Tom Olsavsky is one of my favorite people in the golf equipment industry. He’s an engineer who can talk in layman’s terms about golf club design, particularly when it comes to metal woods. Olsavsky, the director of product creation for metal woods at TaylorMade-adidas Golf, was in fine form when he took me through the process behind the company’s new RocketBallz fairway woods at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
The RocketBallz line of metal woods, irons and hybrids replace the popular Burner family (launched in 2007) of clubs for 2012. The line will be available beginning
“Every time we’ve introduced a new franchise we’ve gone up in (market) share,” Olsavsky said. “We think the same thing is going happen with this line.”
The RBZ fairway woods, according to Olsavsky, represent a distance breakthrough in steelhead technology. Understand that fairway woods – good ones at least – aren’t just smaller versions of their driver counterparts. Because of their size – 460cc – and titanium construction – drivers are relatively easy to manipulate in terms of center of gravity (CG) and coefficient of restitution (COR).
Fairway woods are shallower than drivers and generally made of steel, making their club faces harder to flex.
Olsavsky spread his hands about six inches apart on the shaft of an RBZ metal wood.
“If you think about a shallow club, you think about a beam,” Olsavsky said. “If I take this shaft and try to bend it my thumbs, it won’t bend.”
Olsavsky spread his hands farther apart on the club.
“If I take it out here, it’s pretty easy to bend,” he said. “So when think about fairway woods – because they’re relatively shallow – you can’t get the face to flex. So you have to make it deeper.
“Even last year’s Burner (fairway wood) was a little deeper than traditional. It helped out a little bit. But the COR was about .790. The number (as mandated by the U.S. Golf Association) is .822, so we know we can go up. We made it another millimeter or so deeper and went to a thinner face – just over two millimeters of thickness. And we went to a thinner crown with a little oval pattern and webbing. This allows (the face) to flex easier.”
All of this adds up to engineering the flex of the club face. TMaG does it in the RBZ metal woods with what it calls a “Speed Pocket” that brings together the overall head and face flexibility with the slightly deeper face with a further-forward CG location than traditional designs.
“Even good players struggle to hit fairway woods,” Olsavsky said. “In many cases shot is fairly low on the club face because the CG is too far back. Too far back gets you low launch and high spin. The ball doesn’t go anywhere. We moved the weight forward so the contact point a lot better. We’re able to get slightly higher launch, less spin and more speed.”
And more speed translates into more distance. That’s the watch word in the industry every year.