Articles

Improving Golf Clubs through Acoustics


there is certainly a chill in the air
these days and on Sunday you’re more than likely gonna be hanging out on the
couch watching the game that heading out on the links but if you got to get one
more round in this year you’re going to want to see this Shh please keep the noise down at the
Penn State acoustics research lab I’m Dan Russell and I want a quest to find
the perfect sounding golf club for the last 15 years I’ve been studying the
acoustics and vibration of sports equipment I’ve been looking at baseball
bat softball bats tennis rackets golf clubs hockey sticks cricket bats
ping-pong paddles anything that you hold in your hands to play sports with I’ve
been looking at the sounds they make and to get a sense of how the acoustics and
the sound is related to the performance of these implements about a
year-and-a-half ago we find out about a golf club it was one of the highest
performing golf clubs in the market in terms of the way hit the balls but it
sounded terrible players were putting reviews online saying at this particular
Club sounded like hitting a cookie tray on top of a car or hitting an aluminum
baseball bat on about a telephone pole so we wanted to find out what it was
about this particular golf club that made it makes such an annoying sound one
of the things that the players know hitting the ball in the center of the
face it it’s it produces a sound that players like hitting the ball off-center
or above and below maybe they can tell whether it’s been a good hit or bad hit
by the way it sounds we want to know how the entire club is
radiating sound so we were measuring the vibration not only the face but also the
crown of the soil the entire body at the club to find out what is this club doing
that makes it radiates sound the way it does make sure produced a sound when the
ball hits that why is it screaming the way that it produces its sound at the 3d
golf simulation lab they use the same technology Hollywood uses to create cgi
characters like Gollum or King Kong to measure golfers technique we’ve got the
markers on the golfer here and even on on the golf club every marker on the
golfer is seen hopefully by at least three cameras at a time as Matt makes a swing you’ll see that
his back is gonna turn his torso turns pelvis and as he moves through it’s a
very dynamic movements we need cameras around the room to see the movement of
all the markers this is a skeleton
representative look but it really is this golfers movements within a degree
within a millimeter so what we can do is visually look at this swing from any
angle it’s like having an infinite number of
cameras for construction purposes it can be extremely valuable but Dan’s not
interested in improving its wing he wants to improve the clubs the four cameras
work together to take two images of the golf ball as well as two images of the
club head moving through impact we’ve marked up the clubface here as well so
that it knows the impact location for the golf ball right now this microphone
located close to the ball will allow us to measure the sound of the ball hitting
and then get a chance to see how it differs for impact location toe heel
center up or down and we can compare that to what been able to measure for
the club vibrations and the ball vibrations back in the acoustics lab
it’s time to see how the clubhead vibrates on impact to in order to
measure the vibrational properties of a club or a racket or a bat or whatever it is
i’m testing I’ve got a real small accelerometer
little tiny the device that measures vibration i will attach that with a
little bit of wax plug that into my analyzer I’ve got a really small force
hammer really really really small like a little pencil tip i’m going to use to
tap the club and plug that in to put the dots on here to help me determine where
I’m going to get the club so I’m gonna I’m gonna hit the club with a tiny
hammer and each one of these . i’m going to tap it while I measuring the
vibration response that some other location accelerometer i’m going to keep
fixed in the same place the hammer i’m going to move around and tap at each of
these little points and I can measure the force in and vibration out at a pair
of points and if i do that for the entire club face i’ll find out how every
point in the club vibrates compared to every other point on the club and then that data will
give me an idea of what the entire club as a whole is doing as it vibrates and
oscillates back and forth this particular machine that we’ve got is called a
frequency analyzer it looks really old school is probably about 20 years old it
has a floppy disk drive most kids probably don’t know what a floppy disk is anymore but
it measures the data that i want with great accuracy allows me complete control over
what I’m doing in ways that I can’t always get with the software package the
camera and vibration data are combined in more modern software that creates a
video showing how each part of the structure vibrates compared with the
other part so in this i’m showing the same club that we just got done testing
and i can see that the front face to face right hit the ball is vibrating
we call it a trampoline mode in this case this one time back and forth is
happening about 4,500 times a second if you hit the ball on the club dead-center
this particular pattern gets excited very very well but if i hit the ball in
the club off-center towards the heel or the toe this pattern shows up a lot and
so the resulting sound will be different because I’m exciting a different type of
vibration in the clubface one of the things that the acoustics of a golf club
could help manufacturers do in the future is to make some kind of an
adjustable driver that you could change the sound so that if a player likes the
driver because of its performance that doesn’t like the way it sounds I could adjust something turns something
move something to change the sound make it sound different but keeping its
performance the same unfortunately i can’t play golf and it
doesn’t matter how much i know about the acoustics and the vibration the golf
club it’s probably not gonna make me a much better player

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