It is a great education as a clubhead and shaft designer to scan through GolfWRX forum posts to listen to what golfers think about their equipment. One of the areas that seems to have developed momentum on GolfWRX is how many golfers react to a backspin measurement on a launch monitor. They try to find a shaft that can enable them to get their spin number lower without first taking the time to determine if they do in fact have a spin problem.
Here are the facts I’ve learned about driver spin in my career, in which I’ve spent countless hours designing clubheads, shafts and fitting golfers.
- Spin outputs from some launch monitors can be inaccurate and inconsistent
Only the TrackMan and FlightScope launch monitors have the ability to read the amount of backspin on a shot with reasonable accuracy. Other launch monitors use various means of pickup (camera, ultrasonic, laser, etc) which simply cannot record spin with a reasonable level of accuracy ore repeatability. Some just simply calculate the spin from the golfer’s ball speed!
Accurate backspin measurement on a golf shot is a highly complex operation. The output for spin is in revolutions per MINUTE. Yet a launch monitor has only a fraction of a second in which to measure how much the ball is spinning upon leaving the clubface. This means with every launch monitor, a math calculation has to be incorporated with the amount of spin “seen” in a fraction of a second to come up with the RPM measurement.
During the time the other launch monitors actually “see” the ball spin, the ball does not even complete one full revolution. Therefore, the spin recognition means has to very accurately measure how much the ball actually rotated during the time it was being “seen.” If the device misses the amount of revolution by say, 10 degrees out of a full 360 degree rotation, by the time the math calculation is done to output an rpm measurement, the final spin measurement can be way off.
TrackMan and Flight Scope use phase array pulsing Doppler radar to measure spin. Both units shoot a radar beam at the ball from behind, and thus are able to pick up data from the ball’s movement for several feet after impact. This is in comparison to a camera based system which only sees the ball over a couple of inches after takeoff, and explains why the TrackMan and FlightScope launch monitors are more accurate in their spin measurement.
- Most golfers hit range balls on a launch monitors, not premium balls
When is the last time you hit premium quality golf balls on a launch monitor? The majority of operations use range balls with their launch monitor analysis.
Most range balls are one-piece and rarely have similar spin characteristics to the premium balls that golfers typically use when they play. Range balls also suffer more wear from getting hit a lot more times than premium balls. Add it all up and it is nearly impossible for a golfer to try to make valid conclusions about their spin measurements when hitting worn range balls on launch monitors that do not have the ability to accurately measure backspin.
There most definitely is a difference in spin between different models of premium golf balls. To get the most accurate and valid spin measurement for each golfer’s game, it only makes sense to use the ball you typically play and do it with either a TrackMan or Flight Scope launch monitor.
- The best way to determine if you have a spin problem is to observe the flight of the ball, not by reading the spin output from a launch monitor
Just because a tour player’s driver spin is in the low 2000-rpm range does not mean that if yours isn’t, you have a spin problem that is harming your game. The optimum amount of spin for each golfer differs depending on clubhead speed and angle of attack. The slower the clubhead speed, the more spin is needed to generate enough lift under the ball to help keep it in the air to carry farther. Likewise, the higher the clubhead speed and ball speed, the less spin is needed to generate enough lift under the ball to help keep it in the air to carry farther.
The following are data charts from TrackMan that show their findings for what are the optimum driver launch parameters are for different combinations of clubhead speed and angle of attack. From TrackMan’s research, it is easy to see that spin has to increase as clubhead speed slows and the angle of attack is more downward. Charts are offered for optimum CARRY distance as well as for optimum TOTAL DISTANCE as per the conditions of the fairways and their conduciveness to more or less roll of the ball after landing.
Whether a golfer has too much backspin for his clubhead speed and angle of attack depends on the ball flight shape as the ball flies through the air. More serious, higher ball speed golfers need to learn how to visually identify what a shot hit with too much spin looks like rather than to make conclusions based only on a launch monitor measurement.
For shots hit with too much spin, the ball typically curves rapidly upward to a higher apex in flight, after which the ball seems to hang for a little moment at the peak of its apex and then fall more steeply to the ground. From a side view, an exaggerated graphic of the flight shape of the excessive spin shot looks somewhat like this:
A more preferred driver ball flight shape would look more like this:
There is nothing wrong with hitting the driver high, as long as the angle of descent of the ball to the ground is less than 40 degrees.
