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National Club Golfer equipment editor James Savage was fitted into the G400 SFT last summer but is eyeing a switch to the G400 Max. Find out why

Our Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max driver test took place at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach.

We used Trackman 4 to gather the data and hit premium range balls.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max – The methodology

 

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

I was fitted into the Ping G400 SFT last summer and used it out on the course at the back end of the 2017 season.

It produced great numbers for me in my initial review but I did struggle with it a bit out on the course as I was missing fairways to the left 90 percent of the time.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

That’s as much to do with my technique but the SFT technology – a tungsten weight in the heel was perhaps closing the face a bit quickly on me and contributing to that tuggy, hooky left miss.

Another thing I found was the slightly smaller 445cc head didn’t fill me with as much confidence as the TaylorMade M2 which I used for the most of the 2017 season.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

But I loved the feel off the face and was getting superb ball speed numbers from the G400 SFT.

I was all ears when Ping introduced the G400 Max as it seemed to be ticking all of the boxes I was looking for in a driver.

So we thought to would be good to put both drivers head to head with the exact same shaft to see which produced the best results.

From my initial review of the G400 Max, I had a good idea of the way this was going to go…

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max – The technology

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

One of the reasons both the G400 driver have such a good sound and feel is the forged face.

It’s also a lighter, faster and thinner face to get those great ball speed numbers.

We’ve got Turbalator technology on the crowns of these clubs to help them move faster through the air.

Ping G400 SFT Driver review – mid-handicap

The main difference between the G400 SFT and the G400 Max is the former has a tungsten weight in the heel and the Max has a tungsten weight right at the back of the club.

This helps improve the MOI and the forgiveness.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max – The results

As you can see here with the G400 SFT the good shots are really good but there was a bit of a drop off in ball speed when I missed the middle.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

 

With the G400 Max it just seemed like there was barely any drop-off at all.

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max

If you really want to pick the bones out of the numbers you’ll struggle to make a case to say one is better than the other though.

 

Ping G400 SFT vs Ping G400 Max – NCG verdict

Some people will no doubt prefer the more compact shape of the G400 drivers.

But for me I think the Max is ticking all the boxes.

Why wouldn’t you want maximum forgiveness and stability?

Maybe you want to shape the ball a bit more and might find the G400 head a bit easier to do that with?

Either way, it’s the G400 Max all day long for me and it’s the driver I will be using at the start of the 2018 season.

It’s not always about the numbers, it’s about feeling happy when stood over the ball as that’s when I know I’m far more likely to hit a good drive.

More information can be found on the Ping website.

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There seemed to be only one thing missing from golf – a brilliant impressionist.

Well, we finally seem to have one.

Conor Moore released a video on Twitter of him impersonating the likes of Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter ahead of The Masters

It’s safe to say it went down pretty well. So far, the video has had more than 5,000 retweets and 15,000 likes, with many of the biggest stars in golf taking notice.

 

Garcia himself particularly enjoyed it…

Capture

 

As did Beef Johnston…

 

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And former One Direction star and friend of golf Niall Horan enjoyed it…

Niall

Which impression do you think is the best?

 

We think Ian Poulter’s can’t be beaten…

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It is officially Masters week. But is it your favourite major? Mark Townsend and Alex Perry from National Club Golfer lock horns.

Yes, says Mark Townsend

Most sporting occasions lose quite a lot of their lustre as the years go on. The FA Cup, back in the late ’70s and ’80s, was once upon a time the greatest day of the year with blanket coverage of the big day on both channels. These days I’m not sure I could name the last three winners.

Likewise any Test match. Even basketball on Channel 4 was sensational as a 14-year-old.

These days I struggle to get juiced up for very much. I love the Open Championship and all that goes with it, next the US Open and Ryder Cup and then take your pick. But right at the top of the pile is The Masters which, since 1983, has routinely left me as a whimpering wreck for all four days.

It does help that we have to wait around 250 days since the last major and that we actually know not only the holes but the names of the holes but those first few glimpses of the course and then every last drop of the action is like nothing else.

