QA Does Plumb-Bobbing Work

By Frank ThomasAugust 15, 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
Does plumbing a putt really work? Some pros do this and some of my playing partners claim it works. I tell them that if they think it works, it works, but they are wasting their time. What is the truth?

I am glad you asked this question, as I have had the same conversation many times.
The answer is that plumb-bobbing a putt only works if you meet the following conditions:
1) First, the ground you are standing on and the entire surface between you, the ball, and the hole are on exactly the same slope (incline).
2) Second, that you plumb bob correctly.
The correct method of Plumb-bobbing is to make sure that the extended line from the hole to the ball is directly below the eye you are sighting with when standing with your legs apart as if to form an isosceles triangle from your two feet to your sighting eye. The putter is then supported at the butt end and allowed to swing freely, then viewed from the position where it is seen to be in a vertical plane. The hand supporting the putter is then moved so the ball is hidden by the lower end of the shaft. The hole will appear to be left or right of the upper portion of the shaft depending on the slope of the green. If right, then the ball will break to the right. The amount of break is indicated by how far away the hole appears to be from the shaft.
This method is not used very often even by the best golfers in the world. They do, however, see something that might help by holding the shaft up in a vertical plane. In some cases its simply the establishment of a vertical line that provides a reference to judge slopes and undulations on the green rather than just the hole-ball relationship. In other cases it may only be a pre-shot routine to calm them down. I recall seeing a golfer who won many majors holding both ends of the putter, presumably to provide a straight line between the ball and the hole and identify tufts of grass or blemishes on that line at which to aim.
Fred, you are right that if your buddies think it helps it probably will, but dont ask them what theyre looking at, as youll probably get a different answer each time.
Hope this give you a different perspective on this subject.
When the women had their (British) Open at St. Andrews, the 17th Hole was changed from a Par 4 to a Par 5. Was this done for this tournament only, or will it apply when the men's (British) Open is played there?
In tennis, women have to win 2 sets in order to win a Singles Championship, while men need to win a third set to get that title. If similar changes are made in golf, do you feel it is fair when a woman wants to play in a men's tournament, such as the Masters?

You ask a very good question and one which could be very provocative, so let me tread lightly.
The 17th on the Old Course at St. Andrews has always been a par 5 for women.
One piece of information that not every golfer is aware of is that if a man and a women play from the same set of tees and shoot the same score every day, they will not have the same handicap. The man will have a handicap approximately 5 strokes higher than the woman.
This is because the course rating is different for men and women not because different tees are being rated. This does cause a problem when one is trying to compare skill levels between men and women based on handicap. It is a statement of fact that the average woman does not hit the ball as far as the average man, so the course rating system tries to take this into account by assigning different values by gender for the same tees. (Remember that your handicap is based on the difference between your score and the course rating, not the courses par.)
The most important thing about golf is that we enjoy our game and to do this we need to choose an appropriate challenge. In many cases, this means selecting the correct set of tees to play, which will not only allow us to attack the hole with some confidence but to return a respectable score, rather than fearing every hazard as a near-insurmountable problem. I believe you should play from a set of tees where par is a reasonably attainable score on every hole.
People played golf for hundreds of years before anyone thought to assign a par to a hole. Some of the best and most famous holes in tournament play are really half-par holes that can lead to dramatic swings with birdies and eagles as well as pars and bogeys. Think about the two par-5s on the back nine of Augusta National, or drivable par-4s like the 10th at Riviera or the 17th at Oakmont; their real par value for the pros is about a half-stroke less. At the Road Hole, 4 is a good score, whether you call it a par or a birdie.
Keeping track of scores above and below par is just a way of judging whos ahead in a tournament when the players havent played the same number of holes. At the end, all that matters is who has the lowest total. Lorena Ochoa shot a wonderful 287 for four days on the Old Course. It doesnt really matter if we call it 5 under par (with the 17th as a par-5) or 1 under, does it? The only important thing is that it was four strokes better than anybody else.
In the case of the 17th hole on the Old Course at St. Andrews, this is one of the most challenging and famous holes in golf. Changing the tee location would absolutely ruin the hole, so they decided to call it a par-5 ' which is how it played at some mens Opens, too, as late as 1960.
Referring to the last part of your question, I think that if a woman has the appropriate skills to compete and potentially win, she should not be discriminated against because of her sex. She should have an opportunity to play in any golf event she chooses once she fulfills the skill requirements. First, however, and most important to the woman herself who seeks this opportunity, she should be properly qualified and avoid being exploited.
I hope I have scored Par with this answer.
Is there a weight restriction on drivers?

Thanks for the question. It is probably the shortest question I have had for a long time.
The short answer is NO. There is no restriction on the weight of a driver or any other club in the bag -- YET.
I say yet only because the USGA has not yet considered it something to control in an effort to show that they are doing something. There seems to be a movement to limit all sorts of dimensions and properties because they can, rather than providing any evidence that these limitations will be good for the game.
I have repeatedly asked for a definitive explanation of the problem the USGA is trying to solve by introducing new limits on equipment, and more importantly for some evidence that the game will be better off after they adopt these new restrictions.
Here are some of the things theyve restricted lately: height of a tee; size of the club head; MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the head of a driver; length of a driver (but not a putter). Theyre also considering a regulation on changing the size of the groove in the club face. All these proposals have their roots in an attempt to control the performance of Tiger Woods and his colleagues. Theyve been undertaken without any evidence that the hardship and undue effect each would have on the average golfer is justified. Specifying a limit on the weight of a driver would be equally pointless and equally unjustified.
We need to support the USGA and hope that it will review some of these rulings and provide some evidence that they will make our game better.
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
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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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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.