GOLF EQUIPMENT

Merit Tour
Trajectory Driver: Delivering Better Distance and Control

By Kiel T. Christianson,
Senior Writer

LANSING, MI -- While the debate about clubhead size continues, Merit Golf, a small club manufacturer based in Kenesaw, GA, is experimenting with design innovations more subtle than simply increased head size. Merit’s new Tour Trajectory Driver incorporates two patented design features, offering several alternatives that could help certain golfers achieve increased distance and control.

The Tour Trajectory’s patented features are its Vertical Groove Technology (VGT) and Perimeter Ring. Both are designed to lower trajectory and increase overall length of drives, mainly through lessening air friction and increasing roll by reducing backspin.

The vertical grooves replace the horizontal grooves found on most driver faces. According to Stan Stabner, president of Merit Golf, this rather straightforward design innovation has never been done before, or at least it was never patented. “The advantage,” claims Stabner, “is that the vertical grooves reduce backspin on average by 500 rpm per second.” Since backspin produces both lift and drag, the effect, says Stabner, is lower trajectory and a “hotter” ball.

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The Perimeter Ring redistributes the weight. “The center of gravity is both higher and more toward the periphery of the clubhead,” Stabner explains. “This yields stability and forgiveness, along with a more boring trajectory.”

According to Stabner, at least two tour pros have been converted. They preferred Merit’s driver over their Ping and Taylor Made. For elite players, the 8.5-degree Tour Trajectory loft performs more like a 6.5-degree club, with more control.

But what about higher handicappers? Wouldn’t the vertical grooves and effectively lower loft lead to worse slices on outside-in swings? Stabner claims that slicing is actually reduced, due in large part to the longer clubface (4 5/8”).

We had our doubts, however, and passed the Tour Trajectory around to golfers with handicaps ranging from 30 all the way down to 6. And the results were quite mixed:

The 6-handicapper hit a nice ball with the Tour Trajectory, and eventually achieved his normal draw (after a few uncharacteristic fades). He gave high marks to the way the club set up, and the stiff-flex Grafallow Prolite shaft on our test model. He did note though that the trajectory was quite a bit lower than he was used to. And given the soggy conditions in the Great Lakes region this summer, his distance was affected by the shorter carry and lack of roll.

A trio of mid handicappers (including yours truly) liked the set-up and ball flight on the range, at least most of the time. One big positive noted by all was that even though the clubhead size is large (355cc on the 8.5-degree model), it is shallower than other larger drivers, so you don’t need to use those extra long tees.

All three of us took the club on the course as well, but none of us were able to replicate our success on the range, even when our own drivers were working just fine (i.e., whatever the problem was, it wasn’t exclusively our swings).

The high handicappers had no luck at all, due in large part to the stiff shaft, which, combined with the effects of the vertical grooves, produced massive slices. (NOTE: Matching shaft to swing is key to the performance of any driver.)

All in all, the Merit Tour Trajectory looks and feels solid and sharp, but may be best for a minority of golfers. Those who need help getting the ball in the air won’t like it. Neither will golfers playing in wet conditions when roll is reduced. If you’re playing into the wind or in hard, dry conditions, it may be the ticket, assuming you have chosen the correct shaft for your swing (see specs below for options). Low handicapper especially should like this club.

It is refreshing to see some unique innovations in a high-quality driver, but any results Merit’s innovations produce will vary tremendously from golfer to golfer.

Merit Tour Trajectory driver specs

Loft/Lie/Length/Face angle/Size/Head weight/Swing weight:
8.5-deg./57.5-deg./45”/.5 open-.5 closed/355cc/202 gr./D2-D4
9.5-deg./58-deg./45”/0 open-1.0 closed/345cc/201 gr./D1-D3
10.5-deg./58.5-deg./45”/.5 closed to 1.5 closed/200 gr./D0-D2

Shafts: TT EI70, Grafalloy Prolite, UST Proforce 75/65/55, Aldila HM40
MSRP: $400
More Information: 800-828-1445, www.meritgolf.com

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