Transforming Golf Club Design with Artificial Intelligence
We normally think of technologies like simulation, artificial intelligence (AI), high-performance computing (HPC), machine learning, and data science in use in the latest generation of cars, the world’s most advanced supercomputers, on the forefront of renewable energy, and more. But these technologies are also one of the biggest factors behind the leap in sports technology we’ve seen in recent years. Simulation, AI, and HPC – all powered by troves of quality data – are helping athletes run faster, throw and kick harder, and utilize equipment that’s stronger, faster, and lighter than ever. Nowhere is this more apparent than in golf. Thanks to technology like Altair’s, today’s golfers have better, lighter, and more dynamic clubs that help them shave precious strokes from their scorecards. You may have even seen such clubs at this year’s Masters tournament.
Though simulation, AI, and HPC are now arriving at the forefront of golf club development and design across the board, Altair has been helping some of golf’s biggest manufacturers make better equipment for years. Our simulation solutions and data analytics software helps manufacturers and designers optimize their equipment for different swings, styles, and conditions – no matter if you’re a scratch pro or a weekend warrior. There’s a reason why names like Cleveland Golf, PING, Wilson, and more trust Altair to provide the tools and services they need to stay on the cutting edge of golf technology.
Ismail Benhayoun on AI-Driven Golf Club Design
Altair’s Ismail Benhayoun has seen how AI has revolutionized the golf industry firsthand. As a senior director of engineering and account director for the golf industry within Altair, he has more than a decade of experience working in several industries – including with golf’s biggest manufacturers – to drive AI-driven golf club design. Recently, he sat down with The Golf Paradigm on the Golf 360 Podcast to discuss the role of AI, simulation, and data in the golf industry, what the future of AI-driven golf club design may look like, and how manufacturers are expanding AI and data use beyond club design. Below are some highlights and summarized quotes from that conversation.
AI's Role and History in Golf Club Design
It makes sense to first start on why companies use AI, simulation, and data in golf club design in the first place. The short answer? Simple – it makes better products quicker. Helping golf manufacturers achieve this is Altair’s primary goal. “Through AI, Altair has one goal: To help companies make better products faster, cheaper, and in a more sustainable way,” Benhayoun said. “This is where we start talking about AI processes, because the first element of those processes is machine learning. What’s machine learning? Simply the process of making a decision based on patterns in data. AI is an additional layer on top of that data; it could be a process, an equation – anything that allows you to add prediction and creativity on top of that data.”
At first, Benhayoun said, most companies were hesitant to adopt the technology at scale. Many companies were reluctant to let virtual validation and simulation take the place of legacy physical testing. “We would show them pictures of simulation and they would say, ‘You can put green and red wherever you want on the club, but I still want to test it myself.’ Today, the core technology is so embedded that most people don’t even think twice about using it,” Benhayoun said. He notes that this was a 10-15-year process – certainly nothing we’d consider an overnight transformation. But, he noted, in relation to the previous 100 years of club design, the leaps we’ve seen in the technology since the industry has started using AI, simulation, HPC, and data is revolutionary.
Today, Benhayoun said, companies trust the technology but it all hinges on having abundant, high-quality data. Without it, no AI or simulation process in a virtual environment will be worth much since the data has to accurately reflect real-world physics and forces. “When I say virtual, this isn’t a game,” he said. “This is physics-based motion and mechanical engineering coming together to determine how things can and should look. Using these correctly is key to reaching desired design and manufacturing outcomes.”
How AI Improves Upon Legacy Golf Club Design Methods
But how exactly does AI help manufacturers and designers craft better shafts, heads, and topologies? For the most part, AI allows them to rapidly create, test, and optimize new designs using existing data and real-world impact and swing data. Benhayoun explained how AI has streamlined the testing and design process within recent years. “In the past 10-15 years, everyone has learned how to optimize clubs, but mostly for ‘sweet spot’ impacts,” he said. “This ‘sweet spot’ impact data was primarily driven by professional tour players, since they’re really the only people who could exercise that much control over their swing. That means 90% of the club – the area outside the ‘sweet spot’ – is where the potential for AI optimization lies. This is because AI can now tell me how many average players are hitting it outside the ‘sweet spot,’ where exactly they’re hitting it on the club face, the quality of their contact, and more. All this data – combined with today’s advanced engineering and manufacturing tools – helps organizations and their engineers create next-generation clubs.”
Additionally, Benhayoun said, AI helps companies automatically create optimized prototypes based on different club aspects such as center of gravity location, durability, spin, feel, acoustics, and more. “Today, AI can drive design directly by bringing in real-world data on all these characteristics. With it, we can set design priorities,” Benhayoun said. “Depending on how we prioritize these parameters, AI tools can generate a design for me or optimize and existing design. This is what AI is all about – creativity and filling gaps. This process is the industry standard now. Look at all the big manufacturers: they’re all coming out with these different club variants at record pace. Why? Because they’re able to address different populations and different needs more efficiently with AI-driven design.”
In essence, AI allows engineers and designers to do things they weren’t able to do before, and do them quicker, better, and more broadly. AI saves them time because they spend less time physically testing and more time pushing the boundaries of innovation, thanks to collected data from players with all sorts of swings and conditions of use. But if Benhayoun’s insight is correct, we’re only seeing the beginning of a whole new realm of golf innovation.
Learn More About AI-Driven Golf Club Design
The golf industry – and the sporting equipment business in general – is now reaping the immense rewards that simulation, AI, HPC, and data analytics bring to the table. Click here to watch Ismail Benhayoun’s full interview on the Golf 360 Podcast.
To learn more about Altair’s work in the sporting world, visit https://altair.com/sports. To see examples of Altair’s work within the golf industry, check out the resources below:
- How PING Golf Stays Ahead of the Curve with the Altair HPC Appliance Powered by the Latest Intel Xeon Processor
- Cleveland Golf Drives Product Innovation Through Simulation and Optimization Using Altair® HyperWorks®
- Wilson Golf: Driver vs. Driver
- Ping Golf: Using CAE and HPC for Virtual Prototyping
- Golf Bunker Shot Analysis using Altair® EDEM™