Rickie Fowler “Crushes” Persimmon – And Fools No One

rf-persimmonNothing against Rickie Fowler, this is about equipment and marketing hype.

You’ll remember the Mark Twain line about there being, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics,” I’ll wager – and I’m not accusing anyone of lying here, just of the same old “hype” over numbers that mean absolutely nothing they are meant to mean, but tell you all you need to know.

This time is Golf.com’s Extra Spin piece about Rickie Fowler “crushing” a persimmon driver, but if you look at the Trackman numbers and read some of the Twitter responses to the piece, you’ll see that no one who knows even a little about golf, equipment and technology was fooled for a second (or at least, not many).

In fact, it’s ironic that the piece is an “Extra Spin” feature, because if you are familiar with the political term of “spinning,” that’s exactly what’s going on, and inconvenient facts are quickly pointed out.

Let’s tee it up: Rickie Fowler “steps up” and hits a ball on camera with a persimmon headed driver, and Holy Cow!! drives it about 292 yards total… and the skeptics weigh in immediately on Twitter.


OK, before we get to the responses, let me weigh in with a couple of observations:

That is a pretty hard cut – if you watch Rickie’s left foot, he completely jumps out of his shoes swinging this club – and generates a whole 114 mph of club head speed, which we’ll assume is in the maximum range for him with this club with that amount of effort and assuming (let’s just assume) that this was one of his best, if not the best swing of the bunch.

Why would I say that?

Well this Twitter exchange:

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“Not many…”  

LOL… OK, that’s how many?

Let’s assume it was a few, and that “pearl” was the best one, because a better one would surely have been posted to Twitter, correct?

OK, club speed on the drive was 114.5 mph, and let’s compare his 2016 numbers:

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Rickie’s average club head speed last season (with controlled, “playing swings” and not “jumping out of my shoes on the range” swings) was 117.71 mph, but his highest speed recorded was 123, and his lowest recorded club head speed was 114.52… so here we have proof of how juiced-up the equipment is – Rickie swinging out of his shoes with a persimmon club matched his lowest recorded club speed of 2016 and was nearly 10 mph slower than his fastest recorded swing.

I would bet that if Rickie Fowler actually played with that persimmon driver every day, he’d not only throw his back out very quickly (he’s already had injury issues swinging the modern and much lighter drivers), but his average club speed would be much, much lower than his 117 average from last year… like, 10 mph lower, or more.

Now, let’s talk about ball distance – if that was a modern ball Rickie is hitting, then all bets are off for this whole deal – the whole of distance technology today has to do with the modern ball, and Rickie couldn’t get even one out to 300 yards when his driving average last year was 301 yards.

As for ball speed, again, the numbers tell the real tale – with a pretty hard swing, Rickie got 170.3 mph out of the modern ball with persimmon, but he averaged 175.78 mph last season, and his slowest recorded ball speed was about what he did with the persimmon ( 170.3 vs 169.58) and his highest ball speed of 181.92 was over 10 mph higher than the “crushed” persimmon ball…

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Again, that wasn’t lost on the Twitter people who responded to this spin job:

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So, you can put up whichever numbers you wish when trying to prove a point (I guess, that “these guys are good?”), but looking at more numbers tells you exactly what you need to know:

That Rickie Fowler would likely struggle to drive the ball 270 yards with persimmon and balata (he got 290 or so with a very hard swing, nearly perfect impact – 1.49 smash – and using a modern ball and getting 20 yards run on pristine grass) – in fact, if he even got close to averaging 270 yards with a persimmon club and a ’60s – ’80s era balata ball, I’d be very surprised.

With the balata ball’s much higher spin rates (he was already near 3000 rpm with the modern ball using the persimmon club), and with the shaggy fairways of the classic era, I would be more willing to bet the “under” on 270, and that he’d be in the 260’s at best, on average, with a regular swing, and there’s no guarantee he’d find the fairway with the way balata balls slice and hook on even slight mis-hits.

But he’s driving it over 300 yards on average on perfectly manicured fairways that run 10 on the Stimp, with modern equipment that still caused him injuries with his modern swing a few years back.

Oh, and even Rickie’s modern numbers aren’t that impressive, by the way, as I’m inclined to post this response:

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See that?  And yes, they were, if you’ve ever watched those old classics back in the day when they actually showed proper golf swings on TV.

300 yards on Shell’s Wonderful World Of Golf, and you’ve seen the fairway conditions they were playing back then – Rickie wouldn’t come close to those Trackman numbers on 60’s era fairways, with the same clubs and balls.

So, I guess Rickie and Golf.com proved my point for me, without meaning to!


Want to learn more about the MCS Golf Swing Theory? Try one of DJ’s “Secrets of the MCS” video shorts available via download.

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Or you can download the very latest MCS Golf Swing video “MCS – Perfect Pivot based on the flawless pivot action of Ben Hogan.**

**”MCS – Perfect Pivot” is Part 3 of the “MCS Golf Swing Trilogy,” now available for download!


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19 thoughts on “Rickie Fowler “Crushes” Persimmon – And Fools No One

  1. Jonas

    I know another saying DJ that you might have heard once of twice before. There’s one born every minute. Keep pointing these things out I love it

    1. D Watts Post author

      LOL thanks Jonas. I don’t think people are suckers so much as they trust that what they read in golf magazines is going to be true, or helpful. That’s the mistake!

  2. john1brady

    Nice analysis, good points all. Watching some of the old clips from the 50’s-80’s some of those guys could really move the club. A guy I play with occasionally is 66 and still motors it 108. Nicklaus in his prime was probably mid 120’s with the heavy persimmon.

    Hate to post from one of the peddlers of the modern crap swing but found this on Nicklaus swinging 118 at 58 years old.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Thanks JB and no worries – it’s not the source from which one quotes, but whether or not the quoted material is factual or not, and Nicklaus was certainly a great swinger. So, that he could get it to 118 at 58 years of age – not a surprise, considering he was likely in the high-120’s-low 130’s at his peak!

      Let’s see what young Rickie’s club speed is at 58 – if he’s still even able to swing… 😉

  3. targettom

    On the Sony Open coverage today they were saying Justin Thomas’ SS is 117. He’s 23. And a long hitter in the stats they keep.

    Also they sure have baked out fairways there at Wailae to help roll out the distances for the stats, one hole the ball was running probably 100 yards after carry.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Take these guys back to a balata ball, club heads no larger than 360cc, and fairways cut to 5 or 6 on the Stimp, and watch the horror show. They wouldn’t make it to the 18th tee box…

  4. Harleyweedwhacks

    I just think that since the modern swing came out, golf course compensations such as faster fairways and lighter and bigger drivers as well as delofted irons and graphite shafts with a longer golf ball, the game has become more of a “how far can you hit it” game instead of “lets see who can handle the pressure of hitting out of that fairway trap with a two iron close to the hole.”

    It takes less skill nowadays to play well, because everyone at least hits the ball 250, whereas back in the day you were a long hitter if you averaged 240. Its mostly about short game improvement at this point which keeps the average player from improving to any particular degree.

    The modern swing is faulty, and in becoming the norm for most players, they’ve had to compensate by smoothing and quickening the fairways, bigger drivers, longer ball, delofted irons and light equipment.

    1. D Watts Post author

      I agree fully, HWW – the modern game has essentially turned itself into a wedge and short game contest.

      There is no way someone who hits the ball like Jordan Spieth should be able to compete with guys like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, etc – the modern equipment allows iffy ball-strikers to get the ball close enough to the green to score.

      In the classic era, Spieth would be taking drops from off the fairway on half his drives. He wouldn’t have even been a good college player.

      Such is progress!

