PGA Show puts spotlight on CG in drivers

TaylorMade showed off the SLDR and more of its newest drivers at the PGA Show Demo Day at Orange County National near Orlando, Fla.

TaylorMade showed off the SLDR and more of its newest drivers at the PGA Show Demo Day at Orange County National near Orlando, Fla.

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Allow me to mix my sports metaphors for a moment. The PGA Merchandise Show is an equipment writer’s Super Bowl. It’s the one time all year that the industry comes together under one roof. It kicked off Tuesday with the annual Demo Day at Orange County National, an event that feels more like baseball’s opening day. Spring training is officially over and it’s time to start keeping score.

Truth is, it’s been a long time since the PGA Show has been synonymous with new equipment introductions. Retailers have already seen the latest and greatest and orders have been filled. But this is a time to create that certain buzz that will resonate in the months to come. This is about generating momentum that will lead to sell-through.

Nothing creates excitement in the equipment space like the driver. It could be a big year. Big Bertha is back for Callaway. TaylorMade is touting loft. And guess what? Every company says its driver goes farther.

But in some cases, that’s where the similarities end. Many of the equipment makers are pitching a different spin on center of gravity. As an industry, equipment makers have figured out how to make crowns thinner and lighter and to redistribute weight. It’s been a race to move the CG farther back in the rear portion of the clubface to create a more optimal high-launch, low-spin flight pattern.

Beginning last fall with the release of the SLDR driver, TaylorMade has championed a design with a CG that is low and forward. For several years, TaylorMade has excelled at delivering a simple-to-explain narrative for retailers to pitch to consumers. The latest – loft up for more distance – might be a tougher sell than white paint, but that turned out to be a home run. The industry has been saying for years that amateurs use too little loft on their drivers. You don’t need a launch monitor to figure that out. But such talk has fallen on deaf ears. Why? Because amateurs see pros blasting high-arcing drives with 7.5 degree drivers and figure they can do that, too. (Yours truly is guilty as charged.)

It's a simple case of physics that higher loft and lower spin will help amateurs with lower clubhead speeds to hit a ball farther. TaylorMade says a CG low and forward creates more ball speed and more distance. The question is, will a campaign that shows TaylorMade’s Tour staff using double-digit lofted drivers as high as 12 degrees make it cool to “Loft Up?” At Demo Day, TaylorMade staff wore “Loft Up” hats and visors, and a leaderboard tracked the largest loft and distance gains made by attendees. Time will tell.

In contrast, the Cobra BiO Cell and Ping G25 are among the drivers that have opted for a CG that is low and back. The Callaway Big Bertha Alpha driver, on the other hand, allows the user to adjust the vertical CG and adjust spin independently of launch angle. With each design, there are trade-offs in terms of distance, forgiveness, and off-center hits. Which is the best? That’s for you to decide. Happy hunting and play ball.

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