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
Getty Images

Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

Getty Images

Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.