TrackMan and FlightScope have features that allow you to see the flight shape of every shot. Because they pulse the ball continually in flight from takeoff to landing and roll, its graphic rendition of the shot is accurate. This too can be a valid way to determine if your ball flight shape indicates that you hit the ball with too much spin for your clubhead speed and angle of attack.
Bottom Line: Learn to watch the flight of your shots and make conclusions about spin results from what you see before you make conclusions from what the launch monitor outputs for a spin number.
- The vast majority of excessive spin situations are caused by swing errors far more than from playing the wrong equipment, and are more often cured by changes in swing technique more effectively than from changes in equipment.
What causes the excessive spin shot? From our research and fitting observations, the two most predominant swing errors that result in excessive spin are:
- A downward angle of attack into the ball with the driver which requires the golfer to use more loft to achieve their optimum launch angle, which in turn increases spin.
- A breakdown of the wrist of the upper hand on the grip coming into impact which allows the clubhead to pass in front of the hands before impact, thus greatly increasing the dynamic loft of the clubhead and increasing spin and launch angle along with it.
The equipment change that can more effectively and more dramatically reduce higher spin caused by either one of these swing errors is a lower the loft on the clubhead. However, in the first case of the downward angle of attack, lower loft, is not really a good solution because it lowers the launch angle as well. Of the two, launch angle and spin, it is FAR better to achieve the right launch angle for the golfer’s clubhead speed and angle of attack than it is to lower the spin.
In the second case of the clubhead passing the hands to cause the high flight, high spin shot, lower loft certainly helps reduce the problem. However, it is also true that you can only lower loft so much. Rarely will you find a 6-degree or 5-degree loft driver. At the end of the day, a golfer is much better off making the effort to get rid of the higher spin/higher launch by taking lessons to improve his angle of attack or his hand-to-clubhead position at impact.
- What is a low launch/low spin or high launch/high spin shaft?
Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I have read, heard or been asked this question, I could pay for a really nice golf vacation! If you want to know the REAL ANSWER to this question, here it is:
Any shaft that is stiffer overall or is more tip stiff than what you currently play is a lower launch shaft, while any shaft that is more flexible or more tip flexible than what you play is a higher launch shaft. In short, because the golf swing controls everything with regard to the performance of a shaft, what is a lower launch/spin shaft to one golfer can be a higher launch/spin to another golfer and vice versa.
As I have written many times, a shaft ONLY acts to change launch angle and spin for golfers who have a late unhinging of the wrist cock angle during the downswing. So the higher your clubhead speed and the later you release the club, the more you can force the shaft to be flexed forward at impact, which in turn increases the dynamic loft of the clubhead to increase launch angle and spin.
So the stiffer the shaft and/or more tip stiff the shaft in relation to your clubhead speed and point of release, the less the shaft bends forward at impact and the more that shaft becomes a lower launch and lower spin shaft. Conversely, the more flexible and/or more tip flexible the shaft is in relation to your clubhead speed and point of release, the more the shaft can bend forward at impact to generate a little higher launch/higher spin shot.
I’m sorry to tell you this, but the ONLY way you will ever know if a shaft is going to be a lower or higher launch/spin shaft than what you play is to see and compare the full stiffness measurements of the shafts using something like my company’s TWGT Shaft Bend Profile Software. Many of you have seen graph and data chart images from this program that I have posted on WRX to explain the stiffness and performance and feel differences between shafts.
Below is an example graph and data chart from the TWGT Bend Profile Software. The following chart shows shafts for a golfer with a 100 mph driver clubhead speed who has an average transition/tempo force and a late release. The shafts are listed from top to bottom in the chart for highest to lowest launch/lowest spin characteristics so that you can see how the tip stiffness of the shafts becomes the key element for offering a progressive lowering of the launch and spin for the same driver head.
In the above bend profile graph, the stiffness of all seven shafts in the butt-to-center areas is close enough that all seven could be rated for a golfer with a 100 to 105 mph driver clubhead speed with an average transition force and average tempo.
