Frank Thomas is a former technical director of the United States Golf Association. He has written several books about golf equipment, the most recent being 'Just Hit It: Our Equipment and Our Game.'
If you have a question about golf equipment, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Has anyone used a golf robot like Iron Byron to compare various irons and woods and golf balls? It would remove the 'human' element from testing and allow you to compare apples to apples.
The distance a ball will travel when hit with a driver depends on a number of things such as ball speed, launch angle and spin rate.
When drivers are hit in the sweet spot with the same clubhead speed, most will propel the ball with approximately the same speed. The launch angle and spin rate are determined by a combination of the dynamic loft (which is the loft of the driver face at impact, not the loft listed on the bottom of the club), and the driver's center of gravity (CG) location.
Almost every driver has the ability to launch the ball the same way if they have similar lofts and CG locations and the proper adjustments are made to the mechanical golfer (like Iron Byron). For this reason, using a mechanical golfer to test drivers adjusted to their optimum conditions will not show differences of any significance in distance.
When testing balls, the mechanical golfer is set up to closely replicate the conditions produced by a tour player using a club a tour player might swing. Under these conditions, the top brands will travel almost the same distance because they have been designed for these top-notch conditions.
Since the way you swing dictates how the ball is launched, it's important to understand that matching the correct shaft and head to your swing is vital if want the optimal results.
There is no such thing as one perfect club or ball for everybody because everyone swings differently. This is why different clubs and balls are made, with different lofts and shaft flexes. For every swing, and every golfer, there are good balls and good clubs.
My advice to everyone is to improve the efficiency of your swing with a driver that has the correct shaft flex and loft for your swing speed. As you improve and develop a consistent, repeatable swing, start to tweak your equipment and the ball you use to get more distance.
For more from Frank Thomas, go to franklygolf.com.