Q A Ins Outs of Shaft Flex

By Frank ThomasMarch 21, 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
Dear Mr. Thomas,
I am a reasonably good player (10-12 handicap depending on the time of the year) but at age 65 I don't have the swing speed I once had. It's probably somewhere between 80 and 85 and when I shorten my swing for more control, it's less. I've been considering going from a regular flex shaft in my driver to a light, softer 'senior' shaft at 54 g weight. Do you think this might be appropriate? Perhaps you would be kind enough to address in general the importance of the right shaft flex based on swing speed. -- Christopher Gaul, Baltimore, MD

This is probably the most asked question and the least understood. Even the manufacturers who make the shafts are unable to dial in a swing speed and handicap as well as your height and weight and come up with the correct shaft flex for you. The general guideline used is if you have a fast swing speed (about 100 +mph) then you will need a stiff or even X-stiff shaft. At the average swing speeds of about 75 to 90 mph you should consider from an A-shaft (senior) to an R-shaft.
Most of us believe we hit the ball father and harder than we actually do and therefore are inclined to select a shaft which is on the stiff side of what we actually need or this flex is what we had in our previous set and so choose it again. Your club head speed is not dependent on the shaft flex as much as it is on the timing of your swing. So the shaft which will allow you to develop and maintain a good tempo is what you should be looking for. At 85mph head speed you should start with an R-shaft and only change to a more flexible shaft if you feel you are fighting the club to get it to perform.
If you don't feel comfortable with the flex you are not going to make a good swing or get your optimum distance. Don't chase distance -- chase comfort and tempo. For more on shafts visit http://www.franklygolf.com/tgc/shafts.asp
At age 70, when I reviewed my game I found my major problem was not being able to consistently hit a green from 150 yards away even if I were in the middle of the fairway. I decided since I hit my woods a lot better than my irons I would go to almost all woods (wedges being the exception), which I have done with great success. However, my number 13 and 15 woods have lady's shafts in them (got them by mistake but tried them and liked them) and I am hitting them much better than I ever hit my 8 & 9 irons. Now I am wondering if I should have lady shafts in all my woods, even though according to my Speed Stik gage I can still muster 85 mph with a driver. ' W.R. Curran

Sometimes it takes a mistake to discover something. Mistakes are the basis of many wonderful inventions. Yes, I think you should try the L-shaft in your other woods. Try the 3-wood to begin with then if this works get the rest of your wood set re-shafted. There is nothing wrong with a more flexible shaft as long as it works for you. Be careful not to be influenced by what a 'Speed stick' suggests your head speed is and what shaft flex you should use. These devices are best used for comparative purposes regarding swing technique and may be used as a guide only for swing speed. Good luck and keep swinging for another decade or so and get back in touch with me then to see what we need next.
The mantra seems to be 'play with the softest shaft that you can control'. What penalty is paid for using a stiffer shaft? Can the 'penalty' be quantified in an easily understood manner? -- Robert

The answer is it can not be quantified. There are, however, certain guidelines which have been used successfully for a long time and a very good place to start. These guidelines are; if you have a fast swing speed you will be loading the shaft more than a slower swing speed and as a result need a stiffer shaft.
Swing tempo is probably the most important part of a golf swing. To obtain a good tempo you must be able to feel the shaft loading and unloading. This is difficult to describe but it will become obvious when you try an XX-stiff shaft with a swing speed of 85 mph. This will feel like a broom stick and you will have no feel of the club head position during the swing. The shaft must bend during the swing and you must feel this. If you are fighting the club to get it to perform and it only works when you swing it hard and at full speed then the shaft is far too stiff. This will lead to bad timing and inconsistent results.
Unfortunately most of us overestimate how far we hit the ball and also how fast we should be swinging the club for optimum results. Generally, most of us who have been using a stiff shaft should be using an R-shaft which allows us to improve our tempo and as a result increase club head speed. This is really a very personal thing as nobody can tell you what you are feeling.
You have to experiment and the 'Mantra' to go to a softer shaft should not be overdone but rather a word to suggest that if you don't try a more flexible shaft you may never know what you are missing.
My handicap index is a 10.4 and feel I'm really on the verge of becoming a more consistent single digit handicap golfer. In order to continue to improve I really need to improve on greens in regulation. I have a bad habit of pulling my iron shots left, especially the wedges, leaving myself a chip and putt for par instead of two putts. I believe I let the club head get too far behind my hands on the back swing leading to a flat back swing and causing me to come over the top and/or hood the face at impact; at least that what it feels like but I cannot stop it. I suspect that is why I pull my irons but I've never had a pro like you validate that theory. What causes pulled left iron shots and can you suggest any drills to help prevent pulled shots especially with wedges? -- Mike Rushing, Rock Hill, SC

My area of expertise is not in swing correction other than my own! I too am trying to get my handicap down from 4.8 to somewhere where I feel I know where the ball is going... not just hoping!
I do think that you need to check the lie-angles of your irons and especially your wedges. It is hard to pull or draw a wedge and the reason for doing this unintentionally is very probably because the lie angle is wrong. It sounds like these should be flatter by a couple of degrees. I strongly suggest that check your lies angles and then get a good teacher to look at your swing if the lie angle correction doesn't do it for you.
Dear Mr. Thomas,
A friend of mine plays with a set of old Wilson FG blades. I noticed that the lie angle, which he says he never had altered, was quite flat (I'm guessing it was at least 2 degrees flat). I play with a set of Mizuno MS-11 blades that are about half a degree flat. Similarly, my father has a set of old Powerbilt Citation blades that are about one degree flat. Is it just a coincidence that all of these sets of old blades have flatter lie angles?
If not, why is it that newer sets tend to be more upright? -- BJ Abe, Lewis & Clark College Portland, OR

There is no reason for these flat lie angles you are finding. All clubs can be adjusted and the standard has not changed much over the years. In fact because the lengths have change to be a little longer the lie angle should be flatter on the newer clubs. I think that some manufacturers are making the lie angle a little more upright which will make the ball go a little left which is something most of us find difficulty in doing. So this is a built in 'Draw bias' if that's what you want to call it for irons.
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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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.

Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.