Open QA Charting Greens

By Frank ThomasJune 13, 2007, 4:00 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
Tiger Woods is preparing for this year's U.S. Open by charting the greens at Oakmont. How does one go about 'charting' the greens at a golf course? Is there any information you can share with me on how to do it? I know my home course but wouldn't mind knowing it even better.Thank you.
Sincerely yours,

Dave Eichelberger
Dave Eichelberger asks about faster ball velocity in 'Ask Frank,' Monday, June 18 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (Getty Images)
The best way to chart your home course greens is to survey them to determine the exact elevations and slopes and develop a topographical map of the green. I dont think this is what Tiger did at Oakmont. This survey technique will tell you the break from any location based on the change of slope, giving you an idea of how much break to expect. I dont recommend you do this on the weekend.
Most of us have played most of the normal hole locations on our home courses, so we have a general idea of what to expect from different spots on the green, but sometimes we forget. We also rely on our caddie, if we have one, to help read the green. (We somehow put a lot of faith in the caddie even if this is his first job for the summer; it may even be the first time he has seen the course!)
If you are serious and want to chart your home greens, I would suggest that you select zones where the hole locations are most often cut. Roll the ball across these zones many times in different directions (also not on the weekend) and watch how they break. Youll want to record this in some detail on a representative sketch of the green for future use. Referencing your notes is not a violation of the rules. You may also want to roll a ball across the full length of the green in a few directions and record how it breaks as it approaches the zones youve already charted.
Theres no substitute for experience, seeing the breaks on a day-to-day basis like a good caddie does, but you can learn a lot from a little creative visualization. As you approach the green, try to picture how water would drain off the green after a sudden heavy downpour. This will help determine the general breaks, which will follow the water flow. I find this to be helpful. Unfortunately this doesnt work well on a flat green with subtle breaks, which I find are some of the hardest greens to read.
I believe Tiger spent some time putting to various locations on each green at Oakmont while he (or Steve) made some good notes. Well see if it helped him this week.
Frankly Speaking, first let me thank you for the information you provide on your website and through the questions you answer weekly. They are great. My question is about the US Open. From what I read, this event is going to cost the USGA about $16 million to conduct. Does that sound right? And how do you think the course is going to be set up?
Thanks and keep up the good work.

Joe, thank you so much for your kind remarks. I would like to let you know that the website has just been upgraded to make it even easier to navigate and find the fun stuff you are looking for. Check it out here. You can also see my brief answer to you on our new video feature by visiting the Q&A section on my site.
As far as the cost to put on the Open, I dont have the numbers but I do think you are in the ballpark. But dont feel sorry for the USGA, as it will make about $40 million on the event, showing a net of about $25 million. The US Open is one of the better-organized sporting events in the world, and in the past there have been more cameras on site than at the Olympics. The USGA does a very good job of running the Open and so it should. It is the golfing highlight of the year.
As far as course setup is concerned, I think it will be very fair but tough. The rough will be long enough to cause the long hitters a few moments of concern before using their drivers with abandon. The greens will be fast. The greens at Oakmont are always fast: When I introduced the Stimpmeter in 1977, I used green speed data from 35 states to develop a guide-line table for average weekly play. I had to discard Oakmonts data from the analysis because it was what we call an outlier, an anomaly. It was about four feet faster (10.5 on the Stimpmeter back then) than the other clubs that had been measured.
For a championship such as the US Open it will not be difficult to get the speeds up to 13, 14, or more. I think the problem will be to figure out how to slow them down from what the club members would like them to be. It can be a problem to prevent the club members from influencing the course setup. They want it as tough as possible.
I dont think we will see a 63 at Oakmont this year.
Thanks again Joe for your comments, and make sure you check out the newly made-over site.
Your column and your answers to questions posed are a great benefit. My question is, can you explain the concept of placing weights on the driver in multiple positions and how they may help in controlling ball flight?

There are several reasons one would change weights and their location on a driver or other club head.
The first is to change the overall weight, which changes the swing dynamics and balance of the club. Increasing the head weight will increase the swing weight, and also the systems MOI (Moment of Inertia) about the swinging axis. The swing axis changes throughout the swing, so its a complex engineering problem to try to determine how to modify the weight for maximum efficiency through the entire swing.
Generally, in measuring the system MOI one uses the axis of rotation as the point about which the club head is rotating when its at its highest velocity, which is during the last foot or so before impact. This axis point is about 4 inches above the end of the grip. This is only important if youre trying to make the swing dynamics of the club feel the same for each club in the set. Its a little better than using swing weight for this purpose, because weighting the club at the grip (even if just by wearing a wrist watch) changes the swing weight but doesnt affect the MOI very much.
A lot of golfers and manufacturers are talking about MOI these days, but what theyre referring to is the MOI of the head only, with the center of gravity (c.g.) as the axis.
The MOI is generally understood to be a measure of forgiveness of the head. The farther the weight is from the c.g., the harder it is to start the club head rotating, so off-center hits arent as badly affected as with a club with a lower MOI. (For more information and an easy-to-understand explanation of MOI, click here
Changing weights in the head -- which has become popular, or at least advertised, in the last several years -- is not generally done to change the overall weight or the MOI of the head, but rather to change the location of the c.g. This is done to affect the spin on the ball. If you move the c.g. toward the heel of the head and still hit the ball on the same spot on the face, then the club head will twist around the c.g. and give the ball a slightly different spin.
Lets take an example. Youve seen how an impact toward the toe will give you a slight draw spin because of the gear effect. So if you shift weight to the heel, which moves the c.g. toward the heel, then at impact the club head will twist around this inside c.g. and center impact on the face may react just like a slightly toed impact. This is what is called a draw biased weighting; you can get the same effect in reverse (fade bias weighting) if you shift the weight toward the toe.
In addition, relocating weight to the toe will make it a little more difficult to close the face, adding to the fade. Thats why, even apart from the c.g. effect, building an open or closed face creates a further fade or draw bias.
My suggestion is not to mess with weight relocation until you are hitting the ball consistently in one spot ' ideally, the center of the face. If you have a swing flaw, it is better to visit your teacher rather than tinkering with weights to try to solve it.
Quite a weighty subject, isnt it? Hope this helps
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
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.