Straighter is Better Than Longer

Yesterday we announced our Most Wanted Drivers in the distance category. If you haven’t been keeping up with your Twitters, it’s fair to say the reaction to our results wasn’t universally well-received.  We expected the results from our test would ruffle some feathers though, industry change is rarely widely accepted in the beginning.   When you’re trying to change the status quo of how an industry works at its core, marketing over performance rather than performance over marketing you are going to have some push back.

But we are trying to put the consumer first and the companies last, because it’s the reader (golfer), not the golf companies that matter.

Moving on.  We’re going to put that behind us for now and get to the accuracy portion of our program. Yesterday was for the guys who don’t give a damn about hitting it straight, so long as they hit it far. Today we’re switching up the program. We won’t go so far as to say this is for the guys who don’t care how long they hit it so long as it’s straight, because, seriously, who here is willing to live with dead straight and only 200 yards when you could have 225 and 2 yards offline? Maybe for you it’s 300 and 8 yards offline. Either way it’s almost impossible to think about accuracy without some regard for distance.

Think about accuracy as a compromise. We know some of you would leave yards on the table if it meant more fairways. But how many more yards? What’s your number? That’s as personal as it gets in golf.

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We didn’t invent accuracy, but we did invent the method we use to score it.

Trying to separate distance and accuracy is a tricky proposition. As we’ve pointed out before, short of balls that are hit directly on the target line, or those that curve directly to that line (but not past it), the longer a ball travels up the fairway (or into the tree line), the more offline it goes. Is it fair to punish a club for being 2 yards more offline because it was 10 yards longer?

We don’t think so.

So when we consider accuracy we do so with respect for distance. Essentially what we’re doing is normalizing every shot. How far offline would a given shot be if every shot from every club traveled exactly the same distance? That’s really what we’re looking at. It’s a formula we call truAccuracy (and hopefully we’re getting better at explaining it).

The Overall Accuracy score combines truAccuracy (to an extent reflected in yards offline) and fairway percentage. What we think is really cool about how we look at accuracy is that it allows us to identify those clubs that hit a high percentage of fairways, but also display tendencies to miss them by wider than average margins. You know…those clubs that are really straight, except when they’re really not.

As you’re consuming the data, please bear in mind that we’re working with relatively small numbers, so on a percentage basis, what looks like a lot, may not actually be significant. In fact, the differences between the most total fairways hit, and the least is only 4. As with most aspects of golf club performance, distinctions are subtle.

Declined to Participate

In case you’re just catching up, here’s the list of companies who were invited, but declined to participate in 2014’s Most Wanted Driver Test

  • Titleist
  • Miura
  • Bombtech
  • KickX (did not respond to multiple emails)

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I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the G25 has earned a reputation as the most forgiving driver in golf (it’s that MOI thing again). It’s also the straightest.

While the calculated accuracy score is the highest in our test, in terms that every golfer can understand, the PING G25 was among the leaders in fairways hit, and put the ball consistently closer to the centerline than every other driver we tested.

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Tales of Cleveland Golf’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and that’s pretty exciting.

While a bit of a dark horse that didn’t generate a whole lot of buzz during our test (it’s ok, we don’t deduct points for that), the Cleveland 588 Series very quietly proved itself to nearly as accurate as the G25. Damn.

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Yonex makes another appearance in the top 10. This time it’s with its player-centric I-EZONE TX Driver.

If we’re being honest, the TX didn’t provide the best fit for all of our testers, and we can’t help but wonder if a shaft that was too stiff to maximize distance may have helped maximize fairways. Either way, the Yonex I-EZONE TX may be worth a look for guys who love both smaller heads and playing from the short grass.

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Another surprise given it’s longer than average shaft, the Wilson D-100 ranks #4 in this year’s test.

While our testers at time suffered from higher than desirable spin, accuracy didn’t suffer for it. There’s definitely a slant towards slower swing speed players in the Wilson D-100 design, but who cares…it’s just so damn much fun to hit.

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Here’s just about everything you need to know about the Tommy Armour TA-26 845. Despite limited fitting options, or the big name appeal of most of the other clubs in this test, it still finished #5 for accuracy.

Now is a great time to mention that on its worst day the Tommy Armour TA-26 retails for $149, and often sells for as little as $99.

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Arguably the best driver in this test that you’re unlikely to find near you, the ONOFF Type S and D combo proved to be nearly as accurate as they are long.

Look closely, the ONOFF is one of only 2 drivers to best the PING G25 in fairway percentage.

 

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What it lacked in distance, the Krank Formula 5 nearly made up for in accuracy.

As it did when we tested the Krank Formula 5 by itself last summer, it hit more than its share of fairways while keeping shots tight to the center line.

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One of my personal favorites in the test, the Tour Edge XCG7 is a driver that needs to be on your demo list.

