Grooves and Range Finders

By Frank ThomasMarch 13, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
Hi Frank,
I've been reading about the USGA's new report on the effect of U grooves. I bought a new set of Ping G5 irons in the past year and don't relish the thought that they might soon be declared illegal. Do you think the USGA will implement a rule change on this subject, and if so, is there likely to be a grandfather clause for irons already on the market?
Thanks for your thoughts.

Based on the USGAs approach to equipment regulation over the last several years, and assuming the manufacturers dont mount a concerted effort to object, Id say the proposal for a rule change on grooves is very likely to be adopted. Id also say such a rule is irrational and illogical ' and, sadly, its in keeping with the USGAs recent actions I first discussed this topic in my November 2006 Frankly Friends Newsletter. Click here to read 'My Take On Grooves.'
We need the USGA, because we need someone to bring order to our game. But its a shame when good science is inappropriately applied, and your letter asks the kind of question that can lead to the disaffection of its constituents and loss of its authority.
The concern that has been cited as the impetus for the proposal revolves, first around .001% of the golfing population and secondly and more importantly the problem which is trying to be resolved has not been adequately defined. Also there is no evidence that the game (on the tour or elsewhere) will benefit from the change. It will certainly be different and may be costly to implement and difficult to monitor.
The USGA explains this proposal by saying that the rough is not enough of a penalty for the long and wayward golfers using U-shaped grooves on the professional tours. What they havent said is that this problem ' if it is a problem ' applies only to light rough (1 to 2 inches thick). If its any longer, theres no performance difference between any types of grooves; the grass is too long for it to matter. So if youre concerned about accuracy on the pro tour ' assuming you want to make your Rules for all players not based on the performance of the top .001% of the golfing population ' all you have to do is grow rough to about 3 to 4 inches in areas where the long and wild hitters land their drives. The USGA is citing data that suggests that at regular tour stops, the rough (if you can call it that) is barely a fraction of a stroke penalty ' but the graduated rough the USGA grew for the U.S. Open in 2006 proved to be more than a half-stroke penalty. I doubt the pros forgot to pack their U-grooves that week.
I believe it is a grave mistake to determine rules for all golfers based on the performance of the tiniest elite fraction of the golfing population. Most golfers I know dont need any more restrictions. My research on more than 18,000 concerned golfers does not show a single person who has quit the game because it is too easy. Yet the number of rounds being played is falling by about 3% each year. This is where the USGA should be concentrating its efforts, not on correcting problems for the very few that can be easily solved in another way. The overall health of the game should be the indicator of how effective the USGA is as guardian of the game, not the scores being shot by champion professionals (which, for general information, the average per round has not changed more than 0.1 of a stroke since 1988). Sorry about this, but you pushed my hot button.
The current proposal includes a grace period of 10 years for clubs that conformed prior to the adoption of the change. But if your golf club or a competition you enter adopts a Condition of the Competition that will be included in the Rules of Golf after January 1st 2009, then you could be penalized for using your existing irons or any other clubs that currently conform but may be affected by the proposed new rule.
Please help me convince the USGA that we like them but to stop being silly and start concentrating on real problems. I have some thoughts about how we can work together to accomplish this; watch this space for a future announcement. Frank
Hi Frank,
Can you clear up for me whether PGA and LPGA players can use range finders during tournament rounds?
Thank you.

The answer is NO at this time. They can use an EMD (Electronic Measuring Device) for practice rounds, but not during competitions. Personally, I dont see any good reason why they shouldnt be allowed to use these devices during tournaments and championships too. If we can do it, why can't they? Why does it matter if a player gets his or her distances from a range-finder or from a caddies pacing it off from a marked sprinkler-head? The only difference is that the EMD is a little quicker.
The time will come when the tour players will be able to use these devices during competition, but were not there quite yet.
Hello, Frank, from frozen New Jersey.
Frank, I am 66 years of age, and I hit my 10.5-degree Big Bertha driver around 195 yards. My swing speed is 86 miles an hour. I am looking at a Cobra F speed driver, 12 degrees with a R- flex, shaft mid kick point 55 grams.
Based on the above what loft do you feel would give me the greatest distance? I hope to get a little more distance, and upgrade to a 460. Is there a chart I can buy that would tell me the distance I can expect from a particular swing speed and loft?
Thanks so much for helping us senior guys.

Don't worry, it will warm up in New Jersey and you will be able to play golf again.
Your Big Bertha (only 190 cc) was and still is a wonderful club when compared to the persimmon drivers it made extinct. Now, however, it is time to upgrade to a larger head (400 to 460 cc) with a high COR. Callaway has a good selection, as do other manufacturers such as Cobra, and you might want to consider buying last years model. Physics doesnt change from year to year; last years clubs were good when they were introduced and theyre good today. Significant changes in performance are very hard to come by, and advances in technology over the last several years have made very little real difference. The advantage of last years model is that it will cost about half the price of the new models and work just as well as the newest and biggest in most cases.
At your swing speed, you should look for a loft of between 11 and 12 degrees; you want to launch the ball at 13 to 14 degrees with a spin rate of about 3000-3,500 rpm to get maximum distance under normal turf conditions, producing about 25 yards of roll. If, however, you intend to play before the ground has thawed, then you might want launch the ball a little lower. Only kidding!!
Have some patience; the season will change and life will be good again for golfers in New Jersey. In the meantime check out my guideline for launch conditions on my website by clicking here.
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank 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
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First Look: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play groups

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 11:30 pm

It's officially match play time.

The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play kicks off this week in Austin, where 64 of the top players will square off in a combination of round robin play and single elimination. The top 16 players in the field will serve as top seeds in each of the 16 groups this week, while their round-robin opponents were drawn randomly from three different groups Monday night.

Here's a look at the four-player groups that will begin play Wednesday, with the winner from each of the 16 groups advancing to knockout play beginning Friday:

Group 1: (1) Dustin Johnson, (32) Kevin Kisner, (38) Adam Hadwin, (52) Bernd Wiesberger

Johnson never trailed en route to victory last year, and he'll start with a match against the Austrian. Kisner has missed three of his last four cuts, while Hadwin enters off three straight top-12 finishes.

Group 9: (9) Tommy Fleetwood, (26) Daniel Berger, (33) Kevin Chappell, (58) Ian Poulter

This group kicks off with an all-English battle between Fleetwood and Poulter, while Berger and Chappell were both members of the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team in the fall.

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Randall's Rant: Hey, loudmouth, you're not funny

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 10:30 pm

Dear misguided soul:

You know who you are.

You’re “that guy.”

You’re that guy following around Rory McIloy and yelling “Erica” at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

There was something creepy in the nature of your bid to get in McIlroy’s head, in the way you hid in the shadows all day. Bringing a guy’s wife into the fray that way, it’s as funny as heavy breathing on the other end of a phone call.

You’re that guy telling Justin Thomas you hope he hits it in the water at the Honda Classic.

There are a million folks invested in seeing if Thomas can muster all the skills he has honed devoting himself to being the best in the world, and you’re wanting to dictate the tournament’s outcome. Yeah, that’s what we all came out to see, if the angry guy living in his mother’s basement can make a difference in the world. Can’t-miss TV.

You’re that guy who is still screaming “Mashed Potatoes” at the crack of a tee shot or “Get in the Hole” with the stroke of a putt.

Amusing to you, maybe, but as funny as a fart in an elevator to the rest of us.

As a growing fraternity of golf fans, you “guys” need a shirt. It could say, “I’m that guy” on one side and “Phi Kappa Baba Booey” on the other.

I know, from outside of golf, this sounds like a stodgy old geezer screaming “Get off my lawn.” That’s not right, though. It’s more like “Stop puking on my lawn.”

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Because McIlroy is right, in the growing number of incidents players seem to be dealing with now, it’s probably the liquor talking.

The Phoenix Open is golf’s drunken uncle, but he isn’t just visiting on the holiday now. He’s moving in.

What’s a sport to do?

McIlroy suggested limiting liquor sales at tournaments, restricting alcohol consumption to beer.

I don’t know, when the beer’s talking, it sounds a lot like the liquor talking to me, just a different dialect.

From the outside, this push-back from players makes them sound like spoiled country club kids who can’t handle the rough-and-tumble playgrounds outside their prim little bailiwick. This isn’t really about social traditions, though. It’s about competition.

It’s been said here before, and it’s worth repeating, golf isn’t like baseball, basketball or football. Screaming in a player’s backswing isn’t like screaming at a pitcher, free-throw shooter or field-goal kicker. A singular comment breaking the silence in golf is more like a football fan sneaking onto the sidelines and tripping a receiver racing toward the end zone.

Imagine the outrage if that happened in an NFL game.

So, really, what is golf to do?

Equip marshals with tasers? Muzzle folks leaving the beer tent? Prohibit alcohol sales at tournaments?

While the first proposition would make for good TV, it probably wouldn’t be good for growing the sport.

So, it’s a tough question, but golf’s governing bodies should know by now that drunken fans can’t read those “Quiet Please!” signs that marshals wave. There will have to be better enforcement (short of tasers and muzzles).

There’s another thing about all of this, too. Tiger Woods is bringing such a broader fan base to the game again, with his resurgence. Some of today’s younger players, they didn’t experience all that came with his ascendance his first time around. Or they didn’t get the full dose of Tigermania when they were coming up.

This is no knock on Tigermania. It’s great for the game, but there are challenges bringing new fans into the sport and keeping them in the sport.