  5. Brady

    Another great article DJ! Ouch that swing hurts to look at! I see rib injuries in his future. Anyone notice the left foot sliding back after impact ala Sadlowski? Probably took him 18 balls to carry 274 with that swing. Let’s see how that gumby swing holds up when he’s 45!

    1. D Watts Post author

      The left foot move is exactly what I was referring to in the posting, Brady – I went and looked at a couple of his “playing” swing drives, and he doesn’t do anything like that when he’s swinging during an event…

      So, his swing coach actually said on Twitter that it was an easy swing, but I don’t buy it. That’s a pretty big foot jump on a swing for someone who doesn’t do that on regular swings:

      Verdict: Swinging out of his shoes

  6. peterallenby2013

    DJ – 10:30 pm on Saturday evening and I am flipping between the Patriots game and the Sony Open. Flipped to the Open to see leader Justin Thomas hit a snapper far, far left off of the tee..Frank Nobilo gives a shout out to DJ Watts calling you his friend in Canada who liken Thomas’s swing motion to that of Jamie Sadlowski! Network TV mention….not bad !! The mainstream gets to say, “who’s DJ Watts?” The world will know soon enough…..

    1. D Watts Post author

      Hi Peter! I must have just stepped away for a moment and missed it, but I’ll make sure to catch it on the re-run later.

      Yes, I consider FN a friend, and we have discussed that left foot move that Thomas & Sadlowski have (Charlie Beljan does it as well)… good guy.

  7. Brady

    Right on DJ!
    Have always thought highly of Frank N. as he comes across as fairly knowledgable without being a know it all like the original “figjam” Brandel. I missed the shout out but nice to hear you’re getting your due.

    Got a good chuckle yesterday watching Spieth grunting to carry his driver 257 after JTs 300 carry moonshots. If Pete Cowan was in charge JT would be ahead by 15 shots instead of 7. I like the kid but seriously if Spieth couldn’t putt we would most likely have never heard of him.

    I’ve been keeping an eye on JT for the last 6 months and I hope he keeps this up. Kid wears his heart on his sleeve and as Frank said yesterday he’s a good watch.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Hello Brady!

      I can assure you that Frank knows a good deal about the swing. We don’t agree 100% on everything, but he certainly doesn’t believe in restricting the hips on the back swing, so we are A-OK in that regard.

      Plus, he’s a PGA Tour winner and former Presidents Cup member, 15 international tournament victories. I began watching golf around the end of the 90’s and I remember him as a player more than an analyst. Good guy all round.

      I can’t say I’ve spoken with Chamblee aside from some brief correspondence back and forth when I was trying to get people to give his book a read – but I can only say, regarding his style, “À chacun son goût…” 🙂

    1. D Watts Post author

      It was a surprise to me – he messaged me saying he was going to give me a shout, but I thought he meant he’d get back to me after the broadcast about something we had discussed – obviously, I was wrong! lol

  8. Brady

    Great win by JT today and although his left foot stays down on his backswing and spins out on his DS I still like his overall pivot it certainly didn’t hurt that he made a lot of putts also! DJ, all this talk about the left foot spinout of Sadlowski and the rt foot shortstop slide used by GN among others on the DS got me thinking about Zuback who does both or used to when he was the king of long drive.

    If I remember correctly he has got the hammer drop move to the extreme. Not saying Zuback’s swing is tour caliber in fact it’s not even close but if you haven’t already done one I’d love to see you post a gif and a few of your astute observations on JZs swing for the good people here at the Nation. Talk about a physical freak! Would have loved to see him and MD compete against each other in their primes.

    It would have been an epic battle sort of a Godzilla vs King King of long drives. If this hypothetical contest actually occurred who do you think wins?

    1. D Watts Post author

      Here’s a posting on Zuback you may like, from a couple of years ago, Brady…

      Dunaway obviously had the superior technique, and I recall he could drive the ball 375 yards with the 90’s era stainless steel headed Callaways – I recall the winning distances back then were in the 360-370 yards range, so we’d have to have seen them go head to head, I suppose.

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