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Hank On Tiger And Others: "A lot of them are benefiting from not having to hit many drivers"

Last year I wrote in Golf World (not posted) about the death of the driver caused in part by course setups and shorter major venues at Olympic, Lytham and Merion rendering the big stick useless, but one element of the equation that I heard all about this year in talking to Champions Tour players this week was the 3-wood and the amazing strides made of late by manufacturers.

Then I see in John Huggan's column this week on Tiger that Hank Haney has plenty of nice things to say about Tiger's game, except his driving. But as Haney points out, that may be an overrated element of the game.

“Because of the distance so many of the professionals now hit the ball, a lot of them are benefiting from not having to hit many drivers,” continues the Dallas-based coach.

Tigerphiles will want to read the rest of what Hank has to say.

But I don't want to leave this topic as I think it's a fascinating thing to keep in mind with the majors right around the corner.

None of the venues this year will play unbearably long unless it rains a lot at Augusta, meaning there should be an edge to those who happily carry it 300 yards with a 3 wood (you know, from all that kale they've been eating...).

Interestingly, a few of the Champions Tour guys I talked to this week cited 3-wood driving distances as another reason to address distance increases that the governing bodies insist have flatlined. A couple even said they suspect the COR limits are being pushed by 3 woods because the players thought those were tested for spring-like-effect. But after a quick search, Jim Achenbach clarified this was not the case back in 2010 as some of the recent improvements were starting to be seen in fairway woods.

And the greatest strides recently made by manufacturers trying to reach that limit may be in fairway woods, especially 3-woods. When COR testing was introduced in 1998, 3-woods were nowhere near the limit. “Recently, we’ve had some 3-woods exceed the limit,” Rugge said. Those prototypes must be altered and resubmitted within the .830 COR limit.

Personally, I kind of enjoy the irony of the distance pursuit undermining the role of the driver, but as someone who would like to see today's Watson's and Miller's face some of the same risk-reward questions as their predecessors, we're losing something if the driver is not called on at key times to separate the great from the merely very good.

But if you're a better man or woman--and here are your latest Masters odds following Tampa Bay--this is shaping up as a year to wager on the player who doesn't need to hit too many drivers to win a major. Maybe even someone who has a "stinger" in the bag.

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Reader Comments (58)

Better fitting/optimization
My Rocketballz 14.5 fairway club is almost an inch longer than
my old Cleveland TC 15 driver, and only 3.75 degrees weaker.
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeloso
Chico, maybe you should give yourself a little more credit!
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewCoop
Definitely not Andrew!!I used to play full- time on tour.I'm a recreational player at best now and I'm nearer 60 than 50!
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
Shadygolf, technology advances in golf have been going for 500 odd years. It's progress. But the R&D guys are limited; by rules, physics and playability. I've heard every big manufacturer claim their new driver goes 10 yards further than last years for some time now-so after a while you become a bit cynical. The golf business needs to create hype to keep the wheels turning-and distance sells. But they're working at the margins at the moment.

On the groove change, the data shows that the ball spins less, especially from longer grass, with the new grooves.
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewCoop
Andrew- Coop is a fairly unusual surname.You are not related to the Dean Wood legend Tony Coop are you?
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
No, sorry Chico I've never heard of him. No I share a surname with the great Tommy. (not related though.)
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewCoop

How much different has your idea of an ideal launch/spin changed in the last 20 years?

Mine (I'm old too) is dramatic. 1 inch longer shaft. 55 grams (not 75) shaft.
10.75 loft with 2400 rpm as opposed to 9 degree with more spin

I hit it way higher than 20 years ago, and hit it the same distance, not because of my training regimen!!
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeloso
Chico, the lofts on my clubs are just one club off of yours. My PW is 46* and my 5 iron is 27*. Is that really that big of a shift?
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGoose
Commentating on the BBC at the last Muirfield Open, Peter Alliss spent a lot of time lamenting that the field hadn'T been tested on their use of the Driver. I know they've bought extra land, as per Augusta, but I think it's only 3 holes that have added much distance.
03.18.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBelowPar
celoso.The first time I was ever put on a launch monitor I launched at 7.5 degrees with a spin of 5800.That was with a Toney Penna with I think 8.5 degrees and a dynamic gold s400.With my current Callaway Razr Fit 9.5 I launch at 11 with a spin of 2300.I am about 18/20 yards longer through the air.Goose- you are only 1 club strong-but other sets such as the new Rocketbladz are closer to 2 strong.With the slot behind the face on these irons even thin shots launch just about normally.Is that a good thing?Maybe- but not at the top level IMO .Mind you I am something of a hypocrite cos I've already sold 8 sets!
03.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
What's this? I thought it was forbidden around here to suggest that the distance gains had anything to do with anything but the ball?
03.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Shady: 1.5 is optimal for a 3w or "maxed out" in your opinion?

