QA Graphite Shafts Ball Quality

By Frank ThomasJanuary 24, 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
Ive heard that some players on tour use graphite shafts in their irons. Do they also use them in their wedges for a uniform feel, or do they use steel in the wedges? If they do use graphite, with people going to four wedges, do they use them in all four wedges or leave steel in their sand and lob wedges?
Thanks in advance,

Dear PS:
There are a few pros on Tour using graphite in their irons, and I think this will gradually increase in number as the graphite shafts come to feel more like steel at their high swing speeds. For those of us with slower swing speeds than the pros, many companies offer graphite in their irons and wedges. If youre going to have graphite in your irons, then theres no reason not to have them in your wedges as well. Even though the wedges -- especially the sand wedge -- may be considered utility clubs, you want them to feel the same as the rest of your set unless you do something very different in your swing with this wedge. If you ever use your sand wedge for an approach shot from the fairway or rough, you dont want that swing to feel different from your other irons, do you? Theres enough to be concerned about in golf without adding that kind of complication. As long as you have the option, put similar shafts into your wedges as you do in the rest of your iron set. To find out more about wedges, click here
Hi, Frank ' I enjoy your column and never miss it!
I play to a seven handicap and Ive dabbled in golf clubmaking for fun and enjoyment. Ive assembled many clubs, from wedges to drivers, and understand the basics about shaft flex, torque, and flex point.
I have had my swing speed measured numerous times with numerous different devices, and I consistently register between 103 and 107 mph with a normal driver swing. As a result, for as long as I can remember, I assembled all of my clubs to stiff shaft specifications.
Recently, I went to my local golf store and tested the Nike SQ driver. I took two 10.5-degree drivers to my local driving range -- one with a regular shaft and one with a stiff shaft. Both were the stock Diamana shaft. At the driving range, I disguised the two clubs and tried to test them to see which one I hit better, without knowing which club was which. To my surprise, while both clubs launched the ball higher than Im used to, the regular-shafted club felt a little better and I tended to hit it straighter. In addition, judging from what I could see, the three longest drives also came from the club with the R flex.
Now to my question: Have I been playing the wrong shaft flex all these years? Is it possible the specifications that shaft manufacturers publish do not apply to my swing? I am considering spending $50 to go to a shaft lab at my local golf shop to get fitted ' is that money well spent?

I think you have already done the lab thing for yourself, so you dont need to spend the $50.
If youre getting better distance with more control -- and most of all, it feels better than the stiff flex shaft -- then the R-flex is for you. At your skill level you are the real judge, so dont worry about what the guidelines are.
You are right, however, about flex standards: There arent any. There are general flex guidelines as defined by each manufacturer, and these are fairly close but are not necessarily the same. So one companys Stiff may be anothers Regular.
Shafts with lower flex points will feel different to those with higher flex points, even though theyre considered the same flex and they bend the same amount when measured at the end where the weight is positioned. This is an element of advanced club-fitting, but most of us should first try the standard shafts offered, changing only the shaft flex. As a guideline (and only that), the faster you load the shaft the stiffer it should be. An established manufacturer would not install the standard shaft if it wasnt going to make the club perform well for most of us as long as we are using the correct general flex.
A more detailed fitting process can be good, but will only confirm what you feel. Dont chase distance if it means forgoing comfort and feel. If the club feels good you will develop confidence and in most cases make a better swing. This will lead to better performance and then all will be well ' at least until you start listening to those little voices that try to tell you what to avoid doing while addressing the ball or on our backswing. Go with what you feel, not what someone tells you what you feel.
Hi Frank,
I received a gadget for Xmas that's supposed to find the sweet spot on the ball. It spins the ball around at high speed, and you mark the equator. Hitting or putting the ball along the equator is supposed to make it go straighter. It also claims Ill get more distance on tee shots. Do you have any thoughts about this product and/or any research?

Many years ago, when the manufacturers quality control for balls was not as good as it is today, it was a good idea to sort the balls by floating them in a cup of salt water (add enough salt to be sure the ball floats enough to have a little of it above the water level), marking the spot that was exposed above the water. This would be the point underneath the heavy side of the ball, which goes to the bottom as the ball floats. Youd then give the ball a spin and let it settle again; if you found the same spot rising above the surface quickly every time, you knew the ball was of balance. To compensate for this, you were supposed to make sure that when you putted the ball, this spot was pointing vertically upward. Otherwise, the ball would veer off line because of the inconsistencies in the ball's balance. You could actually see this slight swerve if you positioned the marked point to the side of the ball and then putted on a billiard table, which was sometimes used to demonstrate this phenomenon.
Today, however, the major well-known balls you buy from any pro shop are of much better quality, and you wont see any swerving no matter how you position the ball, so you don't have to worry about this any more.
If, however, you want to be perfectly sure that its you who is making the mistakes on the green and not the manufacturers of an unbalanced ball, no matter how slight the imperfection, then do your thing and putt it as instructed.
But before you do this kind of marking, consider the psychological effect it will have on you if you look down at the ball in the fairway and find that the spot is not sitting on top. Are you going to try to factor this supposed weight difference into your aim and swing, while also calculating distance, wind, and lie? You might have to close your eyes and hit it, or maybe violate a rule or two. The extent to which this will bother you is much larger than the margin of imperfection youre going to find in todays golf balls.
Frankly speaking, I wouldnt lose too much sleep over this potential problem unless youre buying some really inexpensive balls on special from the grocery store.
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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Tiger can't commit, goes OB on 16: 'That’s on me'

By Will GrayMarch 18, 2018, 11:05 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on the 16th tee with the leaders in sight and the roars of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Tiger Woods contemplated three different options for his most critical tee shot of the week.

