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

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Optimal Driver Loft

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.

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.
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.


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.
Perimeter Weighting in Wedges
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!


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 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

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x