QA Finding Extra Distance

By Frank ThomasJuly 7, 2006, 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@thegolfchannel.com

Dear Frank,
I have been playing golf now for approximately one year and my average score is right at 100. Like most golfers I am looking for a driver that is easy to hit and yet can carry the distance off the tee box. I average 220 ' 235 yards with my present driver. Please help me find a driver to improve my distance. Thanks, Alan Bullock

Alan,
You are now hitting the ball about 30 yards farther than golfers of average ability i.e. 27 handicap golfers. The average male golfer hits the ball 192 yards but believes he hits it 230 -240 yards. Obviously there are some golfers in this skill range which hit the ball a lot longer than the average as there are some who hit it shorter.

Unfortunately if you are using one of the larger titanium drivers produced in the last couple of years there is little you can do to gain much more distance other than optimize your launch conditions.

If you are getting about 230 yards but not launching the ball at the optimum conditions then there is some potential to gain distance.

If you review my article covering this subject I am sure you will be able to gain a few extra yards. The article is published in this months Newsletter at www.franklygolf.com. I hope this will help you and others with the same question. Unfortunately there is no magic bullet: it is now all a matter of basic physics.

Spring to ball from shaft

Dear Frank,
Does the shaft flex or the kick point of the shaft affect the amount of spring imparted on the ball? If so, how? Thanks! - Juan Gmez-Canseco

Juan,
The answer is no and let me explain why.

It only takes about .00045 of a second from the time the club first makes contact with the ball to the time the ball leaves the club face, the two bodies have traveled only of an inch.

During this time about 1500 lbs of force is being applied to the ball and it will accelerate from 0 to 160 mph.

During impact the shaft may as well not be connected to the head. It is the mass, velocity and MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the head which dictate what happens to the ball and how it is launched. The shaft plays no part in how the ball leaves the face of the club.

Most of the twisting or vibrations you first feel from the collision between the club head and the ball are long after impact has occurred and the ball has already left the face and is about 1 foot away from the club.

The only thing that is important just prior to contact with the ball is the club head velocity, direction and orientation and the golfer controls this through his only connection to the head i.e. the shaft. The shaft is very flexible and deflects very little during impact.

It is the face of the club head only, with a little help from the frame of the face, which imparts the spring-like effect to the ball. This phenomenon is most often exhibited when using a large titanium driver.

Progressive sets

Frank,
What are your thoughts on iron sets that gradually change from cavity-backed to blade as loft increases? I have been told that this is the new trend, does it really work. - Christian

Christian,
This is a very good new trend because in a traditional set of clubs the longer and less lofted irons are more difficult to hit well, than the shorter irons. The reason for this is that the MOI (Moment of Inertia) is lower on the less lofted and lighter iron heads. To learn more about MOI visit my website by clicking here

In the past 25 to 30 years club makers have discovered that increasing the MOI of clubs makes them more forgiving of miss hits and have designed this into clubs designed for the average golfer. The pros hit the ball on the sweet spot more often than the rest of us and therefore dont need this forgiveness as much. We have listed about 300 types of clubs on my website into five categories of forgiveness or playability. This is the Maltby Playability Factor listing.

The thing is that as traditional iron head designs become more lofted in the short irons they get heavier and a little bigger and become easier to hit and are more forgiving and playable.

It is quite possible that most of us can use the same wedge Tiger uses but very few of us can use his 3-iron. So designers have made the longer irons as playable as possible and have progressively morphed these to a traditional design head for the wedges.

What to look for in wedges

Frank ,
I am a 15 handicap golfer and a little confused about wedges and what to look for. I am told by one friend that I need a Gap wedge and other golfing buddy that I need a Lob wedge. Who is right? - Rob

Rob,
I am glad you asked the question as it is something a lot of golfers want to know. If you read my latest Newsletter (click to read) you will not only see what to look for in wedges but also see what how our Frankly Friends have rated the wedges on the market today.

Below is a summary of what to look for:

LOFT: This is a critical component of wedge selection. It dictates the distances you are capable of hitting the ball with that particular club. So make sure that all your wedge lofts work together so you have a club for the shots you will be presented with on the course.
BOUNCE: Can be your friend or foe! Make it your friend by understanding that if you generally play in soft conditions you require more bounce on your wedges compared to hard conditions. Your Sand Wedge -- or that wedge you will most often use out of the sand -- definitely needs bounce to assist you in getting out of the bunker and this should be about 14 degrees.
LENGTH AND BRAND: All your wedges should be around the same length (anywhere from 35-35 inches). They should also be the same brand and model if possible. This will assist you with a consistent feel and performance off the clubface.
GROOVES: Make sure that the grooves are not worn down on those wedges you will be using to approach the green and where you need good ball control. The grooves on the Sand Wedge if used only out of the sand are not as important to keep in good shape as the rest of your wedges, because in almost every case sand is the interface between the ball and the club from a bunker and the grooves play only a small part.

Hope you find this useful.

Frank 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@thegolfchannel.com

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday:

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.