The measurements for the 21/16/11 are the tip section stiffness measurements. From top to bottom, you’ll see the tip stiffness become progressively stiffer and stiffer. Thus, among these shafts, for a golfer with a 100 to 105 mph driver clubhead speed with an average transition and tempo force, the UST HTD CB85-R will hit the ball the highest with the greatest spin. Then for each shaft that follows, this same example golfer would see a very gradual lowering of the launch angle and spin due to the increase in tip stiffness, while the butt-to-center stiffness remains the same for each shaft.
Now let’s say the 100 to 105 mph golfer with an average transition force and late release was using a Kusala Indigo 61-X, and he complained of hitting the ball with too much spin and wanted a recommendation for a low spin shaft to reduce his spin. Among these shafts, the only one that could even qualify is the Vista Tour 60-X because its tip section is stiffer. However, based on these tip stiffness measurements, the Vista Tour 60-X is only a little more tip stiff than the Kusala Indigo 61-X. The golfer using the Kusala Indigo 61-X probably would not see much of a change in launch or spin because the Kusala is already a very tip stiff shaft.
In reality, if a golfer using such a tip stiff shaft as the Kusala Indigo 61-X complains of too much spin, you could probably bet the farm that if he does in fact have a spin problem, it is because of a swing error and not an equipment deficiency.
Hard data like the above graph and measurement chart is how spin characteristics of shafts have to be analyzed. Anything else is a pure guessing game.
- Is there such a thing as a high launch/low spin or low launch/high spin shaft?
To make this easy, the answer is without question is NO, it is impossible to make such a shaft because of the different ways different golf swings cause the shaft to bend. No, nada, nil, cannot be done. Period.
The later the unhinging of the wrist cock angle and the higher the clubhead speed, the more the shaft can arrive at impact flexed forward. The more the shaft flexes forward, the more the dynamic loft of the clubhead is increased. The more the dynamic loft of the head is increased, the higher the launch angle AND the higher the spin will be for the shot.
Since it is the forward bending of the shaft that influences the dynamic loft at impact, and since dynamic loft at impact controls BOTH launch angle and spin in the same way, it is impossible to create a shaft that is either high launch/low spin or low launch/high spin.
Conclusion and Key Points
- Be more concerned about finding the driver and shaft combination that achieves your absolutely optimum launch angle and ball speed before you worry about spin. Stop obsessing about the spin number coming from the launch monitor. Please take the time to carefully analyze the ball flight shape of your shots before you make any conclusions about whether you have a “too much spin” problem.
- You never want to choose a shaft with a stiffness and/or tip stiffness design that either feels too stiff or too flexible for your individual preference for the bending feel of the shaft.
- The No. 1 way to change the amount of spin and trajectory on a shot is to change the loft of the clubhead. No. 2 is to change the ball design. No. 3 is to change the shaft’s stiffness and/or tip stiffness design, but remember; a shaft that affect a change on spin only works for players with a later and later release.
- If you truly do have a “too much spin” problem as proven by a valid, accurate observation of the flight of the ball, first check to see if you have a downward angle of attack or if you are allowing the clubhead to pass the hands before impact. If you do either one of these things in your swing, take lessons and practice hard to change these swing errors — do not buy a new club or shaft.
If you cannot overcome the swing error causing your too much spin problem, find a lower loft to help you reduce spin. If you cannot overcome the swing error causing your too much spin problem and the shaft you have fits your swing speed, transition/tempo force, point of release and preference for feel, don’t go shaft hunting to try to lower the spin on your shots. It will either have little to no effect you’ll like end up with a shaft that feels and plays too stiff.
Coming out of the haze: What to expect from the OEMs in the second half of 2020
As we slowly come out of the lockdown haze, it’s going to be interesting to see which OEMs are primed to come out swinging. From where I sit, there are a few companies that either kept the foot on the pedal or found new ways to interact with the masses. I have been tracking the major companies for different reasons, and I am optimistic on most fronts. Now, it needs to be said that everyone has been keeping the respective momentum going in their own ways—this has been a challenge for everyone, so this analysis is simply a commentary on what may come in the second half of the year.
Many good folks were either furloughed or laid off during this lockdown—that’s where we all lost. It needs to be acknowledged that we are talking about golf here, but the underlying reality of this is still devastating. I so look forward to getting into the trenches with these folks again either back where they were or at new companies.
