Doctoring Clubs on Tour

By Frank ThomasJune 18, 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
 

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Doctoring Clubs on Tour
 
Frank,
 
Just read your Q&A regarding spin on US Open rough. In turn this reminded me of something Ian Baker Finch said during the Masters about players having the grooves of wedges set up more aggressively. I have asked before about alterations to equipment and I will ask again in light of the US Open now being played. Alterations to equipment in other sports have occurred and have perhaps been used at the highest professional level. We know that baseball pitchers have doctored balls. Batters have been found using corked bats.
 
So, whats to stop the tournament players from some type of doctoring, innocent or otherwise? Before you answer, perhaps the better question is how would anyone ever know? Does the USGA inspect all the entrants equipment? NASCAR inspects the winning drivers car to make sure everything was on the up and up.
 
Sorry for the oratory but I think others may wonder about this as well. It may be a gentlemens game but that doesnt mean it is played entirely by gentlemen.
 
--Lee

 
Lee,
The bottom line is there is nothing to stop the players from doctoring their equipment before a round of golf other than the fact that it is a violation of the rules. In most cases, the player will ask an official if a modified club conforms and it will then be tested on site. If not and he/she plays with it, the penalty is disqualification and if this violation was intentional the player may lose their privilege to continue to make a living as a professional.
 
During a US Open, in my capacity as technical director of the USGA, I was asked frequently by players to check a club for its conformance to the rules. In most cases, this happened during the practice rounds because the player had modified his club or a fellow competitor suggested that there might be a problem. If the test resulted in a decision that the club did not conform then corrective action would be taken or if the discovery took place during the event the player would disqualify himself as a result of the infraction during the event.
 
The responsibility to call a rules infraction on himself is an obligation of the golfer and this is where golf differentiates itself from many other sports. Often when out of sight of other golfers or an official ( who is there only to help the player) a golfer will unintentionally do something, which requires that a penalty stroke(s) be added to his score. This he calls on himself and announces to a fellow competitor or an official as soon as possible.
 
When a referee becomes part of the game and takes on the responsibility of calling all infractions -- be they in play or regarding the equipment used -- it relieves the competitor of this responsibility and he/she no longer has any obligation to monitor him/herself regarding the rules.
 
In many other sports, violating the rules -- only if detected, and called by a referee -- results in a penalty. It is with these sports that a sharp-eyed referee or onsite testing is required, as the player has no obligation to call infractions on him/herself. In fact it is almost an obligation ' so as to gain an advantage -- to see what one can get away with, without the infraction being detected.
 
The integrity of our game is at stake when we start testing equipment on the first tee or introduce any form of drug testing on golfers. A Rules book covering the playing and equipment rules and within which it states clearly that any form of performance enhancing substance is not permitted, is sufficient. Otherwise we imply that golfers are dishonest and by introducing an outside monitor to enforce the rules, immediately relieves the golfer of his self-monitoring obligation, which is what golf is all about.
 
A golfer who deceives others also deceives himself and will soon be ostracized by those who love and respect our game.
 
Thanks for the question and allowing me to express my very personal feelings about protecting the integrity of our game.
 
Frank
 
Benefits of Graphite in Irons
 
Having lost some distance at age 67 I'm looking for some improvement with my irons by trying lighter shafts, in this instance Graphite. However, one of the guys at the local golf shop said I wouldn't necessarily improve distance with lighter shafts. He said other factors come in to play as well. I am under the impression that increased club head speed will increase distance whether it be iron or wood. I am well aware that I need to hit the ball in the middle of the club to get maximum distance but if I do that won't I get improved distance with the lighter shafts? Thanks for you consideration. I enjoy your website.
 
--Bill

 
Bill,
 
You are correct in your assumption that by changing to graphite shafts (i.e. lighter shafts) in your irons you will generate higher head speeds and more distance assuming that all else is equal.
 
Not that you asked but the reason for this is that you will decrease the overall weight of the club and this decreases the MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the system which makes it easier to accelerate the club if you apply the same forces. The MOI of the club as a whole (the system not just the head which relates to the forgiveness of miss-hits) is another property which has not been talked about very much but is an additional means of matching clubs in combination with frequency and overall weight.
 
Technically it is a measure of the resistance to angular acceleration about the axis you are swinging the club. Unfortunately, this axis changes throughout the swing. However, if you swing with the same forces each time with a lighter shafted club you will be able to generate increased head speed. Thats the GOOD news.
 
The BAD news is, because manufacturers dont want to offer a different head weights for their graphite shafted option but they do want to maintain a similar swing weight (about 1 or 2 points lighter for graphite) they increase the length of a graphite shafted club by about of an inch and charge $25 more per club. The normal difference in length between a six iron and a five iron is an inch.
 
What this increase in length does is make the club slightly less accurate; it increases the MOI of the system a little ' partially reversing the decrease in MOI by changing to the lighter shaft ' but increases the head speed because of the added length.
 
The bottom line is that even with these slightly compensating factors you should get greater distance because you will get increased head speed. Dont look for 25 yards increase but you will improve your distance with lightweight graphite-shafted clubs compared to traditional steel-shafted irons.
 
Otherwise if you are interested in 10 to 15 yards increase in driving distance or just extra distance with your irons, you need to sign up at a local gym and work on strength and flexibility exercises. This form of exercise will increase your range of motion and ' based on studies performed ' increase the head speed of a driver about 5 mph adding at least 10 yards to your drives. The gym visit will probably cost less, and give you greater improvement in distance, than a new driver. In the mean time, take advantage of what graphite has to offer in irons.
 
Thanks for your kind comments and I am pleased that my weekly Q&A has been informative.
 
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Good golfing.
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

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''