Demand to Curve it Less

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.





Demand to Curve it Less

By Chris Broadie

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.

G410 Driver
G410 Driver illustration of G410 driver showing the extreme CG location created by the moveable weights. extreme stability moderate-high stability moderate stability moderate-high instability extreme instability Sacrifice Stability Improve Stability extreme instability moderate-high instability moderate stability moderate-high stability extreme stability
The G410 driver's moveable weights improve stability

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. 
 

Ball Curve Per Hundred Yards of Carry
Ball Curve Per Hundred Yards of Carry Scatter plot showing an increasing amount of average absolute shot bend (curve) per hundred yards of carry as golfer handicap increases. Data from PING’s player test database; there are 170 golfers with handicaps ranging from +5 to 25 each hitting an average of 500 drives (40 minimum). The linear regression line shows that scratch golfers average less than 6 yards of curve per 100 yards of carry, while 20 handicappers average over 10 yards of curve per 100 yards of carry. vertical axis labels 16 12 8 4 Curve per 100y Carry horizontal axis labels 0 10 20 Handicap Scatter plot points Scatter plot showing an increasing amount of average absolute shot bend (curve) per hundred yards of carry as golfer handicap increases. linear regression line linear regression line showing that scratch golfers average less than 6 yards of curve per 100 yards of carry, while 20 handicappers average over 10 yards of curve per 100 yards of carry.
Average absolute shot bend (curve) increases as golfer handicap increases


Handicap Summary of Curve Per Hundred Yards of Carry
Handicap Summary of Curve Per Hundred Yards of Carry Scatter plot showing handicap summary of curve per 100 yards of carry. Scratch, 10 Handicap and 20 Handicap player data is taken from the linear regression of PING player data. Tour pro data is the median curve of PGA Tour players on Trackman during the 2017 season. Tour pros, 0, 10 and 20 handicaps average 3.8, 5.9, 8.1 and 10.4 yards of curve per 100 yards of carry respectively. chart background 10 8 6 4 Curve per 100y Carry 0 10 20 Handicap plotted data for different player types tour pro has average curve of 3.79 yards scratch golfer has average curve of 5.89 yards 10 handicap golfer has average curve of 8.13 yards 20 handicap golfer has average curve of 10.37 yards chart legend tour pro scratch golfer 10 handicap golfer 20 handicap golfer Player Type Tour Pro Scratch 10 Hcp 20 Hcp
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).

Shot Trails for 6° Closed vs. Neutral Face-to-Path
Shot Trails for 6° Closed vs. Neutral Face-to-Path Graph of 100 simulated shot trails for the shaped (6-degree closed face-to-path) vs. straight condition. On average, the shaped shots travel 24 yards shorter with a 12% tighter stat area. chart background horizontal axis showing total distance 0 100y 200y 300y Total Distance vertical axis showing distance offline -50y -25y 0 25y 50y Offline simulated shot trails illustrating a straight ball path dispersion area of shots hit with a straight ball path simulated shot trails illustrating a curved ball path dispersion area of shots hit with a curved ball path
On average, the shaped shots travel 24 yards shorter with a 12% tighter stat area.

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°.


Shot Trails for 2° Closed vs. Neutral Face-to-Path
Shot Trails for 2° Closed vs. Neutral Face-to-Path Graph of 100 simulated shot trails for the shaped (2° closed face-to-path) vs. straight condition. On average, the shaped shots travel 3 yards shorter with a 1% tighter stat area. chart background horizontal axis showing total distance 0 100y 200y 300y Total Distance vertical axis showing distance offline -50y -25y 0 25y 50y Offline simulated shot trails illustrating a straight ball path dispersion area of shots hit with a straight ball path simulated shot trails illustrating a curved ball path dispersion area of shots hit with a curved ball path
On average, the shaped shots travel 3 yards shorter with a 1% tighter stat area.

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 Broadie
Head of Fitting Science

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.

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