Post by Rikki White
Golf technology has come a long way since the hickory shafted clubs and wooden balls of the early days. In particular, the revolution in club design and materials has been breathtaking. In this lucrative industry, every day seems to bring a new piece of equipment to part the golfer from even more of his (or her) money.
Over the decades, change in the design of clubs had been relatively stately and unhurried, but suddenly from the introduction of metal woods through to hybrid clubs, the variety of innovations has been supersonic. Just when we thought there could be nothing new to give a further advantage to the dedicated golfer, computer design programmes and a selection of space age materials have taken the game to yet another level.
The centre of gravity has been manipulated to help the average player get airborne and give the low handicapper more control. There are clubs with a multiplicity of metals: stainless steel heads, titanium inserts, tungsten plugs and graphite shafts. There are oversized irons and oversized woods, ironwoods of 26 and 28 degrees for ladies and seniors, weighted to help the ball get airborne.
Whatever you are looking to improve, whether it be distance, control, spin, accuracy or any number of personal idiosyncracies, technology is now available to produce clubs to sort out your problems. There are numerous lofts, flexes, hosel positions, lie angles, face angles, differing graphite and stainless steel options, plus any number of grips. The huge number of models is bewildering.
Chemical milling technology increases the performance and durability of the titanium. The weight pads of fairway woods can be positioned for less spin and more roll or more loft. Whatever your requirements, striking the ball has never been so easy.
And what about putters, which are replaced more often than any other club in the bag. The variety available is enough to tempt even those who have never missed a 15 inch putt. There are mallet putters, blade putters, putters with a couple of balls in line astern, heavy putters, anti-skid putters, different loft and length. You can get them in zebrawood, rosewood, bloodwood, cocobhola: the list is endless.
So how much further can we improve the clubs? No sooner do we think that we have achieved the ultimate in efficiency than another material is utilized and another design proves to give just that little bit more distance or control. It seem’s the sky’s the limit.
But what about the projectile? Aerospace engineers have turned golf ball design, with the advent of exotic materials and technology, into rocket science. Electromagnetic bolts of light have been used to bombard an unfinished golf ball to make the cover adhere better to the inner core. New generations of polymers have been incorporated to give increased control over spin rates. In the core polybutadiene and urethane have been infused with metals ranging from heavyweight tungsten to superlight titanium to produce balls that travel further.
The ultimate wish list has always been to get a low spin rate from the driver for maximum distance and a high spin rate for short irons and wedges. Copolymerised plastics have produced a new material that fits the bill. There are even balls that have dimples within dimples, which produce a more stable air flow around the ball so it holds its line better.
Similarly, in course construction and maintenance the leaps forward have been staggering. Irrigation systems today incorporate digital maps of the golf course which make it possible to control individual sprinkler heads. Water lost due to current weather conditions is calculated by evaporation-transpiration equipment and the amount of water, nutrients and chemicals required for each part of the course can be assessed.
We have the use of Global Positioning Systems and moisture sensors located in the ground.
Specific areas of plant stress on the course can be detected by near infrared spectroscopy and, in conjunction with a central computer, data collected by an on-board device on the mower, can be utilized to organise treatment and watering as required.
Lithium batteries can deliver three times the range of lead-acid batteries, greatly improving electrical course equipment. Hybrid-electric vehicles have the ability to decide when to use the engine, electric motor, or both to drive the wheels. Fuel cells, powered by hydrogen, are also under development. By combining drive-by-wire technology with Global Positioning Systems, it is now possible to create a robot mowing machine which can mow at night to an accuracy of a few inches.
Global Positioning Systems are available to monitor the traffic flow of buggies on the course and speed up play. They will allow golfers the luxury of measuring the precise distance to the green without recourse to yardage charts, display data and leader boards during tournaments and undertake a multitude of tasks which improve facilities for golfers on the course. And no doubt, by the time you have digested this information, it will be obsolete, so fast is the rate of golf technology these days.