better - at least that's been the conventional wisdom on the golf
circuit when it comes to drivers. The robust, wide-faced heads have dominated
on tour and out on the local links as both professionals and golf enthusiasts
try to shore up their game and tee off with greater distance.
main design objective for any manufacturer is to design a product that hits the
ball further," says Tim Reed, vice president of research and development for
Adams Golf, a smaller player best known for its hybrids and irons which saw an
opportunity to differentiate in the driver category. "In driver design, it's
all about distance."
Yet Adams' engineers felt something was
amiss with the industry obsession to make bigger, wider-faced driver heads as
the means to a more powerful swing. Since the late 1990s when titanium and
design tool technology coalesced to facilitate larger head design, golf club
leaders from Callaway to Taylor Made had been pushing the envelope with new
"extreme dimension" club shapes. These clubs were designed to meet the upgraded
460ccs size limit and maximum Moment of Inertia (MOI) rules mandated by the
U.S. Golf Assn. (USGA), yet still deliver the distance and high performance
that golfers demand.
Despite prior studies that showed no
direct correlation between increased club head size and aerodynamic drag, Adams
engineers detected players using these clubs on the PGA tour and in player
testing actually experienced slightly diminished driver distances. Based on
their observations, the Adams team decided to formally test why it was
happening. Through a combination of player testing, wind tunnel testing and
consulting services around Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), the Adams team
reexamined the drag issue and found that the reduction in club head speed
directly correlated to the increase in aerodynamic drag for extreme dimension
club heads. As a result of its findings, Adams embarked on a development course
that was very different from its competitors: It put aerodynamic design factors
front and center when building its next-generation drivers.
was not a consideration at all in (driver) design because of the studies in the
mid-90s when it was determined it wasn't a significant factor," says Scott
Burnett, Adams' director of advanced product development. But when the club
heads became more geometrically
extreme and triangular in shape, there were differences in drag that weren't apparent before. "The
extreme size made it relevant," Burnett explains. "When there is several pounds
of drag force at 100 miles per hour, it's a significant amount of force a
golfer has to overcome to accelerate the head."
Going for the Speedline
Adams' first driver designed around
aerodynamic principles was the Speedline, launched in January of 2009. Adams'
engineering team parlayed all of the knowledge and data it collected from the
wind tunnel tests and the CFD consulting initiative to create a
large-dimension, high-inertia driver that displayed aerodynamic characteristics
that were more on par with smaller club heads. Up until that point, Adams had
been a minor player in the driver market, but the Speedline's introduction put
its driver offerings on the map. The Speedline was used in several tour
victories and industry pundits lauded Adam's engineering efforts, among them Golf
Digest, which designated the Speedline driver as its 2009 Gold
Winner, with the statement that Adams "has discovered something others have
Specifically, that "something" was the
aerodynamic design principles which Adams was determined to improve in
subsequent driver models. Yet the process by which Adams arrived at the first
Speedline's aerodynamic design also needed refining, principally to allow the
engineering team to explore additional iterations and design trade-offs to
achieve more dramatic results. In its first effort, Adams contracted with an
outside CFD consulting specialist who made specific suggestions on where the
team could make design changes that would reduce aerodynamic drag. The
specialist zeroed in on areas of concern surrounding the club, especially the
top of the club's crown and around the heel and toe side. Based on recommended
design changes in these areas, three prototypes were built and then physically
tested in the wind tunnel. Subsequent player testing narrowed the field down to
one winning low-drag design, which was then manufactured and brought to market.
While the initial Speedline club was
indeed a success, Adams' engineering management was concerned the process
wasn't repeatable and efficient enough to make significant and ongoing drag
improvements while still hitting the company's aggressive time-to-market
targets. In addition, building and testing physical models was a costly
endeavor - far too expensive to prove out all the possible design scenarios.
"The original design was pieced together - we didn't have the chance to go
through enough iterations to move the aerodynamic drag number down," Burnett
says. "It costs lots of money and time in the wind tunnel, which is cost
prohibitive (considering) we launch a new product every six months in this one
product category. When you have to churn at that rate, it's hard to get through
enough design iterations to make any kind of meaningful improvement if you're
just sitting in a wind tunnel."
