Graphite crowns are the unsung heroes that lead to big gains in distance and forgiveness
Tech explained… graphite crowns
Although it’s the clubface that makes contact with the ball, the crown is one of the most important areas of your driver’s anatomy and manufacturers devote a significant amount of time, research and development into perfecting it. Not only does the crown affect the club’s aerodynamics during the swing, it is here that valuable weight savings can be made in order to move the CG lower and make the clubhead more forgiving.
But how? Many crowns on the shelf of your pro shop may appear similar to the naked eye, but things have developed significantly in recent years. Graphite, first seen in the early 2000s, is chosen over titanium because of its high strength and stiffness with a low density – highly desirable when building golf clubs.
Carbon composite in practice
The launch of the TaylorMade M1 driver has thrust graphite, or ‘carbon composite’ crowns into the limelight once again. The company says it’s been working on the M1’s technology for over a decade, reducing the crown’s weight down to 10g, allowing it to implement two weight tracks on the sole.
Related: TaylorMade driver review
The M1’s crown is made of seven 0.1mm layers orientated in different ways to maximise strength. The manufacturing limit of titanium over the crown and sole is 0.5mm, so it’s a technique TaylorMade is rightly proud of.
“We developed our own process for ultra-thin ply graphite composites technology,” Todd Beach, vice president of metalwoods R&D for TaylorMade, told GM. “These composite plies are about half the thickness of a typical composite used in other golf clubs. This enables us to have more layers with a higher-strength, thinner overall composite that can free weight from an already weight-efficient titanium crown. This material is much more difficult to produce because of the precision required.”
Cobra is another brand releasing new crown innovations this year with the launch of the King LTD driver (right). Here, the TeXtreme carbon fibre creates a crown that is 20 per cent lighter than regular carbon fibre. It uses straighter fibres that make it possible to achieve thinner laminates and use less plastic to bond them together, thus reducing weight but maintaining strength.
Yonex has been at the forefront of graphite technology for decades. The Cyberstar Powerbrid driver launched in 2003 was its first to feature a carbon composite crown. This year, it’s new Ezone XPG driver has an even lighter crown that has enabled two weights to go inside the head to move the CG lower and further back, increasing forgiveness.
While needing to be extremely lightweight, graphite driver crowns also need to be strong. The level of this strength needs to strike a balance to ensure the crown stays in one piece during knocks and bumps in your golf bag, but offers enough give at impact to minimise ball-speed loss on high-face impacts.
The crown does flex at impact, but developments in the resins used to bond the materials together mean there’s more flexibility when it comes to crown design and managing strength and durability.
Not only do crowns serve the purpose of saving weight but they can also improve a club’s aerodynamics. We’ve seen this in models like the Ping G30 and Callaway XR drivers, where raised sections improve the air flow over the top of the head.
So the next time you look down at your driver, spare a thought for the man hours and research that have gone into making it perform for you!