Bringing you insights from the PING Proving Grounds, where our talented team of engineers, researchers, fitting experts and data scientists design and develop the newest product and fitting technologies to help you play better. Using the most advanced tools available, we’ll explain and explore the science behind golf-equipment performance. We’ll separate fact from fiction with the goal of helping you make informed decisions when choosing the PING equipment best suited for maximizing your performance.
Tour players today are driving the ball with less curve than ever, for reasons that our own research makes clear: straighter tee shots fly farther, which can help lower your score. With the G410 Plus driver, we introduced a simple new fitting technology allowing players to customize the Center of Gravity (CG) themselves for reducing shot bend, or curve. This is one of the key ingredients to longer drives and hitting more fairways. You may have seen adjustable weighting on the market for a few years, so why did we create custom CG tuning now? Because through rigorous and innovative design, our PING engineers were able to create the highest-MOI (straightest flying) moveable-weight driver the marketplace has ever seen. We pushed what we call the CG shifter (Draw, Neutral, Fade positions) to the extreme perimeter of the G410 to enable custom CG while maximizing stability and forgiveness.
Our previous drivers gave us the ability to fit golfers in two primary dimensions: for downrange distance and height (vertical), using the fitting levers of loft, spin and model to dial in optimal results. By unlocking the third dimension – horizontal (or curve minimizing) -- the G410 driver’s CG shifter adds an exciting new element to custom fitting.
Certainly, being able to customize CG for minimizing curve might not matter if you’re a highly skilled shotmaker and can execute a controlled fade every time or can hit a 20-yard draw and consistently find the center of the fairway. One of the game’s all-time greats felt the toughest shot in golf is one that’s perfectly straight, so he relied on a power fade throughout his illustrious career. A more extreme case is that of PING Pro Bubba Watson, who carves a massive fade off the tee. Not only one of the longest hitters in the game, Bubba consistently ranks among the best in strokes gained off the tee. Why change? Let's dig into this further.
Well, because Bubba is a true outlier, which is why he’s so fun and unique in his playing style. The majority of us fight an unpredictable fade/slice or the tendency to hit a snap hook. Furthermore, our player test data shows that better golfers tend to have minimal curvature on their drives. On average, tour pros curve the ball only 11 yards on a 290-yard drive.
Golfers who have less curvature on their tee shots tend to play better golf.
Golfers who have less curvature on their tee shots tend to play better golf. However, this does not imply that if a player reduces their shot bend, they will automatically start driving the ball better. To help us answer this question, our R&D team decided to have some fun with modelling, or computer simulations.
Modeling allows us to isolate the variables of interest. We can take a typical tour player’s face-to-path and impact location variability and simulate two different scenarios: one where the mean face-to-path is 0° (the straight condition) and another where the mean face to path is closed 6° (the shaped condition).
The 6° closed face-to-path is an extreme scenario, averaging a shot bend over 40 yards. However, it illustrates how a massively curving drive robs the average player of distance. The curving shot shape travels on average 24 yards shorter than a straight ball flight. Interestingly, the shaped shots do have a 12% tighter stat area. This may explain why it is the shot of choice for Bubba; he is plenty long, so he can afford to sacrifice a little distance for hitting the fairway. And on a standard hole with no serious trouble, the added yards more than make up for a little more dispersion. Likewise, on par 5’s, where distance is a huge advantage, Bubba will often opt for a long, straight ball. From a strokes-gained perspective, the straight condition would expect to perform 1.1 strokes better per round.
A curving drive is an ineffective way to maximize distance.
What about a less extreme amount of shot bend? We ran the same simulation with a 2° closed face-to-path instead of 6°.
This time the two options are far more evenly matched. The straight scenario goes slightly farther (3 yards) with a marginally wider stat area, which amounts to an almost negligible 0.1 strokes better driving per round. This indicates that if you like to play a traditional fade/draw off the tee, you will not be maximizing performance unless your shot curvature is minimal. Furthermore, our simulation shows that CG tuning in the G410 driver by switching weight positions to reduce shot bend can lead to an immediate gain in distance and strokes gained on course, making you a better player in the long run.
Chris earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Cornell University in 2017. Chris researches club-ball impact and ball-flight physics, and helps develop new tools to analyze PING performance data.