If I were to be given the chance to play any major course I would head to Augusta National. If I were to be given the chance to watch any major, I would head to Augusta National. Given the chance to watch any major, from the comfort of my sofa, I would switch on The Masters.

Jose-Maria Olazabal

It stirs me into remembering the great nights of watching Sandy and Ollie slipping into their Green Jackets and Harry Carpenter and Alex Hay on the veranda. It reminds me of when I was young and my dad and I were dancing round the lounge when Woosie won.

I enjoy all the silliness that goes with it – the honorary starters, the soft music to accompany the scores, the dreadful handing over of the Green Jacket after a nauseating few words with the ‘low amateur’.

The Masters makes me a bit weepy for all sorts of different reasons, it gets me punching the air for all sorts of different reasons.

I love it.

No, says Alex Perry

I love The Masters. Like, really love it. Like, shut down my life for four days love it. As I type this, I have no idea what Mark has written, but he’s definitely said it makes him uncontrollably emotional, hasn’t he? He’s cooed about “Sandy” and “Ollie” and “Woosie”, hasn’t he?

I get that. I really do. In fact, I feel the same, in so many ways – except for Sandy, Ollie and Woosie read Faldo, Tiger, Lefty. But it just doesn’t stir my affections the way the Open Championship does.

The original major, our major, and, perhaps most importantly, the links major. The finest and truest form of golf. The way the game was meant to be played.

I was lucky enough to play the Old Course at St Andrews in 2013, and five years on I still cannot find the words to describe how it made me feel standing on that 1st tee in front of golf’s most famous building. Even just walking down from my hotel and turning onto Golf Place sent shivers down my spine and almost decimated my ability to walk.

Just thinking back to the days when it was blanket coverage from sunrise on Thursday to the final putt on Sunday, days where I would rarely leave the house unless it was to go over to a friend’s to watch the golf, makes me feel a little bit gooey inside.

I’m certain I have earlier memories than this, but the 1990 Open was when my love for golf’s oldest major, for St Andrews, and for the game itself truly began.

Just a couple of months shy of my 8th birthday, we were at my uncle’s hotel on the North Cornwall coast for Sunday lunch. Except I had no interest in eating, I wanted-slash-needed to see if Nick Faldo, my first ever sporting hero, could see out victory. So I snuck off to one of the unoccupied hotel rooms and camped out there for a few hours.

When they found me, my mum, fighting back the tears, held me tightly and told me the whole family was “worried sick” because they didn’t know where I was. They had people combing the beach for me and everything.

I don’t remember if she actually used the phrase “worried sick”, but it’s definitely something she would say.

It was completely worth it. Sorry mum. Can I have a yellow Pringle sweater for my birthday?

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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The team from National Club Golfer discuss…

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Credit: Getty Images

Mark Townsend: Three hours and 45 minutes tops for the weekend warrior. Four hours and 45 minutes for the brave hombres on tour. They’re playing for millions, we’re playing for a pair of socks.

Alex Perry: I’m torn on the situation at Torrey situation from Sunday. As a fan I was spitting when JB was taking four minutes plus to play a single shot. On the other hand, as Mark says, there is a potential title on the line, tens of thousands of dollars, places in the Masters and so on.

Dan Murphy: It took them six hours to get round Torrey Pines on Sunday. The only language these elite players understand is being penalised shots and the sooner that happens the better as far as I am concerned.

Matt Beedle: I’ve not problem with the pros taking their time over putts for the reasons already mentioned, but the weekend at Torrey Pines was really pushing it.

Dan Murphy: If you left 20-minute gaps between groups and gave them four-and-a-half hours to finish or face penalty shots being applied. I’m betting they’d make it round in time. Granted, there has to be a way of differentiating between a culprit and someone who just happens to be playing with a culprit. Otherwise these boys are going to take a long time. It’s not like they need to get to Aldi on the way home.

Alex Perry: For us hackers, I’m with Mark. I try and play twoball and anything over three-and-a-half hours and I’m starting to get a bit over it.

