QA Face Angles and Hybrids

By Frank ThomasJanuary 10, 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

I am a 16 index. With a few exceptions, drivers for the average R-Flex guy like me come manufactured with a face closed about 2.5 degrees to 'help' us keep from slicing. Given this closed face angle, is it still possible to work the ball (especially a power fade) despite whats built into the club head? If the closed face angle is hard to fade (& draw?), would I be better off buying a driver that has a neutral (i.e. square) face angle, so I can work the ball better? I understand the pros use drivers with the face open about 0.5 degrees.

Best regards,

The most common bad shot for the higher handicap and beginner golfer is a slice, which results from a bad swing. As you note, many manufacturers try to help these golfers hit straighter shots by providing a band-aid in the form of a closed-face driver. This doesnt really do the golfer any favors, since it locks him/her into this swing when the proper solution is to correct the swing in the first place.

If, for instance, a golfer with a bad slice buys a 3-degree closed (or more) driver and starts hitting the ball a little straighter with his bad swing, he may be happy until he makes a good swing and hits the ball dead left. Or he may decide to see a professional and take a lesson that will most likely correct his ailment, allowing him to get rid of the slice and hit the ball more efficiently and with more distance. Using a 3-degree closed face will then result in a duck hook. So hell have to trade in the old driver if he can, or be out $450 or whatever he paid for the band-aid driver, and then get a new one with a neutral face (+/- one degree).

You are quite right in your assumption that you should get a neutral face driver if you want to fade or draw the ball and are able to hit a straight shot at will.

I dont believe that any golfer should limit his potential by buying a band'aid closed face driver when what they really need is a lesson that will probably cost a fifth as much as that new club. He should then find a driver that will get the ball in the air at the best angle for his swing speed. This will be about 13 to 14 degrees for a swing speed less than 85 mph.

If the manufacturer of your choice doesnt offer a neutral face, then get onto the internet and find one who does. Most of the bigger drivers will perform similarly, so get the one with the neutral face and the shaft flex that best suits you. For swing speeds in the 85 mph range a regular flex shaft is a good first choice. For more on swing speeds and optimum launch conditions click here.

Stan, stick to your neutral-faced guns.

My question relates to ball trajectory. I recently switched to a 10.5 degree TaylorMade R5 driver with an Aldila stiff mid-flex shaft with a firm tip. I hoped to find the promised land of increased distance. Now my ball trajectory has increased to high-mid to low-high. The ball carries in the neighborhood of 240 to 260 but has little roll.

To reduce spin off the driver and add some roll to my drives, would I be better off changing my drivers current shaft to a high-flex stiff shaft to lower the trajectory, or go to a 9-degree loft with a regular mid/low flex point with mid-firm tip?

I am approximately 6 feet tall, have a swing speed of 90 to 100 mph with a smooth swing tempo and half to three-quarter backswing, and play to a single-digit handicap. I am 51 years and have been playing for 30 years.


The first thing I would like to say is that 240 to 260 yards carry is very good for a 90 to 100 mph swing speed. This is something that most of us would envy. If you are not happy with the trajectory (i.e., its too high) and want more roll, then first try to tee the ball a little lower. This will increase the spin rate, which is not good, but will also decrease the launch angle. If the spin rate is not too high, then the trajectory will be lower and the angle of descent into the fairway will be less and you will get more roll. The carry distance will also be reduced somewhat, but this is to be expected. The next thing to try is the 9-degree loft if youre happy with the shaft you presently have. A stiffer shaft will lower the trajectory a little, but I doubt the difference will be worth losing the good feel you have with your current shaft.

The average roll on reasonably firm, flat fairways is about 25 yards, so if youre playing on soft fairways you shouldnt change a thing; you truly are doing about as well as you can given your club head speed.
Good luck and keep it flying.

After reading this weeks question about hybrids, I had a question: Are hybrids irons or woods? Are there hybrid irons and hybrid woods? Could you explain the difference?


A hybrid is a cross between a wood and an iron. They are starting to look more like fairway woods, but theyre still in a category by themselves. They are thicker from the face to the back than an iron, which positions the center of gravity farther back from the face. This does two things: it increases the MOI (Moment of Inertia) about the vertical axis and also on the horizontal toe-heel axis, though not to the same extent as a wood. This gives the hybrid wood-like forgiveness properties that are better than the equivalent iron, with a lower trajectory than a wood but still higher than the iron.

A hybrid is generally an inch or two shorter than the similarly-lofted wood, but to 1 inch longer than the same-lofted iron. This gives you more control than you would have with the wood, but it is still more forgiving than the iron it replaces.

I believe that we will soon start seeing a morphing/merging of hybrids and fairway-woods, as hybrids are still looking for an acceptable place in a real set of clubs and shouldnt be considered just utility clubs. Acceptance into an established family is not easy, but give the hybrids some time to adjust and snuggle in, and then all will be fine.

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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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.