UPDATE Dec. 20: The 10.5-degree Wilson Staff Triton DVD driver appeared on the USGA conforming club list on Dec. 19. (Previously, only the 9-degree had been ruled conforming.) The 12-degree has not yet been ruled conforming. A Wilson spokesperson said: “We will continue to work closely with the USGA on the 12-degree driver, with the goal of having the full driver line modified by mid-January. We prioritized the 9.0-degree and 10.5-degree drivers as those are the lofts played by majority of golfers. We are moving quickly on the 12 degree as well.”
It’s funny how these things work out. You might recall that Wilson Golf and Golf Channel collaborated on a television reality series during the fall called Driver vs. Driver. Depicting many of the challenges involved in making clubs, the show wrapped up November 22. The Triton driver, designed by Eric Sillies, was selected as the winning stick. And, Sillies, in the process, won a cool $500,000.
It turns out one more episode (which includes the USGA’s conformance testing) would’ve made for an even more captivating ending.
That’s because the Triton driver, in 10.5° and 12° lofts, has been ruled nonconforming by the USGA. [The 9° is conforming.] Wilson’s statement reads: “While a traditional product submission process would afford Wilson Golf and the USGA the opportunity to review a product several months prior to its commercial launch, the timeline for testing, modifying, manufacturing and shipping a final, comprehensive Wilson Staff Triton driver was compressed. This shortened timeline was due to the nature and confidential format of the show. Since the time of our submission, we have worked closely with the USGA on its review of the Triton driver.”
I spoke with Tim Clarke, president of Wilson Golf, who made it abundantly clear the company’s intent is to make conforming equipment.
So, what makes this club nonconforming? The USGA doesn’t publish details on individual submissions, in accordance with the Equipment Rulemaking Procedures (section 3.1). “That information will remain confidential between the submitter and the USGA. We are simply abiding by those procedures we put in place,” said Janeen Driscoll, the USGA’s public relations director.
But the folks at Wilson revealed that the submission was deemed nonconforming for two reasons: First, the club didn’t pass the USGA’s “Plain in Shape” rule. According to Mike Vrska, Wilson Golf’s Global Director of Innovation, “the USGA determined the club has multiple cavities, including one that’s created by the removable soleplate (made of titanium or carbon fiber) sticking out ever-so-slightly beyond the end of the head.” As a result, Wilson has now shortened the soleplate by a few millimeters and is confident the new design will pass the Plain in Shape rule. (It’s ironic that Frank Thomas, former USGA Technical Director, also served as a panelist on the Golf Channel show.)
Next, the Triton also has three ports in the sole for adjustable weights. The club comes with a kit that includes five weights (two 2-gram, two 6-gram and one 12 gram). During testing, the USGA determined the club exceeded the “Characteristic Time” (CT) limit of 239 microseconds (plus a tolerance of 18 microseconds), which measures the spring-like effect of a clubface. According to Tim Clarke, “the USGA found a hot spot high on the toe of the 10.5° and 12° heads that’s one point over the CT limit, with the titanium soleplate and the 12 gram weight in the toe position [total of 24 grams movable weight].” In order to get the driver within compliance, Wilson’s being practical and simply removing the 12-gram weight from the kit that will ship with future orders.
Remember the conforming 9° head? That one was submitted with the shortened soleplate. [It also passed the CT test with the 12-gram weight in the toe.] You can expect that version to be played on Tour starting in January.
Given the measures above, there’s reason to believe the Triton DVD driver (with revised soleplate) will be on the USGA’s conforming club list (in all lofts) by Monday, December 19 or December 26.
Now, about that extra episode.