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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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.