Q A Cheap Balls Forgiving Irons

By Frank ThomasMarch 14, 2006, 5:00 pm
Frankly GolfEditor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
I have a question that has bothered me for years. If I buy a sleeve of golf balls at a discount store am I getting the same ball that I would buy at a pro shop? -- Edward Akers, Benld, Il.

The answer is 'Yes' on condition that it has the same (identical) name and markings. The manufacturers do not make special balls for the retail outlets with the same marking as those you find in the pro-shop. The reason for this is that the balls are submitted to the USGA for conformance testing and listed according to the markings.
If the performance differences are intentionally different the ball when 'check tested' may be found to violate the rules or even be considered a different ball.
I have been considering new irons for a while now, it is well documented that new irons can be more forgiving, and new woods can be more forgiving and add distance, but it is unclear to me if new irons can add distance.
Right now I have a set of Ping Zing 2s, and I am considering a set of Callaway x-18s, can I expect more distance as well as forgiveness? How much of a difference should I expect if any? I have also heard that the lofts for clubs is changing, so I wonder if I do get more distance will the trajectory suffer as a result. Meaning if I hit my 7 iron 150 yards, will a new set allow me to hit a 7 iron 160 yards but with a 6 iron trajectory? -- Tyler Postlewait, Portland, Oregon

First you must understand the forgiveness is not related to distance as long as you hit the sweet spot. In fact this is one of the reasons why the pros do not need game improvement clubs because they always hit (almost always) the sweet spot. Distance using irons, is directly related to the loft of the club and the club head speed, all else being equal with your swing. If you order a new set of forgiving irons do not expect any improvement in distance if the lofts and shaft lengths are the same. You may get a slightly different trajectory with some forgiving clubs because of the center of gravity is father back than in blades (not very forgiving clubs) and this compared to a blade may affect distance. But comparing one forgiving club for another, don't look for distance difference in irons. If the 7-iron doesn't hit the ball far enough then take out the six.
Forgiveness or MOI (Moment of Inertia) is a matter of weight distribution in the club head.
Go to http://www.franklygolf.com/ffnewsletter_jan_06.asp to read an easy to understand explanation on in the most recent 'Frankly Friends Newsletter'. The concept of 'Forgiveness' or MOI is basically the same for both irons and woods and will as the word implies be forgiving of miss-hits. A bad shot will not deviate as much in direction and distance when hit from a high MOI club as it will from a low MOI club but at the same time the difference between a really good shot and a miss-hit will feel that different. This is what the pros don't like about really forgiving clubs.
Mr. Thomas,
When I hear the distance the Pros are getting from lets say an 8 iron, is it really an 8 iron as we amateurs know it? -- Don Eaton

This is a subject which has always intrigued me. Ever since manufacturers decided we should have sets of clubs rather than pick them out of a barrel with funny names (starting in the late 1920s but was in full swing by the end of the 1930s) numbers have been used. This was for the purpose of identifying the club more easily for an intended situation confronting the golfer. This numbering system soon developed into an unwritten standard along with the associated lofts and lies. This honorable standard existed until in the early seventies, in an effort to market an iron as being superior to a competitor's, the standard lofts were secretly changed to provide more distance. This was then the downfall of the unwritten standard.
Today's 8-iron is approximately equal in loft to that of a six iron in the early seventies and almost 3/4 inches longer than it used to be. The numbering system is purely for convenience to the golfer.

What you are seeing today regarding 8-iron distances is a combination of a migration away from the common lofts to very much stronger lofts, increased lengths, increased talent on the Tour which results in increased club head speed and also misinformation either about the distance actually hit or the actual club used.
Hope you will be able to sleep better tonight.

My grandson age 15 is going to be buying new clubs this year. I have suggested that he go where he can be fitted for them. My friends think I'm nuts saying that he will out grow them shortly and have to buy another set soon. They also say that clubs off the rack will be sufficient for now. My question is what do you suggest he do? -- John Blomsness, Cumberland, WI

This depends on the stature of you grandson and the speed he swings the club. Some 15 year olds are big enough to handle a full size set and if this is the case then I would suggest that you start with a standard set. If his swing speed is more than about 85 to 90 mph then ask for a regular flex shaft. This set should be fitted for lie angle but otherwise he should be OK even if he grips down a little on the shaft. If he is small for his age and swings slower than 70 mph then I suggest that you try a set with similar specs to those of a ladies set which are a little lighter and with a more flexible shaft and even about an inch shorter per club. Again this set must be fitted for lie angle.
My impression is that your grandson is an accomplished golfer because of his interest in buying a new set so this is an important choice and you don't want to significantly compromise his game during these important development stages because of cost. There are some good second hand sets or some older models which will be good for him.
Good luck and watch him grow into a full set which only he will be able to say feels good. Obviously hitting the ball well is a good indication that the set feels good and fits well.
Mr. Thomas,
Should most players carry more lofted woods and hybrids instead of a 15 degree 3 wood that most players have problems getting airborn ? -- Hag1MAL1

The answer depends what problems you are having. I would suggest that if you are having problems with your long irons then definitely move to hybrids and get rid of the 3 and 4 irons.
As far as the woods are concerned, you need a driver; and the loft will generally depend on your club head speed. Approximately 400 +cc 9 degrees for high swing speeds and up to 460 cc 15 degrees for low swing speeds (less than 70 mph). Then you need a fairway wood which you can launch off a fairway which is generally about 13 to fifteen degrees of loft. This is your distance fairway wood.
Next you may want to have a 5- wood which will launch the ball about as far as the three-hybrid but with a slightly higher trajectory. This club will be at least one and a half inches longer than the longest hybrid. The answer is you will need to mix and match depending on your game but use the above as a general guide.
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@thegolfchannel.com
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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.

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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.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.