He couldn’t decide on any of them, and as a result deposited his chances of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.

Woods was only one shot back through 15 holes, but with the leaders well behind him on the course he knew he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 16th to keep pace. Instead, he pulled his tee shot left and out of bounds, leading to an untimely and costly bogey on the easiest hole on the course.

“I was caught,” Woods said. “I couldn’t decide what I was going to do.”

In Woods’ mind, he had three options: “fit” a driver left to right with the shape of the fairway, “bomb it over the top” of the dogleg or just hit a 3-wood “straight away.” He opted for the driver, but after missing right the first three days he sent his ball sailing left.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I bailed out and hit a bad shot,” Woods said. “And that’s on me for not committing.”

Woods went on to bogey the next hole, but after a par save on No. 18 he finished the week in a tie for fifth at 10 under for his third straight top-12 finish. Given the sizzling close of Rory McIlroy, an eagle on 16 likely would have still left him looking up at the Ulsterman on the leaderboard.

“Even though I got up there, I just knew I needed to keep making birdies,” Woods said. “Those guys had so many holes behind me, where I just birdied the same holes and so if they made birdie on those holes, I would have to keep going. I got to 16, I figure I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3 under to have a chance and probably force a playoff. And maybe that wouldn’t have been good enough the way Rory is playing back there.”

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McIlroy (64) storms to Arnold Palmer victory

By Nick MentaMarch 18, 2018, 10:48 pm

Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, final-round 64, birdied the 72nd hole in Tiger-esque fashion and stormed to a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how Rory ended his winless drought, and how the aforementioned Woods made a Sunday charge before collapsing late:

Leaderboard: McIlroy (-18), Bryson DeChambeau (-15), Justin Rose (-14), Henrik Stenson (-13), Woods (-10), Ryan Moore (-10)

What it means: This is McIlroy’s 14th PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since Sept. 25th, 2016. That was the day he walked away from East Lake with both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. It was also the day Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. With the win, McIlroy reasserts himself as a force following a winless 2017 in which he was plagued by a nagging rib injury. The four-time major winner will make one more start at next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then make his way to Augusta National, where he looks to complete the career Grand Slam.

Round of the day: Two back to start the final round, McIlroy made his eight birdies in bunches. He circled three of his last four holes on the front nine – Nos. 6, 7 and 9 – to make the turn in 3-under 33 and work his way into the mix. Following three pars at 10-12, he caught fire, ripping off five birdies in his final six holes. He took the outright lead at 14, chipped in at 15, and sealed the deal at 18.

Best of the rest: DeChambeau made McIlroy earn it, cutting the lead to just one when he eagled the 16th hole as McIlroy was walking to the final tee. A par at 17 and a bogey at 18 netted him 68 and solo second.

Big disappointment: This is Stenson’s fourth top-five finish at this event in the last six years. The overnight leader by one, he went 71-71 over the weekend and bogeyed 18 to finish fourth.

Biggest disappointment: Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 and a tie for fifth.The eight-time API winner was minus-5 on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par.

Shot of the day: McIlroy’s birdie putt at 18.

Remind you of anything?

Quote of the day: "It means a lot. You know, the last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day Mr. Palmer passed away, so it's a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example for all of us players to try and follow in his footsteps. If everyone on Tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place. ... To be able to win his event, I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I'm so happy to my name on that trophy." - McIlroy

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TT postscript: Masters hype builds after final-round charge

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 10:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are some thoughts from walking one last loop alongside Tiger Woods on another steamy afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

• What might have been. Woods transformed Bay Hill into an absolutely electric atmosphere when he started the back nine with three birdies in four holes to get within a shot of the lead. Dressed in his traditional red and black, it was a second straight Sunday where we were treated to watching him try to catch the leaders down the stretch.

• But the momentum he had built up disappeared with a single tee shot, as Woods pulled his drive on the par-5 16th out of bounds and into someone’s backyard. His chances for a ninth tournament title were effectively ended with one errant swing, as he bogeyed the easiest hole on the course and then bogeyed the next for good measure.

• While the closing stretch was disappointing, it was still another remarkable week for Woods considering where his game stood a month ago. His 3-under 69 in the final round lifted him to 10 under for the week, and he ended up in a tie for fifth. He’s now on the cusp of the top 100 in the world rankings, and he’ll head to the Masters on the heels of three straight top-12 finishes for the first time since 2008.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

• It didn’t take long after his final putt dropped for Augusta National to become a topic of conversation. Woods has played only once since 2014, and he plans to make a return trip before the season’s first major to re-acclimate himself with the course and make sure his yardage book “is still good.”

• Taking the long view on things, Woods was all smiles about his comeback that remains a work in progress. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said, “I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”

After going T-2 and T-5 in this latest fortnight, Woods will now have two weeks off before he tees it up for a chance to win his fourth green jacket, his first major since 2008 and his first tournament anywhere since 2013. Can. Not. Wait.

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Highlights: Tiger (69) makes charge, collapses

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 9:45 pm

Tiger Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The eight-time API winner was 5 under on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par, in a tie for fifth.

"I didn't commit to it," Woods said of his drive at 16, where he attempted to fly his ball over the fairway bunkers, rather than hitting a cut or laying back. "And that's on me for not committing."

Starting five off the lead, Tiger got rolling with with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

This roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, and the charge was officially on, as Woods was suddenly just a shot back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and ripped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th, ending his chances.