QA Does a Driver Lose Its Pop

By Frank ThomasOctober 24, 2007, 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
Billy Mayfair
Billy Mayfair speaks up in 'Ask Frank,' Monday, Oct. 29 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (WireImage)
Two of my golfing buddies think drivers lose their pop after a certain amount of time. They've come up with some possible causes but aren't really sure (loss of trampoline effect due to metal fatigue, or the shaft loses flexibility).
Would you expect a driver to lose distance over the span of about a year (assuming the golfers swing doesn't change)?

If we are talking about one of the Biggest BigIR17XQuin Sasquit Ti/Comp drivers or even one of the standard versions that have been around for a few years, all of which are designed to the limit of COR (trampoline effect), and your swing speed is in the normal to high range (85mph to 105 mph), then you should not be concerned about it losing its POP.
Im assuming that the club head and shaft are not production anomalies that should have been rejected on their way through the quality control department, and that the club is otherwise designed to specifications. If it is from a reputable manufacturer, then it should last for at least five years under reasonably heavy use. This means playing 30 to 40 rounds of golf a year and going to the driving range about once a week.
The face will not lose its pop -- i.e., resilience or ability to spring back during impact. The shaft will not lose flexibility in any gradual manner. When a graphite shaft fails, it is a catastrophic failure that ends up with the grip still in your hands but the head somewhere in the bushes or down the fairway. The fatigue properties of shafts are very good. Even steel shafts made of high strength steel will not lose their oomph.
You can test to see if a driver face has started to collapse. Place the straight edge of a credit or business card against the face. The face should have a noticeable bulge and roll (i.e., be convex). If the face is flat and a little concave, then you do have a potential problem. Nowadays this is very much the exception, though that was not the case in the very early days of titanium drivers.
Iver, I think your buddies need to do a little deeper self-examination of their swings if they believe their clubs are not working as well even though their own efforts havent changed. There is no sound technical evidence that will let them off the hook.
It is amazing how well a driver works for the first several weeks (or even months, depending on how much you paid for it). I find a new club improves my game right up until the point when my mind, which has lulled into the belief that all is right in the world of golf, reawakens and starts to interfere with my swing. This is a real phenomenon known as the Placebo Effect, experienced by even the very best players.
I do not believe it is the club or shaft that has lost its pop, but rather the depletion of the magic powers most new drivers have designed into them.
-- Frank
I really enjoy reading your Q&A every week, so please keep it going. My question relates to the effect that air temperature has on ball flight. I've noticed that a 20 degree F difference in temperature can substantially affect the distance on my shots. In some cases, I've even found this when playing on consecutive days when the temperature is very different, I need to be careful about club selection. How does temperature impact the ball? Is there an ideal temperature range that golf balls are designed to be played in?

Many golfers -- even the pros -- don't pay enough attention to the air temperature when selecting a club for a particular shot. The ball temperature also affects its resilience properties, but not as much as the air temperature. As air temperature increases, the air becomes less dense, and this is why it is more difficult for airplanes to take off on hot days than cold days. The lift forces are reduced in hot (less dense) air, as are the drag forces -- and the overall effect is that balls will travel farther on hot days than cold days.
A general rule of thumb is to estimate a 2 to 2.5 yard difference for every 10 F. So at 40 F, the ball will travel about 10 to 12 yards less than at 90 F. In combination with your decreased body temperature, which will have some effect on your swing, this could add up to something significant -- at least one to one and a half clubs difference in your selection. Hope this helps warm you up for the next cold day on the course.
-- Frank
Dear Frank,
Thanks for the great column each week. I am using an 11-degree Big Bertha 460 driver with a regular flex shaft (off the rack stuff) and I fight a pretty pronounced hook several times per round. I went to a local golf shop with the idea of trying a Titleist 907 D1 which has a straight face instead of the 1 degree closed Callaway. One of the staff at the store suggested that I try a stiffer shaft. I haven't had my swing timed in a while, but as I am almost 60 years old I would guess I'm somewhere in the low to mid 80's. Would the stiffer shaft help the hook? What might be result on the shots where the hook doesn't show up? Also, as you suggest, I grip down on the 45' shaft since I'm only 5'7' tall. Does gripping down affect the stiffness of a shaft? Thanks for any light you can shed on this tunnel.

