QA Forged vs Cavity

By Frank ThomasJuly 25, 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
Love the column... Thanks!!! My question: With all else equal (swing speed, loft, shaft, hitting the exact sweet spot, etc), do forged blade irons provide more distance than other irons such as cavity backs?

John Bland
John Bland asks Frank about golf ball technology in the next 'Ask Frank,' Monday, July 30 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC.
Thanks for your kind comments. Your question pre-supposes that all else is equal. If this is the case, then the answer is NO. There will be no difference in distance. The fact that a club is forged doesn't make any difference to the ball speed, launch angle or spin. If you hit a blade (usually forged) on the sweet spot and all else is equal, at impact the cavity-back club (usually cast) will not produce any different results. The problem is that all else is not equal, because in most cases the center of gravity (c.g) of the two clubs is in a slightly different location, and so the way the club head is presented to the ball will almost always be a little different.
If, however, the design and shape of two clubs, one forged and the other cast, is identical then the answer remains NO. Back in the early 1970s, a manufacturer made up two iron clubs with identical shapes. One was created by a casting method, and the other was forged. Both were chrome plated to avoid any observable differences. Pros were asked to hit each club to determine which was forged and which was cast; the manufacturer concluded from the tests that even these golfers could not tell the difference. So if you believe the test results, not even feel was different.
The answer is cast in stone, not forged to blend neatly with some of our beliefs.
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Hope this helps.
As a new subscriber to GOLF CHANNEL, I just recently started reading your column and enjoy it immensely. My question concerns custom fitted irons and woods. I wonder if getting a set of clubs that has a different length and lie is really that much of an advantage over standard lie and loft sets. I am about 5' 6' and have a clubhead speed of 92 -96 mph with the driver. Would I be better off spending the money on the latest and greatest off the shelf or a less expensive but custom fitted set? I also wonder why only irons seem to be subject to this, as I have yet to see anyone offering custom lie and length on woods. Keep up the great work!

I am not a big fan of rigorous custom fitting clubs for the average golfer. Now before the custom fitters get mad, let me say that custom fitting is a good idea if its done by someone who knows exactly what theyre doing, and its being done for a reasonably good golfer. However, an off-the-shelf set with the right flex shaft and possibly a slightly adjusted lie angle (if necessary) is all the fitting most of us need. (The manufacturers know this, so they manufacture their standard sets with specifications that have proven over the years to be very good for most golfers. I sincerely believe that 90% of the standard sets of clubs are better than 90% of the golfers who intend to use them.)
Only the better golfers who hit the ball consistently can take advantage of the kind of tweaks that rigorous fitting provides -- i.e., 1/4 inch changes in length, two swing weight points here and there, a flex point change or a 10-gram change in shaft weight, one degree open face bend, etc. Putting aside the question of whether most of this stuff really matters, can you be sure that your swing on the course day after day is the same as the one you demonstrated for the club fitter? Until youve reached that level of consistency, paying for an extensive fitting session doesnt make much sense. Most of us need a good set of lessons more than we need a rigorously fitted set of clubs.
There is no doubt that lie angle, shaft flex, and loft (for drivers) are important for all golfers, but this is as much 'fitting' as most of us need. These are properties that will make a difference we can feel in our performance.
In selecting a set off the shelf, with a little expert guidance, you can generally find a set with the right shaft flex. Standard length clubs work for most of us, unless we are abnormally different in height from the average (i.e. +/- 5 inches or so). The lie angle will affect performance if its wrong for you by more than a couple of degrees, so you should check this periodically and make adjustments if necessary. The proper lie angle depends on your swing plane, which may be affected by your height, and is most important in the lofted irons.
The real concern I have is that many people who tell you that you need to be fitted really just want to sell you a new set of clubs when they could easily adjust your existing set instead. The fact that drivers are not designed to be custom fitted tells me that one size fits all actually works most of the time.
For those who can afford it and have the consistency to take advantage of it, going for a detailed custom fitting should result in a set that closely fits your needs. It will do wonders for your psyche and make you feel special, which will help build your confidence. The downside is that you wont be able to blame your equipment for errors in performance.But really, Rob, the performance differences are extremely small between custom-fitted clubs and an off-the-shelf set.
Thats my custom answer, and I hope it helps relieves the pain.
With the club manufacturers reaching the limits on drivers, how important does the shaft become, and how can a person determine the correct one?

I like your question because it recognizes that there are some limitations that nature controls in golf, not the USGA. We are reaching those limits when it comes to drivers.
Even if there were no limitations on clubs and balls in the Rules of Golf, I would estimate that equipment innovation could add only about 8 to 10 yards from where we are today, as long as golfers keep swinging clubs at the same speed. Faster head speed will always give you more distance, even if the gains are diminishing as head speeds increase. Golfers on average may simply be getting better -- although Jack Nicklaus 45 years ago had a clubhead speed comparable to that of Tiger Woods today. He could have driven the ball the same distance as Tiger if he had had today's equipment.
The average driving distance on the PGA TOUR (one of the best golf test laboratories in the world) has increased about 25 yards (from 265 yards in 1995 to 289 yards in 2006) over an 11-year span without any measurable increase in skill on the part of the players. This has been the most significant increase in distance over such a short period of time in the history of the game. The reason for this is primarily the spring-like effect in clubs permitted by the USGA, and secondarily the performance of the multi-layered ball that has allowed golfers to launch drives at or close to their optimum conditions. This could not be achieved with a wound ball and persimmon head. To answer your question, the shaft is not any more important now than it has been in the past. This does not mean it isnt important, just that its influence is no greater since the recent leveling off in performance of driver heads.
Find a shaft that allows you to feel where the club head is, and that you are in control of it during your swing, and stick with it. By far the most important specification in a shaft is its flex; many golfers use shafts that are too stiff, because they believe thats what better players use. Start with a more flexible shaft and work your way towards the stiffer ones, rather than starting out too stiff and settling for one you can barely control. Comfort is most important in a shaft, so don't get out of your comfort zone chasing a few extra yards. A lighter shaft allows you to increase your head speed while swinging with the same effort, or to attain the same speed with less effort and more control.
Hope this helps.
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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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.