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 »  Home  »  Magazine Departments  »  Company Profiles  »  An Interview with Dr. Benoit Vincent, Chief Technical Officer at TaylorMade
An Interview with Dr. Benoit Vincent, Chief Technical Officer at TaylorMade
By Tom Landers | Published  06/20/2007 | Company Profiles | Unrated
Straighten Your Slice without Changing Your Swing?
TaylorMade Studies 30,000 Swings to Create New Line of Slice-Fighting Golf Clubs

Every golfer knows that the most common problem suffered by the majority of those who play the game is the slice. For many the problem is chronic, damaging and disheartening. TaylorMade Golf Company, best known for creating technologically advanced golf equipment, began work three years ago developing a complete line of clubs to help slicers hit the ball straighter and, in some cases, allow them to hit a distance-enhancing draw.

The company started by putting its exceptional R&D resources to work investigating and analyzing  the swings of a wide variety of players. The study revealed that a large percentage of players besides high handicappers either experienced issues with losing the ball to the right, or had difficulty hitting a draw. TaylorMade used the information it gathered to create a the r7 Draw family, which consists of a driver, fairway woods, Rescue hybrids and irons. All incorporate TaylorMadeís new Draw-Weighted Technology, which unifies several key clubhead and shaft elements to promote a right-to-left shot or soften a slice. Crucial among those elements is the strategic location of clubhead weight near the heel, which pulls the headís center of gravity closer to the shaft, which makes it easier to rotate the clubface back to square at impact, promoting a straighter shot. This marks the first time a company has launched a complete line of equipment, from driver to wedges, all designed to help slicers keep the ball in play Ė and without having to change their swings.

Dr. Benoit Vincent, Chief Technical Officer for TaylorMade, spoke in-depth about the research that led to the development of the r7 Draw family of golf clubs and what makes them work.

Q: How did TaylorMade arrive at the idea for the r7 Draw family?
A: Anyone remotely familiar with golf knows that a slice is a very poor shot. A slice travels dramatically shorter than a straight shot, and it often puts you in trouble on the right side of the fairway or green. Golf is so much more fun to play when you donít slice. So we decided to find out more about the exact types of golfers who slice and why, so we studied the swings of more than 30,000 golfers during the past few years using our MATT System, an acronym for Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade at several locations around the world. The MATT System uses high-speed cameras to record 125 variables during each swing, then produces a three-dimensional animation of each swing.

MATT tracks body, arm and club positions plus many other things such as ball speed, ball spin, swing path, swing speed and launch angle. This information is uploaded to a computer at our headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. The data is very useful for a variety of purposes, one of which is that it tells us what types of products golfers need to improve their games. From an analysis of the data we determined what the average golfer specifically needed in a golf club to reduce a slice or even turn one into a draw.

Q: What kinds of players participated in the study?
A: We broke down the data into four player categories: those with five handicaps and less, those with handicaps from six to 15, those with handicaps 16 and over, and women.

Among players studied with a handicap of five and less, about 50 percent had a relatively straight swing path and clubface angle at impact, which is probably how they got to be five handicaps. But almost one-third of the players in that category had either an out-to-in swing path, or an open clubface at impact, or both, which will produce anything from a push to a fade to a pull-slice.

The study also indicated that about 40 percent of players we studied in the five-to-15 category hit the ball from left-to-right, as did about 50 percent in the 16 and over category and slightly more than 50 percent among the womenís category.

What we discovered in total from the analysis of our MATT system data is that at least half of the 30,000 golfers in our study hit the ball from left-to-right and cannot hit the ball from right-to-left, mainly because of an out-to-in swing path and/or an open face at impact.

Q: What else did the MATT System data tell you?
A: It gave us a clearer picture of how damaging right-side misses are. Slicers not only sacrifice accuracy but distance, too, because a draw goes farther than a fade and dramatically farther than a slice. We knew that, but we didnít realize the degree that slicers suffer.

Q: Why does a right-to-left shot go farther than a left-to-right shot? 
A: A right-to-left shot rolls more after landing, especially off the straighter-faced clubs like the driver and fairway woods. That can spell a huge gain for most golfers, maybe as much as 20 to 50 yards with the driver. Yet even players who simply soften their slice using r7 Draw clubs will get more distance because the ball will go straighter, plus they can worry less about trouble on the right. One of our ambitions when we created the r7 Draw family was to help relieve the tension so many golfers feel regarding woods, water and sand located to the right of fairways and greens.

