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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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry