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Thinking Really Small

To Revive the Brand, Wilson Plays With Tiny Tech

Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page T09

Wilson Sporting Goods is attempting to revive its Wilson Staff golf brand with a technology innovation that sounds like bizarro science fiction. The nearly century-old firm has introduced clubs that employ nanotechnology. And no, that doesn't mean the clubhead has an electron-microscopic sweet spot.

According to Bob Thurman, Wilson Global Golf's research director, the crowns of the firm's new drivers (and some fairway woods) are made of a composite "Nano-Carbon" material that incorporates nanotubes -- particles measuring just a few atoms across. When resins are added, the resulting material is unusally strong and light, he says. This permits designers to locate more of the clubhead's weight low and away from the face. As any club geek can tell you, this improves launch angle, control and distance.

Wilson Staff Pd5 Driver: Composite material enhanced with nanotech said to make clubhead lighter, stronger (Photo Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)

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"Our [nano-enhanced] composite is a little bit lighter than most, but it's a lot stronger," Thurman says. This means the clubhead has less give when its contacts the ball, launching it more powerfully off the clubface.

Wilson has also used nano particles in the end of its Nano-Tech Graffalloy shafts. The nano-stuff helps inhibit torque,Thurman says, creating a stabler clubhead at impact.

All sounds good, I thought, when I took out the Dd5 (the 460 cc "distance" version; there's also a Pd5 "performance" model for better players). I know you hate reviews that say this, but: I'm usually the shortest hitter in my group. I managed to bomb one tee shot ahead of the others, and kept within a few yards of the leader a couple of times. Several mishits off the heel wound up at least playable.

The nano-placebo effect? Maybe. I also hit my usual share of weak shots to the right with the Dd5, but hey, it was my first round of the year.

No, nanotechnology is not about to transform your game. But the Dd5 is a well-engineered, lightweight, big-headed driver that sets up nicely, forgives mishits and gives good length. It far outperforms my two-year-old Adams driver and behaves as well as the Cobra SZ I've been testing. For those mulling drivers in the $300 range, it's worth a look.

As part of its plan to rehabilitate the Wilson brand from its starter-set-at-Sports-Authority rut, the firm has launched premium lines of irons, putters and hybrids, all sporting snazzy retro W/S logos.

Presumably, the logo is made with conventional technology.

-- Craig Stoltz

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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