QA Distance Weight and Speed

By Frank ThomasJanuary 30, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor'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@franklygolf.com
 
Hi, Frank:
I need help! My swing speed is around 125 mph with the driver (460 Adams xstiff), yet I have never hit a drive over 310 yards. Most of the time when I hit it good off the tee Im around 285 (bone-straight 12-degree launch). How is this possible? I play about 150 rounds a year, so I know Im not missing the sweet spot every single time. I read somewhere that you should get 3 yards for every mph your club head is traveling. If this is true, what is stopping my drive from traveling 350?
 
Thanks for any info, Frank. Hope all is well.
Billy
Michigan

 
Billy,
First of all there are a lot of us (millions, including a few pros on tour) who would love to be in your shoes with most of your drives going 285 yards bone-straight!
 
With 125 mph head speed and impacting the sweet spot every time, you should be able to drive the ball about 330 yards now and again under ideal launch conditions. These are 12 degrees launch angle and about 2,200 rpm spin rate and a fairway in average conditions (i.e. 25 yard roll). If you are not at these launch conditions, then try to get there by hitting the ball a little higher on the face. This will reduce the ball speed a little but bring you closer to the optimum angle and spin. The other thing to try is a different ball. For more on optimum launch conditions please Click here
 
If I were you, I would settle for the drives you have and concentrate on the rest of your game, as there is nothing wrong with what youre getting from your driver, especially since youre hitting it both long and straight. Then the next step is to apply for your PGA TOUR card if you dont already have it.
Frank
 
Hello Frank,
Last year I finally got fitted and learned that I needed to be +1/2' long (or 36' for a 6 iron). I decided to use Project X 5.5 rather than DG S300s due to the weight advantage of the PX. The swingweight of the new clubs with the PX shaft are D-6, which makes sense due to the 1/2' increase in length.
 
My question is, if I add 4-8 grams of lead tape weight to the grip end, thus reducing the swingweight by 1-2 points, will this allow me to swing the club with more control, faster, and be able square the club head better at impact?
Sincerely,
The Mat Slicer!!!

 
Mat,
By changing out these shafts -- going from the Dynamic Gold S 300 (a good shaft, by the way) to a Pro X 5.5 and making it 1/2 inch longer -- you have not only added weight to the shaft but increased the length. These two changes will increase the swingweight by 3 points for the increase in length and about 1 swingweight point for the slightly heavier shaft. This, as you have discovered, takes you from your former D2 to a D6.
 
If you are hung up on swing weight and want a D2 because it feels better to you, then shorten the shaft back to its original length and accept a D3 or decrease the head weight (not easy).
 
DON'T add weight to the butt end of the club to achieve a certain swingweight. This is done sometimes in club fitting to make the customer happy, but it does absolutely nothing for you.
 
Consider the following: putting on a heavier grip or adding weight under the grip reduces the swingweight. Wearing a glove might do the same thing. The glove might just as well be part of the grip (especially for those of us who have a death grip on the club), so this too will reduce the swing weight by as much as six points. A wristwatch will also be part of the club/hands/glove system and this would, if taken into account in measuring swingweight, affect the numbers. Wearing a watch adds weight to the grip section or axis of rotation. (The grip is not truly the axis for the entire swing, but certainly is for the final segment of the swing.)
 
We both know that the club feels almost exactly the same irrespective of whether we wear a glove or a watch. It might slip on occasion without the glove, but that's the only difference. The flaw is in putting too much stock in the measurement of swingweight.
 
Swingweight is a static balance, and its a useful measure of the balance of a club only when its used in combination with overall weight and natural frequency. The more weight in the head of the club and the distance this weight is from the grip, the heavier it will feel and the harder it will be to swing no matter how much weight you add to the grip.
 
Try holding a club at the head end, and swing the grip of the club. Then compare this to holding at the grip end and swinging the head. This is the feel that swing weight was designed to control. Just adding weight to that portion you are holding is not going to affect anything very much, and certainly not when it comes to the weight we are talking about (bearing in mind that a glove will affect the scale number by six points or so).
 
The head weight and the distance it is from the grip are most important for balancing purposes. So bottom line is, don't get hung up on swingweight too much. If the newly shafted club feels OK, then youre in good shape; if it feels too heavy, go back to the original length or get a lighter head. Most important is to keep swinging.
 
Frank
 
Hi,
 
I am 61 and have a slow swing speed, but I think I swing better with heavier clubs. I am stronger than young people and women who hit the ball farther than I do. More swing weight gives me more feedback and 'feel, but the general advice is that I should get lighter clubs. Why? I dont think I could swing faster with a club that has no weight at all. So my idea is to get longer shafts (I am 6'3' and measure 38' from my wrists to the floor) to get more distance. I think I am strong enough to handle more swingweight without losing speed. Longer shafts will produce higher club head speed, given the same 'rotation speed,' right? What do you think?
 
I mean, nobody ever examines the cause of the slow swing speed. The solution must be different if the muscles are weak or the body is slow or the technique is poor. This is a question I have thought about for several years.
I am relatively new to golf and my handicap is still improving, slowly.
Any comments, please?
Best Regards,
Nils

 
Nils,
It is true that a heavier club head at the same speed will generate more ball speed, but you would be better off increasing your club head speed with the same head weight, which is more effective. The head will have more kinetic energy, which is what you are looking for.
 
Increasing head speed can be done by increasing the club length, but this probably hurt your accuracy. Or you can decrease club weight. This too will increase head speed and in turn ball speed, but not the way I suggest.
There are two more things you can try that will increase head speed and distance. First is to increase your range of motion through a strength/flexibility (stretching) regimen. You may be strong, but you may not be transmitting that strength efficiently to the club head. Check with your doctor before you do this, but it is a good way to improve your general quality of life as well as your distance on the course.
 
The last thing to do along with the improved range of motion is to take a lesson. This will cost a lot less than a new set of clubs and will do a lot more for you.
 
Hang in there, but be warned that you have taken up a very addictive sport so beware that you might very well get hooked.
 
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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
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).


Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com 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 Web.com 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.