First, thank you for your kind comments about the column. I am pleased to see you are using an 11 loft on your driver. Most of us dont appreciate how much of a friend loft is. I am not as pleased to hear you are using a closed-faced driver. I believe that if we have a swing flaw, it is better to try to change our swing than to find a band-aid to compensate.
Unfortunately, most manufacturers know that golfers want to buy a fix rather than work on it, so they generalize and assume (rightly in most cases) that golfers who need more loft are less skilled and generally slice, so they design closed faces for clubs with lofts higher than 10 or 11 degrees.
The fact that you are, in general, hitting the ball straight except for the occasional but pronounced hook means that there is a lapse in your swing and/or you are on the edge of a hook at any time. If you are going to be erratic, it would be better that the norm be straight with an occasional draw and fade. If the shaft is too flexible, then when you do lose it on occasion, the ball will generally go left (assuming youre right-handed). So a stiffer shaft may help, as will a straight-faced driver.
You should also get a shorter driver rather than continuing to grip down on the shaft. If the occasional hooks come when you are tempted to grip the drive at its full length, then you have the answer. When you do grip down, the effective stiffness of the shaft increases, but not enough to worry about.
Bottom line: move your normal drive (with the occasional draw or fade) toward the center line of the fairway by using a shorter driver and a straighter face angle. A stiffer shaft may help, but for your swing speed an R shaft should be fine. Stay with the 11 loft, and if you have a chance to get a swing check up, do so.
By the way, a straight drive is generally more efficient with fewer energy losses, so it will go farther. A draw is sometimes the result of a toe impact; the toe is generally traveling faster than the heel or the sweet spot, so you may gain a little more ball speed with a lower flight. This does on occasion result in a little more roll and overall distance.
I hope this is a tunnel lighting answer.
-- Frank
Fall for the FrogFrank 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
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First Look: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play groups

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 11:30 pm

It's officially match play time.

The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play kicks off this week in Austin, where 64 of the top players will square off in a combination of round robin play and single elimination. The top 16 players in the field will serve as top seeds in each of the 16 groups this week, while their round-robin opponents were drawn randomly from three different pods Monday night.

Here's a look at the four-player groups that will begin play Wednesday, with the winner from each of the 16 groups advancing to knockout play beginning Friday:

Group 1: (1) Dustin Johnson, (32) Kevin Kisner, (38) Adam Hadwin, (52) Bernd Wiesberger

Johnson never trailed en route to victory last year, and he'll start with a match against the Austrian. Kisner has missed three of his last four cuts, while Hadwin enters off three straight top-12 finishes.

Group 3: (3) Jon Rahm, (28) Kiradech Aphibarnrat, (43) Chez Reavie, (63) Keegan Bradley

Rahm will start with a match against a former major winner in Bradley, while a match against fellow Arizona State alum Reavie looms the following day. Rounding out the group is Aphibarnrat, who won in Brunei two weeks ago.

Group 9: (9) Tommy Fleetwood, (26) Daniel Berger, (33) Kevin Chappell, (58) Ian Poulter

This group kicks off with an all-English battle between Fleetwood and Poulter, while Berger and Chappell were both members of the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team in the fall.

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Randall's Rant: Hey, loudmouth, you're not funny

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 10:30 pm

Dear misguided soul:

You know who you are.

You’re “that guy.”

You’re that guy following around Rory McIloy and yelling “Erica” at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

There was something creepy in the nature of your bid to get in McIlroy’s head, in the way you hid in the shadows all day. Bringing a guy’s wife into the fray that way, it’s as funny as heavy breathing on the other end of a phone call.

You’re that guy telling Justin Thomas you hope he hits it in the water at the Honda Classic.

There are a million folks invested in seeing if Thomas can muster all the skills he has honed devoting himself to being the best in the world, and you’re wanting to dictate the tournament’s outcome. Yeah, that’s what we all came out to see, if the angry guy living in his mother’s basement can make a difference in the world. Can’t-miss TV.

You’re that guy who is still screaming “Mashed Potatoes” at the crack of a tee shot or “Get in the Hole” with the stroke of a putt.

Amusing to you, maybe, but as funny as a fart in an elevator to the rest of us.

As a growing fraternity of golf fans, you “guys” need a shirt. It could say, “I’m that guy” on one side and “Phi Kappa Baba Booey” on the other.

I know, from outside of golf, this sounds like a stodgy old geezer screaming “Get off my lawn.” That’s not right, though. It’s more like “Stop puking on my lawn.”

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Because McIlroy is right, in the growing number of incidents players seem to be dealing with now, it’s probably the liquor talking.

The Phoenix Open is golf’s drunken uncle, but he isn’t just visiting on the holiday now. He’s moving in.

What’s a sport to do?

McIlroy suggested limiting liquor sales at tournaments, restricting alcohol consumption to beer.

I don’t know, when the beer’s talking, it sounds a lot like the liquor talking to me, just a different dialect.

From the outside, this push-back from players makes them sound like spoiled country club kids who can’t handle the rough-and-tumble playgrounds outside their prim little bailiwick. This isn’t really about social traditions, though. It’s about competition.

It’s been said here before, and it’s worth repeating, golf isn’t like baseball, basketball or football. Screaming in a player’s backswing isn’t like screaming at a pitcher, free-throw shooter or field-goal kicker. A singular comment breaking the silence in golf is more like a football fan sneaking onto the sidelines and tripping a receiver racing toward the end zone.

Imagine the outrage if that happened in an NFL game.

So, really, what is golf to do?

Equip marshals with tasers? Muzzle folks leaving the beer tent? Prohibit alcohol sales at tournaments?

While the first proposition would make for good TV, it probably wouldn’t be good for growing the sport.

So, it’s a tough question, but golf’s governing bodies should know by now that drunken fans can’t read those “Quiet Please!” signs that marshals wave. There will have to be better enforcement (short of tasers and muzzles).

