QA Get Into the Grooves

By Frank ThomasJune 13, 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
I have heard that the grooves on the wedge (sand and lob) wear out. How can I check my wedges to know if I need to get a new one? Can you explain the difference between the different type of grooves U, V, Y that are available? -- Scott Strool

The Y groove is really a U groove which is milled into the face with a Y-cutter which means that the edge of the groove close to where it meets the face has a slightly different angle than the side of the groove lower down in the groove. The V and U shaped grooves are named this way because of their cross sectional shape. The U groove has also been called a square groove and now also a Y groove.
In 1984 the USGA adopted a modified groove rule I wrote, which allowed grooves to be U-shaped. The requirement used to be V-shaped with very precise specifications which required flat sides and specific angles with the face plane. You can imagine, that a groove which is limited in size to be no more than ten pieces of standard computer printer paper, is very difficult to get perfectly V-shaped unless it is rolled or stamped into the face. This used to be the case with forged clubs but most clubs are made from castings and have to go through five steps before the final product emerges. So the shape of a V grove is compromised to look like a semi U-groove.
The Square or U grooves are intentionally U-shaped and will affect the spin on the ball out of light rough but not 4-inch rough or even perfectly dry conditions.
The grooves will need attention when they are visibly worn and the edges are flattened down. It is important to keep the grooves on your wedges in good shape and if you play a lot you may have to have them re-grooved every two years or so. If you use your sand wedge exclusively out of the bunker then dont worry about the grooves as a good sand shot always has sand intervene between the face and the ball and the grooves dont play a significant part in the control of this shot.

Follow this link to to see our report Frankly The Best Wedge, obtained from a survey of over 1,100 golfers who owned, used and rated their own wedges. This report also contains some helpful technical advice on what is important when choosing a wedge.
Are so called, 'frequency matched shafts' just so much snake oil, or are there real benefits to be achieved by golfers of varying abilities? -- Boris E. Meditch

The best shafts for you are those which meet your flex requirements i.e. Regular for most of us (80 to 90 mph head speeds): Stiff for the faster swingers and X-Stiff for the really fast swingers. Once you have selected the right shaft flex then it is important that the shaft be symmetrical in its bending properties and each shaft in the set is from the same flex batch (so-to- speak). Most of the shafts selected by manufacturers for standard sets are very good and just fine for 95% of us. The elite gofer may want a different shaft with slightly different torsional properties or flex points etc. but the difference in performance is so small that most of us are unable to detect it, unless you play for a living and practice 4 to 8 hours a day.
Most of us have a performance variance, significantly greater than any differences that we can detect in standard shafts variation.
Frequency matched sets of shafts are generally more consistent in their bending properties than others but again not enough for us to tell the difference between a frequency matched set and a good set of standard shafts. Getting a frequency matched set is like balancing the wheels on your car for speeds of 150 mph. If you get to this speed then you might be able to tell the difference. Most of us dont have cars that can go much above the top speed limit.
However, it is comforting to know that if you ever get the car up to 150 mph your wheels are balanced for these speeds.

While watching an episode of Whats in the Bag? a clubmaker was talking about a pro for whom he was building clubs. He said the pro had X-stiff shafts in his irons right now and felt they were too stiff so they were building clubs with stiff shafts that were tipped. Saying this would make the shafts stiffer than stiff but less than X-stiff. What do they mean and what do they do?

As you decrease the length of a shaft or increase the diameter it will feel stiffer and the club will have a higher frequency i.e. it will vibrate faster if clamped in a vice at the butt end all else being equal.
You have probably experienced this when you stick a knife in a crack in the picnic table (dont do this at home on the dining room table) and pluck it so it vibrates.
A knife with a thick blade will vibrate faster than a knife with a thinner blade. Or, if you stick it deeper into the crack in the table, it will also vibrate faster.

So if you shorten a shaft in your club (generally from the butt end) it will feel a little stiffer. Or in the case at hand if you thicken (increase the size) of the shaft it will become stiffer.
In this case the club maker has taken a standard shaft and instead of cutting it to length from the butt end where there is hardly any taper he has trimmed it from the tip end. As shafts are tapered this has increased the size of the shaft in the lower section. This is the smallest diameter and most flexible section of the shaft. So the more you take from this end of the shaft the stiffer the shaft will become, even though you havent decreased the overall length.
So to increase shaft stiffness, tipping is a common method but it does make the shaft tip-stiff and will slightly affect the flight of the ball by decreasing the spin and launch angle.
I have 2 equipment questions. 1. At PGA tournaments, are the balls that the players hit at the practice range all the same brand, or do they each hit the same brand that they use in the tournament? 2. What would be the effect of having irons that are too upright or too flat? -- Bert

From experience or actually developing a guide book for How to Operate a Championship Practice Range now updated and used by the USGA, I can tell you that until about fifteen years ago there was only one ball type being used and selected because it was the most popular ball on tour. This has changed and there are now up to five different ball types provided to the tour players for practice.

These golfers are very good and in many cases can tell the difference in flight trajectories between the premium balls.
With regard to your question about upright irons, the face of an upright iron will be point to the left (if you are right handed) of the target and tend to draw the ball. The reverse is true for flat irons. Because most amateur golfers tend to slice the ball, manufacturers prefer to build clubs with upright lies.
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

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 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.

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 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.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.