Matthew Beedle: Anything between three and four hours for club golfers.

Alex Perry: I don’t like to rush – but I also don’t like to dawdle.

Mark Townsend: I get round in these times every time I play. I just don’t care that much about how long golf takes.

Dan Murphy: Sounds like you both, like JB, play precisely as fast (or slow) as you like

Matthew Beedle: I’d rather just not be in a twoball and stuck behind a fourball who has the arrogance to say things like, “Sorry there’s no room in front, can’t let you through, going to be a long one today.”

Tom Irwin: This is a good point. Play as slow as you like as long as you let faster players through.

Alex Perry: Summed up nicely by Matthew there. A lot of the time it depends on the situation. If it’s a lovely day and I’m playing with someone whose company I enjoy, happy to spend as long as I want out there – as long as play is constant and flowing. What frustrates me is when I have to hang around to play a shot.

Tom Irwin: Me me me me me.

Alex Perry: This might surprise you but when I’m playing golf I care about no other group on the course, unless they are affecting me. You are the same. Everyone is.

Tom Irwin: Could it be possible though that when you are having a lovely day with someone whose company you enjoy that you might ever so slightly delaying the group behind you?

CHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  Gary Hendley of Stepaside Golf Centre(r) and Ben Daniels of Bletchingley GC has a rest during slow play on day one of the Golfbreaks.com PGA Fourball Championship Final at De Vere Carden Park Hotel on August 12, 2015 in Chester, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Credit: Getty Images

Alex Perry: I have no problem letting a group through if the situation arises.

Tom Irwin: I thought you ‘cared about no other group unless they are affecting you’

Alex Perry: If we are slowing them down or they are playing faster than my group, they are affecting us. As we are them.

Tom Irwin: Nothing more annoying that having some faster players than you pestering you.

Alex Perry: Surely you know pretty quickly that you need to let them through. If they’re “pestering” you it’s probably more your fault than theirs.

Dan Murphy: No one thinks it’s their fault do they? If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.

Alex Perry: I very rarely encounter slow play problems when playing golf – and when I have it is generally when there’s a traffic jam of fourballs.

Matthew Beedle: I rarely play in a fourball anyway so anything above four hours is ridiculous to me.

Dan Murphy: Fourballs shouldn’t be allowed really. It’s too many people.

Tom Irwin: Correct.

Matthew Beedle: You’re not allowed fourballs on Wednesdays and weekends at my club.

James Savage: Golf takes as long as it takes. It’s a shame if it takes too long or if it’s over too quickly. In the last five years I’ve been annoyed by slow play about twice. Both times on courses where the other people on the course had paid a lot of money for the experience so can be forgiven for taking their time.

Mark Townsend: I’ve got my pre-shot routine down to a tee. If it’s a bit slow out there, walk a little slower, take a convenience break, keep hydrated, take some food on board and time your approach to your orb of hate. Then take too little club, pronate your right femur, clear your mind and rip the flag out/come up a bit short.

Alex Perry: So from all this the upshot is golf only has a slow play problem because of two reasons: Fourballs, and groups not letting faster groups through?

VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND - MAY 21:  Thomas Bjorn of Denmark waits on the 12th tee during the second round of the BMW PGA Championship on the West Course at Wentworth on May 21, 2010 in Virginia Water, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Thomas Bjorn

Credit: Getty Images

James Savage: People waiting around because they aren’t sure whose turn it is to putt is one of the slowest things about golf. Honour on the tee, and so on. Scrap it all.

Tom Irwin: Unrealistic expectations. And courses that are too long.

Mark Townsend: Too much rough. And being crap at looking for balls in the rough.

Tom Irwin: Putting.

Alex Perry: Like, copying tour pros by reading putts from every angle?

Tom Irwin: It just takes a disproportionate amount of time vs. the distance covered. So just maths really.

