QA Helping the Good Get Better

By Frank ThomasFebruary 21, 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
I believe that the PGA Merchandise Show is becoming nothing more than a high handicapper's convention, and the better golfer (10 handicap and on down) is being left behind. All you hear is about how the weight is being shifted lower and to the rear of the club face (I know the market is higher handicappers since they make up more of the consumer market). Can you give me a preview of some innovations for the single digit handicappers in the coming year - especially in regards to irons?
One other question:
I currently play the Nike Forged Blade irons (2-PW), and even though you'll disagree with me, I know theyve helped my game and made me much more accurate. However, I'm considering a move to the Callaway X-Tour irons (2-PW). I hit these irons higher and much farther - I'm at least a club longer in this set. One thing I've noticed with cavity back irons (game improvement sets especially) is that though the ball is easier to get in the air, you can't work the ball as easily and yardage control is nowhere near as pin-point as with blades. I am worried that though the X-Tour irons are of a forged construction, the added distance will affect my yardage control. I am a 5 handicap, and this technology phenomenon has interested me for some time. Can you provide me with some insight?

The PGA Show is meant to be where manufacturers exhibit their new lines for the year and take orders. This year was my 38th show, and yes, it has changed quite a bit. The clothing lines have taken over, and I believe the show is good for them.
Because manufacturers are now introducing new models up to three times during the year, the show is not as enlightening as it used to be from an equipment point of view. Also, the larger retail outlets are starting to dominate in retail sales. It is inevitable that those outlets will concentrate on the higher handicapper, as he/she makes up a major part of the golfing population. Only 6% of male golfers have a handicap of 5 or less.
When it comes to innovations in irons for you, things havent changed much, so dont look for any magic. The Nike blades you have will behave a little differently compared to the X-Tour youre thinking about because they are inch shorter and the loft is two degrees more. For example, the Nike 6-iron has 33 degrees of loft and is 37.25 long; the Callaway X-Tour 6-iron has 31 degrees of loft (the X-20 Tour is even stronger, with 30 degrees of loft) and 37.5 inches long. This could explain the difference in the distance you are experiencing. The center of gravity is also a little lower for the X-Tour clubs. Because of the higher MOI for the X-Tour, you may find, as you say, a little more difficulty in working the ball than with the Nike blade. Most of the really good golfers select blades for this reason, and also because their performance ceiling is limited by game improvement clubs. These forgiving clubs make some bad shots feel reasonably good, so they wont provide the feedback when you miss it. This tends to make the golfer complacent and reduce the incentive to improve. For most of us this is OK, but for the very best being precise is essential.
As a low handicapper you will not benefit as much as a high handicapper from using some of the latest square headed drivers which are designed to be forgiving for off-centered impacts of some significance. Test these for yourself to determine if they have a place in your bag. For more on square drivers please visit my latest newsletter by clicking here.
Hope this has reinforced your intuitive and sound beliefs.
Aloha Frank,
When Im at the range hitting balls -- especially with my driver -- I notice the ball seems to have a slight fade. But when Im on the course, my game ball (3-piece) has a draw. Can you tell me why this happens? I dont feel like I change my swing from range to course. Because of the different flights between balls I mostly work on tempo and contact while on the range.
Any info would be great.

Aloha Ed,
There is no good reason for this to happen. Check your set up and/or the prevailing wind direction on the range. You might also try working on your tempo on the course and see if this does anything to solve the problem.
To make sure the ball is not the determining factor, I suggest that you play a round with range balls. First tell the pro -- and anybody else who might shoot you for using range balls on the course -- that youre conducting an experiment. Warn your golfing buddies about what youre going to do. If youre still hitting a draw on the course, you know its not the ball. Personally, I think my handicap is about five strokes better on the range. It may be those racing stripes on the ball. Let me know what happens.
Hi Frank,
I really enjoy your segment on your game night. I have a complicated problem that I hope you may be able help me to dissect and analyze.
Two winters ago I fell on my left wrist and it was diagnosed as re-aggravating a break that occurred some years ago. I can still move it in all directions, but not as much as my right hand. Prior to that, I was playing to an 8 handicap.
Around that time, I got an equipment and swing analysis as well as couple of lessons. The instructor determined that my grips should have a little larger diameter and my lie angle should be adjusted upward, since I was hitting the ground with the toe of the club.
Shortly after getting my clubs adjusted, I developed a case of the shanks. Out of around 100 balls I hit in one practice session, I shanked about 35 of them. Naturally, I was going out of my mind. What did that instructor do to my game? I compensated and corrected the problem by flipping the wrist a little quicker though the impact zone, and while the shank still showed up here and there, I pretty much got used to the equipment or wrist position I had. Two years later, though, things are still not quite right, and Im searching for the cause.
I put back my old size grips on all my clubs and returned the lie angle of the irons, even though I'm still hitting it off the toe of the club. I did this to get back to square one. I knew from past experience I shouldnt change more than one variable in my equipment at a time, but decided to try the changes anyway. Im still recovering.
What happened? Could the wrist injury cause my clubhead to hit with the toe first because of the range of motion limitation? I don't seem to have a big problem with pushing the ball right, though it does go that way more than before; my previous ball flight was more of a slight draw to straight.
Please help,

There is no way that I am going to even think about solving your shanking problem. Even typing this S word is bad for my psyche. I can say that theres no reason the equipment changes or injury should cause you to sh sh you know, that bad shot. Beyond that, I can probably help you with the grip size issue and the lie angle.
Because of your injury, you now have a new swing, and that means you need to do some recalibrating. Grip size first: make sure you feel comfortable when gripping the club. If it feels too big then it probably is. A thicker grip will reduce the wrist rotation slightly as youve surmised, and it will leave the face a little open at impact. Once you have selected a grip size that feels good to you, check the ball flight; if its to your liking then youre in business. If its off line, then check the lie angle using a lie board. If the scuff mark is in the center of the sole then the lie is correct. You can, however, influence the flight by changing the lie to be more upright for a more right to left flight and vice versa for the left to right flight. Once this has been done, then get a good teaching pro to look at your swing if the S word still happens too often.
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
Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.