Junior engineers score big with golf club project

Image: Adam Clark
Boeing engineer Adam Clark helped design Callaway’s golf clubs. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

EVERETT, Wash. – When experts at Callaway Golf sought Boeing’s help to improve their golf clubs’ aerodynamics, Boeing turned to a special breed of engineers: recent hires with a hunger for projects off Boeing’s beaten path.

Some of the engineers didn’t even play golf before they took on the challenge – but now they’re learning.

The result of the collaboration is Callaway’s XR-16 line of drivers, which sport a pattern of chevron-shaped “trip steps” to optimize the aerodynamics of a golf swing. Computerized analysis helped the engineers tweak the club’s shape ever so slightly: By making the air flow just a bit more turbulent at a key point, the engineers reduced the drag encountered during the swing.

“We’ve obviously been working on this problem for many years,” said Evan Gibbs, Callaway’s senior manager for research and development for woods. But for the XR-16, Callaway had only a few months to up their aerodynamic game. That’s why the company turned to Boeing’s engineering-savvy duffers.

The unusual collaboration is arguably the highest-profile success story for Boeing’s Opportunities for New Engineers program, also known as ONE.

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How Boeing helped build a better golf club

Image: Callaway XR16 golf club
Boeing drew upon lessons learned from airplanes to build a better golf club. (Credit: Boeing)

What do aerospace and golf have in common? For the Boeing Co. and Callaway Golf, it’s a new line of golf clubs that have been tweaked to optimize the air flow for a faster, surer swing.

The results of one of Boeing’s most unusual collaborations will hit the market on Jan. 29, in the form of Callaway’s XR16 drivers. (Even the name sounds like an experimental aircraft, doesn’t it?)

The XR16 is a stretch version of last year’s model, redesigned to produce a higher moment of inertia. That keeps the head more stable when a golfer takes a swing. But a bigger head also typically means more aerodynamic drag, which would slow down the swing. That’s why Boeing was brought into the picture.

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