Big giant club company or big giant marketing machine…it doesn’t matter what you label them as. TaylorMade Golf, in my opinion, turned the heartbreak of stalling one of the biggest first quarters in company history into an opportunity to start talking…and teaching. With the help of the tour team and TM athletes, TaylorMade focused hard on talking to us all during the lockdown. With multiple initiatives through social media, the Driving Relief event, and the tour staff engaging way more than usual. I believe TM created a runway to start moving quickly once stores and pro shops open up again.
Let’s face it, with the social media presence, the most robust tour staff maybe ever, and the driver everyone seems to have reserved for the top big stick of 2020, what’s not to be confident about? On the flip side, a company that big could have really taken it on the chin hard, but how they handled the lockdown—from my chair—was fun to watch and will ultimately ensure a quick restart. There is something to be said about having guys like Trottie, Adrian, and Hause in the fold informing and keeping things fun.
Rumor has it new irons are dropping in the fall/winter, which could spell two awesome bookends to a bittersweet 2020.
PXG leaned in
Why online sales for all OEMs spiked is no mystery. Boredom, desire, and a credit card are keys to any great online buying experience, but PXG made certain that if you were not a buyer previously, you may be now.
The price tag has always been a key topic with Bob Parsons’ Scottsdale-based company. It’s no secret that the clubs aren’t cheap, but during this lockdown, they did multiple strategic initiatives to not only crank up direct-to-consumer buying but also expand the PXG conversation into different areas, namely fashion.
Price cuts across the board started early and, rumor has it, enabled PXG to achieve sales numbers unlike any other period in the company’s short history. Yes, cutting prices helps unit sales, but in the case of PXG, it brought in the club customer that ordinarily shied away from PXG for financial reasons and ultimately made them buyers. That’s where PXG seems to shine, once they finally get you in, they are very effective at keeping you in the family. Mercedes-Benz AMG is like that: once you have had a taste of the Kool-Aid, it’s hard to go back to Hawaiian Punch.
In addition to the aggressive price-cutting, PXG fashion, spearheaded by President Renee Parsons, launched a new collection that is designed and manufactured by PXG. Fashion in times like these is always a risk from a financial standpoint, but this launch has been on the calendar since the BOY and the current lockdown did not disrupt that. It speaks to the confidence that Bob and Renee have in what they are doing. Now, is it a guarantee that PXG garments will fly off the shelves? No. but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that this current climate didn’t scare them into pivoting or holding off.
Point to this pick is PXG looks healthy coming out of this and it was possible to believe that perhaps this would have taken a toll on the custom fit brand. There is even a commercial produced during lockdown to attract even more club builders to the fold. Not normal behavior in times like these, but is anything that PXG does normal? No, and that’s what makes them fun to talk about.
The company also released its Essential Facemask with 50 percent of proceeds going to Team Rubicon.
Ping was quiet…but don’t be fooled
Yes, they did some rare social media engagements with Kenton Oates and the tour staff, which were fantastic. But the real magic here was the quiet way in which Ping slipped into 2020 and the mystery they have in hand and what’s to come next.
There hasn’t been really any new Ping product in a good while, and I anticipate a big winter for the Solheim crew. Sometimes, silence is golden and from what I can gather, what Ping has coming in irons and woods will be yet again a launch that gets people talking.
Ping from a business standpoint is a company that gets one percent better every year. Never any dramatic shifts in strategy or product. It’s always good, it’s always high-performance, and it’s always in the “best of” category across the board.
Watch out for them over the next six to nine months…a storm is brewing. A good one.
Cobra introduced the “Rickie iron”
Compared to 2019 and the runaway success that was the F9 driver, Cobra Golf seemed to cruise along in the first quarter of 2020. The SpeedZone metal wood line was an improvement tech-wise from the F9 but seemed to get lost in the driver launch shuffle with an earlier release—and frankly everyone in the industry took a back seat to TaylorMade’s SIM.
It’s not placing one stick over the other actually, I have been very vocal about my affections for both, it’s just some years, the story around a club can generate excitement, and if the club is exceptional, boom. Cobra was that cool kid in 2019.
What Cobra decided to do in the downtime is slowly tease and taunt with a “Rickie Fowler” iron. Players blades aren’t typically the driving element of any business model, but what Cobra did was introduce to a beautiful yet completely authentic forging that will not only get the gear heads going nuts but also entice the better players to start looking at Cobra as a serious better players iron company. No small feat.
