Golf driver technology, is now in the middle of a movement of its own. Call it the MOI generation.
MOI stands for moment of inertia. And the latest urgency among club manufacturers is to maximize MOI which in turn optimizes the resistance to twisting on off-center hits. The maximum MOI allowed by the USGA is 5900 gram-centimeters squared.
Dont worry. There wont be a quiz on this. But it has caused a bit of a buzz in the industry.
Until recently, the bigger the golf club manufacturers made the heads on their drivers, the more the jokes proliferated about size and how much it mattered.
Now, it appears in this new era of MOI awareness, shape matters. And once you get past those inevitable jokes you begin to understand how radical this latest departure in driver design may really be.
The full name of The Show that opened Thursday in Orlando is the 54th PGA Merchandise Show. And once again, thanks in large part to the MOI generation there is a lot to talk about.
Revolution is a strong word, says Jeff Colton, the Senior Vice President for Research and Development at Callaway Golf. But it will bust open the markets acceptance of new shapes.
The it Colton refers to is the square-shaped FT-i his company makes that was once, in prototype, called SpongeBob. Then there is Clevelands HiBORE XL that is longer from front to back. And there is Nikes SQ Sumo2 with a head nearly five inches square. Titleist is marketing a driver with a triangle-shaped head.
You dont see many square shaped jet fighter planes, says Chris McGinley. Theyre all triangular. McGinley is Titleists vice-president of golf club marketing.
Cobra is coming out with a SPEED LD driver head that stretches 4.7 inches from face to back.
Its not so much shape as it is about the MOI numbers, says Jeff Harmet, President of Cobra Golf. Cobras PGA TOUR staff pros include long hitters J.B. Holmes, Geoff Ogilvy and Camilo Villegas.
Meanwhile at TaylorMade, a consistent leader in driver counts on the PGA Tour, execs have been forced to shape a rebuttal. Not that their arguments arent compelling. And not that the company is sitting on its R&D hands.
New geometries in drivers have been the talk, says Mike Ferris, TaylorMades senior director of product marketing. What youll see at The Show from us deals with shape vs. benefits. Is a different shape something thats going to benefit the player?
And its sure to be a lively debate. TaylorMades r7 Superquad driver maxes out size and has four movable weight screws. But the shape is not radically different. TaylorMade is also debuting this week a new iteration of the Burner line that has no movable weights and is all about enhancing ball speed.
Its for the bomber, Ferris says.
What does all this mean to the consumer this week now that the equipment industry and its buyers have beaten a path to the doors of Orlandos Orange County Convention Center?
It means its time to study up on your MOI. More sales and performance answers will be available by the end of the year. In the meantime the February issue of Golf Digest has put out a comprehensive 56-page special section called The Hot List. Its a must read.
Nothing in golf changes lives more than an obliterated tee shot, says the magazine. For you, its a walk-off home run, buzzer-beating fadeaway-jumper, get-the-girl kind of good. For your opponent, its a blindside tackle, sudden-uppercut-to-the-solar-plexus, have-a-LifeSaver kind of bad. Golfers walk taller when theyve outdriven members of their foursome. They should. After all, is there a greater sense of self-worth an individual can experience than to stand on the tee box of a difficult driving hole and blast one to flip-wedge distance? No, there is not.
Not to be forgotten, meanwhile, are the new developments in fairway woods and hybrids.
Once reserved as an attack weapon solely for the warrior class, todays fairway woods offer improved stability, new heat off the face and even the occasional creative space-age material, says Golf Digest. In these bottom-line times, that means theyre easier to hit than ever. Fairway woods just need a better PR campaign.
Titleist lumps fairway woods and hybrids together and calls them the long game category.
You need to be sure you have the proper yardage and trajectory spacing at the long end of your set, says McGinley.
John Daly recently took the 2-iron out of his bag and replaced it with a TaylorMade rescue club. Tour players may have been surprised. Clubmakers were not.
The 2-iron is a dinosaur, says Callaways Colton. His company is out with what it calls the X-Hot 3-wood. Its an oversized 3-wood and attractive especially to longer hitters who have had to dial back from the tee on golf courses that dont play as long as they used to play.
Adams, Bobby Jones, Cleveland, Ping and Nike remain major forces in the fairway woods category. In hybrids the Adams Pro got Golf Digests coveted Editors Choice award. All the top manufacturers are active in hybrids as well Nickent which features a three-dimensional weighting system.
Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200-plus for a reputable hybrid. Fairway woods worth trying range from $150 to $230 on the street. Drivers top out at around $500. On the other end of the driver range you can get a Tour Edge Bazooka Geomax with a nice selection of high lofts for closer to $200.
In the end, with drivers, its what feels comfortable to you. Most of the top manufacturers now have sophisticated fitting systems. And most regions of the country have launch monitor options available in brick and mortar shops that optimize spin rate.
Whats the next frontier? MOI came into vogue after manufacturers pushed up against the 460 cc size limit for driver heads. Now its all about geometry and making sure changing current geometry is the right thing to do.
I think you are going to see more radical designs going forward over and above basic squares and circles, says McGinley. It will be interesting to see what kind of tolerance golfers will have in terms of what they are willing to look at in the playing position.