Golf equipment research test specialist, Huntington Beach, California

My robot and me: the perfect club

Andy Heroy spends more time with Bob than his girlfriend-not that there's anything wrong with that. Bob is a robot and plays a pivotal role in Heroy's job as a research test specialist for Cleveland Golf, a leader in the wedge market.

An engineering marvel, Bob can mimic an endless array of golf swings. One of Heroy's tasks is to keep Bob happy (i.e., calibrated), so he doesn't misfire a ball into a laboratory wall. "He's prone to temperamental moments, just like any coworker," Heroy said. Managing the robot "is sometimes taxing and time-consuming." Attention must be paid.

Fun with physics

Heroy's "dream job" marries his passion for golf with his degree in physics. Is he a slacker scientist? Maybe. "I get to play around and hit golf balls all day with big-ass robots and random people I meet," said Heroy, an Indiana native.

Through robotic and human tests, radar tracking and high-speed photography, Heroy measures and analyzes about six hundred club performance parameters, including ball speed, launch angle, spin rate, flight time, landing velocity, and swing plane. "I've learned more about golf-club performance than I could ever replay in a friendly chat during a Sunday round," Heroy said.

Free stuff

His workplace is a paradise of spare parts that Heroy assembles and tests to suit his swing. With access to high-end shafts and a variety of club head models, "I'm like the proverbial kid in a candy store," he said. "If I like something I've built from the storage room, I'm allowed to keep it."

As a result, he has seven sets of irons and more than thirty different drivers in his garage. "Working here definitely has made me a better golfer," said Heroy, who plays twice a week to a 5.1 handicap. "I know way too much about the game."

Hang 'em high

Although major manufacturers such as Cleveland Golf conform to United States Golf Association equipment standards, there is nothing to stop the mad scientist from experimenting in his lab. "We can do anything we want," Heroy said. "We often take development ideas to the extreme, to see if we are headed in the right direction."

Last year, for example, Heroy worked on a "stupidly gigantic" club head that "was roughly the size of my forearm and had a center of gravity in China," specs that would help the ball fly far and hang on the horizon.

Heroy figures he could add twenty yards to the average player's length with a similar club. There's only one catch: "It would be totally illegal," he said. DeliciousFacebook FacebookStumbleUpon StumbleUponDigg Diggreddit reddit