finally got to go to my first PGA Show. It was mind-blowing.
have been to conventions at the Anaheim Convention Center. I worked for
years in a building a quarter mile long. The Orange County
Convention Center blows both these venues away with its sheer size. In
fact, just the west building -- which the PGA Show filled up
-- blows them all away.
And it was size with variety. I never
even got to the section where the golf clothing was, but it was more
than a third of the floor space at the show. And I pretty much ignored
acres of golf travel booths, golf souvenir and memorabilia booths, golf
ball booths, etc. But there was still plenty enough to see and do to
keep me extremely busy. Just look at the floor plan on their web site.
The most mind-blowing surprise there? A golf ball with a USB port!
Here is my
stream-of-consciousness recollection, aided by photos, calling cards,
Note: Many of the pictures here were
captured from the subject company's web site. In each such case, the
accompanying text includes a link to that site. Any company that
objects to this use of its images should contact me and I will remove
The occasion for my attending was to help staff
the booth of Pro-Head Golf, for which I am VP
of Engineering. We make a training
aid that teaches you to
keep your head still and maintain your spine angle. It was invented by
our president, Bob Doyle. Below left is a picture of Bob and me in our
Martin Hall and me at our booth, next to a huge
poster of.... Martin Hall!
We got a really good response from the PGA teaching pros at the show.
They seemed to feel that it was a must-have for every teaching
facility. I hope it works out that way.
One of the first teachers to adopt the Pro-Head is Martin
Hall, The Golf
Channel's new instructor for the weekly Golf Academy show. Martin was
on board with the trainer really early, while
we were still prototyping. He suggested some changes that were a big
improvement, and which are now incorporated in the product. Martin
time at the booth. He is a charming, smart, funny fellow. Not
at all corny,
as he sometimes comes across on TV.
Friends we haven't met yet -- or for a while
I connected with a lot of people at the show, some of whom I had met
before, and even more that I only knew via the Internet. Here are some
of those contacts:
This is a pictures of a bunch of guys I know mostly from my
participation in the Spinetalker's Forum on Yahoo! From
left, they are:
Ed Johnson, the owner and moderator of the
Spinetalker's Forum. It is a discussion group about clubfitting and
clubmaking. It got its name from its inception in the 1990s, when it
was the focal point for the discussion of spines in shafts,
shaft manufacturers denied even existed.
Russ Ryden, the owner of Fit2Score
Golf. (I'm not certain he's a member of Spinetalk. But,even
if not, he know
a lot of the folks who are.) Russ and I have worked together on a few
projects, mostly having to do with shaft behavior and fitting. "Working
together", in this age of the Internet, does not mean we were ever in
one another's physical presence -- and in this case we weren't until
Don Johnson, the Technical Committee Chairman of the International
Clubmakers Guild. Don and I have also worked on a couple of
shaft-related projects over the years, but this is the first time I met
The EI Mafia
All three of us
at the right were also in the previous picture. But Russ, Don, and I
have a special bond. Each of us has built an EI Machine to measure the
flex profile of golf shafts. EI is the fundamental property of anything
that flexes. It can be measured directly, but not many flex machines
today do that. The three of us have built instruments that do EI
Don Johnson (middle) was the first, around 2005. His
machine was big and expensive, but broke a lot of ground and showed us
where the pitfalls were.
I (right) took up where Don left off, coming up with
a cheap-and-dirty machine, having
learned a lot from Don's experience. I built it in a weekend, and have
made almost no modifications since. It works as well as Don's, but is
smaller, lighter, and much cheaper.
Russ (left) decided the world needs a lab-quality EI machine, and
spent time designing one. I was involved as a consultant of
because I had done it and knew where the limitations of precision and
accuracy were. Russ has good resources for things like
industrial-strength precision parts and machining. He and his team came
up with an expensive but outstanding machine. He made about a dozen of
them, and is taking orders for the next batch.
