Driver Clubhead Size and Performance – Who Wins?

Posted by on Apr 26, 2012 in Clubhead Design, Driver Fitting | 27 comments

I’m well aware there are a number of golfers who can’t stand looking down at drivers which to them, look so large in size they seem like a “grapefruit on the end of a stick.”  Golf equipment information forums will occasionally have threads in which golfer’s plea for the companies to develop and introduce sub 400cc drivers. Within such comments invariably is the question, “can a smaller size driver perform as well as a larger one, and if so, why haven’t the golf companies offered at least an alternative smaller size driver?”

In a nutshell, if they can be sure it will sell enough to far exceed the cost of development and marketing, you can be absolutely sure the golf companies will make it. They’re all in the business of making money. That’s why if you don’t see any smaller size drivers being offered, the companies are sure the demand is just not going to be significant enough to merit the introduction of a smaller size driver. Period.

Way too many golfers still believe that “bigger is better” when it comes to driver head performance to allow companies to spend the money to develop a smaller size model.

From a pure performance standpoint, the larger the size of a clubhead, the higher its Moment of Inertia could be. In turn that means the larger the head, the better it’s off center hit performance could be. Likewise, the larger the size of the head, the larger the face area could be. Larger size face does not mean a higher COR for more distance because we all know it is eminently possible to reach the USGA’s limit on spring face capability on a face that would be commensurate with a sub 400cc size driver head. But a larger size face can make it easier to design a variable thickness face that could offer a very high level of off center hit performance.

Bottom line though is that it very definitely is possible to make a driver head with a volume of 380cc to 400cc that would perform every bit as well for distance and off center hit performance as any of the 460cc heads currently on the market. Yes, the 460cc head’s MOI would likely be higher, but not by so much that it could bring about a noticeable improvement in off center hit performance. MOI modeling studies for TWGT have shown that a difference of 1400 g/cm2 in the MOI of a driver head, basically the difference between a 360cc and 460cc volume head, offers only a difference of ¼ of 1 degree in resistance to off center hit head twisting. And that’s for a golfer with a 109mph clubhead speed. For golfers with a 100mph and lower swing, the additional off center hit improvement from a 1400 g/cm2 difference in MOI is even less.

Hence if all the golf companies could be convinced enough golfers would buy the smaller size driver to make it worth the expense to develop and introduce it, golfers would not skip a beat in terms of the performance they could achieve with a smaller size head. It’s all a matter of supply and demand – and right now there is just not enough demand to generate a supply.

27 Comments

  1. Would a shorter shaft on the driver be more user friendly for us higher handy capers?

    • Jerry

      Absolutely, positively and for sure 98% of all golfers would benefit from a shorter length driver vs the ridiculous driver lengths of 45 to 46″ that is on just about every golf company’s driver that is sold off the rack in retail stores, pro shops or on line. The ONLY golfer who could benefit from that long of a driver is a golfer with the characteristics of, 1) very smooth controlled tempo + 2) inside out to square swing path + 3) slightly flatter swing plane + 4) no tendency to slice the ball at all + 5) a handicap under 12. Everyone else should be in a driver length that would be between 43.5 and 44 inches. It has always been a fact of clubfitting technology that the shorter the length the higher the percentage of on center hits, and the more control there is over the swing path and release of the club coming into the ball. But if you plan to cut down the length of an existing driver, please be aware that in doing that, you will have to add some weight back to the clubhead. The shortening of an existing driver causes the swingweight to drop by 3 swt points for each half inch shortened. That drop in swingweight is bad and needs to be offset by adding some weight back to the head usually in the form of lead tape to get the head FEEL during the swing so the golfer notices it well and can use that head weight feel to develop decent swing timing and rhythm. Or you could have a custom clubmaker fit you for a driver that is then built from scratch to have all the proper specs you need for your swing characteristics including the shorter length with the right swingweight for your strength and tempo. If you need help in finding a good clubmaker to work with to help you, go to the home page of wishongolf.com and click on the link in the middle of the page for FIND A CLUBFITTER. Then input your town/city and see if there is a clubmaker in reasonable proximity to where you live.

      TOM

      TOM

  2. Hi Tom.

    I was wondering if you can help me out with a question i get asked all the time.

    Will i get more distance with a smaller driver head or a bigger driver head?

    • COURTNEY:

      Head size has absolutely nothing to do with distance. Getting the most possible distance comes from a combination of a couple of things. On the head side of this, having a head with the highest legal COR for the face and then having the loft that properly matches the golfer’s combination of clubhead speed + angle of attack is the head’s contribution to distance. Then it is a matter of being fit for the right length, shaft weight, shaft flex/bend profile, total weight, swingweight and grip size. None of these things have anything to do with head size. Head size has a bearing on the off center hit performance though. And it is true 98% of the time that the larger the driver head, the better the OFF CENTER HIT distance will be because larger heads pretty much always will have a higher MOI to make the head twist less and lose less energy when the shot is hit off center.