Alex Perry: I think I speak for everyone when I say: “Go on…”

Tom Irwin: You can cover 500 yards in two shots that you spend 30 seconds each over. On the green you make no forward progress and it takes twice as long to execute each shot. Putting is also a very twee activity most alien to the outside world. Think that smashing a driver appeals to most with any kind of sporting interest. Just ban putting really.

Alex Perry: There we go everyone. We’ve solved slow play. Smack the ball onto the green, fist pump, and onto the next tee.

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In the latest instalment of Tech Talk, National Club Golfer equipment editor James Savage goes deep on the CNC milled face on Cobra’s King F8 driver.

 

A milled driver face? Yes, we’ve been introduced to a fair amount of technology as the top equipment manufacturers launched their new products for 2018.

Cobra-F8-Rickie
Credit: Getty Images

It’s actually quite hard to believe that we are still seeing new things considering the USGA/R&A rules around gear – particularly drivers.

They can’t be too big or have faces which allow the ball to ‘trampoline’ too much so there is not a HUGE amount brands can do to make the ball go further.

Brands have to think about how they can make drivers more consistent, perform better on mis-hits or move faster through the air.

And often the end result of these things is that a driver will become longer because it it offering more distance, more often.

We’ve tested most of the new drivers which are coming to market in 2018 and while they do offer improvements, there’s not one which can guarantee a massive distance gain when struck out of the middle compare to the product it is replacing.

 

CNC 1

Credit: Cobra

Cobra are a brand which have continued to innovate and bring new ideas to their golf equipment.

And in the milled driver face of their King F8 we see something completely new.

AERO

It’s something we have seen on wedges and putters but never on a driver.

So what is the theory behind a milled driver face? Why is it such a big deal? And how is it going to help us play better golf?

It has already helped Rickie Fowler to win on tour at the Hero World Challenge.

For the latest instalment of Tech Talk we caught up Tom Olsavsky Cobra’s VP of golf club R&D to get the lowdown.

NCG

Credit: National Club Golfer

When did the idea for a CNC milled driver face for the King F8 come about?

“Our R&D team was thinking about a milled driver face several years ago, and it took us over two-and-a-half years to perfect it before we could go into production.

“We knew that it would provide improvements in consistency and precisions, but would be costly to implement. So most of the effort was spent on improving processes to allow us to produce high volumes of clubheads.”

King F8

Credit: Cobra

Why hadn’t a milled driver face been used before?

“Mostly due to the high cost. Additionally, the prices in the industry have risen slightly on drivers, but we worked really hard to improve our processes and be more efficient in everything we do.”

 

What was the main issue with welding and polishing the face of a driver?

“The main issues are always consistency of the structure since it affects everything from the weight, sound, feel, durability, face resilience as well as loft, face angle and face radii (bulge and roll).

Whatever

Credit: Cobra

“Since most casting processes have some variability, especially titanium drivers castings, we have to maintain a tight process control to fill all these needs.

“Everyone has a precision process to make the faceplate, but without milling it after being welded into a head, there is still lots of variability in the final steps to remove the weld.”

 

How and why is a milled driver face better?

“A CNC milled face is better because it improves the precision and consistency of the structure to a level than has never been achieved in a titanium driver.”

 

What sort of performance benefits might a handicap golfer notice?

“The CNC milling allows us to have tighter tolerances so we can make a thinner face and still be within the USGA and R&A limits.

“Most other manufacturers have to make a wider tolerance just to be legal, which lowers their average CT (elasticity of the clubface) slightly.”

Cobra-F8-driver-review-7

Credit: Cobra

Does the milled driver face have a direct impact on spin rates on off-centre hits?

“No, the USGA and R&A have very tight controls over surface roughness on all clubs, and due to the fairly low angles of driver impacts (under 20° impact loft), the tangential forces that produce spin changes are too low to affect spin rates.”

Cobra 2

Credit: Cobra

Does the milled driver face produce better sound and feel? If so, how?

“No changes here, and all of our driver structures are designed to sound great both with softer golf balls preferred by better players as well as the harder golf balls found on most ranges.”