Newton is credited with saying, "If I have seen further it is only by
standing on the shoulders of giants." I wish we could have taken the
picture standing on one another's shoulders -- but we're all a little
old for that.
Friends of clubmakers
Every club in my bag (except for the 3-wood and putter) was designed by
Jeff Summitt (Hireko and Dynacraft) or David Dugally (Vector and Golf
Coast). I have not seen David in about six years, and Jeff in 14 years.
That's Jeff Summitt in the picture with me at the Hireko exhibit. They
have a bunch of
cool new clubheads for 2011. I have no doubt I'll try some before the
David Dugally didn't have a booth this year, but was roaming the show
with Jeff Moreno of Fierce Golf. David was a design partner
first (and, so far, only) two models of shaft from Fierce: the Full
Force and the Tour Deep. (I have a Full Force in my #1 driver -- which
is topped off with one of David's TourSpec heads.) David and Jeff were
Fujikura and Matrix hospitality suites. (More about that below.)
I also got a chance to say hello to Ed Mitchell
whom I haven't seen since I visited him at his Dayton OH factory in
1998. His son is doing some of their design these days, including their
latest bending machine. Imagine a digital SteelClub angle machine. Well it's here!
Training aids and performance monitors
Officially, my portfolio at the show was training aids. So let me start
with that category. There was a significant corner of the floor devoted
to training aids, teaching, practice devices, and body conditioning.
Flexible, weighted training clubs
Our booth was right
next to Smart
Body, a company that specializes in exercise and conditioning
products. They had a new product at the show that hasn't made their web
page yet, a practice club with a heavy head and a very flexible shaft.
It seemed to be a cross between a Momentus and a Whippy Tempo Trainer.
Alas, it is only for practice swinging; I was very interested in it
until I found out you can't hit balls with it; then I lost interest in
There were quite a
few similar products, the "Orange Whip" being the most
visible of them. Combined with a curved, tilted platform they call the
"Orange Peel", it is an interesting exercise in swinging with tempo and
One of the more novel practice devices I saw was a miniature hockey
puck called a "Flatball". It is a quarter-inch thick rubber disk about
the diameter of a golf ball. The idea is to hit it from a mat or
carpet. If you're a little thin or fat, it will be a total disaster --
opposed to a golf ball or whiffle ball, which won't tell you much
unless you can read a trajectory reasonably well.
I got a sample Flatball. When the weather gets better, I'll try it. In
the meantime, the jury is out.
A growing trend is the
high-tech instruction station, incorporating launch monitor, cameras,
and other gadgets to measure the swing. One of the more impressive
offerings of this genre is from Swing
Catalyst. The picture to the right is a screenshot of their
computer display. It shows:
A video of the golfer, taken from one of the
up-to-four cameras supported.
The launch monitor to the right of the video image.
A shaft plane line, drawn by the instructor using an
capability. (That is pretty standard on systems of this type.
I remember taking videotaped lessons a dozen years ago; the teacher had
1/8" wide strips of tape, that he put on the TV screen for the same
The output of a foot pressure plate, indicated by
green arrows I have drawn on the display. The upper display shows the
pressure on the two feet, and the path of the center of pressure during
the swing. The lower display is the torque exerted by the feet on the
ground, as a function of time during the swing.
In early 2008, I talked with an engineer at aboutGolf
as part of my technology
forecast research. The subject was their new camera-based
launch monitor technology, which they called 3trak. At the time,
he saw the instrument being available (at least for early-adoption
"partners") by late summer of 2008, and costing in the $3000 range.
Late and more expensive has always been the norm in hardware/software
development. I know; I did that for a living before I retired. But 3trak's story is a
bit ridiculous! I don't know the exact date of availability, but it was
a lot. And the price today starts at $12,500
and goes up from there. Ouch! At that price, I don't know
how interesting it is. They are in the ball park where they have to
compete with TrackMan and FlightScope. And I don't think they compete
in that ball park.
