Experts from Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science and its materials engineering department put two clubs – one real and one fake – through a series of tests to determine how they differed.
They found that although some counterfeit clubs looked remarkably similar to the real thing, their shoddy engineering means that they will break quickly and could make a marked difference to the quality of a golfer’s game.
First, the clubs were put through their paces by a professional golfer, working with sports scientists at the University to improve his game. Initially, he was unable to tell the difference between the two, the counterfeit seemingly having been put together extremely well. But, after a number of strokes the counterfeit club began to rattle, a tell tale sign that things were not as they should be.
It was not until the clubs were taken apart and analysed by the University’s forensic engineers that the true extent of their differences were revealed.
Tests showed that despite the clubs being made of similar metals, the fake club had not been properly heat treated, meaning it would not be as strong as the real one. And inside the head, the counterfeit had been poorly welded showing the lack of expertise that had gone into making it.
The two clubs’ carbon fibre shafts were also markedly different. The counterfeit’s shaft was much thicker, making the club more rigid and liable to break.
Finally, the removable heel and toe weights found in the fake club’s head were significantly inaccurate – the toe weight marked two grams actually weighed 3.5 grams, 55 per cent heavier, while the heel weight marked 14 grams was actually 12 grams, 14 per cent lighter than it should be.
Professor Alan Smith, from Materials Analysis and Research Services (MARS) at Sheffield Hallam, said: “The quality of the welding on the two clubs was enormously different. The real club was made using far more complex manufacturing techniques and precision engineering.”
“The fact that the counterfeit club had not been heat treated properly is very significant, because this is an expensive process designed to ensure the metal possesses the requisite hardness and toughness. The carbon fibre shafts were also strikingly different, the counterfeit having much less flexibility than the real club.
“A counterfeit club wouldn’t last as long as a genuine club, so despite being cheaper they represent a false economy for amateur players.”
Tim Vernon, from the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, said: “The counterfeit club certainly looked genuine and performed remarkably well in the hands of a professional player.
“It would be easy to see why amateurs could be fooled into buying a cheap fake off the internet, but the forensic tests showed just how badly the counterfeit was actually put together. These differences could certainly have an effect on a golfer’s game.”
Sheffield Hallam University www.shu.ac.uk