There’s another thing about all of this, too. Tiger Woods is bringing such a broader fan base to the game again, with his resurgence. Some of today’s younger players, they didn’t experience all that came with his ascendance his first time around. Or they didn’t get the full dose of Tigermania when they were coming up.

This is no knock on Tigermania. It’s great for the game, but there are challenges bringing new fans into the sport and keeping them in the sport.

So if you’re “that guy,” welcome to our lawn, just don’t leave your lunch on it, please.


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How Faxon became 'The Putting Stroke Whisperer'

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 9:39 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – During a charity event a few years ago Brad Faxon was asked what he’s thinking about when he putts. A hush fell across the green as everyone within earshot eagerly awaited the answer.

Imagine having the chance to quiz Leonardo da Vinci about the creative process, or Ben Hogan on the finer points of ball-striking. Arguably the best putter of his generation, if anyone could crack the complicated code of speed, line and pace, it would be Faxon.

Faxon mulled the question for a moment, shrugged and finally said, “Rhythm and tempo.”

If Faxon’s take seems a tad underwhelming, and it did that day to everyone in his group, the genius of his simplicity was on display last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Before arriving at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ranked 124th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, losing .1 strokes per round to the field. In fact, he’d missed the cut a week earlier at the Valspar Championship when he needed 58 putts for two days and made just a single attempt over 10 feet.

It’s one of those competitive ironies that having the weekend off turned out to be just what McIlroy needed. He went home to South Florida to work on his game and ran across Faxon at The Bear’s Club.

Although Faxon’s take on the art of putting was probably more involved than it had been a few years earlier, he seemed to have touched on all the right points.

“Freed up my head more than my stroke,” McIlroy explained. “I sort of felt like maybe complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts.”

Earlier in the week McIlroy had a slightly different take on his putting turnaround at Bay Hill, where he led the field in strokes gained: putting, picking up 10 shots for the week, and rolled in 49 feet of putts over his last five holes to end a victory drought that had stretched back to the 2016 Tour Championship.

“Just playing around with it. Seeing balls go in in the front edge, trying to hit them in the left edge, the right edge, hit them off the back of the cup,” he said on Thursday. “Just trying to get a little bit more feel into it and a little more flow.”

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If that doesn’t exactly sound like an exact science, welcome to the Faxon way. In recent years, he’s become something of F which is no huge surprise considering his status as one of the game’s best on the greens.

Between 1991, the year he won the first of eight Tour titles, through 2005, the year he won his last, Faxon ranked outside the top 20 in putting average just four times, and he led the circuit in that category three of those years. But in recent years he’s come into his own as a putting guru.

“The first clinic I attended that a Tour player gave, it was Hale Irwin, and he talked about rhythm and tempo, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear more than that,” Faxon explained. “I thought there would be more technical stuff. I thought it was the default phrase to take pressure off the player, but the more I’ve learned about teaching the best players in the world don’t have many complicated thoughts.”

Faxon’s career has been nothing short of impressive, his eight Tour titles spanning two decades; but it’s his work with players like McIlroy and Gary Woodland that has inspired him in recent years.

A man who has spent his life studying the nuances of the golf swing and putting stroke has created a teaching philosophy as simple, or complicated depending on the player, as rhythm and tempo.

“He teaches me, which is a good thing. He doesn’t have a philosophy,” Woodland said. “I was around him a lot in 2011, 2010, it’s unbelievable how well he can relay it now. He has video of a million guys putting and he’s one of the best to do it, but he can show you that you don’t have to do it one certain way and that was good for me.”

For Woodland, Faxon keyed in on his background as a college basketball player and compared the putting stroke to how he shoots free-throws. For McIlroy, it was a different sport but the concept remained the same.

“We were talking about other sports where you have to create your own motion, a free-throw shooter, a baseball pitcher, but what related to him was a free-kicker in soccer, he mentioned Wayne Rooney,” Faxon said. “You have to have something to kick start your motion, maybe it’s a trigger, some might use a forward press, or tapping the putter like Steve Stricker, sometimes it’s finding the trigger like that for a player.”

Faxon spent “a good two hours” with McIlroy last weekend at The Bear’s Club, not talking technique or method, but instead tapping into the intuitive nature of what makes someone a good putter. Midway through that session Faxon said he didn’t need to say another word.

The duo ended the session with a putting contest. Putting 30-footers to different holes, the goal was to make five “aces.” Leading the contest 4-2, Faxon couldn’t resist.

“Hey Rory, after you win Bay Hill this week you’ll have to tell the world you lost to Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” Faxon joked.

McIlroy proceeded to hole three of his next four attempts to win the contest. “I’m going to tell everyone I beat Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” McIlroy laughed.

Maybe it’s the way he’s able to so easily simplify an exceedingly complicated game, maybe it’s a resume filled with more clutch putts than one could count. Whatever it is, Faxon is good at teaching. More importantly, he’s having fun and doing something he loves.

“I have a hard time being called a teacher or a coach, it was more of a conversation with Rory, being able to work with someone like Rory is as excited as I’ve ever been in my career,” Faxon said. “It meant much more to me than it did Rory.”

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Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

“I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

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Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

“We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.