QA Judging Distance in the Cold

By Frank ThomasNovember 28, 2007, 5:00 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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Last week, I answered a question sent in by Jim, asking if the time had come for two sets of equipment performance rules: one for the elite and tour players, and another for the common folk of golf (99% of the golfing population).
 
Within hours I was inundated with e-mails from our readers -- concerned golfers -- who for the most part support a single set of rules for everybody, but dont want to see restrictions placed on the equipment we use to address real or imagined problems caused by a very few.
 
If our guardians feel the guys on tour need to be reined in, there are ways to do it that wont change the performance standards of our equipment. However, if they insist on making such regulations, then our readers seem inclined to suggest that a separate set of rules may be required.
 
Some readers pointed out that there are already different playing rules for the pros. This is true, but most of these are local rules such as: the one ball rule; the conforming ball list; a five-minute grace period when youre late for your starting time; no practice on the putting green just played, as well as relief from T.V. towers and spectator stands which most of us dont have to worry about.
 
These local playing rules, adopted at the pro events, are different from the conditions of our games, but we dont worry about those. However, when the equipment performance rules are changed because of what the pros can do, and all of us may be affected, then we react differently and seriously consider whether its time to divide the rules. There dont seem to be any good options here for people who believe there should only be one set ' as I do.
 
It seems to me that if some reining in of the pros is needed, a less intrusive way would be to create a local rule limiting the elite competitors to 10 clubs, while we continue to carry up to 14. Nothing would change in how the clubs perform, but the pros would be challenged to perform similar feats utilizing fewer tools. I would also like to see strategic course setup options that would more appropriately challenge the best in major competition. This seems to be a better alternative than disrupting and rolling back the performance of the equipment and thus inviting us -- the common folk (99% of golfers) -- to call for two sets of rules.
 
Because this subject has become so provocative, I decided to get your opinions by providing a four question vote.
 
To participate, click here and give me your votes, and your thoughts if you feel so inclined. Next week I will summarize your input.
 
Thank you,
Frank
 
Frank,
 
I really enjoy reading your column. I have learned much about the science of the game while receiving some practical insights into playing and equipment. My question today revolves around the wedge game and how many wedges to carry. I am currently 52 years old, a traditionalist type player (forged, muscle back irons, pear players-shape fairway metals and drivers) with a 2.8 index. Just this year I switched from only carrying a 48-degree PW and a sand wedge of 56 degrees to carrying wedges of 48, 53, and 58 degrees. This combination seems to work well for me, but I am wondering if I should be carrying a 60 instead of the 58, or even changing my set configuration to a 51/53, 56, and 60. What insight and/or advice can you give me regarding the choices that would give me the most versatility in the short game? Thanks very much and keep up the good work. I hope that I get a chance to meet you in the future.
--Mike

 
Mike,
 
Thanks for you kind comments.Your question is one many lower handicap golfers ask me and themselves, because loft specs and set makeup have changed quite a bit over the years and the selection of wedges (the scoring clubs) has become more important.
 
As you know, what used to be a 9-iron (or even a weak 8-iron) is now a pitching wedge. This move away from the unwritten loft standard is about the only way (other than adding some length, which is also done) to create a marketable performance difference between irons. This has happened over the last 30 years in an effort to prove that one manufacturers iron set hit the ball farther than his competitors clubs. They did this by changing the lofts of the set (giving a 7-iron the loft of a 6, a 6-iron the loft of a previous 5, and so on) without advising the consumer -- but the Sand Wedge stayed at 56 degrees of loft, which is a good loft for a SW but now meant a gap of about 10 degrees between the unchanged SW and the reworked PW.
 
Pitching wedges are generally about 46 degrees today, and in the short irons (wedges), you want about 4 degrees between consecutive clubs. You say that you used to carry a 48-degree PW and a 58-degree wedge. The 58 is presumably your SW, so obviously with this 10-degree difference you have a gap that needed to be filled and the 53 was a good choice.
 
Remember that the SW is a utility club specifically designed for sand shots. It can be used in other situations but this carries some consequences; its significant bounce (approximately 14 degrees) increases to an effective bounce of 17 degrees if you open the face for a lob shot, and this bounce angle will do what a bounce angles are meant to do, i.e. bounce. Not what you want from a fairway lie.
 
If you feel the need for a lob wedge and are happy with the wedges you presently have, then get one with a 60- or 61-degree loft but low bounce, about 6 degrees. This club can then be used for the lob shots and do what your SW is not designed to do very well.
 
My advice is to hold onto the wedge set you have, which you say works so well, and add a proper lob wedge rather than trying to evenly space the lofts in all of these wedges.If you lob this one around in your mind for a bit I think it will land softly.
-- Frank
 
Dear Frank,
 
Thank you for you for your straight talk about equipment. It is really helpful to us amateurs to have an unbiased opinion when selecting equipment; otherwise it becomes which vendor has the most convincing salesmen. For example, every driver will enable you to hit it farther than every other driver.
 
My question concerns cold weather play - how to estimate how much distance I will lose as the temperature drops. If I can hit my # 3 Iron 180 yards in 85-degree temperatures, how far will it go as the temperature drops every 10 degrees?
 
Thank you.
-- Charles

 
Charles,
 
Before we get to the temperature thing, let me assure you that most of the drivers today have reached the limit as far as MOI and COR are concerned. As a result, they are all good, as long as you are close to the optimum launch conditions for your clubhead speed. So it has become something of a hype issue.
 
Some manufacturers are now trying to demonstrate improved performance by increasing the shaft length of their drivers. This is not a good move because a longer club is harder to control; this change does nothing for your score but quite a bit for your ego on that rare occasion when you catch it sweet and the club head and direction are as intended.
 
(See http://www.franklygolf.com/Speak/equip_articles.html for explanations of MOI & COR and other useful easy to understand technical terms).
 
As far as temperature is concerned you can expect a maximum difference of about 2 yards in carry for every 10 degrees F change in temperature. Colder air is more dense, so the drop in air temperature will decrease your distance. Ball temperature will also affect distance but not as much as air temperature.
 
Take an extra club for every 50 degreesdecrease in temperature.Hope this helps. Maybe you should just come to a warmer climate.
-- Frank
 
Fall for the FrogFrank 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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.