Legality of the Long Putter

By Frank ThomasFebruary 26, 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

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Every week we will select the best question and Frank will send one lucky golfer a personally signed copy of 'Just Hit It'. Last week's lucky winner was Dave, with his question regarding talented junior golfers and the best way to help them and their parents.
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Legality of the Long Putter
For several years I have been watching tour pro's use a belly putter or one of similar design. I also see it on my home courses. Does touching the body with a club, other than the hands, constitute fair golf? Personally, I would like to see any shot where the club comes in contact wtih the body be banned. Please share with us your thoughts on this practice.
-- Fred

To your question, Does touching the body with a club, other than the hands, constitute fair golf? relates to a subject, which has been debated for hours and maybe days on end. I think we may better phrase this question by asking if it is a traditional stroke.
For years we have used the phrase traditional and customary with regard to rulings on our equipment but rarely when ruling on the type of stroke used. The croquet style putting was banned because it was not traditional and there was a feeling -- without much evidence ' that it was an advantage to Sam Snead. I think non-traditional part ruled the day as it is easier to justify and more difficult to challenge than limited data to demonstrate a potential advantage.
The problem the USGA faces as rules makers is that if it adopts a rule, this must first make intuitive sense to golfers and then reasonably easy to enforce. In general the USGA has not tried to dictate how a piece of equipment should be used but rather to adopt specifications for equipment which would make it awkward to use it in an inappropriate ' non traditional manner. Many think that the USGA should have placed a limit on the length of a putter, which would eliminate -- to a major degree -- the style you find difficult to reconcile with real golf.

I think that there is evidence that the long putter and the belly putter style of putting eliminates several degrees of freedom, which in turn eliminates the errors associated with those degrees of freedom thus making the style more efficient. There are however, problems like losing some potential feel and the being chastised on occasion by your buddies if you miss a putt.
Fred, as much as your proposal has been discussed, the difficulty in monitoring this overshadows the problems associated with it offending people or the advantage it will provide. Many golfers have stayed in the game because of the long putter. Maybe this is good.
Shelf Life of a Driver Shaft
How often should a shaft in a Driver be changed? What is the shelf life of a shaft ?

The answer is never, unless it is broken.
Now for the short answer;
The shaft -- modern steel or graphite -- in your driver will not wear out. It will not change its flex properties nor will you need to change it, if it matches your swing speed and you are comfortable with the way it is behaving of course and you dont stress it beyond the yield point. Generally this will result in catastrophic failure ' i.e. a broken shaft.
One of the charming things about golf is that we are always looking for the magic club and inclined to blame our equipment for our own flaws.
Every now and again, you may need to change equipment just to keep you in that comfort zone of knowing that technology is not passing you by. Remember, however, that good friends are sometimes hard to make and you need to respect the friends you have. Certainly dont let them know you are looking around.
I think I have answered the second part of your question; there is no known shelf life for a shaft.
Hope this helps
Attitude or Altitude
I live in the Columbus, Ohio area, and frequently travel to the South Carolina coast and to the western coast of Florida, near Tampa, on golf vacations. When playing golf on these coasts, the golf ball doesn't seem to fly as far as in Columbus. When the PGA Tour played the International in Colorado, I heard that the players could hit the golf ball approximately 10% farther due to the thinner air in Colorado. Now, I know that the International was played at approximately 5,000 feet above sea level, and Columbus is nowhere near that altitude, but can you approximate the distance that the change in altitude will have on the golf shot between Columbus, Ohio and sea level in South Carolina and Florida?


Columbus Ohio has a listed elevation of 902 feet above sea level. This will have some effect on your ball flight simply because the air is less dense. The trajectory will not be as high as it would be at sea level all other conditions being equal but this is only different by about two or three feet. The reason is that the lift properties are less but the other contributing factor is that the drag properties are also less. This low drag force and less lift will tend to give you a slightly lower trajectory in the air and a faster ball speed when the ball lands on the turf. The lower angle at which the ball impacts the fairway (if you hit the fairway) and the speed it is going will affect the overall distance.
Rough calculations show that because of elevation change alone between Columbus Ohio (902 feet elevation) and Tampa (close to sea level) the ball should travel, in total about 5 yards father in Columbus, for a 250 yard drive, all else being equal. The hardness of the turf and height of fairway cut will also plays a very important part in the bounce and roll distance.
Kent, the normal changes in barometric pressure, from 30 in/Hg to 29 in/Hg, as pressure zones move in or out of the area in Tampa or Columbus, will have the same effect on the distance of your drives.
We need to understand that these differences exist and if possible take them into account, but also recognize that even Tigers ball finishes on average about 28 feet from the hole when hitting shots from 175 yards out.
In many cases, we would be better off by going to the longer club and hitting it a little softer, than taking our best estimate about what we think we can do ' on our best days ' with a specific club and adjusting for a few yards.
It is a wonderful thing, however, to hit the ball perfectly sweet and having made the right calculations and getting it to stop exactly where we intended it to stop. Dont let the lack of understanding of the effect of altitude to come between you and perfection.
I try to describe what the addictive forces are in our game, in my book Just Hit It released about a week ago, and am sure you will find this of some interest and fun to read. For more information Click Here
Attitude as well as altitude is an important part of our wonderful game.
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
Frank Thomas

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.