At the heart of this product is a three-axis accelerometer (three
accelerometers, if you want to be precise) in a module that attaches to
the crown of a driver. (It attaches with conventional double-sided tape
that you can buy almost anywhere.) It measures the motion of the driver
head in three dimensions, and transmits the data wirelessly to a
receiver built into a USB connector. The rest of the product is
software that implements Davenport's algorithms, as described in his patent. It builds
a detailed profile of the swing, including things like duration of each
segment of the swing, face angle at impact, maximum velocity and
acceleration, and even shaft bend.
I need to review the math in the
patent. The last time I allowed myself to be convinced you could use
acceleration as a proxy for shaft bend, I was wrong. That was 13 years
ago, and this accelerometer is much better -- but I still want to be
sure before I buy in.
If this device does what it claims, it is well worth its price of $600.
I suppose I can be forgiven for my bias in favor of the Pro-Head
trainer. But, since the rules say I can't vote for my own company, let
me nominate the SwingRite as the training aid of
Our booth was
back-to-back with theirs, and I got an extended demo of the SwingRite
from Chuck Whitney, the inventor and CEO. The video at the right is a
demo of the product by Kate Whitney, their President, who showed me
around the latest version of the product.
Basically, it is a gripped "stick" that you swing like a club. It is
heavy enough to feel realistic, and short enough to swing indoors. What
it does is click when it reaches
a certain speed. (The trigger speed is pre-set by the user.) It tells
you if you have a good release, and where in the swing it occurs.
that it is new -- it has been around for years -- but it is still
really effective at what it does, and for a reasonable price.
managed not to spend anything on "show specials" while I was in
the biggest temptation of the week was this gadget. There is still a
bit of regret I didn't pick one up. Maybe next year. I'm sure they'll
Clubs and Components
Fujikura had a hospitality
suite, where they had set up their Enso
Clubfitting System. Alex Dee, VP of Fujikura Composites
America, was on hand to put it through its paces.
had earlier mentioned the proliferation of companies offering high-tech
instrumented swing analysis. This one is the biggest and IMHO the best
of them. It is a joint effort by Fujikura and Vicon Motion Systems.
Three orthogonal cameras to capture the swing in 3D.
(In a 2008 technology
forecast, I had predicted this would be available in the near
future. I was pleased to see it done, and done so well.)
An array of additional cameras,
to capture more three-dimensional information of importance to
clubfitting. If you look at the pictures, these cameras
are high and to the right of the target line. That means they look
roughly perpendicular to the swing plane for a right-handed
golfer. Therefore, little or no correction is needed to get detailed
measurement of in-plane motion, including in-plane shaft motion.
cameras capture motion at between 240 and 700 frames per second,
depending on the model. That shows clubhead motion every 2½
inches even at peak clubhead speed (assuming a 100mph swing).
A launch monitor to independently capture the
standard launch conditions with the precision it was designed for.
least one computer to analyze all this. I did not count the
computers. There were two consoles on the table, but one was a laptop
that might just be a display console for the main analytical computer.
Hard to believe that a laptop would pack enough horsepower to actually be
the analytical computer.
with precisely located reflective dots, which make it easier
(possible?) to for the computer to locate key features when analyzing
club and shaft motion.
I watched as Alex and a few other Fujikura
technical folks ran through the Enso drill with two golfers. Among the
things that were interesting, that I have never seen another system
provide, were hand motion in the vicinity of impact and isolated
pictures of the bent shaft (along with numbers quantifying the bend).
The hand motion issue came up with Jeff Farley, who is a long-drive
competitor that came to the Fujkura tent with David Dugally. Alex Dee
commented that his hands did not slow down at impact the way most
golfers' do; he kept turning, and pulling the hands around even though
the club's release resisted with considerable force.
bend display was impressive. The computer display isolated the shaft
and showed the bend graphically, along with the quantitative
measurement of shaft bend, kick velocity, and even face angle deviation
due to shaft bend. I have not seen this sort
of detail since TrueTemper discontinued their ShaftLab instrument --
and even that was far more limited. The
big difference between ShaftLab and Enso -- at least for measurement of
shaft bend -- is that ShaftLab is based on strain gauges, so it reports
heel-toe bend and face-back bend. Enso is based on photographic imaging
of the swing plane, so it can report true in-plane lead-lag bend all
through the swing.
