Lets be Frank

By Frank ThomasJanuary 22, 2009, 5:00 pm

Is the USGA Bailing out Manufacturers?


Dear Frank:
 
As the controversy surrounding the bailout of Wall Street still swirls, it is constructive to ask if the USGA is doing the same for the golf club industry. Their proposed changes would make millions of clubs instantly obsolete. A recall of illegal clubs will bestow on club manufacturers a captive market for 10s of millions of new sets of irons. It would be as though 50 million people woke up one day and decided to take up golf for the first time. Tell me this is not a dream for Callaway, TaylorMade and others.
 
Apparently big business rules the so-called regulators whether their address is Wall Street or Carlsbad, California. Think not? If big-time on-air golf analysts such as Johnny Miller or Nick Faldo would dare to question the logic or the motivation behind the move they would be out of their chairs faster than Tigers swing speed.
 
-Dennis

 
Dennis, and others who have made similar implications,
 
Let me assure you that, to the very best of my knowledge, the USGA is not trying to bail out the industry, mainly nested in Carlsbad. In fact, the USGA and the industry are more frequently at odds than singing from the same hymn book, as much as the USGA would like some to believe otherwise. No, this groove rule change is not a bail out but a very questionable move on the part of the USGA to correct a perceived problem, which unfortunately will affect, as you have said, millions of golfers. The phantom problem, as one major manufacturer describes it, is a result of the extraordinary performance of about 150 to 300 of the best golfers in the world and has little to do with grooves.
 
When we consider that there are about 25 million golfers, and declining in number, in the US and about 35 million golfers or more in the world, it does seem a little out of whack that 300 (less than 0.001%) have such an influence on how equipment rules should be rewritten affecting all of us. Especially when 99.99% of us are not even remotely contributing to, the phantom problem.
 
It is when this happens that golfers need to stand together and persuade the USGA and R&A that this global change does not make sense. If the perceived problem is as onerous as has been implied by such a disruptive and consequential change, should not the rule apply only to the elite golfers and for those events where the problem seems to have manifested itself? This can easily be done by adopting a Condition of Competition or local rule for specific events. This is not without precedent.
 
Yes, this may lead to a form of bifurcation of the rules but this is a better solution than detrimentally affecting all golfers who dont need any additional hazards to deal with in their pursuit of an enjoyable experience. Bifurcation will exist anyway with the groove rule change as adopted, as most of us dont have to change our clubs until 2024 even though all clubs manufactured after 2009 must have grooves half the size of the present legal grooves.
 
We dont have to abide by the rules and wont go to jail for not doing so. However it is better that we do abide by a code which lends order to our game especially if this code in its entirety makes sense. We really do need to support and respect the USGA but let them know when we believe that something is not right.
 
This respect has become a little more difficult to bestow of late, especially when the USGA refuses to present the information to justify the change. It also refuses to provide evidence, for our review, to show that the game will be better for the change. In fact, the USGA has refused after many requests to make this information available. We know how the lack of transparency can reek havoc to society, let not golf fall into the same trap. Golfers want the process to be transparent (see the results of the Groove survey we conducted by clicking here).
 
It would be good for golf and the USGA if it asked golfers for their input and opinion when changes of such significance were contemplated. This is what happened when there was consideration given to a proposed ruling on steel shafts in 1921; and again in 1931 when it changed the weight specification for a ball to 1.55 ounces, which lasted for one year, and again in 1938 when it restricted the number of clubs to 14. This is what we expect from our governing body, but things seem to have changed and we have moved away from a democratic form of governing the game.
 
We need to say something directly to the USGA, after all it is by consent of the governed that the USGA gets its authority. It needs to be reminded of this now and again if it expects adherence to the code it promulgates. In this case it should step lightly, as the integrity of the game is at stake.
 
Let us support the USGA and lobby for further consideration and transparency. Click here for my latest update and to see how you can help.
 
-Frank

Do You Have a Spine?


 
Frank,
My friends are head over heels into 'spining' their shafts.
 
I have not seen a lot of serious discussion on 'spining' was just wondering what your opinion is on the subject.
 
Cheers,
 
-Bob

 
Bob,
A spine in a shaft is an indication that you dont have a very good quality shaft.
 
Most of the time a spine is found in graphite shafts, which are flag-wrapped. This process is used to make the majority of graphite shafts. Flag-wrapping is when sheets of unidirectional fibers are cut at different angles to the fiber direction and then wrapped as a sheet around a solid rod, which eventually after curing is withdrawn forming the hollow center of the shaft. If these sheets overlap or dont meet properly they create a double layer of fibers or a gap in fibers down one side of the shaft. Because of the additional material or lack of material down one side, the shaft will bend more one way than another when you rotate it, something like a yardstick. This is what we call a shaft with a spine.
 
If this spine is very pronounced, it is better to orient it in a particular position (for example in the 3 oclock or 6 oclock position) relative to the head for greater consistency in performance.
 
Graphite shafts with multiple layers of flags in the wrappings or when produced by the filament winding process are a little bit more expensive but are very much more consistent in their bending properties if finished with care. They may have a spine but it is of such little consequence, that special orientation is unnecessary. This is the case for most steel shafts.
 
Spining a shaft may be necessary if it is a bad quality shaft but otherwise dont let somebody influence you into spending a bunch of money to spine good quality shafts. This would be equivalent to balancing your tires for 150 mph when the engine in your car can only push it to a max of 80 mph. Spend the money you would otherwise be relieved of for spining on a lesson or two or even a couple of cases of beer.
 
This should send a tingle down your spine.
 
Frank
 

Please note: By submitting your question to Frank you will automatically become a Frankly Friend so you can stay up to date with his golf equipment Q&A. You may unsubscribe at any time.
 
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to helping golfers. Frank is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. 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
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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

Getty Images

McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

Getty Images

The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.