Hmm..maybe the system I use is out of whack, but I am getting 1.55 and higher on some 3w and driver swings. 8-iron yesterday was averaging about 1.29 to 1.35. Wedges are usually around 1.10 to 1.20 (depending on +/- shaft lean) with the driver coming in at a high of 1.60. And I am with chico here...reduced lofted clubs that are designed to launch higher is not necessarily good for the game. Rather give the illusion that one can actually make a solid swing...smoke and mirrors that fade away after the 2-week "new club honeymoon" is all it is.

Eg: The new RBZ 6-iron is basically a space-age version of a 4iron at 26deg that I used to use...coupled with a hot face (thanks to Adams tech...the BEST club manufacturer/innovator out there IMNSHO) and old-school Ginty type weighting...THAT'S the 17yds right there. Nothing but marketing malarky (WTF else are they touting colour options as an "improvement"? Do they think we've all morphed into image paranoid teenagers who have to match our clubs/shoes/bag...oh wait...d'OH)

Anyways...How come nobody has mentioned those Wishon FW woods with the long radius (flat like faces). They were like supercharged irons...that flew like a driver...out of any lie! The 14deg model was almost ideal IMO. Unfortunately, one needed to hit the sweetspot everytime or else. Not very forgiving toe-to-heel...and I had to return my borrowed club to the owner who KNOWS how to find a sweetspot..also the ProjX 7.0's he liked were a tad "wedding prick-ish" if ya know what I mean. Some folks just instinctively know how to compress a ball....(sigh)
03.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Heads and Loft is all i ever hear about, we all seem to forget the tech that has gone into the shafts. Bobby Jones played with hickory shafts and now we can choose from 5,000 different combinations of shafts and heads. From wooden shafts to now we can play with NASA poly fiber shafts. The golf companies ability to fit each player so scientifically; ball launch, spin, club head speed, is what I think has made driving the ball so much easier for the pros.
03.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBP
Dont forget the ball!!At least 50% of the problem.
03.19.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
Chico, the ball is definitely the biggest change in the years I've played. I remember when the Pro v1 first came out and straight away it went 20 yards further for me. And it didn't hook and slice spin half as much and seemingly just went straight through a head or side wind. I'm just old enough to remember playing the tour balata which was, excuse the pun, a whole different ball game..
I think they've been tinkering at the margins with drivers since the COR limits were put in place. My old FT-3 (circa 2005?) is as long as anything I've tried since. Obviously I think we've now a much better understanding of spin, launch e.t.c. and are able to get the best head, loft, shaft combo. But once you've got that, I don't think there's been much more to gain. That's why we're all excited about these super charged 3 woods.
BP, driving has become easier for pros for sure but, comparitively, the new technology has helped the club golfer more. It has levelled the playing field.
03.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewCoop
I still use NXT or Precept Lady type golf balls in scrambles
Heck of a lot longer than Pro V1

Heck, old Pinnacles are longer
Engineers beat rules makers when they designed spin into Pinnacles
03.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeloso
I had same experience moving through the technology cycles.

Was playing for a living, and was at Callaway in Carlsbad getting tested.
They ended up fitting me in to a 6.5 degree Great Big Bertha.
When I hit it, the only shot I could hit would have, in effect, hit Rinaldo Nehemiah
about 50 yards out on the right sideline if he was in full sprint.

They really had no idea back then of what was ideal
03.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeloso
I had same experience moving through the technology cycles.

Was playing for a living, and was at Callaway in Carlsbad getting tested.
They ended up fitting me in to a 6.5 degree Great Big Bertha.
When I hit it, the only shot I could hit would have, in effect, hit Rinaldo Nehemiah
about 50 yards out on the right sideline if he was in full sprint.

They really had no idea back then of what was ideal
03.19.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeloso

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