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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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.