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Player's Journal

Don’t believe the hype


Our resident club-maker and equipment nerd James Day does not want to unwrap a new driver on Christmas morning
Don’t believe the hype

Pictures of the new TaylorMade Stealth driver emerged yesterday last week, with the noise taken up a notch when a certain Tiger Woods had the new model in play at the PNC Championship over the weekend.

Leaving aside the sight of the golf media losing its collective marbles at pictures of a 12-year-old kid playing golf with his dad, the hype associated with the new driver release is as predictable as it is depressing.

Drivers have been on the distance limit imposed by R&A/USGA rules for well over 15 years, with more recent advances focusing on forgiveness. The result is a generation of players with games built around whacking driver as hard as they can - because the penalty for mishits has become so much smaller.

Increases in distance at the top level are as much to do with this change in strategy as with technology - the upside from hitting it as hard as possible outweighs the downside from missing the middle of the clubface.

We’re all familiar with the consequences of this change. Longer courses and tighter set ups, which make for longer rounds, longer rough and longer walks from tee to green, and an inexorable slide into irrelevance for many of the game’s great courses.

But more fundamentally, we are de-skilling the game at the highest level. The world’s best golfers are still extraordinarily talented, but the game they play just doesn’t ask the same questions any more. And that translates into a game that's less engaging for us fans - I can't recall the last time I actually watched a pro tournament on TV outside the Majors.

So, what do we know about this ground-breaking driver, which is sure to change all of our lives and transform the future of golf in the process? Both the head and the clubface are made from carbon - which is not in itself a new development. Back in 2001, Callaway announced they were making the all-carbon C4 driver, which was billed as a move towards hyper-forgiveness.

The lightweight carbon fibre material allows for weight to be positioned in a way which creates a higher moment of inertia, meaning the head has a higher resistance to twisting on off-centre hits. It also makes the driver less workable for players who like to shape the ball. The C4 gained widespread use on Tour, but was ultimately a commercial flop for Callaway. It sounded almost like a persimmon wood, and regular players felt it was much shorter (the importance of auditory feedback in club-making is a topic for another day).

It appears that TaylorMade have found a way to add forgiveness while keeping the face right on the limit of the regulations. This innovation will undoubtedly come with a huge price tag, and the traditional golf media who rely on ad spend from the big manufacturers will do their part to justify the cost.

Personally, I’ll pass on the new Stealth driver. I’ll continue to play with a driver head that’s nearly 15 years old (the TaylorMade R7 SuperQuad - my misgivings about the direction of the game are by no means directed at one particular brand).

One of the most gratifying things about starting Sounder has been the response we've had from like-minded golfers - people who love golf the game, but are increasingly disillusioned with the golf industry.

People who want to play with clubs that look great and feel great, rather than chasing the latest gimmick. People who love a game that's accessible, sustainable and should be affordable for everyone. And a game that will still be here long after the next big thing in driver technology.

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