So if you’re “that guy,” welcome to our lawn, just don’t leave your lunch on it, please.


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How Faxon became 'The Putting Stroke Whisperer'

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 9:39 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – During a charity event a few years ago Brad Faxon was asked what he’s thinking about when he putts. A hush fell across the green as everyone within earshot eagerly awaited the answer.

Imagine having the chance to quiz Leonardo da Vinci about the creative process, or Ben Hogan on the finer points of ball-striking. Arguably the best putter of his generation, if anyone could crack the complicated code of speed, line and pace, it would be Faxon.

Faxon mulled the question for a moment, shrugged and finally said, “Rhythm and tempo.”

If Faxon’s take seems a tad underwhelming, and it did that day to everyone in his group, the genius of his simplicity was on display last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Before arriving at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ranked 124th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, losing .1 strokes per round to the field. In fact, he’d missed the cut a week earlier at the Valspar Championship when he needed 58 putts for two days and made just a single attempt over 10 feet.

It’s one of those competitive ironies that having the weekend off turned out to be just what McIlroy needed. He went home to South Florida to work on his game and ran across Faxon at The Bear’s Club.

Although Faxon’s take on the art of putting was probably more involved than it had been a few years earlier, he seemed to have touched on all the right points.

“Freed up my head more than my stroke,” McIlroy explained. “I sort of felt like maybe complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts.”

Earlier in the week McIlroy had a slightly different take on his putting turnaround at Bay Hill, where he led the field in strokes gained: putting, picking up 10 shots for the week, and rolled in 49 feet of putts over his last five holes to end a victory drought that had stretched back to the 2016 Tour Championship.

“Just playing around with it. Seeing balls go in in the front edge, trying to hit them in the left edge, the right edge, hit them off the back of the cup,” he said on Thursday. “Just trying to get a little bit more feel into it and a little more flow.”

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If that doesn’t exactly sound like an exact science, welcome to the Faxon way. In recent years, he’s become something of F which is no huge surprise considering his status as one of the game’s best on the greens.

Between 1991, the year he won the first of eight Tour titles, through 2005, the year he won his last, Faxon ranked outside the top 20 in putting average just four times, and he led the circuit in that category three of those years. But in recent years he’s come into his own as a putting guru.

“The first clinic I attended that a Tour player gave, it was Hale Irwin, and he talked about rhythm and tempo, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear more than that,” Faxon explained. “I thought there would be more technical stuff. I thought it was the default phrase to take pressure off the player, but the more I’ve learned about teaching the best players in the world don’t have many complicated thoughts.”

Faxon’s career has been nothing short of impressive, his eight Tour titles spanning two decades; but it’s his work with players like McIlroy and Gary Woodland that has inspired him in recent years.

A man who has spent his life studying the nuances of the golf swing and putting stroke has created a teaching philosophy as simple, or complicated depending on the player, as rhythm and tempo.

“He teaches me, which is a good thing. He doesn’t have a philosophy,” Woodland said. “I was around him a lot in 2011, 2010, it’s unbelievable how well he can relay it now. He has video of a million guys putting and he’s one of the best to do it, but he can show you that you don’t have to do it one certain way and that was good for me.”

For Woodland, Faxon keyed in on his background as a college basketball player and compared the putting stroke to how he shoots free-throws. For McIlroy, it was a different sport but the concept remained the same.

“We were talking about other sports where you have to create your own motion, a free-throw shooter, a baseball pitcher, but what related to him was a free-kicker in soccer, he mentioned Wayne Rooney,” Faxon said. “You have to have something to kick start your motion, maybe it’s a trigger, some might use a forward press, or tapping the putter like Steve Stricker, sometimes it’s finding the trigger like that for a player.”

Faxon spent “a good two hours” with McIlroy last weekend at The Bear’s Club, not talking technique or method, but instead tapping into the intuitive nature of what makes someone a good putter. Midway through that session Faxon said he didn’t need to say another word.

The duo ended the session with a putting contest. Putting 30-footers to different holes, the goal was to make five “aces.” Leading the contest 4-2, Faxon couldn’t resist.

“Hey Rory, after you win Bay Hill this week you’ll have to tell the world you lost to Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” Faxon joked.

McIlroy proceeded to hole three of his next four attempts to win the contest. “I’m going to tell everyone I beat Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” McIlroy laughed.

Maybe it’s the way he’s able to so easily simplify an exceedingly complicated game, maybe it’s a resume filled with more clutch putts than one could count. Whatever it is, Faxon is good at teaching. More importantly, he’s having fun and doing something he loves.

“I have a hard time being called a teacher or a coach, it was more of a conversation with Rory, being able to work with someone like Rory is as excited as I’ve ever been in my career,” Faxon said. “It meant much more to me than it did Rory.”

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Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

“I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

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Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

“We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.