The Advantage of Long Putters

By Frank ThomasApril 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Every week we will select the best question and Frank will send one lucky golfer a personally signed copy of 'Just Hit It'. Last week's lucky winner was Brian with his question about swingweight.
 
To reserve your own copy of 'Just Hit It', please Click Here We are now shipping! The first 25 copies ordered this week will received a signed copy, direct from Frank.
 
Please also note new international shipping options for those outside the US. Thanks to all who have ordered over the last few weeks!
 
The Advantage of Long Putters
 
Frank,

Anytime technical discussions arise about belly length or longer putters I always hear about the mechanical advantage these type of putters bring to
the player. The advantage is due to the effect of anchoring the butt end to the body reducing a degree of freedom. But, if the advantage is real, why isn't this type of putter the most common putter used? After all, the game is about reducing the number of strokes we take.
 
Richard

 
Richard,
It is confusing I know but let me try to resolve your dilemma. There are at least five degrees of freedom in the putting stroke. Those of major concern are:
 
1) The ability to move the club up and down off the ground surface
2) The breaking of the wrists during a stroke
3) The rotation of the putter about its longitudinal axis
4) The putter head movement toward and away from the body and
5) The putter head movement forward (forward swing) and backward (backswing)
 
These degrees of freedom all have errors associated with them, for example, if you allow the putter to move up and down off the surface of the green then there is an error associated with how much you lift it. Similarly if you break the wrists during your stroke then the potential error is, how much do you break your wrists and can you do it exactly the same way each time.
 
In putting we need to have control of these degrees of freedom and develop a stroke which tends to minimize the tendency to make the movement through some form of restriction not elimination. We have developed our motor skills over time by having but controlling degrees of freedom. We are inclined to lose what we refer to as feel, when we totally restrict or eliminate a degree of freedom.
 

The long putter and to some degree the belly putter eliminates the up and down movement, and the wrist movement. They both, because the wrists are out of play let the rotation do what the body (skeletal structure) dictates. Thus with three degrees of freedom eliminated we concomitantly get rid of the associated errors.
 
The long putter is therefore a very much more efficient implement and it has made good putters out of some horrible putters but there is no example of making a great putter out of a mediocre putter. We do need feel in putting and this is hard to develop if we eliminate the degrees of freedom needed for great feel.
 
Yes, the long putter is a more efficient instrument but don't go there
unless you have no other choice. Here at The Frankly Frog Putting Studio we conduct training sessions with long and belly putters as well as regular length putters.
 
That's the long and short of it.
 
Frank
 
A Guide to Reconditioning Grooves
 
Frank,
 
After many rounds and lots of practice the grooves on your wedges are naturally going to wear down. Can they be 're-grooved' rather than buying new wedges? Thanks.
 
Brian

 
Brian,
 
I have been asked this question many times and feel the need to be more specific about how to go about getting your grooves reconditioned.
 
First, let me say that using a hand-held groove tool is a risky way to recondition the grooves in your wedges. The reason is that as soon as you alter (recondition) the face of the club it is considered new and ruled on accordingly.
 
Rule 4 1-b. Wear and Alteration, states; A club that conforms with Rules when new is deemed to conform after wear through normal use. Any part of a club that has been purposely altered is regarded as new and must, in its altered state conform with the Rules
 
This means for example, even though the face is concave or the grip has indentations for you fingers because this is how it wore down through normal use, it is OK to use it without penalty but as soon as you start reconditioning the club it must be considered new.
 
A hand held tool will not only do a number on the grooves but will most likely render them non-conforming because of the tight specifications the USGA has for grooves, i.e. depth, width, ratio of groove-width to pitch, radius of groove edges and even groove straightness. These specs are difficult to maintain even for an accomplished custom club maker with a milling machine.
 
The question is; are you better off getting a new wedge rather than trying to recondition an old one?
 

First, dont try to recondition it yourself. Second, to get it done professionally may take up to six weeks depending on whether the club head is chrome plated or not. Most forged iron clubs made of mild steel, will need to be protected from rusting, which requires a layer of chrome to be deposited on the head after the grooves have been milled, rolled or stamped into the face. Some clubs are forged but made of stainless steel, which do not require chrome plating. These, as with most cast clubs can be re-grooved and do not need the additional protective layer of chrome.
 
To get your wedge i.e. the GAP or Lob Wedge (not your Sand Wedge which doesnt need sharp grooves to be effective out of the sand) re-grooved you can send it to GolfWorks. To get more details regarding how and where to send it call their toll free phone number (800) 848 8358. It will cost about $20 for a club that does not need to be rechromed which will include the shipping both ways. You can add another $12 if the club needs to be chromed. GolfWorks will make sure that the clubs conform with the rules.
 
In many cases, the lack of being able to get the ball to do Yo-Yo tricks on the green may have little to do with the condition of the grooves, but rather the condition of our technique.
 
We should also recognize that under dry conditions where there is not grass intervening between the ball and the club face ' off a tee or tight fairway -- a sand-blasted face will do as well as a face with brand new grooves. It is only when grass juice gets between the clubface and the ball that the grooves really start doing their thing. This only happens out of relatively light rough not the real juicy 4 stuff where it doesnt matter what type of grooves or condition of those grooves makes any difference.
 
So if you feel you need to recondition the grooves in your wedges because you dont want to give up an old friend call GolfWorks. If you would just like to make a change ' wedges dont change very much in style or shape --you can buy a new one which will cost about $110. If you do decide to buy a new wedge make sure it has the same specs, i.e. bounce, loft and lie as the good friend you are about to give up.
 
I do address this issue and many others in my book Just Hit It, so if you have the interest and need more information Click Here to learn more and order a copy. Thanks for supporting our game.
 
Frank
 

Impact of Body Weight
 
Frank,
 
This may be the dumbest question, but is there a transference of a person's body mass at impact through their connection through the club? I realize that 120 mph club head speed is 120 mph club head speed, but is there any possibility that the weight of a person can be transferred through the shaft and the club head? Most big time home run hitters are not small guys, and for those who are not big it might be said that they generate a great deal of power (not necessarily speed). Thank you.
 
Boris

 
Boris,
 
Unfortunately you cannot use this as an excuse to have a few more beers. Once you have been able to develop a certain head speed just before impact there is nothing more you can do to increase the ball speed, other than make sure contact is on the sweet spot.
 
For your information once impact starts between the club head and the ball the shaft may as well be severed from the clubhead for all it plays in ball speed or direction.
 
Hope this doesn't disappoint you in thinking that if you put on a little more weight it may help. Your timing (which may be affected by those extra beers) is much more important.
 
Frank
 
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank Thomas

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.