QA Driver Blues Divot Talk

By Frank ThomasMay 8, 2007, 4:00 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
 
Mr. Thomas,
 
I am a relative beginner to the game and a 15 handicapper. My natural shot is a slight draw, except with my driver, which is completely unpredictable. I hit everything from push slices to snap hooks with it, and I rarely hit a fairway. I have had it for about a year and have still not figured it out. Do you have any suggestions?
--Scott

 
Scott,
With a 15 handicap and a slight draw on your shots you are on your way to a lower handicap soon. It seems that only your driver is holding you back. There could be a number of problems I cant judge without seeing you, but I think what youre experiencing is the same thing many of us have gone through.
 
When it comes to pulling out the 'big stick' we are inclined to apply the big-stick mentality at the same time; GRIP IT AND RIP IT. This is most likely what is contributing to the erratic behavior of this club (bad shots are almost always blamed on the club, not the way we swing it). So first you should make sure youre swinging with the same power and tempo you use with the other clubs ' no less, but no more. If the driver continues to misbehave, then I would suggest that you try two things; check the shaft flex for your swing speed (it may be too flexible), and check the shaft length (it may be too long).
 
I have advocated the use of shorter drivers for some time. We have all been sucked into using longer drivers by manufacturers who know that we only remember the occasional long good shots -- distance is marketing magic ' and not the more frequent wild ones. For this reason, many of the standard drivers, 'The Big Sticks,' come with shafts that are as long as they can get away with. A longer shaft means more club head speed, but it also means less control. Think about it: You probably have all the control you need when you hit your 3-wood, because this club is a manageable length, not because it has attended a good behavior school.
 
Scott, try a stiffer shaft, and while youre at it shorten up on it about an inch or so. You may have to add a little lead tape to the club head, but try it first and then adjust for the weight. If you want to find out approximately what to expect, choke down on your current driver the next time you hit balls on the range and see if this fixes your 'big stick' problem.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
 
Everyone talks about how one needs a high bounce angle in soft conditions and a low bounce angle in firm conditions, but no one defines high bounce and low bounce. Consequently, my questions are, What is the range of bounce angles that would be appropriate for...
...a sand bunker?
...the fairway?
...a lie where the grass is an inch higher than the ball?
 
Also, is there a way of estimating by about how much the bounce angle is increased if the club face is opened a moderate amount?
 
--Jason

 
Jason,
Thank you for this question. It seems that we become so engrossed in talking about these things that we forget to define our terms so that everybodys operating from the same base of knowledge.
 
The bounce angle is the angle the sole makes with the horizontal when the club is in the normal address position and the shaft is in the vertical plane. This bounce on the club sole acts like a wedge (not the golf club) between the club and the ground, preventing it from digging in after the club first makes contact with the ground.
 
The bounce is generally only pronounced on the shorter irons. It will be about 1 degree for the three-iron, gradually increasing to 7 or 8 degrees on the PW. Some larger soled clubs that are designed to be especially forgiving of potential fat shots from the fairways -- so-called Ultra Game Improvement clubs -- have a radius on the sole that does almost the same thing as bounce.
 
I would recommend for most golfers that they have 14 degrees of bounce on the Sand Wedge, and about 8 degrees on the PW and Gap Wedge if you are going to be playing average firmness fairways, but no more than 6 to 8 degrees of bounce on the lob wedges. Too much bounce on the lob will cause problems off hard fairways or short firm grass around the green. For this shot you dont need bounce, which will literally make the club bounce off the ground and belly the ball over the green or into the cart girls soda collection on the next tee.
 
From 1 inch rough you should use the club you feel most comfortable with to cover the distance you want to hit the ball, taking into account that the grass will decelerate the club reducing the distance. Because the ball will generally be sitting on a cushion of grass instead of directly on the harder ground, bounce is not much of a factor either way.
 
When you open the clubface of a wedge, you increase the bounce effect by the same amount as the increase of the loft of the face. This is another reason its not a good idea to have much bounce on the Lob wedge, which is often used in an open position creating more loft(and even more bounce) than the degrees stamped on the sole.
 
Hope this helps and you are now ready to bounce into action with your wedges.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
After another terribly frustrating round, my buddy lamented (among other things) the fact that he does not take a proper divot. After explaining the basics about hitting down on the ball, I also added that we both play with wide-sole super game improvement irons that are designed to resist digging. For this reason, I myself have been pondering switching to irons designed for mid-handicappers. Is my reasoning correct, or was I just trying to console a dejected partner?
--JJ

 
JJ,
I dont think the type of the divot is as important as how the ball leaves the club face. Launching the ball well is all that counts. Taking a divot is more dangerous than not, because the chances of hitting the ground before you make contact with the ball is a real potential problem if you are taking any sort of significant divot.
Dont worry about the divot as many good golfers do not take much of a divot with the long irons. The irons you have should fit your needs so dont change unless you feel you are being held back-- not because of the quality of the divot.
Hope this helps,
Frank
 
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
Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.