Q: Were most of the players who hit the ball to the right close to hitting the ball straight?
A: No. Itís commonly believed that if a golferís clubface isnít square at impact, itís usually only a few degrees open or closed at the most. We found that that simply isnít true. We measured many players whose clubfaces were open by as much as 20 degrees and others who were closed by as much as 15 degrees. The same goes for swing path. The swing paths of many players of the players we studied were dramatically inside-out or outside-in.

Q: Did they slice mainly the longer clubs, or every club?
A:  Nearly all had problems with every club, because few golfers change their swings when they move from the driver down to the irons. I know a lot of people are going to argue with me about that point and say that certain swing details will be different. But our MATT System records more than 125 swing variables. From those we learned that, from the driver to the pitching wedge, the average playerís swing remains fundamentally the same.

Q: If a player wants to eliminate his or her slice and instead hit a draw, why donít they take lessons and develop the proper swing to produce a draw?
A: Sounds simple, but if it were more players would do it. Some swing changes are easier to make than others. You can change things like the rotation of the hands because theses muscles are controlled more easily. But your big muscles, your overall rotation, your rhythm, the amount of delay between your arms and your shoulders or shoulders and hips, those are all very difficult to change. Because of that, we decided to approach the problem by designing a line of golf clubs that would help golfers hit the ball straighter with the swings they have.

Q: Alright, letís suppose Iíve got a slicerís swing. What are the key features of an r7 Draw club that allow it to soften a slice and promote a draw?
A: Players who chronically leave the clubface open at impact are the worst slicers. Whatever their swing path is like, theyíll almost always hit the ball to the right to some degree. We developed a technology that makes it easier for players to rotate the clubface back to square at impact. The squarer the face, the straighter the ball will go. We call it Draw-Weighted Technology, and it involves removing a large amount of weight form the toe are of the clubhead and positioning it strategically in the back of the clubhead close to the heel. The dynamics of moving weight closer to the shaft makes it easier to rotate the clubhead properly during the downswing to square the face to the ball.

Besides Draw-Weighted Technology, the r7 Draw driver, fairway woods and Rescues are each engineered with a slightly closed clubface angle, while the irons are generously offset. The r7 Draw line is also equipped with extremely lightweight, tip-soft graphite shafts that make it easier to swing fast and release powerfully, which also helps the player square the clubface, besides making it easier to launch the ball high and long. When you combine all of these elements you get a club with more slice-fighting capability than any weíve ever created.

Q: TaylorMade has made drivers before that help players hit a draw. Whatís the difference between those and the r7 Draw family?
A: It wasnít until after we analyzed our MATT data with an eye specifically toward slicing that we realized the magnitude of help that these players needed. As I mentioned earlier, it was assumed that slicers were leaving the clubface open by a few degrees. Instead, itís much more, meaning that much more correction is needed. Armed with that knowledge, we created the r7 Draw line of clubs, which employ far more draw-enhancing features than anything else weíve ever created to address the needs of golfers who hit big slices and pushes.

Q: Why didnít you incorporate offset into the metalwoods and Rescues?
A: TaylorMade has a reputation for developing innovative performance technologies and incorporating them into good-looking golf clubs that look traditional, especially in terms of their shape at address. Offset woods have been tried before to reduce slicing, but we feel that they arenít aesthetically appealing.

Q: Did the MATT System data reveal anything else interesting?
A: It was interesting to see the variation in where the ball impacts the face. As you might expect, better players make contact consistently closer to the center of the face. With a driver, five-handicappers and less tend to miss the center of the face by a half-inch. Our data indicates that higher handicap players typically use almost the entire clubface to hit the ball, missing the center of the face by up to an inch high, low, toward the toe or toward the heel. Players who miss the center of the face by a lot need a club with high moment of inertia, which keeps the head stable on mis-hits. High MOI keeps your from losing ball speed on off-center hits, so you donít lose as much distance. Every club in the r7 Draw family features a large, stable clubhead including the driver, which measures 460 cc in volume.

Q: Does TaylorMade have future plans for the MATT System swing database?
A: We plan to continue to add to the database and to use it to better understand specific niche needs among golfers. As we do weíll work to develop products that help golfers overcome those needs and enjoy the game more. Weíll also continue to use it to build better clubs and balls for Tour players and the rest of the population of amateurs who donít necessarily have trouble slicing but who do want equipment thatís easier to hit higher, longer and straighter.