Photon Golf:
New technology
creates classic feel

By Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer

BOSTON (Jan. 24, 2004) -- In a recent issue of the journal Advanced Materials and Processes, Darin Aldrich, a Ph.D. in metallurgical / materials engineering, detailed the process of laser surface modification (LSM) in the production of golf clubs. Aldrich knows whereof he speaks: As founder and CEO of Westminster, Col. Photon Golf, he has developed a line of clubs -- from putters to drivers -- whose exceptional feel is directly attributable to this patent-pending technology.

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Without delving too deeply into the technical details, Aldrich and his engineers have spent years developing a number of surface "morphologies" using YAG lasers. These various modifications to the hitting surfaces of clubs are tailored to the specific utilities of the clubs, with putters displaying different patterns from wedges, and wedges from drivers.

As Aldrich explains in the aforementioned article, the clubface of a driver is particularly critical in creating optimal spin rate and launch angle. Optimal spin rate is generally considered to be between 2,800 and 3,000 rpms, and optimal launch angle is between 12 and 14 degrees (for average swing speeds). The golf ball is in contact with the clubface for approximately 450 microseconds, during which the ball either slides or rolls up the clubface. Too much slide produces too little backspin and poor aerodynamics; too much roll produces too much backspin and too much lift (and less carry).

Photon titanium pro driver

Photon Golf's LSM process not only optimizes spin rate, but also helps disperse vibration to create a remarkably solid feel. In fact, this is where Photon's technology truly shines: Laser modification alters the vibrations in Photon's 360 cc Titanium Pro Driver to such an extent that the club's feel is very similar to that of a classic persimmon driver.

We took our Titanium Pro (10.5-degrees; also offered in 9-degrees) with a Grafalloy Blue stiff shaft (MSRP $290; with stock shaft, $250) to the range and to courses in western Massachusetts and Philadelphia. We were impressed immediately by the feel -- no other big-headed titanium driver we've tested has either sounded or felt so much like those great old wooden woods of yore.

How refreshing it was to hear a resounding crack! rather than a piercing tink!. Apparently we aren't the only ones to feel this way, either. Both GolfTestUSA and recently ranked the Titanium Pro as one of the best-feeling drivers on the market.

Players whom we asked to test the club agreed. All loved the sound and feel. Distance was very respectable when the ball was struck on the sweet spot. The Titanium Pro wasn't exceptionally forgiving on off-center hits, however. My own toe-end mis-hits seemed to not carry as far as normal, though they all ended up in the fairway.

Photon YAG-4 putter YAG-series Putters

Named after the laser that is used to treat their surfaces, Photon's new YAG-series putters feature faces that are laser-roughened to increase the moment of inertia -- the time the ball spends on the putter's face. The putter face actually has the feel of sharkskin, and is so "sticky" that when you try to pull a soft-cover ball back toward you, the putter face grabs the ball and won't let it roll, but just drags it.

This very minor inconvenience aside, the YAG-4 putter we tested -- a heel-toe weighted mid-slant -- performed exceptionally well. The laser-modified surface produced almost immediate roll when striking the ball on the upswing. And compared to putters that use weighting schemes to produce forward roll, the roughness of the putter face grabs and holds the ball, lifting it ever-so-slightly to start it rolling on top of the grass, rather than driving it down into the turf.

The YAG-series, new for 2004, includes six models to suit all tastes, and comes standard with True-Temper shafts and Winn grips (MSRP $90). According to Photon, several players on the Nationwide Tour have been impressed by the feel of the laser-modified YAG putters and plan to experiment with them on tour this year.

The Verdict

Photon's Titanium Pro driver and YAG-series putters are suited to golfers looking for both 21st-century technology and 20th-century feel. This unique combination should serve to establish Photon as one of the true innovators in the industry.

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Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.