Point is, Cobra has generated buzz. It helped that Rickie’s performance at Seminole was just short of a precision clinic. Beyond the Rev 33, its rumored Cobra has a new players CB coming and some MIM wedges.
It should be an exciting last half for the Cobra crew.
The Titleist train chugged on
I mean, what else is there to say about Titleist? They are as American as apple pie, have a stranglehold on multiple tour and retail categories, and one of the best front offices in golf. The company is a well-oiled machine.
So what do I expect from them in the last half? Well pretty much what I would expect on any other year, solid player-driven equipment. A metal wood launch is coming, the SM8 was a huge hit in stores and on tour, and the ball portion is the biggest 800-pound gorilla in golf.
It was also nice to see a little more social media interaction beyond the traditional. Aaron Dill has been very active on the social media front and a good portion of the tour staff, namely Poulter, JT, and Homa were proactive in engagement. Might seem trivial to some, but specifically, Titleist and Ping are not super active in the organic interaction game, so it was nice to see both companies dive into the fold.
Cleveland/Srixon should have a lot to look forward to
Let’s be honest here, 2019 was a quiet year overall for Srixon. Shane Lowry won The Open, but in the golf mainstream it was a leap year for them in regards to any launches. The anticipation from me personally of what is to come is quite strong. I adore the irons. I have yet to meet one I didn’t love, and fitters across the country will speak to that in sales. The Srixon iron line has become a popular yet-sort-of-cult-classic among fitters and gearheads and rightly so. They are phenomenal.
The recently teased picture of the new driver on the USGA site more or less teased us of what is to come for the overall line. New Cleveland wedges are coming shortly and the golf ball has always been a solid component to the Huntington Beach company.
As much as anyone in the market, I believe Srixon could finish the year with some serious momentum going into 2021. The irons and ball have always been firestarters. My only wish for them, selfishly, is a more aggressive tour strategy in regards to landing one of the perennial top 10. It seems like a dumb thought, but I have always felt Cleveland/Srixon was always a serious hitter that at times seems to get lost in the conversation. Having a big gun on staff or a couple of them will remedy that quickly.
Callaway has an eye on big things for the golf ball
Callaway, a company that seems to do it all well, was actually a bit quiet since the lockdown started. After a solid release of the Mavrik line and some momentum in the golf ball area, I’m sure this lockdown probably felt like a kick to the shin.
However, this company is shifting in a good way. The idea that they were a golf club company that happened to make golf balls is slowly turning into a company with multiple major components that stand alone. TaylorMade is on a similar shift, and honestly it’s very interesting to watch. Do I think that anyone will ever catch Titleist in the ball category? No, I don’t. All of these mentioned golf balls are ridiculously good, but 75 years of trust and loyalty are hard to compete with. But that’s not the point, Callaway is a monster company that takes the golf ball conversation very seriously, and I believe this will serve them very well coming out of this craziness and help the momentum going into 2021.
Tour Edge EXS Pro Forged irons launched
Tour Edge is expanding its better player targeted EXS Pro line with the addition of the all-new EXS Pro Forged irons—a tour-inspired design developed with multi-material technology, and looks to match.
Just like the limited edition EXP Pro driver, the EXS Pro Forged irons utilize the highest quality materials and processes to deliver a golf club built for the most discerning players. The goal of designer David Glod was to produce the most forgiving distance iron possible in a player-preferred package and the EXS Pro Forged live up to the lofty challenge.
“As a club designer, I love player iron designs that are as beautiful as they are playable. These three designs were made to be irons that are drooled over by the core golfer, not only in looks and feel, but in how they perform.” David Glod – Tour Edge Lead Designer
“I believe that the milled forged iron connoisseurs out there are going to be very impressed with the playability we were able to combine with a traditional forged feel.”
Inside the Exotics EXS Pro forged irons
The EXS Pro Forged cavity iron is constructed of Japanese S25C mild carbon steel to offer an extremely soft feel to the golfer. After the forging process, the faces are CNC milled to precise tolerances and the grooves are designed to maximize performance throughout the set. The CNC milling of the EXS Pro doesn’t stop at the face either—the cavity is designed to boost MOI as much as possible in the compact clubhead, so the back of the club is also CNC milled to offer the thinnest face possible without sacrificing feel.
