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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Drivers Just Got More Adjustable. Is That a Good Thing?

Let me start by saying that I have no connection with Callaway, nor am I getting any kind of remuneration for this post. In fact, this post isn't about selling you on any brand of equipment at all.

I'm just blown away by how complicated buying a driver has become. I wonder if the USGA expected this when they okayed adjustable clubs?

This post was prompted by an article about Callaway's new Big Bertha Alpha driver -- actually, two new models -- and about what may be coming from other manufacturers as a result. You can get the full details at this post.

Callaway's new super-adjustable Big Bertha Alpha

Last year Callaway introduced the original Big Bertha Alpha, which was distinguished by a vertical center of gravity (CoG) adjustment. This allowed players to alter spin rates by around 300rpm, although it would cost you a little forgiveness on off-center hits. (In general, higher CoG gives you more forgiveness while lower CoG gives you more distance.)

Enter the Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond models. According to Callaway:
Both Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 DD feature lightweight composite crowns, the central core weight that can be flipped in a low or mid center of gravity position (the "gravity core"), heel and toe adjustable weights, an adjustable hosel and a revised face design that saves additional weight. In the Alpha 815 ($450; 9, 10.5 12 degrees), the weight is saved to provide lower spin and improved off-center hit stability compared to last December’s Big Bertha Alpha.
To accomplish this, the clubs are made of 8 different materials. EIGHT! It sounds like you can adjust pretty much everything but the loft -- note that you have three available lofts in the "basic" 815 (the article says the DD comes in 2 lofts). But do you really doubt that we'll soon see clubs where you can make ALL of these adjustments, and possibly more?

I have mixed feelings about where equipment designs are heading. I mean, I like the fact that it's so much simpler to get fitted for clubs now. A knowledgeable clubfitter can custom-fit you while you wait -- no more having to special order or come back later!

But I'm really nervous about the temptation these adjustments present to the determined tinkerer. We're already convinced we can buy a better swing. What happens once we can adjust every little nuance of any club with a little tool we carry in our pocket? Will we have the self-discipline to leave the adjustment screws untouched until we're sure we can hit it "off the screws"?

Can we be content with the blessing of instant clubfitting? Or will we cross over to the dark side of constant tinkering, adjusting and tweaking until our games are more frustrating than ever?

Search your feelings, my young padawan. Search them before you give in to the dark side. Down that path lies madness... and hopelessly bad shots. Just think twice before you start tinkering, okay?

And above all, make sure that you have ALL of your original settings written down somewhere so, if things get out of control, you can reset everything back to a working configuration.

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