 

Is the process longer from a production point of view?

“The CNC milling takes longer per head than the traditional grinding and polishing processes.”

 

There’s a circle in the middle – is that to show golfers where to hit the ball?

Cobra 3

Credit: Cobra

“Yes! We know that golfers need all the help they can get!”

 

 

The face seems to retain the ball imprint for a bit longer, how does that happen and was that intentional?

“One of the benefits of CNC milling is that it creates a much more consistent surface quality.

“Therefore a polished face, like our King F7, is slightly less reflective and diffuses the ball imprint slightly.

“With the King F8’s CNC milled face, the contrast between the slightly reflective face and the less reflective ball cover material debris is more apparent.

“Not intentional but a nice by-product of the more precise face.”

 

More information can be found on the Cobra website.

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The golf last weekend was great, wasn’t it? Wrap-around coverage, Tiger survived, Rory continued to churn out birdies and there was very little reason to leave the house.

I have no real affection for the courses at Torrey Pines, or indeed the type of golf on offer in the desert, but goodness it was inspiring stuff.

Most of the best players were back out in meaningful preparation mode and the constant blue skies were a reminder that the sun will shine here again soon.

The most interesting stuff was left until last, as Sunday in both events brought a change in conditions and some unexpectedly high scoring.

Some 77 players made the cut at Torrey Pines. Only 14 scored in the 60s on the Saturday, 18 per cent of the field.

On the Sunday, just two broke 70. Well played Charles Howell and Hideki Matsuyama.

Over in Dubai, on the same Sunday, only two of the top 10 players bettered their first-round score. Ben An and Tommy Fleetwood were in credit. The remainder of the top 10 were a combined 22 shots worse Thursday vs. Sunday.

Clearly in both cases there are some mitigating factors. When considering the top 10 we must allow for the pressure of a Sunday and any analysis of the whole field at The Farmers would presumably bring in some whose heart perhaps wasn’t entirely in it.

 

TGC story one image one

Credit: Getty Images

 

The comparisons are stark, though, and the thing that linked the inflated scoring on opposite sides of the globe was a change in conditions.

In both cases the courses dried out throughout the week so as play reached its denouement into Sunday afternoon –and evening and night and, indeed, Monday morning) – the premium on hitting fairways increased. The requirement to be able to control the ball, especially downwind, had become vital to low scoring.

The other thing that changed was the wind. Sunday brought a stiff sea breeze in Southern California and in Dubai the afternoon shamal affected all of the later groups.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at the 2nd at Torrey Pines. This 389-yard downhill par 4 was playing, as you would expect, no more than a drive and a flick. To help matters on Sunday they had even cut the flag in the back-right portion, exactly where the ball wanted to release to. Easy pickings then you might think, but it actually played the 12th-hardest hole on Sunday with a scoring average over par of 4.09. It yielded just 11 birdies, and as many as 16 scores worse than par including two doubles.

That is incredible.

In this era of fierce debate about the distance the ball is travelling a field containing 77 of the world’s best golfers made more bogeys or worse than birdies on a hole they could all nearly drive.

Hitting distances has as much to do with improvements in teaching technology and fitness as it does equipment. That is one of the reasons the gains at club level do not match those in the professional version of the sport, where access to personal trainers, launch monitors, force plates and the like are ubiquitous, and the time and appetite required to put their findings into practice are at their highest.

 

tgc story one image two

Credit: Getty Images

 

What was true last weekend though was that you can have all the technology, teaching, athleticism and, in many cases, time in the world and yet it is still conditions that have the biggest impact on scoring.

Clearly there is little that can be done to ensure the wind blows, it tends to come and go as it pleases, but we can do something about the course set-ups. Firm, even hard greens are surely a no-brainer.

When the balls stop sticking on landing, as soon as the ball is uncontrollable out of the rough, the golf course has a chance. Angles matter again, strategy returns and craft counts.

Of course, the world’s elite would soon adapt, because they are brilliant athletes. The low scoring would eventually resume, but it would at least make them think.