Callaway, a household name for golf equipment, has unveiled their new designs achieved with support from artificial intelligence and machine learning programs.
Products under their Mavrik line introduced new design elements. It takes Callaway's AI-driven initiative that began with its Flash line of golf drivers. The Callaway Epic Flash Driver, boasting with "Artificial Intelligence: Real Ball Speed," was the only product to receive a 20 out of 20 stars from the 2019 Golf Digest Hot List. It had design swing speeds 95 to 100 miles per hour. It was achieved with machine learning, landing its iconic face design.
AI-Driven Club Designs
To reduce drag and improve its aerodynamic characteristics, golf drivers are often designed with a rounded shape thicker in the edges and thinner towards the edges. In an article from Popular Science, Callaway Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Ian Hocknell, commented: "The face thickness pattern that it first came out with looked nothing like what we designed."
Hocknell added that one of the thinnest areas in the resulting design was in the center, contrary to conventional design. It did, however, have a pattern of ripples and ridges. The design had thick areas adjacent to thin areas in the driver. The R&D SVP admitted: "It had things we really didn't understand, but we could prove that it generated more ball speed."
Usually, club designers and makers are aided by computers in simulating thousands of ball strikes to review strike tendencies and performance consistency. In Callaway's breakthrough designs, they simply fed limits and parameters to an AI program and let it solve the problems and optimize the design without human interference.
Through these simulations, Callaway was able to adapt their club designs to meet the needs of a specific group of golf players based on skill level. Hocknell commented that the target was especially tricky for beginners.
An Engineering Mavrik
"The challenges of designing for the lower-ability golfers is that you have a higher degree of noise," Hocknell noted. "Shot-to-shot variation is a lot higher than with tour pros. The computer can help analyze that. It helps us capture what the challenges are that we need to address."
The Callaway executive also noted that the development process for a new golf club is usually between twelve to sixteen months, yielding only three or four prototypes for testing. These limited prototypes are loaded onto a swing robot to test its actual performance over multiple iterations. With the artificial intelligence-driven designs, it can work around variations--especially for the less experienced players--and guide them towards better playing skills.
After a revolutionary design and satisfactory prototype performances, bringing the new Mavrik clubs to the manufacturing plant also required significant investments from the company. Callaway sought a new titanium alloy to meet the fabrication requirements for such a design. Consequently, they also had to work on their forge to keep up with the design constraints of the new pattern.
"There were only a couple machines in the world that could do that with the thin titanium grade we were using. We had to change the crystal structure in the titanium in such a way that it would be durable under the loads it was going to see," Hocknell said.