Advances in DNA Testing to Make Inroads into Golf Club Fitting

How DNA Testing Can Help You Score Lower
DNA
In a soon to be published article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Hireko is proud to announce a sneak peak into how golf clubs could be fit in the very near future. To begin, let’s examine the background setting prior to when our project began. In April of 2003, under the coordination by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy the Human Genome Project was completed with contributors from universities across the United States and five international partners from around the globe.

The international researcher’s 13-year effort set out to determine the sequence of the human genome and identify the genes that it contains. A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. DNA is made up of four bases (or building blocks): adenine (A), cytosine (C), thymine (T), and guanine (G). The order of these bases is called the DNA sequence. Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people.

Each cell’s nucleus, except for red blood cells, contains the DNA molecule. These are neatly organized into thread-like structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome is made up of DNA tightly coiled many times around proteins called histones, while each cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46

Currently DNA is used in a vast array of applications from evolutionary biology, genealogy, paternity tests and forensic science in murder investigations. DNA testing is also known as genetic fingerprinting. Most individuals are already aware that DNA can help determine the sex or hair color of a person with supreme accuracy. But research has been on-going to determine if a person is predestined for certain diseases such as pancreatic cancer or Alzheimer’s. In other behavioral studies, DNA testing might possible find if a person is predisposed to be a convicted felon or possibly a world-class athlete. But could other traits be passed down from one generation to the next that apply solely to the fitting of golf clubs?

Our project was first conceived in August of 2005, shortly after Hireko and Dynacraft merged forces and was partially funded by a research grant from the US government with the help of our state representative – a golf enthusiast. In the first project of this nature, we collaborated with a leading research institute in the Midwest and a private DNA lab located in Utah.

Testing occurred in a control group of 194 golfers that were located across 37 states. The group consisted of both genders and multi-ethnicity. We selected pairs of siblings, father-son, mother-daughter, grandfather-grandson, etc all with 8 or lower handicaps to reduce anomalies.

Each control subject was provided a cotton swab to gather a sample of saliva that would encapsulated in a test tube and sent to the DNA lab in Utah to be tested and recorded. No names or any other identification other than a randomly selected 9 digit number was used for each sample.

In addition a 65 question survey was filled out by each participant along with a thorough examination of all the specification of their golf clubs. Again the identification other than the randomly selected 9 digit number was used. The information was submitted to the Midwest research institute who was responsible for the data mining of the DNA sequence as well as all of the statistical variables from the survey and club specifications results. Gene finding algorithms were exhaustingly created, which allowed researchers to predict the presence of particular data markers before they were every tested. Multiple sequence alignment, string searching and finite element analysis techniques were all employed.

While the probability that any definitive results would come out of these tests, especially with a population sample so small, we did not have high hopes of finding any statistically proof that DNA was a plausible solution in our selective field. But to our surprise we found there was a high correlation between certain sets of DNA markers and a handful of golf club specifications that one could be fitted for.

Then it began to make some sense as we began putting two and two together. One factor that we had initially though of was flex. Those with two X chromosome would be a female and those with an X and a Y chromosome are male. So it should seem plausible there should be a high likelihood that those with two X chromosomes would use L-flex shafts. This, as we later found out, was a misnomer as there was not a high enough relevancy (only 72% of those women used L-flex) but remember there is no industry standard for flex. Instead we looked at another angle and that was frequency (measurement of clubs stiffness) along with the golfer’s tempo.

RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism) testing revealed those with a DNA sequence of CTAGAATCGAAATTTCGGG all had tendency to do everything fast. Whether it was talking, walking or speaking, this tendency crossed over to swinging the club. All of those with this DNA sequence used much stiffer shafts than their swing speed or distance would indicate. But those with the DNA sequence of CTAGAATCGAAATTTCGTT, had what we called the “slow gene” and all control subjects effectively used more flexible shafted clubs than their swing speed suggested. We are very close to pinpointing the exact frequency that a golfer will need once we verify our charts with more participants to be tested shortly.

Heredity plays not only an important role in passing the “speed gene sequence” as we coined it, but several other factors. Our finding also saw similar patterns for length and grip size. The “stature gene” could come in handy with junior golfers determining proper height clubs.

We did find a left handed DNA sequence. Interestingly enough, 10.8% of the participants stated in the survey they were naturally left handed, but only 7.7% of the control grouped played LH. The 6 control subjects that played RH had the LH gene, but elected to use RH equipment because lack of availability.

We did find one gene sequence we called the “casting gene”. This was passed on every other generation as we saw in the grandfather-grandson and grandfather-granddaughter pairs. This gene is the cause of an over-the-top move resulting into a severe slice. This is an important finding when selecting the correct face angle, lie angle and/or draw biased golf clubhead.

Beginning in May there will be a home kit available for sale for those interesting in finding out what specifications they need based on their DNA. To contact the lab and request a kit, please scroll down to the bottom of the page for the phone number and email address.

APRIL FOOLS!

 

Someday we may have advances in science that literally can do this. While sampling a little saliva on a swab sounds like a shortcut, being properly fitting can take a lifetime as our body and swing periodically change over the course of time. But for now, if you are interested in seeking the right type of equipment for your game, please contact our technical staff.

3 comments

  1. Charles Teraoka says:

    Wow, you totally had me going there. Very funny Jeff, very funny……….buy the way, your zipper is down!

  2. Jack Bilson says:

    I kept saying to myself that this surely cannot be true but you had me wanting to re-reading sections before I came to the end. Good April Fools humor.
    Thanks and play well.

  3. Michael Foster says:

    I must say, as much as I hate to…. that was a good one, Jeff! :-)

    Betcha got a lot of us with that one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>