At that point, Adams engineers
determined they needed to bring the CFD analysis process in-house. By having a
CFD tool integrated with its mainstream CAD platform - in this case, NX from
Siemens PLM Software - the team would have more flexibility in iterating and
pushing the limits on aerodynamics design. The team began to use NX and its
integrated Flow CFD module to examine the airflow over the proposed 3-D mockup
of a club design in real time, allowing them to make small modifications and
refinements as necessary and prior to building any costly prototypes or design
tooling. Having an integrated CFD tool also made it easier to visualize
potential problem areas as opposed to having engineers interpret reams of
straight wind tunnel data. "Just looking at the wind tunnel data, it's hard to
visualize what the flow is doing when you just get drag and lift numbers,"
Burnett says. "When you look at CFD results, you can pretty much see where the
drag is coming from and it doesn't require you to be a real expert in (CFD
Integrating CAD and CFD
Integrated CFD would also help the Adams
team become more effective with trade-offs as it evolved the driver design over
time. On the first Speedline driver, the team was forced to reduce the face
area of the club to achieve less aerodynamic drag. In subsequent models, the
Adams team wanted to increase that face area to improve impact efficiency while
delivering even higher club speeds. Integrated CFD was instrumental to that
process with the follow-on 9032LS, and Adams was looking to push the envelope
even further with its third-generation driver, the Speedline FAST 10, which was
released in January.
The integrated CFD capabilities allowed
the team to expand the face size, testing multiple iterations within NX and
Flow to get the drag back down to where the original Speedline driver had been.
Using NX Flow, the engineers could simulate the different orientations seen by
the club head as it moves through the swing. This helped the team achieve its
design goal by making subtle modifications to the face area along with the
transition areas from the face to the body of the club so the airflow remains
attached and the drag is reduced even further, explains Jeff Albertsen, a
design engineer at Adams Golf. Specifically, design improvements created a
100-percent increase in toe curvature and a 300-percent decrease in the heel
curvature for even more efficient and stable airflow attachment around the club
head. The FAST 10's design refinements reduced drag by 10 percent throughout
the swing for a faster club head speed that generates more distance (an
additional 15 yards of carry distance) than previous driver models, all with 10
percent higher MOI.
For Albertsen and the rest of Adams'
engineers, having access to CFD capabilities from within the core CAD
environment saves time and money (and) is instrumental in promoting them to
pursue more design concepts. "Our two biggest constraints are time and cost,
and by outsourcing our CFD analysis to consultants, we were limited to how many
designs we could do," Albertsen explains. Originally, the team would come up
with a driver design concept and send it out to China for production of
manufactured parts - a process that could take between 30 and 60 days. Next,
the team would physically test the parts, verify the results and make changes
before a final concept was agreed upon. Then, the 30- to 60-day production
window would start anew. Once the CFD consultant was engaged, the process to
prove out a design concept was reduced to 20 to 40 days and the team saved the
cost of tooling. Yet the integrated CAD and CFD tools compress that time frame
we decided to invest in the tools, we could move full steam ahead," Albertsen
says. "We come up with the concepts here, test multiple designs free of charge
rather than waiting for tests to come back, and now our process is less than 20
also believes there are other efficiencies in having the CFD capabilities be an
extension of the CAD environment. For one thing, the team of engineers using NX
can automatically take advantage of CFD capabilities with Flow, without
learning a new package and even though they are not CFD specialists. In
addition, the built-in analysis functionality means the engineering team
can explore different types of simulation - Finite Element Analysis (FEA),
modal analysis or something else - with a simple click of a button within NX,
As result of this plug-and-play
simplicity, he believes integrated CFD and aerodynamics principles will remain
an integral part of the Adams Golf design process well into the future. "We do
CFD on every driver developed since the first Speedline," Albertsen says. "Once
you get the feel of it and how to design for it, it becomes an integrated part
of the design process."
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