The Equipment Insider

Wilson Golf makes ball speed top priority in D9 clubs

Wilson Golf — D9 Driver Landscape

Wilson Golf’s latest lineup of game-improvement clubs is helping average golfers gain distance

Golfers and swing instructors sometimes try to dissect the physical motions of a golf swing by breaking it down into a mind-numbing array of steps and components. But very few players can think about their swings in such detail and still successfully hit a golf ball. By contrast, the vast majority of golfers are best served to follow a single universal truth: that a fundamentally sound golf swing — one that is simple and efficient — will not only lead to consistency, it will offer the greatest potential for shooting low scores.

The equipment engineers at Wilson Golf have taken a similar philosophy in the creation of the brand’s new D9 driver ($349.99), a club that borrows many of the successful features and design elements of Wilson’s superlight D7 driver but benefits from a few additional engineering advancements of its own.

“When we were talking about D7, we wanted to have a good-performing, great-sounding, great-looking driver that you could put into somebody’s hands and they could hit it and have a great experience with it,” said Jon Pergande, Wilson’s director of golf club innovation. “We understood the benefit of what a lightweight construction can do for a lot of players, in terms of ease of swing and ease of club head speed. When we started talking about D9, we wanted to add to that experience.”

The driver’s alluring new feature is a club face that Wilson has branded peak kinetic response (PKR). Utilizing a computer simulation model and emphasizing maximum ball speed performance, Wilson’s engineers set out to create a driver face that could deliver satisfyingly high ball speeds on off-center strikes.

“We allowed the computer to find those tendencies,” Pergande said, “and it produced a very non-linear surface. There are no constant, offset dimensions. There are no definitive thicknesses.”

The D9’s PKR face provides the most performance forgiveness on high toe strikes — an area where Wilson Golf’s years of data have shown most amateur players routinely mishit their drives. However, the D9 was also designed to provide considerable forgiveness on drives hit slightly low and toward the heel.

Wilson Golf — D9 Driver Toe
Data points allowed Wilson Golf equipment engineers to identify where most amateur players mishit drives most often. The result is a driver face that provides more forgiveness on drives hit slightly low and toward the heel.

What golfers will notice with the D9 is a continuation of the D7’s streamlined aesthetic, thanks to a lack of adjustability. According to Pergande, the decision to create a driver without those adjustable components was influenced by cost — Pergande says that the addition of adjustability comes at a retail price increase of about $50 per element. The decision to remove adjustability was also made to preserve the efficiency and effectiveness of the club’s ball speed performance, its launch characteristics, and the satisfying sound that the club makes at impact. Additionally, the decision was reinforced by years of company research.

“One of the things that we learned early on,” he said, “is that for the bulk of players, they’re going to set their weight system one time; they’re going to set their loft and lie hosel adjustment one time; and they’re never going to touch it again. In fact, a lot of times people want to be told what they’re going to have in their club and are just intimidated by the idea of trying to slide or move things around by themselves. There are very few people that are going to tinker on a regular basis.”

Similarly, the D9 is offered in only three loft options — 9, 10.5 and 13 degrees. In Pergande’s view, those three lofts will accommodate the needs of the vast majority of players who want a driver that launches high, produces low spin, and delivers increased distance through faster ball speeds. In fact, he believes that most amateurs are better suited with fewer loft options. “Most players,” he said, “are not consistent enough with their swings to really distinguish the subtleties of fractions of a degree of loft.”

Wilson Golf’s commitment to increased ball speeds and higher-launching shots extends across the entire D9 family. In particular, the D9 irons ($649.99 with steel shafts; $749.99 with graphite) represent a second noteworthy achievement.

Like previous generations of Wilson’s game-improvement models, the D9 irons are equipped with power holes — strategically positioned urethane-filled cavities that better allow the club face to flex at the point of impact. That ultimately allows the club face to absorb (and return) energy to the golf ball. That efficient transfer of energy from club to ball is what produces maximum ball speeds, and that translates to maximum distance.

“In the past, all the power hole designs have come from the minds of engineers who like nice symmetric even rows,” Pergande said. “This year we took a generative design approach.”

As Pergande explains, Wilson’s engineers worked with a computer simulation program that allowed them to focus on a club head design that maximized ball speeds. Powered by 150 computers that cycled through various iterations — some of which required a week or two to run — the company’s equipment design team gradually dialed in the optimal location and size of those aforementioned power holes.

Wilson Golf — D9 7-Iron
The D9 irons feature urethane-filled power holes that are positioned so that the club face can flex better at the point of impact, which translates into maximum ball speeds and distance.

“It’s a learned process,” he said. “We’re trying to iterate through the best designs. It’s like DNA. Every time we get to a result, we’re going to take the best DNA to start the next process and just keep generatively designing.”

By repositioning the center of gravity lower in the club head than ever before, Wilson’s engineers were also able to create irons that launch the ball higher and produce shots that have a steeper angle of descent. Those factors, combined with increased ball speeds, have created an iron that allows average players the opportunity to hit the ball farther than they have before without sacrificing control or the ability to land the ball softly on greens.

According to Pergande, the new D9 irons could be the ideal club for newcomers who show a natural ability to make solid contact with the ball, but the clubs are assuredly a good fit for experienced players who are looking for added distance in a discreet package.

“When you talk about a golfer who’s been playing for 15 years, they’re going to want it to still look like something that they can be proud of in their bag because they have an expectation that’s been built up over time,” he said. “But they’re really picking these up because of the distance and ball speed and trajectory that they’re getting from the club.”

On the topic of picking up these D9 irons, Wilson has leveraged a longstanding partnership with KBS to pair these new iron heads with 80-gram Max Ultralite shafts, which allow players — according to Pergande — to make an “effortless swing” and to produce “effortless club head speed.” As he said, “the lighter we make the overall structure, the easier it is for most players to swing.”

Ultimately, whether you’re a newcomer to the game or a longtime player of average ability, Wilson Golf’s D9 irons could be a difference-maker, especially if you’re looking for clubs that are easy to hit and can produce faster ball speeds without requiring a harder swing or more precise contact. After all, as Pergande acknowledges, hitting the ball farther “can add so much more enjoyment to the game.”

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