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.
To reserve your own copy of 'Just Hit It', please Click Here
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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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.