Optimal Driver Loft

By Frank ThomasMarch 11, 2008, 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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 

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 Fred, with his question about The Legality of the Long Putter.
 
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Optimal Driver Loft
 
Frank.

I really enjoy your Q & A segment and have learned a lot over the
past couple years. My question has to do with ones age, dufferism, if there is such a word, and loft. In buying a new driver I tried to read as much as possible to determine what would be the optimum loft for me. I am 70 years old and a high handicapper, about 18. I have read several articles that stated that high handicappers would be better off leaving the driver in the bag and use a three wood off the tee. Shorter club, higher loft, straighter drive. My driver length is 43.5 and I chose a 13 loft. I've never had trouble with slicing or hooking so that doesn't enter the equation. What I would like to know is how do I determine what is too much loft?
 
Thank you for taking the time to consider my question.
 
Larry

 
Larry,
 
Thank you for your kind remarks.
 
I don't know if you are just thinking about buying a new driver or preparing for the torturous event. Advances in driver technology are slowing down and this is simply because we have reached the effective limits promulgated by the USGA and more importantly designed by Mother Nature regarding MOI(forgiveness) and COR (trampoline effect).
 
For this reason the only way you will be able to get those few extra ' 20 by most claims -- very precious yards, is to launch the ball more
efficiently if you don't do this now or of course increase your strength and range of motion through an exercise and stretching regimen. This will increase your clubhead speed and give you those yards you are looking for.
 

If the driver you are now using is more than four or five years old it is about time to think about looking around and be sure not to stray too far from the club specs which are now working well for you.
 
Let me assume that your driver swing speed is about 80 mph. For this speed you need to launch the ball at about 14 degrees with a spin rate in the 3,000-rpm range. To achieve these launch conditions, the club you have i.e. 13 degrees loft is a good choice. The fact that you are hitting it well now is a good indication that you have the right club and a good friend. To view my table of optimal launch conditions for different swing speeds Click Here.
 
I am pleased to see you have a 43.5 inches long driver -- the same length Tiger used to win his first several majors -- which has proven to enhance your accuracy. You obviously feel comfortable with this club and have developed the all-important confidence you need to enjoy your game and lower your score.
 
I believe that the loft you have in your driver is good and only a couple of degrees stronger than a 3-wood but the 3-wood will not have the same forgiveness nor the same spring like effect than your present or even the newest drivers. Too much loft will result in the ball ballooning on you and reduced to zero roll, even on average turf.
 
For swing speeds lower than 75 mph there are drivers which have about 15 degrees of loft but this is not a good choice for you and also most of these drivers have a closed face assuming that those who need these clubs slice the ball. This is not a good way to deal with a swing flaw but in many cases we don't want to take a lesson and rather spend three times more for a new driver.
 
Larry, if you are really happy with what you have, be on the alert when you start reconnoitering to make sure that you don't get persuaded by your (all of our) belief in a little magic, and most definitely don't let the driver in your bag know about this reconnaissance mission.
 
Frank
 
Hybrids and Fairway Woods
 
Dear Frank,
 
I really enjoy your articles, they are very informative. I also really hope the USGA wont do anything stupid and change the club specs just for the elite few. Here is my question. I currently carry a 7 wood and a 9 wood. Is there any benefit of putting some hybrid clubs in my bag to replace these clubs? All I hear is that you need to have hybrids, but nothing is ever said about lofted fairway woods. Is there a real benefit of hybrids over fairway woods? Thanks for all you do for golf.
 
Jimmy

 

Jimmy,
 
Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, there are a number of concerned golfers who have the same concerns as you do regarding the USGA making changes which will unduly affect the majority of golfers to solve some questionable perceived problems. The game is not growing and we need to address the real problems facing the game.
 
First let me say that the recent introduction of the hybrid (which is actually not new but become recently popularized) is one of the best things that has happened to help golfers for many years.
 
To answer your question let me first assume that the loft angle on the two clubs (the hybrid and fairway wood) is the same. The fairway wood will be from 1 to 1 inches longer than the hybrid. The head of the fairway wood will be larger with the center of gravity (c.g) farther back from the face than the hybrid. The MOI (forgiveness factor) of the fairway wood will be greater than the hybrid.
 
Because of these differences the hybrid will hit the ball with a lower trajectory than the wood, not as far as the wood but with greater accuracy than the wood. So each club has a place in the bag. My recommendation is that if you have confidence in your 7- and 9- wood then keep them in your bag but consider a hybrid if you are looking for a slightly different trajectory OR certainly if you have a long iron which you dont use very often and which is only taking up valuable bag space.
 
Frank
 
Perimeter Weighting in Wedges
 
Frank,
 
I really enjoy your work!
 
Question: It seems odd to me that retailers stock few perimeter weighted wedges other than those that match full sets of perimeter-weighted irons. Is perimeter weighting that much less advantageous in wedges as in the longer clubs?
 
Thanks, and keep up the great work!
 
Howard

 

Howard,
 
Thank you for your kind remarks.
 
It is not easy to design a wedge with a perimeter weighting (higher MOI) which is more effective than the present classic designs. The reason why we see the same cavity back style of perimeter weighting, even though it is reduced in the PW is because this is part of the set and, is in fact a nine iron of old with different --PW -- stamping on the sole.
 
The real PW used to have 51 degrees of loft and was considered a true wedge, but these are now about 46 degrees and thus a continuum of the set with a true wedge now being a utility club which we now call a Gap Wedge. The forgiveness factor you can build into real wedge compared to the classic designs we see in the stores is so small that you should not even think about trying to take advantage of this property.
 
I have said may times that most of us can hit Tiger's wedge (not his Lob wedge) without too much of a problem but lets not even think about hitting his 3-iron. You are exactly right in your assumption that, perimeter weighting is much less advantageous in wedges than in the longer clubs.
 
I discuss how to select your wedge in my recently released book 'Just Hit It' which I know you are going to enjoy. Click Here to order. The first 50 orders this week will receive a signed copy.
 
Frank
 
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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank Thomas

Getty Images

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?''

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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.

Getty Images

Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.