Speaking of feel, the term forged can be overused in the world of golf club construction with some lesser companies only stamping precast pieces once and calling them forged, but the EXS are not those clubs. The S25C club heads are triple-forged (struck 3 times at very high-pressure) to offer a thinner, stronger clubhead that allows the designer to push more mass to the toe and heel weight pads for more forgiveness and more consistent ball speeds across the face. To further improve feedback, the iron has an acoustic engineered cavity insert consisting of a polymer and a dampening gel to provide the best possible sound and feel.
Now about ball speeds and technology: The 3- 6-irons in the EXS Pro Forged cavity have a concealed 10g tungsten toe weight to push more mass away from the hosel and make the clubs more forgiving on heel and toe misses in the longer irons. This is similar technology to irons that are priced much higher in the market.
Availability, Specs & Pricing
The new Exotics EXS Pro Forged irons will be available for purchase on June 1, 2020 through select Tour Edge retailers and custom club fitting locations.
The stock shafts are: True Temper Elevate Tour VSS Pro—available in regular and stiff flex—as well as True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 in R300, S300.
The stock grip will be the Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360.
$149.99 per iron.
New limited-edition Tour Edge Exotics EXS Blade irons and wedges unveiled
Tour Edge has unveiled its new limited-edition “Straight From the Tour Van” Exotics EXS Blade irons and wedges featuring forged designs with CNC milling.
Per Tour Edge, the Exotics EXS Blade irons combine “tour-level inspired looks and feel with advanced materials and innovation to produce the most forgiveness and distance possible in a player’s iron.”
Each iron and wedge are individually milled from carbon steel and “engineered for players who look for the ultimate in control and shot shaping.”
Tour Edge Exotics EXS blade irons
The new Tour Edge EXS Blade irons feature a narrow sole, a thin top line, and a beveled leading edge and square toe design. The irons also contain a shorter blade length and a cambered top line in a bid to provide golfers with a more compact scoring iron.
Designed with advanced CAD technology and pure milled forging, the new additions from Tour Edge feature micro-cavity face and scoring lines that are all individually CNC milled and designed to offer maximum responsiveness and control.
Fully USGA conforming, the blades are CNC milled on both sides, which aims to offer golfers a club that has extremely tight tolerance and consistency from iron to iron.
The clubs feature Japanese S25C carbon steel, which is chrome plated with a dual finish. The irons contain a high polish and a satin finish in all the milled areas of the clubhead.
The sole of the EXS Pro Blade iron head features a rounded radius on the leading edge of the clubhead – a design which seeks to significantly reduce drag and turf interaction through impact to provide ultimate consistency on every shot.
Specs, Availability and Pricing
- Stock Shafts: True Temper Elevate Tour VSS Pro: R-flex, S-flex, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105: R300, S300
- Grip: GolfPride Tour 360
- Price: $149.99 per iron
- Availability: June 1, 2020
Tour Edge Exotics EXS Blade wedges
Designed from Japanese S25C Carbon Steel, the new blade wedges from Tour Edge are individually CNC milled on the face and grooves in design to create maximum spin from advanced groove engineering.
The EXS Milled Forged wedges utilize dual-groove construction, with the lower loft (50° – 52°) wedges designed with deeper, narrower grooves while the higher lofts (54° – 60°) have wider grooves.
The Exotics EXS Blade wedges feature a Center of Gravity (CG) that has been moved up in the clubhead with a milled-out center design. The milled-out center on the wedges leads to more weight being positioned both up and down in design for greater distance control on shots higher and lower on the face.
The EXS Pro’s sole grind on the new blade wedges seeks to reduce bounce from the heel and toe for greater versatility when hitting a variety of shots, especially from difficult lies.
The blade wedges contain a Flare Toe design which places the center of gravity higher in order to provide for lower launch and more spin. A chamfer was also added to the trailing top line of the wedge for a slightly thicker top line that moves weight up without affecting the aesthetics of the top line at address.
As with the blade irons, the wedges are 100 percent conforming to the USGA rules.
Specs, Availability and Pricing
Stock Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold 115 Wedge Flex
Grip: GolfPride Tour 360
Price: $149.99 per wedge
Availability: June 1, 2020
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