SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Lifestyle

August 30, 2007

Physics prof joins team of scientists judging equipment for sports magazine

David Lee is the first to admit he’s not much of a golfer.

Rather, he’s a scientist, much happier thinking about how to stick two space-age materials together with epoxy to make a golf club than how to improve his golf swing.

Yet Lee, a physics professor at Gordon College in Wenham, is on a short list of professors invited by Golf Digest magazine to Nevada next month to offer his opinion on the hottest equipment of the year.

The magazine doesn’t care about Lee’s golf game. They want him for his physics knowledge.

“They fly you out there and put you up,” he said. “They feed you. It’s fun.”

This will be Lee’s third year on Golf Digest’s scientist panel, comprised of a half dozen academics who help the magazine’s editorial board evaluate new golf gear for its annual Hot List issue in February.

Once a year the scientists — with specialties such as aerodynamics, collision theory and materials science — sit around a table for two days and take on the hard questions: Does this marketing claim make sense from a technical point of view? What’s the difference between 303 stainless steel and 17-4 stainless steel? Can you move the center of gravity of a club head this much and can it affect ball flight?

These are questions golfers didn’t have to think about 10 or 15 years ago, said Mike Stachura, senior editor of equipment for Golf Digest. The past decade has seen an explosion in golf technology and new equipment, thanks to better scientific understanding of what happens when golf club and ball collide, he said.

Golf equipment manufacturers now employ fleets of engineers, including specialists who formerly worked in the aerospace and defense industries. Marketing materials are heavy with technical documentation and test results, he said.

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