Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Golf clubs and Cricket Bats, two peas in a pod?

Initially I was left with a lot of questions in It sounds different...What happened to my bat?, however I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel in The marriage of science and sports equipment. My research hasn't diminished, but I'd be lying if I said I was able to reveal the answer.

So I will instead report to you what I have found out. I stumbled across an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. We have the interesting marriage of science, subjectivity and perception... I'm not sure who sleeps in the middle though.

We can appreciate this constant interaction with the story of Johnny Miller, a commentator for NBC's golf coverage. Who, legend has it, can discern the difference between a good or bad strike based solely on the sound picked up by the boom microphone's placed on the tee boxes. Years of listening to, watching and playing golf shots would no doubt provide you with an ear for what a good strike sounds like and what a bad strike sounds like. I'm sure some of this knowledge and skill comes from the inevitable association you can make between the sound you immediately hear and the result you see with your eyes. Perhaps the most important aspect of this is that if you're listening to professional golfers strike a ball, inevitably they'll be hitting the middle of the club more often than not. Perhaps the odds are stacked in his favour?

However I think I'm probably being slightly over analytical about something that is definitely possible. The sound is however not an indication of a good shot though as we have all crushed a ball out the middle of the club... and into the trees.

It seems that sound and the perception and experience of feel are closely linked. Despite the sales pitch feel of this video, I know which clubs sound like they'd feel better.

Sound has been noted as being a possible indicating factor in identifying a good cricket bat. Tim Keeley in the first video mentions it at 1:30 and then Julian Millichamp in the second video at 1:00... "That sounds beautiful!"

Julian Millichamp's bats are named after a phrase his mentor would bestow upon the very best cricket bats after tapping them up with a mallet... "It's a Screaming Cat!"

The article in the Wall Street Journal illustrates just how important sound is to golfers and golf club manufacturers. The sound alone was able to polarise the professional and amateur community, and it shaped the consumer's perception of quality. I feel it's hard to deny that we experience quality in many ways other than just through our eyes.

With this said I would love to also mention that when we hit the cricket ball we don't look down at the grain on the face. We experience the quality of the cricket bat through those other senses. Sound being one of them. It always baffles me how grain can be such a powerful factor in determining our choice in bat when in reality you can get some ugly clefts that perform exceptionally. Perhaps we associate quality with clean grains and therefore performance. The grain structure will obviously have an impact on performance in some way, along with pressing, moisture content, the handle, etc etc etc.

My intention is not to declare that sound is the main reason something feels pleasant or unpleasant but to at least outline that what we hear plays a role in our perception of the quality of the strike. There are undoubtedly many other things that we experience through our senses that contributes to the "feel" of a cricket bat. Inevitably we've travelled into the realm of subjectivity, since what I hear will be unique to me. But, like Johnny Miller, if the comparison is performed by me and me alone perhaps there is the possibility that a pseudo scientific study can be done.

One notable disclaimer and a bit of food for thought: Metal is vastly more consistent in structure than Wood. Anyway, who'd want a metal cricket bat?