We loved what we saw from a distance perspective (particularly in the Beta head), and the accuracy numbers, as you can see, are nearly as good as anything else in the test. What don’t we like about the XCG7? Nothing.

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As it did day 1, our data suggests that the Swoosh is finally starting to figure this golf thing out on a scale that matters.

For those of you surprised to see Nike near the top again, allow me to offer a modest suggestion: Get used to hit. This is barely the beginning.

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Finally I have a reason (and a need) to talk about the Wilson FG Tour M3, and that makes me exceptionally happy.

As you can see, the accuracy numbers were solid, and while probably true of more than a few of the clubs in this test, the right shaft pairing, and the M3 climbs up the list in a hurry.

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The Who? Agent What? The guys at Sinister fought like hell to get into this test, and we’re glad they did.

Apart from producing some of the longest individual drives in the competition, like the Krank Formula 5, Sinister’s Agent Orange shows us that long drive roots don’t always translate to an abundance of missed fairways.

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MOST ACCURATE WINNERS – (HIGH SWING SPEED)

For those who want to drill down a bit further to get an idea how the top drivers performed for a distinct set of testers, we split players into two groups (by swing speed), and recalculated the scores for all the clubs in our test:

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Anybody sick of hearing about the PING G25 yet? I’d be sick of writing about it if it wasn’t so damn good.

Granted, the higher spin numbers probably cost our higher swing speed players some distance. Of course, if you accept that better scores start in short grass, than maybe sacrificing  a few extra yards for a few more fairways is an easy trade to make.

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It’s unfortunately likely that the Yonex I-EZONE TX is going to get lost in the shuffle. It’s not a club that should produce great results for everyone, and yet, it’s never far from the mix.

I’m not saying you should buy one (I’m not saying that about any of the clubs in this test), but traditionalists are going to love the way the I-EZONE TX looks at address, and that’s reason enough to take a few swings with it – assuming you can find one.

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How about instead of reading this text, you just picture me smiling. We still have one more day of results left, and I’ve already typed “Nike VRS Covert” (2.0) more than I did last season.

I’ve been trying to tell you guys for 3 years that Nike’s stuff is really good. We’re finally getting the numbers to prove it.

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How about this Tour Edge XCG7 Driver?

Comparatively speaking we like the Beta head better than the standard (and all of our high swing speed guys hit the Beta), but damn. Generally speaking, this is the best Tour Edge driver ever.

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I once hit the Cobra BiO Cell + so long and so straight I rolled it over the back of a green. True story. I have witnesses.

While testers didn’t necessarily love the feel (no points deducted for that either), the BiO Cell+ proved to be extremely accurate among our higher swing speed players. The aesthetics of the club are polarizing, but nearly everyone is onboard with more fairways.

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MOST ACCURATE WINNERS – (LOW SWING SPEED)

For those who want to drill down a bit further to get an idea how the top drivers performed for a distinct set of testers, we split players into two groups (by swing speed), and recalculated the scores for all the clubs in our test:

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Our lower swing speed players absolutely hammered fairways with the Wilson FG Tour M3.

Granted, the shorter you hit, the more likely it is to land in the short grass (that’s why I’m going broke supplementing retired guy’s incomes 2 bucks at a time), but 88.57% and 9.41 yards offline on average is a scary combo. I’d tell you I’d give up 10 yards for that, but I’d be lying.

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Our sub-100 MPH testers hit the ONOFF Type-D and they hit it extremely well.

You already saw the distance numbers; now have a look at the accuracy portion of the program.  92.12% of fairways and less than 10 yards offline. It borders on silly.

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Our speed challenged golfers hit the Cleveland 588 Altitude driver, and they hit it nowhere but straight.

The numbers are better than solid. 92.59% of fairways and just over 10 yards from the target line. I loved the Classic Series from the last couple of years, but there’s little doubt that the 588 is a much improved club.

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We’re going to have plenty to say about the Callaway Big Bertha Alpha when we go “Beyond the Numbers” Next week. And you know what; most of it is going to be extremely positive.

Today, let’s just focus on the excellent accuracy numbers, which included over 80% of fairways and less than 10 yards offline for our slower swing speed players. We’ll talk about the rest later.

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As much as I get the disappointment over Krank’s distance numbers, the accuracy numbers might qualify for the feel good story of the year.

We’re talking about a club with long drive roots (a sport where 10% of fairways can win championships) assumed to be for high swing speed guys only, showing itself to be among the most accurate.  We love that almost as much as 90%+ fairways hit and the sub 10 yard deviation from the centerline.

Coming Tomorrow – 2014’s Most Wanted Driver

Be sure to come back tomorrow to find out which of the 23 drivers is our 2014 Most Wanted Driver.

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