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So you wanna buy a new driver, but you hear terms like “beta-titanium face” and it makes YOUR face go numb?
No problem- GLG is here to help you out! We hear it often, that our driver is better than other drivers because we have a certain kind of titanium for the face.
There’s a “Big Three” when it comes to titanium:
What does it all mean? More importantly, does it even matter? Let’s take a look at all three:
6-4, or 9-6-4 titanium, is the most common form. It’s also the least expensive of the three. What that means is, little companies can get into the driver-making game with a relatively inexpensive base material, which can help you the customer keep some green in your wallet.
But what’s in 6-4 Ti? Well, according to its entry in Wikipedia:
Grade 5, also known as Ti6Al4V, Ti-6Al-4V or Ti 6-4, is the most commonly used alloy. It has a chemical composition of 6% aluminium, 4% vanadium, 0.25% (maximum) iron, 0.2% (maximum) oxygen, and the remainder titanium. It is significantly stronger than commercially pure titanium while having the same stiffness and thermal properties (excluding thermal conductivity, which is about 60% lower in Grade 5 Ti than in CP Ti). Among its many advantages, it is heat treatable. This grade is an excellent combination of strength, corrosion resistance, weld and fabricability.
“This alpha-beta alloy is the workhorse alloy of the titanium industry. The alloy is fully heat treatable in section sizes up to 15mm and is used up to approximately 400°C (750°F). Since it is the most commonly used alloy – over 70% of all alloy grades melted are a sub-grade of Ti6Al4V, its uses span many aerospace airframe and engine component uses and also major non-aerospace applications in the marine, offshore and power generation industries in particular.”
Technically, what you’re getting isn’t true titanium, but an alloy. Actually, all three are titanium alloys, so don’t let that worry you.
15-3-3-3 Beta Titanium
According to Arnold’s Magnetics (PDF here), this type of titanium is “a high strength, heat treatable, metastable beta titanium alloy that can be successfully cold rolled”. Pretty cool, right?
Here’s its chemical composition (maximum allowed, in weight percent):
- Nitrogen (N): .05
- Carbon (C): .05
- Hydrogen (H): .015
- Iron (Fe): .25
- Chromium (Cr): 3.5
- Oxygen (O): .13
- Aluminum (Al): 3.5
- Vanadium (V): 4163.0
- Tin (Sn): 3.5
And, obviously, titanium. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know what the hell that really means, though I can figure that Cr, Al, Sn and especially V make up the majority of the alloy. The Al, Cr and Sn is likely where the “-3-3-3” comes in, and I might be so bold as to assume the “15” is the vanadium.
What I truly care about here is that 15-3-3-3 Ti can be made light, a little lighter than 6-4 Ti. But what effect does it have?
And then there was SP700. Here’s what JFE Steel Corp. has to say about it:
SP-700 alloy possesses a number of excellent properties superior to those of the most widely used alloy, Ti-6Al-4V.Because of this, SP-700 has recieved growing attention from around the world. For high strength and excellent formability, examine the superior properties of SP-700.
From what I can gather, it also has a higher strain rate than 6-4 Ti, as you can see here.
Now that my head’s stopped hurting, here’s its composition list (again, in weight %, though JFE’s is different than Arnold’s):
- Al: 4
- V: 2.5
- Molybdenum (Mo): 1.8
- Fe: 1.7
- O: .15
- C: .08
- N: .05
- H: .015
- Yttrium (Y… a new one for me): .005
And titanium. While I’m here, let’s throw in a link to a periodic table; check this one out.
So we know that, according to JFE, it’s “superior” to 6-4 in a lot of ways… but is it “better”?
In a word: maybe.
The thing is, the USGA and R&A have something to say about the face of a driver. The limit for all of us is .83; what that means is, if we were to shoot a golf ball at a driver’s face at 100mph, it can’t rebound back at us no faster than 83mph. So you have a little extra time to duck, I suppose.
The governing bodies have switched to Characteristic Time. In a golf setting, it means the same thing… but the test is easier to perform out in the field. The limit is 257 microseconds (239 plus a tolerance of 18 ms).
Which Titanium Is the “Right” Titanium?
The reality is, no matter how much more tactile strength it has, or how “metastable” (whatever the hell that means… oh; well, I’m sure we’ll all switch out our drivers long before this becomes an issue.), there’s no way either of the “better” titanium alloys can outperform the “standard” 6-4 version when it comes to hitting a golf ball.
Where I would venture to say they’re better is in production qualities. 15-3-3-3 and SP700 have a slightly more strength-to-weight ratio, which means the face can be made a little thinner (while maintaining the .83 max), which means that extra weight can be moved low-and-deep, or close-and-deep, or whatever the hell’s en vogue these days. It could also have a slight effect on the Moment of Inertia (MOI) of the head… but if you’re properly fitted, this doesn’t matter as much.
Besides… what are we talking about, a millimeter? Less than that? How much weight are we really saving? Common sense says not a lot.
The cynic in me would talk about the “cool” factor. As in ‘look at that common driver, with the common titanium! Ours is so much better, because we’re using an “exotic” titanium! That’ll be an extra $100, please’.
Really, though, you can’t find that information on the websites anymore. It used to be a big deal… if Company A was using SP700, they’d sure as hell let you know about it. Now, no one talks about it. Wonder why that is? Hmmm….
Maybe I’m being a little too cynical. Maybe the “exotic” titanium alloys are easier to work with, or one (plate? billet?) yields more driver faces. I don’t really know. What I do know, as it pertains to us, is it isn’t that important. It’s something cool to tell your friends, to let them revel in your driver’s exotic titanium face… just don’t pull-slice that first drive into the weeds.