I got the distinct impression that Fujikura
isn't quite sure yet how to turn the readings into a shaft
recommendation. It seems to be a research tool at present, and their
most pressing research is on turning swing characteristics (as isolated
by Enso) into optimal shaft characteristics. In Enso, they may have
better tools to conduct that research than anybody else.
I still think of Matrix Shafts
as "Apache Shafts" -- but that just shows how long I've been at this.
Anyway, I finally got to meet Chris Nolan, their Executive VP of
Operations, and Daniel You, the COO and President. I spent most of my
time with Daniel. It is not often that a company's COO and President is
a techie, but Daniel is. In fact, Daniel designs their
took great pride in showing me their new shaft instrument, which they
call the MultiTool. The picture shows that there are two stations for
doing two very different types of measurement.
The red shaft
is clamped in the frequency-measurement portion of the MultiTool. It is
the front/lower tier. It can measure shaft frequency (you can see the
tip weight in the picture). It also measures torque, using the winged
high-MOI tip weight pioneered by John Kaufman for the Club
Scout frequency meters.
back/upper tier has four adjustable posts for setting deflection and
measuring the resulting load forces. Each tower can be
for height and for horizontal position along the shaft.
whole thing exists in a compact, very techno-looking package that
Daniel tells me is intended for use in a Tour Van as well as the
laboratory. The Tour Van requirement drives both the portable package
and the "multi" nature of the measurements. Daniel said that each club
manufacturer has its own standards for measuring shafts. For instance,
if a van is
serving a TaylorMade golfer, that would require a different measurement
setup from that for a Callaway golfer. The MultiTool can switch quickly
and easily from one to another. I think the whole thing is very cool.
only reservation is that it does not use differential deflection, which
starts it out with a very serious error when measuring shafts by
deflection. As sophisticated and precise as the instrument is, its
readings will still be polluted in an important sense. It will report
as a stiffness difference several differences in geometry, not actually stiffness!
Variations in shaft taper or step patterns will show up as load
differences. So will any residual bend. During the demo, I observed
that the instrument was set for about 40-50mm of tip deflection; I
believe this is probably typical, and Daniel concurred. Then we talked
about a shaft straightness goal of 4mm. That is quite good, but... a
4mm residual bend will give a stiffness error of 10% if the load is
measured with a deflection of 40mm. That is more than a full flex
letter (say, 'X' to 'S'). That's unacceptable in my book, and it is
avoidable with differential deflection.
Golf used to be known as Heavy
Putter. The Heavy Putter is still a flagship product of
theirs. But Steve Boccieri has decided that, if it works for putters,
it will work for the other clubs as well. His company branched into
Heavy Wedges -- which make a certain amount of sense to me. This year,
he has Heavy Irons, Heavy Hybrids, Heavy Woods, and a Heavy Driver. I
guess Heavy Golf
was not considered a good company name, so they named it after the
brains behind it.
I had a chance to finally meet Steve, after hearing about him for many
years. My friend Charlie Badami worked with Steve as early as the
1990s, and he was their first Tour Rep for the Heavy Putter when it was
about to go public. In fact, I had tried out one of their first
prototypes back in 2003 or 2004 during a round of golf with Charlie. I
very much liked the concept and still do. My favorite putters (you know
a clubmakers is going to have a barrel of putters and drivers) are all
weighted like that, including a real honest-to-goodness brand-name
The concept behind Steve's designs, starting with the Heavy Putter but
continuing through the whole line, is:
We know that we want the small muscles -- the hands,
wrists, and forearms -- out of the stroke. One of the ways to make that
happen through the design of clubs is to make the club too heavy to
allow hand action to have much effect. That way, the large muscles --
body and legs --
So let's make the head really heavy. Unfortunately,
the result is a very head-heavy feel that produces the opposite of the
desired effect. The hands feel all that extra head weight, and want to
man-handle the club into position. Wrong answer!