      Hope this helps and thanks for coming to us with your question. We’re always happy to help with the best information because we do know this stuff better than just about anyone out there.

      TOM

  3. Hi Tom,

    I’ve been playing with a Cleveland VAS 9.5* driver for years. I’ve tried the newer bigger heads but for me they go way too high and it seems I have more of a fade bias with them. Even though many of them are 1-2 degrees closed I find that I fade them no matter what I do. I play to scratch so I know a good swing from a bad one. When I put my best swing on a 460cc driver with a Matrix Black Tie stiff it goes right and fades right. Same shaft in my Cleveland has a baby fade every time. I get about 280 max with my Cleveland and might get a few more with the 460. But I’ve found that he short grass rules!! Any thoughts on why the 460 behaves this way over my 280cc VAS??

    Thanks for all that you do in answering questions both from a technical point of view and from a personal point of view. By the way, I spent some time talking to you back in the day at Golfworks before they built the new facility. What a great time that was when things seemed so much simpler both in life and in golf.

    Mike

    • MIKE:
      Whenever a golfer reports different performance with two different clubs, the ONLY WAY that the real answer to explain the difference can be known is for ALL of the specs for BOTH of the clubs to be ACCURATELY measured, one at a time, so that each spec can be compared to see what’s different and from that, to be able to know what differences could be causing the performance difference. It’s just not possible to determine that in any other way because there can be a spec here, two specs there, that when different, explain the performance difference.

      On its own speaking only about the size, there is no technical reason why a larger size head would bring about a difference in performance vs a smaller head. Especially when you are talking about an accuracy difference. Head size could account for shot height and spin differences depending on the point of impact of the ball on the faces of the two models. BUt the size won’t on its own account for an accuracy issue. Accuracy differences are explained from differences in the lengths, lofts, lies, face angles, shaft weights, shaft flexes, shaft bend profiles, swingweights and grip sizes. Not the size of the head. So here again, to REALLY answer your question without any doubt, we’d have to have both clubs to look at each and every spec, one at a time, and then the answer can come forth. If you had a week or so to be able to be without the two clubs such that you could send them to us, we can do that in about an hour or so and let you know what we find and then get the clubs back to you totally intact and with no changes from how they are now.

      And I do hear what you say about things being more simple in the past in all ways!! Thanks so much for your interest and for your support !!

      TOM

  4. I often play a mint Cleveland Launcher 330Ccc driver because I like the smaller head. A solid hit goes as far as my Ping G2 460cc.

    • I can hit my Adams 3 rescue as far as my Taylormade driver and more accurate. I am to the point I just leave the driver in the bag.

  5. Hi Tom,

    I wanted your opinion on square headed drivers from a few years ago. Other than their slightly unusual looks (I am fine with how my Callaway FT-IQ looks), the argument that it enabled the manufacturers to place more weight in the right places (deep and perimeter)seems a good one to me.
    Are there really any benefits to a square driver, and was it only timid customers that made the manufacturers drop them from their ranges?

    • Richard
      One of the things we have gotten very good at over the past many years of our research is to be able to know what changes to a golf club really make a difference, and which other ones simply do not. If you listen to all the marketing, it is easy to believe that ALL the changes and “advancements” are earth shattering in their effect on shotmaking. But that’s not the case.

      And this one regarding moving weight around a clubhead or even making a heavier weight head to improve performance is one of these many things that you can see and you can measure, but it will not make any real difference in shot performance for 99% of the golfers.

      Moving weight from side to side on a driver head to alter the draw or fade tendency of the shot can be done, but it requires far more weight to be moved than what any of the driver heads allow you to do. I’ve done this testing and developed such drivers in my past design work so I know without question that you have to be able to move at least 30 grams or more from side to side on a head to be able to even see the ball flight move more into a draw or fade. And most all these drivers that have offered weight movement to induce more of a draw or fade only allow you to move 10g to 20g. Which does nothing to ball flight for 99% of the golfers out there.

      Golfers who need to reduce a slice or a hook through fitting need to rely on the FACE ANGLE of the driver. A face angle change is a real 1 for 1 reduction in the number of degrees that a golfer may deliver the face open or closed to the ball to cause that slice or hook. And as such, it can be verified that based on a carry distance of 200 yards, a change in the face angle of 1* will reduce the slice or hook by 4 to 5 yards. Hence if a golfer slices the ball on average 25 yards of curving ball movement in flight, if he gets a driver head that is 3* MORE CLOSED THAN THE ONE HE CURRENTLY PLAYS, he would see that slice reduce by around 12 yards or so.

      TOM

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