The ultimate balloon-o-gram

Be a Tiger

My dad forced me to learn how to golf when I was kid — partly, I think, because he thought it would endow me with a crucial business skill. He worked in the stainless-steel industry, and I suspect more than one deal was consummated over martinis at the 19th hole. Anyway, I spent years trudging around golf courses and gradually learning a respect for this lovely, elegant, and quintessentially insane game. I also discovered that golfers are enormous gearheads, continually obsessed with improving their game via nanoengineered golf-club materials and pseudorandom ball-dimpling reverse-engineered from declassified US military spy-plane technology. This, ultimately, was the final lesson in life that I learned from golf: Everyone loves to work hard at improving their game — but what they love even more is finding a quick cheat that improves their game without requiring any, y’know, work.

All of which brings me to the subject of this blog post: The epoch-3 — the first bold new re-engineering of the humble golf tee. The inventors explain their innovation on their web site, in prose that wouldn’t be out of place in The Onion

You’re standing on the first tee. You unsheathe your new $400 driver, engineered with the finest aerospace and structural technology. Then you carefully place the most expensive and technologically sophisticated golf ball ever designed atop its launch pad … a crude wooden spike.

Truth is, there has been no significant performance improvement to the wood golf tee since its commercial introduction in the 1920’s. Its surface imperfections and grain irregularities result in deflection and structural failure at impact, making it an inferior launch platform for modern golf equipment. Environmentally it’s equally archaic, damaging expensive mowing equipment and introducing harmful fungal diseases into the delicate tee box ecosystem. And still there are those who would ask, “Why change the golf tee?” At Evolve Golf we realized it was time someone stopped asking, “Why?” and started asking, “Why not?”

Dare to dream; dare to dream. Anyway, the upshot is that these dudes did some interesting analysis of the physics of how tees interact with golf balls. They concluded that the traditional tee — which touches the ball in a full circle — produces undesirable deflections. The epoch-3, in contrast, touches the ball only in four places, for a smaller contact area. The result, they claim, is that the epoch-3 improves carrying distance by 1.81 yards, increases launch speed by 0.59 mph, and reduces side spin by 51.67 rpm.

It almost makes me want to grab my clubs, pack my briefcase bar, and hit the links.

(Thanks to The Book of Joe for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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