Bunkers and Launch Monitors

By Frank ThomasJanuary 16, 2008, 5:00 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
Frank, I enjoy your column and the help tips.
I have two questions:
Is it true that the pro is assessed a one stroke penalty if the caddy does not rake the trap properly (or not at all)?
And, with all the volunteers available for golf tournaments these days, why would the PGA (TOUR) want caddies raking sand traps when volunteers could do it, and probably an excellent job as well?

It is not true that the professional player is assessed a one stroke penalty if he/she or their caddie does not rake the bunker properly or even not at all.
Not raking the bunker on tour doesnt happen very much but if it did, I have been told (by an Assistant Tournament Director) that there may be some disciplinary consequences in the form of a write-up and a fine assessed.
I have on many occasions at pristine courses found that inconsiderate golfers -- Big Foot we call them -- have not even attempted to rake bunkers after excavating holes deep enough to bury an empty six-pack, the consumption of which was probably the cause of the problem in the first place. This sort of inconsideration has no place on a golf course and is a violation of basic etiquette 101.
Some people believe that bunkers should be a hazard. However, the way in which they are prepared and so well raked today makes the bunker a preferred spot for the ball to come to rest, rather than the surrounding rough. Certainly, this is the case at many of the US Open sites.
In Scotland we find that most of the bunkers have their edges mowed and banked creating catchments two or three times the size of the bunker itself, so that any ball tending in that direction will surely find it way into the sand. This makes the bunker a hazard to avoid and is one of the main differences in bunker design and course setup between the US and UK.
Jack Nicklaus at his Memorial tournament has bunker rakes with every second tooth missing. This creates a raking pattern, which is consistent but will still be a hazard and which might draw a half stroke penalty. This is a great move in the right direction.
The pro tour is one place that you will rarely find bunker-damage not repaired but I think the caddie and the golfer are still responsible and not the volunteers who are already the main support system of many events.
Norm I know you will enjoy my book Just Hit It which is presently at the printers and will be available on our site soon. To sign up to be alerted when its available click here, enter your name in the box, and click 'Book' in the menu of options.
Thank you for supporting the cause.
-- Frank
TGC has taken coverage to the 21st century with TrackMan. When looking for a new driver should one settle on a preferred ball first? I have found quite a difference in ball speeds with the two I like. Should we pick the Chicken or the Egg first when looking for a new driver in 2008?
-- Ken

First, I am surprised that you have found quite a difference in ball speeds between the two balls you like. The top premium multilayered balls are very similar in ball speed at various head speeds as are ball speeds for the softer balls.
It is therefore possible that two different ball construction types have slightly different speeds at the same head speed. However, these ball speed differences are not significant enough to be of concern when selecting your driver.
You really should settle on a single ball type, which best suites your game. At higher head speeds, you can use the harder core multi layered ball with a soft cover, and at lower head speeds, a softer core ball may be a better choice.
The type of ball you choose when using a launch monitor to select a driver, is not critical. However, this should be of good quality. Then follow the general guidelines to determine if you have the correct launch conditions for your head speed (click on: http://www.franklygolf.com/tgc/launch.asp to see the table).
The object is to get the ball launched at its optimum angle and spin rate for a particular head speed to get maximum distance. In fact when developing this table ball speeds were used but there were few devices which measured ball speed, so the head speed, which was easier to measure and is closely related to ball speed is used.
Ken, dont worry about the ball you are using in the launch monitor until you are a scratch or better player and then use the ball you play with on the course or at least one of similar construction.
Unfortunately launch monitors are considered by some the solution to all of our problems. This is not the case and we should use them as a general guide and then work on our swing to achieve greater consistency.
Hope this helps.
-- Frank
First of all, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer all of our questions. I really appreciate and enjoy your column.
My question is in regard to bounce and distance on my wedges. I carry a 56 and 60 degree wedge. Last year I bought new wedges. (Titleist Vokey SM 60.04 & 56.10) I used to play Nike's that I bought when I first took up the game about 5 years ago, they were a 56 & 60 degree also, but I am not sure what the bounce was.
I used to hit the old Nike clubs 125 and 100 yards respectively for the 56 and 60 degree wedge. With the Titleist wedges I am down to 100 and 80 yards. I can reach my old distances but I have to severely alter my swing and put the ball way back in my stance. As you can imagine, it is not nearly as consistent this way.
So basically what I am wondering is if having less bounce on the club can cause the loss of distance.I was thinking that if I have less bounce now, the clubs may be sliding under the ball more and thus loosing some of the energy transfer. I know that some of the distance loss may be attributed to more spin. The Vokey's seem to spin much more. I am just wondering which is the bigger contributor and how to address the problem.
I know I can fill in the gap with another wedge, but would prefer to not to. I like to keep an extra hybrid in the bag instead.
-- Jake

I can assure you that bounce has little to do with the difference in distance between your two two different sets of wedges. I assume you are making a relatively clean pass at the ball with both clubs.
Your older wedges will most likely have a 10 to 14 degree bounce on the 56 degree wedge (designed primarily as a sand wedge) and a 6 to 8 degree on the 60 degree wedge (lob wedge). This is close enough to the bounce on your existing wedges not to be the cause of any performance differences.
The only reason why you may be getting from 20 to 25 yard differences in distance with the same lofted wedges (assuming a clean strike) is not the bounce but probably one of the following reasons:
1) A difference in head speed or
2) A difference in conditions i.e. out of the light rough with your older clubs and dryer conditions with your newer wedges, i.e. a flyer conditions and/or
3) Worn grooves i.e. not milled with the older clubs creating a flyer more often than with your new clubs, or
4) A club length difference (which I doubt, but this needs to be verified).
What I suggest is that you first inspect the grooves on both sets of wedges, then check the lengths and finally test them side by side, rather than comparing how you remember hitting the older set in the past compared to how you are hitting your new clubs.
The last thing I would suggest is not to get hung up on these differences. A 100 and 80 yard distance is very good for a 56 and 60 degree wedge respectively. Use a 52 degree wedge to fill the gap in distance between the 56 and your PW. These are your scoring clubs and consistency is better than the increase in distance you are looking for.
Hope this allows you to bounce back from your dilemma.
-- Frank
Frank Thomas new imageFrank 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
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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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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.