Opinion - 'Golf’s considered a complicated game - but it isn’t at all complicated at all' - Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris

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Ivan Morris

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sport@limerickleader.ie

Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris

MANY historical discoverers, scientists and inventors were regarded as eccentric or quirky, even weird during their lifetimes. Few who knew him in his early years would have thought that Albert Einstein would become a significant figure but, he proved them all wrong.

I'm no Einstein but I do know this: It doesn't matter if a golfer strays off the fairway as long as he has a free shot at the green. It doesn't matter if he misses a short putt occasionally or doesn't hole any long putts.

It doesn't matter if he misses a few greens, as long as he chips within four feet or less every time while also managing to ‘stiff’ a few (just a few) of his long range approach shots.

Golf is considered a complicated game but it isn't complicated at all. Professional golfers are not that much better at putting than most ‘good amateurs’. It's their approach shots into the green that puts them miles ahead, especially from long distances.

The long game is the defining separator. Extra distance off the tee helps because the further down the fairway and closer you are to the target, the easier approach shots become.

Better players are not that much better than the rest of us at any one thing but, they are at least a little bit better at everything.

The scientific knowledge and technology that is available today give us no excuses for bad swings or bad equipment. However, the latest and greatest driver is no good if it is not fitted properly. Back in the old days finding the 'perfect' driver was far from easy.

As soon as you found one you liked, you kept it until it disintegrated in your hands. The average golfer today can easily find the perfect driver but, he might be surprised to learn that if he consulted a recent scientific study by the innovative and forward-thinking Cork club fitter, Padraig Dooley, which he undertook to help illustrate the value of club fitting, he would learn that a shorter in length, standard weight driver is capable of giving him the best overall results in achieving maximum distance and best accuracy.

As you'd expect, an increase in head weight results in a decrease in club head speed but, and this is a big surprise, slightly better outcomes in ball speed and accuracy if the heavy club is shortened.

On the other hand, a lighter (and longer) driver head contributes more club head and ball speed but accuracy worsens.

Smash Factor (the combination of ball speed/club head speed) is the key: when Dooley dispatched six shots with the same club (weighted differently) it emerged that 1.445 was his average measured 'smash' score with the lightest club, a medium weight measured 1.46 and a heavy club measured 1.48.

It might not sound like a big difference but every yard counts. Momentum increased with head weight so, the slight loss of speed was compensated for by the force generated by the increase in weight.

A 20% difference in the head weight of the lightest club to the heaviest saw a drop of only 4% in speed with a tendency for the lighter head to send balls to the left and the heavier head sending balls to the right.

This makes sense. Heavier heads are more difficult to release and lighter ones are ‘too easy’ to release.

It's a negative that extra weight causes the shaft to flex more, which increases spin but Dooley maintains 'too much flex' can be toned down by stiffening the tip of the shaft to bring the dynamics and spin back to an optimal rate that achieves peak distance.

What does all of this research and trialling mean exactly, Padraig asks?

When a lighter club is lengthened and 4 grams added to bring it up from a swing weight of C8 to D2 and, when the ‘heavy club’ is shortened to 43.5 inches and 4 grams taken out, as well as stiffening the club and bringing it down to a D6 swing weight, both of these configurations perform much better than (un-doctored) light and heavy clubs.

The 46.5 inch D2 weight driver was really good, nearly 4mph faster (107mph) and 10 yards longer, the short and heavy club stayed at 100mph but had a better smash factor, 1.5 less spin and was 'only' 10 yards shorter (but straighter) than the light club despite having nearly 7 mph less swing speed.

Speed isn't everything! The conclusion (courtesy of Padraig Dooley): the accurate player should consider using a lighter and longer driver and someone with power, speed and less accuracy, should go with a shorter and heavier club.

Nothing could be easier than getting yourself properly fitted. For all of golf's hit and miss qualities, science does work. Don't dare overlook it!

A Word to the Wise

Tiger Woods is no longer a Mike Tyson-type, heavyweight champ who rules through intimidation. This balding man who looks older than his years often walks with a limp, and is made vulnerable through injuries, surgeries and disclosures of personal failings. And yet, a diminished Woods can still win golf tournaments when competing against the best. Tiger has just won his 82nd PGA Tour title, to equal Sam Snead's 47-years old record set in a less competitive era and taking 10-years less to do it. I never saw it happening; definitely not after his 2009 car crash debacle (the word debacle may be interpreted in any way you wish)