Golf on TV: Reality series offers viewers a class in ‘Driver’s’ ed 

Golf Channel/Wilson

Golf on TV: Reality series offers viewers a class in ‘Driver’s’ ed 

Digital Edition

Golf on TV: Reality series offers viewers a class in ‘Driver’s’ ed 

Let me state right up front: I’ve never been a big fan of reality TV series.

I had a brief and unsatisfying fling a decade ago with “American Idol.” I’ve never tuned in to find out who got voted off the island in “Survivor.” I never cared which damsel got “The Bachelor’s” rose, nor did any of the celebrity contestants ever make me dream of “Dancing with the Stars.” And Lord knows, I’ve certainly never had any interest in “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

I’ve always subscribed to the notion that the best reality TV is live sports. Nothing we see in any contrived reality drama will ever match a golfer facing a 15-foot putt for victory, or a quarterback trying to lead the visiting team on a two-minute drill in a hostile environment, or a pitcher trying to get the final out in a one-run game.

Nevertheless, I’ve been keeping tabs on the second season of Golf Channel’s latest effort in the reality genre, “Driver vs. Driver 2.” Think of it as just another one of the public services I provide to Golfweek’s loyal readers.

“Driver vs. Driver” is bought and paid for by Wilson Golf, which hopes it will produce a lot of buzz, if not golf’s next great driver. (A Golf Channel spokesman said filming wrapped in August, providing Wilson time to secure USGA approval before the holiday selling season. In 2016, the show’s first season, Wilson shipped the winning driver to stores before the USGA had time to approve it, creating an awkward situation for the manufacturer and its retailers.)

By the third episode, which airs Oct. 16, we’re done with the preliminaries. The contestants have been introduced, the product pitches have been made and the three judges, including Wilson Golf president Tim Clarke, have whittled the field to six finalists.

Now we’ve reached the stage that might interest golfers fascinated with the club-making process: prototyping and product testing by Wilson’s PGA Tour staff players.

In the past, a driver could take up to two years from concept to final product, in part because prototypes took months to produce. “Driver vs. Driver” takes viewers inside the offices of EOS to show the industrial 3-D printing process that cuts prototyping from months to days.

“There is no prototyping phase anymore,” says Greg Hayes of EOS. “There is a design and production phase, which can be quickly iterated.”

What was striking was how well these prototypes performed, based on Trackman data. Or maybe the players are just that good. Wilson’s Tour staff – Brendan Steele, Kevin Streelman, Troy Merritt and Ricky Barnes – immediately began launching drives carrying 290 yards or longer, proving once again that Tour pros are, to borrow from F. Scott Fitzgerald, different from you and me.

“Without moving the weights around, it’s giving me the exact flight I want to see,” Steele says after a 319-yard drive with a club designed by Oregon State University mechanical engineering student Tim Slama.

“I love the adjustability,” Streelman adds, referring to the weight that slides along the figure-8 cavity in the sole of Slama’s club.

“Black Hornet is just an awesome name,” Merritt says of another prototype.

It is?

Never mind the name, it delivered a 1.50 smash factor for Streelman. “Solid feel,” he says.

The prototyping seems eerily precise. In the show’s first episode, industrial designer Evan Hoffman said his driver would sound more like a wooden bat than aluminum. The players immediately picked up on that in Episode 3.

“The sound and feel of this one is incredible,” Steele says.

“I like the look of it, I like the sound of it,” Merritt says.

So has “Driver vs. Driver” changed my opinion of reality shows? Well, no.

I’m not remotely invested in any of the five remaining designers whose stories will play out over the series’ final four episodes. (One contender was eliminated in Episode 3.) I still find the genre’s faux drama and pregnant pauses to be tedious.

But having witnessed the prototyping and product testing in the Oct. 16 episode, I am mildly interested to see which driver ultimately ends up in golf shops this holiday shopping season. Gwk

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