If there’s one thing that the recent contraptions YouTuber and engineer Shane Wighton has designed and built has taught us, it’s that a lack of sports skills can be overcome with clever engineering. Following the creation of a basketball hoop that makes it impossible to miss a shot, Wighton has now created a self-adjusting golf club that helps golfers hit a specific distance, no skill required.
The customised club isn’t exactly nondescript; the upgrades Wighton made include a servo-powered adjustment mechanism that changes the angle of the club head on the fly, as well as a control box strapped just below the club’s grip containing a battery, motion sensors, an OLED display, and a dial. The dial has two different modes: one that allows more experienced golfers to dial in the specific club they want to use, limited to irons that go all the way to 11, and a second mode that allows a specific distance to be dialed in for golfers who aren’t experienced enough, or don’t have the luxury of a caddy.
The club select mode is simple enough: Turning the dial adjusts the angle of the club head, or the loft, to change the trajectory of the ball at impact. It required some clever engineering and a few prototypes to get working properly, because the forces generated when the club hits the ball are extreme enough to destroy moving parts if not engineered properly.
The distance mode was considerably more complicated to realise, however. In order to calculate the ideal angle of the club head needed to achieve a desired distance, the club has to analyse the start of a golfer’s swing and then make an accurate prediction of the head speed when it makes contact with a golf ball, milliseconds later. The real-time adjustments have to be made in a split second, so Wighton had to calculate a model of his average swing speeds in order to predict the impact speed based on the speed at the start of the motions.
The results aren’t perfect, at least not yet. His limited testing has shown the club does shave a few strokes off his game, but it will require thousands of swings and dozens of afternoons spent on the links to hone the model used to predict the speed of the club in mid-swing. It will undoubtedly improve over time, and Wighton already has plans to further upgrade the club with an additional mechanism that cancels out slices, too.