Drive Golf Performance Blog

Drive Golf Performance Blog

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Titanium versus Persimmon

Modern driver technology has moved along substantially in the last 30 years. Lee Trevino was the first major winner with a metal driver when he won the 1984 PGA Championship with a Taylor Made Driver. The last major won with a persimmon driver was Bernhard Langer’s win at the 1993 Masters.

A question that arises is what is the difference between today’s drivers and drivers of 25 years ago? How differently do they perform? How much better are today’s drivers and why are they better?

A few days ago I took out my Tony Penna persimmon driver and my current Titleist 913D3 driver. I recorded the shots on the TrackMan 111 launch monitor and in this blog post will look at and interpret the results.

The Tony Penna driver has 10.5 degrees of loft and is 43.5 inches in length. It has an Aildila low torque graphite shaft with a frequency of 274cpm making it relatively stiff. The grip is a leather grip. The club weighs 346 grams and has a D2 swingweight.

The Titleist 913D3 driver has 9.5 degrees of loft and is 45 inches, has a Matrix F7M2 ltd graphite shaft with a frequency of 255cpm, making it slightly softer than the persimmon’s shaft. The grip is a Golf Pride. The club weighs 330 grams and also has a D2 swingweight.

Here’s a nice side by side comparison of the two illustrating the difference in size of the two heads, the persimmon is around 250cc whereas the 913 is 445cc around 80% bigger!!!
I hit 10 balls with each driver using the Titleist ProV1 ball and another 10 with each driver using the Titleist ProV1x ball.

I also hit some Titleist Tour Balata balls with each driver but did get enough data to make comparisons. Shortly I will do some comparisons between the older and newer balls.

Here are the results;
Club Speed (mph)
Ball Speed (mph)
Launch Angle
Spin Rate
Total Distance(y)
Pro V1
37 right
Pro V1
25.9 right
Pro V1x
28.4 right
Pro V1x
12.8 left

Clubhead speed is higher with the 913 probably due to the lighter weight 330 grams compared to 346 grams, 4.8% lighter. A reduction in weight can make it easier to swing a club faster. The speed is approximately 7% faster (7.2% with pro v1 and 6.7% with pro v1x). The other slight gain in speed would come from the slightly longer shaft 45 inches as opposed to 43.5 inches. The higher ball speed comes from the higher swing speed. 

Launch angles in both clubs are similar. Spin rates are better with the Tony Penna, 9.6% lower with the Pro V1 and 11.4% lower with the Pro V1x and are closer to optimal than the rates from the 913.
Carry distance is 22.7 yards (9.95%) further with the 913 and Pro V1 and 17.1 yards (7.3%) with the 913 and Pro V1x. Total distance is 16.1 yards (6.3%) with the 913/Pro V1 and 9.9 yards (3.8%) with the 913/Pro V1x. The Tony Penna carries less but runs further due to lower spin rates and lower trajectory height.

The Titleist 913 performs much better on carry distance and overall distance. The Tony Penna performs very well on a number of fronts, spin rates are better, dispersion and conversion from club speed to ball speed to also better than expected. This is notable because due to the higher COR (coefficient of restitution) in titanium heads compared to persimmon we would expect to see a better conversion in the Titleist. Surmising I would say that the shorter shaft made it easier to hit a centred strike with the Tony Penna. Potentially the smaller head could also have focused the swing into striking the centre more often. The dispersion data also backs up this theory as the Tony Penna is without doubt less forgiving and off centre hits result in much worse results but the dispersion shows the Tony Penna results closer to the target line.

In conclusion, newer drivers are easier to hit, i.e. give much better results on mishits, carry the ball further and give more overall distance. They are the second biggest factor in the big jump in distance golfers are hitting it. The biggest factor is the ball (this will be explored in an upcoming blog post). However persimmon drivers have some very good uses. Spin rates are lower with them and the less forgiving club forces a player to learn how to strike it better. A good idea would be to practice occasionally with a persimmon club. As soon as you return to your modern driver it will feel like it’s impossible to miss with it!!    

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, Padraig. It would be really interesting to see this test repeated with each club having the exact same shaft, and cut to the same length. Eliminating the shaft variables leaves just a test of the club heads. Thanks