Rory McIlroy’s club bag and caddie. Credit: TourProGolfClubs [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Rory McIlroy’s club bag and caddie. Credit: TourProGolfClubs [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Golf Tech and Astrophotography, with Jimmy Walker and Neil Tyson

Rory McIlroy’s club bag and caddie. Credit: TourProGolfClubs [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

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About This Episode

Golf technology and astrophotography – two things you don’t see paired together very often. On this episode of Playing with Science these worlds collide. Our hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly investigate the past, present, and future of golf technology and the world of astrophotography with 2016 PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker, your personal astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Matt Plumb, former Global Product Line Manager for Nike Golf Clubs. 

We start with astrophotography. It may come as a surprise that besides being one of the star players on the PGA Tour, Jimmy Walker is also an avid star gazer. You’ll hear how he first got into astrophotography. Find out about his website, Dark Skywalker, which houses his stellar imagery. Explore how golf has been involved in the exploration of the universe. We also learn about Jimmy’s telescope, his process for producing images, and which spots in the universe have been his favorite to shoot.

Find out if Jimmy’s love of astrophotography translates to a scientific approach in his golf game. Does he have a “golf cosmic perspective”? We bring it down to Earth as we dive into the aerodynamics of a golf ball and why Jimmy believes the next steps in golf innovation are with golf ball tech. Discover why there are limits to how fast a golf ball can go. However, no matter the innovation, Jimmy explains why professional golfers will probably never change golf balls depending on which course they play. 

Then, Matt Plumb stops in to take us through the history of golf clubs – from wood, to steel, to graphite – and what’s happening today. You’ll investigate the importance of “club fitting” and why it holds the key to having a successful game, amateur or professional. Get the details on how much you can learn from the divot of a golf swing, andMatt tells us how data analytics is reshaping the way pro players study and shape their game. 

We ponder if there will ever be a “one size fits all” golf club. Matt gives insight into golf business trends and explains why “where Tiger Woods goes, the golf business goes.” Lastly, we dive into golf footwear: how Nike cross-pollinates ideas across sports, why the perfect shoe is a balance between a walking and swinging shoe, and the process behind making a shoe that works for everyone. All that, plus, Matt confirms that the placebo effect has a place in professional golf. 

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Golf Tech and Astrophotography, with Jimmy Walker and Neil Tyson.

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