the driver, than it did in the persimmon days, with a little higher speed, one can add another 8 -10 yards. This assumes you have been able to reach or closely approach the optimum launch conditions by proper fitting for your particular ball speed. This is exactly what the increase in average distance has been on the PGA Tour since the introduction of titanium and has nothing to do with improved skill or head speed of the golfers on tour.
 
So, there are a number of things at play when you switch from persimmon to titanium, and we have not even discussed the forgiveness factor (MOI) when you miss the sweet spot.
 
The sad thing for those of us who believe that technology will continue to advance ' as measured by increased distance ' is that we are going to be disappointed. We have reached the limits in distance improvement, despite what the advertising implies, as long as you hit the sweet spot of your driver and launch the ball optimally.
 
There is, however, still a little room left for our belief in magic. If we believe that we will get an extra 20 yards with a new driver, we will probably make our best swing and actually get somewhere close. Unfortunately, this increase in distance will soon fade ' five or six rounds if we are lucky ' as soon as our habitually forced swing kicks back into its rightful place.
 
Hope this has helped and thanks again for the comments about the book in which I discuss these and many other interesting issues. I will be signing the first 25 books ordered this week. Click Here to order.
 
Frank
 
Swing Weight Made Easy
 
Frank,
 
Can you explain the term swing weight and whether or not a golfer can
 
distinguish the difference between a D3 and D4 swing weight. I am going to purchase a new #3 hybrid club to accompany my #4 and # 5 hybrids. I was going to purchase the older version which matches my existing clubs but was considering purchasing the newest version. I have to admit, I am a sucker for the latest and newest gear! Anyway, the older version has a swing weight of D3 and the newer version D4. I have tested the newest version and it feels heavier. Is this 'feel' difference have anything to do with swing weight? Thanks much for your insight!
 
Regards,
 
Brian

 

Brian,
 
First, if you really like your existing #4 and #5 hybrids and they seem to be working well for you then it is advisable to get the matching #3 hybrid rather than a new model. You don't want to introduce other variables which may exist between clubs if you don't have to.
 
On the other hand, if you have tested the #3 and it is doing really good things then go for it. Some good golfers have different models or even different manufacturers' clubs at either end of the set; not often in the middle, i.e. wedges or 2-irons but rarely a maverick 5- or 6-iron mixed in.
 
In your case having, a different model for your #3 hybrid is not a big deal especially today where any significant performance differences between last and this year's model is highly unlikely. For example, this year's driver is not going to make a measurable difference in performance compared to last year's model -- assuming both have been fitted correctly. If this was the case then claims that last year's model which was, 'state of the art' when introduced is suspect. 'State of the art' does not change that quickly.
 
Yes, this year's model is better -- and probably measurably so -- than a five year old driver but still not good enough to cure your wicked slice. This will require a lesson or two and is probably a lot cheaper than a new driver.
 
Now to your question -- sorry but I was distracted in trying to make sure you understood that there is not too much magic available between models from one year to the next -- which is the easy part of this answer. Very few people can tell the difference between two clubs which have a difference of three swing weight points i.e. D0 to D3.
 
A club, e.g. a driver, will change by one swing weight point if you added a 2 grams weight to the club head. This is equivalent to two one dollar bills or two hundred dollar bills -- they both weigh the same, its just that your wallet feels heavier with hundred dollar bill in it.
 
Swing weight is a static balance which was introduced about 80 years ago based on balancing Francis Ouimet's -- US Open champion 1913 -- clubs. It was found that the same weight could be added to the butt end of each club in his set and they would balance on a fulcrum 14 inches from the grip end of the club. This is still the system used to swing weight clubs.
 
I hope this get you into the swing of things.
 
Frank
 
Finding a Wedge
 
Frank,
 
First of all, you rule Frank!
 
Ive changed my iron set (4 iron to gap wedge) last year to one of the Super Game Improvement suggestions. Although I am quite happy with my new irons, I have been desperately searching for that one perfect sand wedge to complement the rest.
 
Ive looked at several wedges but there are so many choices in loft, bounce, swing weight and other options theses days I havent a clue as to which one is the right for me. Also, to add to my misery, I do not have an outdoor place where I can test my choices before purchasing one.
 
My question probably has been answered previously in one of your many useful Q & A but it will be very helpful to know:
 
1. What is the standard loft for sand wedge and bounce?
 
2. Do manufacturers really have to offer that many choices to weekenders such as myself?
 
Thank you in advance for your wonderful articles and hope to hear a response from you!
 
Victor

 

Victor,
 
You really dont have much of a choice or the need to be concerned when it comes to the selection of a Sand Wedge (SW). Even though you may find some more aesthetically pleasing than others, because of, for instance, a curved leading edge rather than a straight one etc., they are all very similar. The differences in Sand Wedge design is relatively small compared to the choices you have in irons which, run the gambit for Ultra Game Improvement (extreme cavity back) to classic (blades).
 
Sand wedges are almost all blade-like in design and about as forgiving as a wedge can be. I have said on numerous occasions that almost all of us can use Tigers sand wedge with some degree of success but few ' very few ' of us can play with his three-iron, which requires a great deal of skill.
 
For about 98% of us the specs of our SW should be a loft of 56 degrees and a bounce angle of 14 degrees. These may vary by a degree but 56/14 is a good choice. I recommend you stay with the above unless you are an accomplished player and through experience know a loft of 56 and a bounce of 14 degrees does not suit your sand game.
 
The lie angle should be checked but it may not need to be different than standard. The sand shot will require that you open or close the face depending on conditions and the type of shot you want to play, and this will alter both the effective loft and bounce, which you should be aware of, especially when using your sand wedge from shots outside of the bunker.
 
I would save my SW for all bunker shots and look for a Gap Wedge and may be a Lob Wedge ' if your are prepared to practiced with it ' for the rest of your short game.
 
Frank
 
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank Thomas