News & Opinion

Knuth Golf brings the Heat again

My biggest discovery at the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando is something I’m calling 3TrampTech. That’s short for Three-Trampoline Technology. 

That is also what made the Knuth Golf High Heat 257+ the hottest driver I hit during Demo Day at Orange County National.

There is some dazzling science behind 3TrampTech, but let me spell it out in real terms. The lateral meniscus in my left knee blew out in 2015, which means I’m not the scratch golfer I was then. So when I say the stiff-flex High Heat 257+ driver that I just hit was the first time I’ve felt a ball jump off a driver face like it used to when I had two nearly adequate knees, I’m making a significant statement. And rest assured, I did not hit all of them, or even most of them, on the center of the clubface. I was impressed, but mainly I was excited because, Hey, maybe there’s hope for me after all.

The concept behind 3TrampTech is just what the nickname implies. Every driver model has a trampoline effect on the sweet spot, which the USGA identifies as the Central Impact Area (yes, CIA – shhhh!). The High Heat 257+ has two additional trampoline-effect areas: in the heel and in the toe, where most of us hackers hit too many shots.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF KNUTH GOLF
Knuth Golf applies 3TrampTech design to its High Heat fairway woods.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KNUTH GOLF
Knuth Golf applies 3TrampTech design to its High Heat fairway woods.

What? Yeah, I’d never heard of three trampolines before, either. This novel idea stemmed from a little-noticed USGA rules revision in 2016. The USGA raised the speed limit two years ago on how hot a club could be on the heel and the toe areas while keeping the CIA (sweet spot) limit at 257 microseconds – 239 microseconds, actually, with a tolerance of 18 microseconds that pushes that maximum conforming limit to 257. Microseconds are how the governing bodies measure the spring-like effect of clubfaces. The technical term is characteristic time, or CT, which is the length of time that the ball is in contact with the clubface. Microseconds turn into ball speed, and ball speed turns into distance.

Sorry about that science avalanche, but here’s the last part: Anything longer than 257 microseconds in the CIA is deemed non-conforming. However, that 2016 USGA tweak raised the CT limits for the heel and toe areas to 275 microseconds. So what? It seemed unlikely that any manufacturer could do much with that. 

Dean Knuth, who created the original High Heat driver more than a decade ago, saw that rules adjustment as an opportunity. You may recognize his name. He spent 16 years working for the USGA and is affectionately known as “The Pope of SLOPE” for the course-rating system that he created. He’s an engineer at heart and used his Navy knowledge of submarine warfare and how energy transfers through metal to make the original High Heat driver in 2007. It was made from pressed Russian titanium, which is harder than regular titanium and, I presume, wrinkles less.

That High Heat model was the hottest driver in golf. The problem is, Knuth produced only a limited run of 400, but I used it for one sweet, memorable summer.

Knuth came back with a new High Heat in 2015, bumping the size up from the original’s 420cc to 460cc and lowering the center of gravity and deepening it beyond industry norms. Knuth wasn’t planning on creating yet another new driver so soon, but the USGA decision to raise the outer CT limit to 275 changed his mind.

“Nobody else did anything about that, but we did,” Knuth said. “The major brands all use variable-face thickness in their clubs. They’re all thicker in the center and thinner on the outside. That technology won’t bring up your CT on the outside, though. So we had to think differently. We divided the face into three CT ball-space areas that don’t interact – three trampolines that are independent but connected.”

The High Heat 257+ driver sports some unusual numbers, therefore. The specifications for its heel and toe are at 266 microseconds. That’s right. The High Heat heel and toe are hotter than the sweet spot.

Note: One of your eyebrows should now be raised at high alert, unless the science got too thick in the past few paragraphs.

The 257+ fairway woods specifications also are at 266 on the heel and toe, as are the still-in-production hybrids. The following numbers come from a High Heat news release, so take them for what they’re worth. The company says that other major-brand drivers average 242 microseconds on the toe and 216 on the heel. In fairway woods, competitors average 208 on the toe and 191 on the heel. In hybrids, it’s 183 and 158, respectively.

“One of the reasons the other manufacturers have such low ballspeed in these outer areas is because they use steel for the faces,” Knuth Golf co-founder Stephen Trattner said. “We only use titanium faces.”

Knuth began working on the three-trampoline idea within a few months of the USGA announcement. It took two full years to get the clubs ready for their close-ups. They are expected to be available by the end of April. They are patent-pending and USGA- approval-pending. The driver ($499), fairway woods ($329) and hybrids ($257) will be available from www.KnuthGolf.com and come with a money-back guarantee. There’s also a $70 discount on a driver or fairway wood if ordered before March 1, as I did.

“Our guiding principle has been to help amateur golfers,” Knuth said. “I’m not interested in having tour players use our clubs. We are motivated to help amateurs.”