Suppose we fool the hands, at least as far as static
feel is concerned. We will counterbalance the head weight with butt
weight. Not a couple of tens of grams like Balance Certified does, but
a real slug of weight. Enough weight to significantly move the balance
point of the club.
It turns out that, for a lot of golfers (myself
included) the formula works really well for putters. In fact, I tried a
little experiment at home. I took one of my putters with a 330g head
and counterweighted it so the balance point was where it is with the
Heavy Putter. Then I asked my wife (who has definite tastes in putters)
to swing them and tell me which was heavier, that one or an unmodified
putter with a
310g head. (By the time it was weighted, the counterbalanced putter was
more than 100g heavier.) She told me the lighter-but-unbalanced putter
was obviously heavier, and she would not believe otherwise until I put
them on a scale and showed her. So feel is fooled!
But Steve also believes it works for full-swing
clubs. The big difference is that there is no wrist cock in a
good putting stroke, but every other club is hit with a full wrist
cock. He believes in making the head considerably heavier, then adding
enough butt weight to raise the balance point way above what
it was even before the head weight was increased.
Steve knows very well that this is not a physics
thing. He resisted doing robot tests with his Heavy Driver, because he
knows the robot won't show any significant difference from a
conventional driver. (I have known the same thing for years, but my
lesson came not from robots but from a computer program that simulates
a golf swing.)
If it is not a physics thing, then it is a human
thing. Golfers faced with a different feel will make a different swing.
Steve maintains that they make a more consistent swing, with more body
and less hands. I'm not completely convinced, but it is certainly
plausible. I got home from the show and modified one of my own drivers
to test the theory. Not enough information to tell yet; we're having a
snowy winter in New Jersey, so I'm not getting out much..
The big thing in shafts and grips this year was color. Puttergraft
certainly featured very colorful putter shafts, but they had another
novelty to set them apart. They make composite putter shafts which have some
very interesting features for clubmakers and golfers:
Square cross section with "soft", grippable finish;
no grip needed.
Long enough to use for a broomstick putter, but it
holds the square cross-section low enough so it can be cut to any
reasonable putter length. (I don't know if Robert Garrigus' putter
could be made that way, but the vast majority of golfers would be
comfortable.) Just cut to length at the butt and insert the end cap.
This is a great thought from a manufacturing and inventory viewpoint.
As long as the putter requires a straight shaft (they don't do bends),
the only model-to-model variation over their whole line is color.
Sharing a booth and some technology with Puttergraft was Bowler
Putter. It is an extremely adjustable putter head design.
The head weight can range from 350 to 600
grams. 350g is near the low end of high-MOI putter designs,
and 600g is way over anything I've ever used. For reference purposes,
the Heavy Putter has a maximum head
weight under 500g.
It can be set up with or without the semicircular MOI
bar, which itself comes in two different weights.
The "gooseneck hosel" can be set to any lie angle for
Its design allows for a broomstick putter, and the "bowler" name
reflects the designers preference for a long putter that he
uses sidesaddle. But that is hardly the only way the head can
be made into a putter. And that flexibility makes it a natural pairing
with the Puttergraft shaft.
I don't know if this would ever be very popular. I'm not tempted in the
slightest myself. But I found the concept and design very interesting
-- as a clubfitter and engineer, if not as a golfer.
new grip company called Pure Grips had a big display on
the main aisle. My first reaction was, "They are a lot like Star Grips.
