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Title: Performance differences between blade and cavity back irons within the context of short-term player variation
Author: Corke, Thomas W.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5351 3969
Awarding Body: Ulster University
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2015
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Golf equipment has developed considerably over the past half-century, and iron clubs are no exception to this evolution. Modern 'cavity back' irons differ substantially from more traditional 'blade' designs both in terms of appearance, and the way in which they are perceived by the golfing community. There is a substantial research base surrounding the performance of drivers, putter and balls, as well as the biomechanics of driving the golf ball, however I ittle research in the public domain has been dedicated to similar analyses involving iron clubs. The primary aim of the thesis was therefore to present and compare quantitative performance data for blade and cavity back irons, the results of which would be contextualised using short-term performance variation of highly-skilled amateur golfers. Suitable blade and cavity back designs were sourced; 5-irons of each design were chosen for analysis and subsequently matched in terms of their static properties (e.g. mass, loft, lie). Experimental studies involving a golf robot and a diverse sample of golfers hitting from natural turf were designed to compare the performance of the two designs. Passive marker motion tracking techniques were used to quantify c1ubhead presentation at impact, whilst a combination of stereoscopic and radar-based launch monitors were used to measure shot outcome. The cavity back was found to launch higher and with more total spin than the blade, whilst the loss of ball speed resulting from eccentric impact locations with the cavity back was found to be less than that for comparable impacts with the blade. Robot testing of the cavity back produced results in support of the presence of the 'gear effect' (Cochran & Stobbs, 1968; Cross & Nathan, 2007) - a phenomenon not typically associated with irons. An additional sample of highly-skilled amateur golfers performed three repeat test sessions over the course of no more than two weeks. Variation in participants' performance was used to contextualise the measured differences between clubs. Participants' central tendency was generally found to vary between sessions by a greater magnitude than the differences observed between the blade and cavity back, but the relative performance difference between the two clubs was maintained. A spectral measure of variability was also developed and applied to kinematic data from the study, in an attempt to address some of the shortcomings of more traditional event-based analysis. In summary, whilst systematic differences were found between the performance of blade and cavity back irons, the performance of even highly-skilled golfers appears to be sufficiently variable and idiosyncratic that any 'advantage' derived from using the cavity back is not universal.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available