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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Invasion of the Square Heads

The morning mists drift serenely across the lush landscape at dawn. Suddenly, an other-worldly CLOANG! wrecks the pastoral calm and a white bullet streaks down the middle of the fairway. The square-heads have arrived.

The heads in question aren’t bobbing above alien shoulders; they’re attached to graphite shafts on revolutionary (looking, at least) clubs new in golf pro shops everywhere last year. Both Nike and Callaway introduced drivers with heads shaped like square bricks, firing yet another salvo in the golf equipment manufacturers’ battle to give the average golfer a fighting chance to make par.

The first thing everyone says who hits one--or even hears one being hit--is how weird they sound. I remember the same thing being said when metal "woods" began to replace persimmon ones, too. But the nostalgia for timber lasted about thirty seconds when golfers saw how hot the ball came off the face of titanium drivers. Suddenly, that "awful" sound faded into the background.

The same is happening with the square-headed drivers. “The people who’ve tried them like them a lot,” says Ardsley (NY) Country Club head pro Jim Bender, who put a Callaway FT-i in his bag when it came out as a prototype and fitted several Ardsley members with it last spring. “Distance-wise, we’re finding they’re about the same as the FT-5 driver, which is a really good model, too.”

What’s the advantage? “It’s maxing out the distance like all the other big-headed titanium clubs, but, with the weight distribution at the four corners, it allows for less opening and closing of the club face when mis-hits are made, so the ball stays on a straighter line.”

Even the low-handicapper can benefit from the new design, according to Bender: “The ball doesn’t curve as much, so if I’m hitting a draw that I used to curve ten yards, now I’m only curving it five yards.”

The real payoff comes, though, for those of us who only hit the sweet spot when we’re in a candy store. “It’s great for when you hit that toe ball or the heel shot every now and then,” Bender says. “It doesn’t go off-line like it does with some of the other drivers.” So who cares what it sounds like?

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

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