Similar material and texture. Similar sales pitch. They even advocate
blowing the grips on and off, and sell an air compressor nozzle for
that purpose." (BTW, I have used Star Grips on my own clubs for years
-- exclusively.) A little questioning turned up the tidbit that Pure is
partly staffed by ex-employees of Star. I can well believe it.
I left the Pure booth with a few samples, and now have one of them on
of my drivers. It feels a lot like the Star grip, which is very good
indeed. It will be a long time before I know whether they last like the
Star grips, which hold their tack and resilience forever. (I believe
I just said it will take forever to compare them on lifetime.) The Pure
grips have multiple colors; they are color-coded with a
model-identifying color over black. Star has been plain black for a
long time, but now they seem to be molding them in solid colors (red,
white, blue) as well as black. Not a big deal for me, but it might be
if I ran a for-profit shop. Color sells these days.
I guess I'll wait for others to report on comparisons. I received a
shipment of Star grips in December, so I won't be ordering grips from
either Star or Pure any time soon.
year, I got a new push-cart to replace my Sun Mountain Speed Cart.
Since I didn't want a repeat of that mistake, I researched the purchase
as exhaustively as I could. (Hey, I'm an engineer; you know what that
means. And once bitten, twice shy.) I eventually decided on the Clicgear
cart, designed by Kevin Kimberly. It's a beautiful and functional piece
of industrial design. The decision was helped along in part by email
from Jeff Lydell of their support staff. I sent several emails filled
with questions, and he sent detailed answers to every one. I got the
cart in August, and have been delighted with it.
Both Kevin and
Jeff were at the show in the Clicgear booth, and I got to
spend a little time with them. Good guys, and very enthusiastic about
their product... With good reason IMHO.
Oh, yes. That
ball with the USB port...
As usual at conventions like this, the exhibits were peppered with
shapely young women in high heels and clothes that could only have been
painted on -- models you can hire to attract attention to your booth. I
ignored them, for the most part. (That's my story and I'm
sticking to it.) But one accosted me with a rather remarkable
proposition. (Get your minds out of the gutter, guys.)
She showed me a handheld device about the size of a smart-phone, that
she said would find your lost golf ball if you get within 100 yards of
it. The system is made by Prazza, and sells for $400. Of
course, you also need to use a Prazza golf ball containing an RFID
chip. Two balls come with the $400 system, and spares are available:
a sleeve of three. That's almost $17 a ball.1
I was looking for a wiseass comeback, and decided she was almost
certainly tired of the question about losing the ball in a lake. So I
asked, "If you never lose it, then the battery must run down at some
point. What then? Can you replace the battery? Recharge it?"
She didn't miss a beat. "That's where the USB port comes in." OK, my
mind was then officially blown!2
A brief note on the economics of the
Prazza ball - Let's assume that I normally play a $2 ball
(that would be something like a Titleist NXT Tour). I would be
surprised if the Prazza ball matched the NXT Tour performance, but
let's assume it does. So I could buy eight of my normal balls for the
price of one Prazza ball. Now I have to ask myself how often I lose a
ball where I would not or could not go to retrieve it. (For instance,
the bottom of a lake, or a thicket of bramble bushes.) If more than one
in eight of my lost balls are lost in this manner, the Prazza does
nothing good for me. And I'm pretty sure that is fact. I suspect
something like a quarter of my lost balls would be irretrievable, even
if I knew exactly where they were. One more
thing: my using a $2 ball is
an assumption contrary to fact. My game is such that I find more balls
than I lose. I play good found balls almost exclusively. So until
everybody else has a Prazza -- and therefore I stop finding balls
because nobody loses balls -- the Prazza is not even worth thinking
about for me.
The USB port - I saw
nothing about a USB port in Prazza's literature. So I emailed them to
ask the same question. Fact: there is no USB port. If the battery runs
down, you buy a new golf ball. I told them why I had asked, and
suggested they give the model a bonus. I will never forget their
product, even if I don't ever buy it.
Last modified 2/22/2011
Copyright Dave Tutelman
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