What is that Cotton-Pickin’ Sound?

How to quiet a driver’s sound by “Cottoning” it

Do you have a driver that you love, but the sound is so high pitched that your playing partners have started to play without you?  Or every time you hit the ball off of the tee it reminds you of the sound of a little league baseball game? OK, you get the hint, your driver is loud as heck and you want to do something about it before you get arrested for disturbing the peace.

Many golfers might not realize this, but as drivers have become larger and larger up to the point they are today, the head weight hasn’t changed compared to those puny little drivers we (us old folks) played growing up.  Two things occurred to make this possible.  First the materials became lighter and stronger and secondly the walls have been stretched thin to the max.  Depending upon the shape and wall thickness in certain areas of the club, a driver’s sound at impact can range somewhat from muted to sounding like a cowbell.

And remember a very important fact – sound is “feel”.  Unfortunately there is no way to please every golfer. What one person claims is music to one’s ear; the next golfer may be totally turned off by it so engineering a particular sound into a driver is becoming a more important factor into the design.

The Days of the “Thud”

For years after the advent of the “metal” wood (1979), the hollow heads were foam filled. The reason was two-fold.  One was to prevent the faces from caving in.  Secondly and most importantly was to dampen the sound at impact as the metal woods were fast replacing wooden woods whose sound what muted or more of a “thud” sound.  That lightweight density foam added a good percentage of weight in those heads too.

Over time manufacturers began to realize the stainless steel drivers and fairways would hold up quite well without the foam and as a result the clubhead could be made larger after the weight savings. As a result, clubheads became much more forgiving on off-center shots.  And yes, the complaint was those foamless heads made a louder pitch as impact, but over time that became the norm.

Cotton

Now back to our potential problem of reducing the sound of a driver.  We could look back at our past and consider foam filling the heads.  Well that is not exactly an option today as lightweight density foam could easily add 20g back to these voluminous titanium driver heads.  And for you do-it-yourselfers, foam filling an existing clubhead is messy.  My old workshop had foam that exploded out of one club covering the ceiling and one wall during an experiment.

One alternative is cotton and it is cheap, readily available and easy to do. I think I have been experimenting with “cottoning” metal woods since the first foamless head appeared. The weight of a single cotton ball is @ 6/10ths of a gram and it doesn’t take too many to alter the sound.  The key is getting it into the head.

Getting started

First the shaft needs to be safely removed using a puller (assuming it is graphite-shafted).  Next, the plastic stop at the bottom of the hosel needs removed if it doesn’t come out during the shaft removal process.  The stop is there to prevent epoxy from entering the head and causing a rattle at a later date.

To remove a plastic hosel stop it is as simple as using a hand drill with a small drill bit (1/8”). The bit may catch and pull the stop right out or at least provide relief to use a thin object to fish it out.  It is best not to use a large drill bit otherwise you will just end up pushing it into the head.  If the hosel stop is metal, then you might not be able to access to hollow chamber to add the cotton.  But once you can see access into the head you are ready to start.

Cottoning

It takes a little bit of patience to add the cotton as the first instinct you will have is to try to shove the entire cotton ball down inside the hosel.  You will find out soon it only creates a clog and you have to fish it back out and start again.

Let me take a step back and tell you a little trick first. Take a golf ball and tap it on the face of the club while holding onto the hosel.  You will hear the pitch of the clubhead.  Each time you add a cotton ball inside repeat this step until you get the acoustics you want.

This video will show you what the change of sound is when comparing the same driver heads.

I find it easier to unroll the cotton ball and shred it into strips.  That way you can get the cotton started in the hosel and you can push it through the bottom of the hosel with a long narrow instrument.  For example, 1/8” pins punch works great.  Proceed inserting the cotton balls until you get your desired sound.

Whoa, don’t overdo it!

Each cotton ball you add you are also increases the weight.  On a driver you are looking at approximately 1.6g of weight to equal a 1 swingweight point increase.  By adding just 3 cotton balls, you will exceed that slightly.  Luckily, most golfers have a hard time telling the difference by adding 2-3 swingweights. If you start to add 9 or more cotton balls, then you may want to consider shortening the club after you have time to hit the freshly cottoned driver.  Hey, it may be time to re-grip as well.

One word of caution, you can get carried away and add too much.  The volume of a driver might allow you to stuff 20 cotton balls inside if you tried.  But you may go from one extreme (cowbell) to the other (dead thud).  Use them sparingly and use the tap test on the face to test for the sound.

There are always to solutions to virtually any problem.  Some clubmakers have resorted to hot-melting material into the head to do the same thing.  But for less than $2 at my local pharmacy I can have a whole bag of cotton balls to experiment with. Adding cotton to an existing driver you like but don’t like its’ current sound or pitch at impact is one practical solution.

8 comments

  1. Tom says:

    Nice tip! I’ve never used cotton balls before but I’ve used cotton yarn. I imagine the fluffier cotton balls would require less cotton (and weight, and work) to dampen the sound, so I’ll try that in the future. Yarn’s advantage is you can pull all of it out with a bent paper clip if you need to remove it.

  2. ctjoe says:

    Great idea, never thought of using cotton balls.

  3. Glenn says:

    Based upon the substance used and the fact that I have employed this technique on a very gong-like Q2 driver, perhaps we should refer to this as a [b]Q-tip[/b]?

  4. Justin says:

    Love it! I think it’s also important to note how straight-forward you are. Even if a person’s never really done something like this before, the instructions are so clear it’s almost impossible to mess up. Your instruction books are the same way.

    @Glenn: that was pretty clever! :D

  5. John says:

    That’s a great idea. I have had quite a bit of luck with another method. It requires drilling the hole in the hosel a little larger, though. I pour a little bit, (about a tablespoon full) of canola oil in first. I follow this with about 1/8 of a cup of uncooked popcorn. I heat the stove, (gas works best), to medium heat and continuously shake the club head back and forth over the flame until the corn is all popped. Works great!

  6. mukul rawat says:

    Good Idea, , how do you keep the epoxy from going down the hosel hole and cotton balls / cotton getting soggy and and become stone hard that will create a rattle after re-shafting?
    The popcorn idea is hilarious. I wonder what kind of sound you get with the popped corns.

  7. Jeff Summitt says:

    Mukul:

    The cotton tends to stay near the bottom of the hosel and would probably collect any excess epoxy. It is a good habit to use epoxy sparingly anyway. However, we do sell extra hosel plugs. Here is the link:
    http://www.hirekogolf.com/hireko/orderportal/catalog_presentation/by_group/0/1822/0/0/0/0/0

  8. Tony Panneton says:

    I managed to quiet a particularly loud driver heads with a few strategically placed strips of heavy gaffers tape (heavy duct tape works too). The downside is appearance, but the gaffers tape I used is black and fabric-backed, and not too ugly. It doesn’t really kill the sound completely, but it takes enough of the annoying edge off that I don’t mind hitting with it. I experimented with tape in different positions by just bounced a ball off the driver face in order to make a quick comparison to how it sounded without any tape.

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>