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Diamonds are for driving
It had to come to this; a Texan has designed, built and launched onto an unsuspecting golfing public a diamond faced driver. John Letters of Scotland, a long established club-making firm, has formed John Letters Diamond Golf Ltd specially to manufacture the club.

The driver is the brainchild of Mahlan Dennis, a keen amateur golfer and a director of an oil drilling company in Houston. Clearly Mahlan is not a player who gives up easily: he was driven to design his sparkling new driver because his sons started to outdrive him. Eventually it will dawn on Mahlan that when his sons acquire his driver he will again be outdriven and have to go back to the drawing board. Without getting involved in the Dennis family's laddish problems Dad might be well advised to throw in the towel now.

Selling at a stone or two under £700 the driver is roughly twice the price of its most expensive competitor. Doubtless when its novelty value falls so too will its price. It will nevertheless be interesting to see how many punters glimmer onto the first tee in the days to come. It will be even more interesting to watch their handicaps tumble or their egos crumble with the promised extra length.

The question of whether one can buy a low handicap is as old as the game itself and as young as the latest innovation. My own observation, for what it is worth, is that a high handicapper tends to remain a high handicapper irrespective of the money he puts in his bag.

Cavity soles have come and gone: peripheral weighting is passe: sweet spot dimensions have reached gob-stopper size and a 15 handicapper remains a 15 handicapper for a' that and a' that.

The Letters Company has been at the forefront of innovation for more than a decade. In collaboration with sundry savants at St Andrews University they designed and built irons that made such a significant impression on the marketplace that for the life of me I can't remember their trade name. Karsten Solheim himself was an engineer physicist who overturned the natural progression of club-head design with his Pings that closely resembled kitchen utensils. The Callaway Company advanced design to the point where you no longer required a swing to play the game: all that was needed was a fat chequebook.

With the question of the deflecting faced driver still in the balance with the USGA, the physicists have been deflected from the trampoline to the modulus. Young's modulus to be precise.

Envisaging the editor already reaching for his red pen [you bet; Ed], I feel compelled to explain. Young's modulus is how the in-crowd refers to the coefficient of restitution. Put even more simply, when two bodies collide the less energy absorbed by one body the more is imparted to the other. Now, you should understand that a golf ball is a deal softer than a lump of metal and a great deal softer than a skin of industrial diamonds. Thus, when a diamond faced club head and a golf ball collide the ball leaves the club head with a lot of energy. Having tried everything from the hardest of woods through iron and all of its alloys to titanium, we have, inevitably, arrived at diamond: we can't go anywhere from here.

So, what are we getting for our £700 apart from a very shiny-faced club and a feeling of smug satisfaction in having the cutting edge of technology in the bag? Well, an even bigger club head for a start. Indeed, a club head that is almost twice the size of a Callaway Big Bertha with a correspondingly bigger sweet spot. More important, however, is the promise of an extra 20 yards in the air with an extra 20 yards roll when the ball eventually comes down to earth. It is the extra roll that inspired the new drivers imaginative trading name 'DR4E'; you've got it, Diamonds Roll For Ever. Yuk is not likely to be added to the Mark 2.

The thought intrudes that it is the average club golfer that should be coming down to earth and asking if this is what the great game is all about? In a game that is celebrated for its integrity; a game that is dependent upon the player penalising himself for a transgression of the rules - should a player be able to purchase a 40-yard advantage?

The answer as far as the governing bodies of the game are concerned would appear to be yes. The club has been submitted to the R&A and the USGA for scrutinising and the Letters Company is confident of the nod.

But before you make an appointment to re-mortgage the family home you should know that the company is working on a diamond faced putter. Now, if you leave all your putts short, this putter is a must!

©    29 - JANUARY 2002

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