By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of PowerBilt Golf
PALM DESERT, CA – Nitrogen makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere, yet no one ever thought to use it in a golf club head.
Until PowerBilt did it, that is. The Palm Desert, California based company discovered pressuring the golf head with nitrogen allowed them to thin the face of a club and produce a piece without mechanical bracing. This in turn created consistent thickness throughout the complete face, effectively fashioning the largest sweet spot in golf. Nitrogen’s the “fuel” behind the Air Force One DFX Tour Driver.
Think about that the next time you take a breath.
PowerBilt says Nitrogen Charged Technology produces higher ball speeds for more distance and lower spin for increased accuracy. In addition, the nitrogen pressure works as a weightless face support. On impact, the nitrogen rebounds the face faster, generating greater ball speed while keeping in compliance with USGA protocol.
Revolutionary, isn’t it? Such tools may sound like a stretch for a business that rose to fame in the 20th century by manufacturing the highest quality persimmon woods. PowerBilt itself was founded in 1916 by John Hillerich (who also started Louisville Slugger) and the parent company is now under the direction of John Hillerich IV.
You’ll probably remember the PowerBilt name from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, when the company’s Citation Persimmon Woods were the standard by which all drivers and fairway woods were judged.
But in the 21st century, nitrogen is the word at PowerBilt. The company’s president, Ross Kvinge, expands on the journey. “Air Force One has taken quite a few paths to get where we are today. Due to the Nitrogen Charged Technology, it brings in quite a few benefits along with a few issues. How much pressure provides the best performance? How thin can we go on the face to maximize trampoline effect and stay within the USGA protocol? And what about that sound?”
Kvinge continues, “PowerBilt has always been known for the shape and look of the product that appeals to players, so that was a top priority. Second, sound is a key for players. By utilizing a deep face and rolling the crown to the maximum allowed by the USGA, we were able to reduce the sound enhance by the nitrogen to make a nice crack off the face.”
Indeed, DFX means Deep Face Extreme. Kvinge said the current model is actually improved upon over last year’s DF model, making minor adjustments using player feedback.
“We pushed the envelope on the depth of the face to create the DFX (X-treme). We added 6 grams of weight in the sole and moved it up to the face. The combination really seemed to give it that extra pop off the face and help reduce the spin. We knew we had a winner last year, so we just wanted to give it a bit more of an advantage.”
The first thing we thought of when we heard about a driver head filled with nitrogen was… what if it leaks? Everyone knows nitrogen is volatile in certain circumstances – would this thing just explode?
Not to worry, says Kvinge. “When we started this project, we first worked with a cast titanium to eliminate weld lines and prevent leakage. Due to the porosity of cast titanium we then added (by rotational molding) a polyurethane bladder inside the head to guarantee the nitrogen would not leak. We found the casting not only expensive but when charged with nitrogen, it produced very hard feel and loud sound.”
So, out with the casting. PowerBilt then tooled a forged titanium utilizing a plasma welding process to eliminate any leakage. In addition, they still added a bladder for assurance, even though a forged piece eliminates any porosity.
“We found the forged material produces a much better feel and enabled us to shape the head for a good clean crack of the tee,” Kvinge explained.
Now that the head was in order, what role would the shaft play?
Kvinge said PowerBilt designs their club heads with a shaft in mind that performs with a mid-kick, average spin. Once they’ve established numbers that are in the middle of the road in terms of launch angle and spin, they’re free to work PowerBilt’s fitting system to optimize performance.
“We have targeted, with success, to present our product through certified fitting centers. We offer a wide variety of shafts produced by the major manufactures. Through this process, we can maximize performance to optimize spin rates, launch angle and ball speed. It really creates a superior product for the consumer,” Kvinge added proudly.
You can be fit by logging on to the PowerBilt website (www.powerbilt.com) and search the dealer page for a club fitter in your area or simply talk to your local golf professional. More and more golf professionals are offering the service of a fitting session with a launch monitor to properly evaluate your swing and to fit you in product to match your swing.
For our trial, we chose an AFO DFX Tour model with 9.5 degree loft and a Fujikura Fuel shaft. We were immediately comfortable with the club’s feel and looks at address. Because of the deep face profile, the head actually appears somewhat smaller than other drivers, which was a good thing.
As mentioned earlier, the sound of the club was pleasing. What was most apparent after a few hits was how straight the ball flight was with the AFO DFX Tour.
Kvinge says the straight flight is due to the consistent thickness of the face and the edge to edge sweet spot makes for a straighter flight even on off-center hits. In other words, there are no “dead” spots on the face of this driver.
Players who like to work the ball should also be able to use the AFO DFX Tour, though again, we especially noticed the straight flight. Distance was comparable to other high-end drivers.
The AFO DFX Tour does indeed have the “pop” that Kvinge talked about, and seems to be very forgiving. It’s definitely a club to try, and slightly less expensive than many drivers on the market today.
A final neat thing about PowerBilt is its emphasis on being fit – not only for your equipment, but also physically. To that end, they’ve hired Mixed Martial Artist and fitness guru Cub Swanson to head their Power Golf program designed to help get you into the best shape for your golf game.
That’s about as unique as it gets.
Players may tend to overlook PowerBilt as a spent name from the past, an outdated persimmon wood-maker that is no longer relevant in our titanium driver world. Don’t make that mistake – give ‘em a trial along with the rest of the clubs on your must-try list.
PowerBilt Air Force One DFX Tour Driver
77-725 Enfield Lane, Suite 100
Palm Desert, CA 92211
PowerBilt’s website provides all the information you’ll need on where to find their products.
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