QA The Long and Short of It

By Frank ThomasAugust 1, 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
Hello Frank
I really enjoy listening to your comments and insight on equipment. I found your recent response to the guy's question about shaft length very interesting. Because of inconsistency with my 45-inch driver, I lose about 20-25 yards. I've shortened my 5- and 7-woods by 1.5 - 2 inches and remarkably not only has my accuracy improved my distance is the same.
I feel so confident with these clubs I can step on it when necessary and get another 10-15 more yards. When it comes to shortening clubs what is too much? -- Kelly Crabbe

The reason why clubs are of different lengths is that they are designed for different purposes. The longer, less-lofted clubs are designed primarily for distance, and the shorter clubs with more loft are designed for control. The ones between are designed for a combination of these. Over the years, using the well-known and tested method of trial and error, we have found that certain lengths of clubs are most effective for drivers and others for wedges with the rest of the set fitting between these extremes from the woods to the 2-iron (almost extinct now) to the wedges. As the length decreases, the head weight and the loft increase from about 10 degrees of loft with the driver to 55 degrees on the sand-wedge.
In an attempt to simplify the matching process of making all clubs feel the same and for the swing to remain constant, designers have tried to make the entire set the same length with all the heads the same weight, the lie angles all the same, with only the lofts varying. The concept seems to make sense, but it doesnt work because the less-lofted clubs dont get the distance and the more-lofted clubs dont have the required control. Also there is a compression of the distance difference between the driving club and the wedges.
So a compromise has been reached between distance and control. Unfortunately manufacturers trying to market their drivers and other clubs have used distance as the primary distinguishing factor. They didnt tell us that the length of the club was an inch longer, but only relied on our greed for distance to persuade us that their club was better.

This was discovered by others and before we knew it all drivers were being made longer and longer. The length of a driver changed from a standard (unwritten standard) of 43 inches in the mid '60s to upward of 46 inches in the '90s. It was soon discovered that the odd massive drive that the 46+ inch driver gave us wasnt worth the abundance of stray shots we were getting. The pros were also conned into using longer clubs until they decided it wasnt worth it and reverted back to shorter drivers, settling on about 44 inch on average.
With the newer, lighter shafts and more forgiving heads, this length seems to be good for the pros. The rest of us, who are not as good, need to stay at about 44 or even 43 inches for our drivers. Manufacturers, however, continue to provide drivers at 45 and even 46 inches in length, relying on our insatiable need for distance and the concomitant bragging rights.
So the short answer to your question is that there are certainly limits to how much you should shorten your clubs, but dont be conned into believing that one club is better than another because of the odd increase in distance. 43 to 44 inches on your driver is a very good length for maximum distance and control. Then go down by about inch per club for your woods. The new hybrids should be about one inch longer than the iron they are replacing.
In a recent column on you discussed different groove types - U, V and Y. Is there anything I can do to maintain my grooves other than cleaning with a sharp pointed object? I once heard Mickelson tell Garcia at a Skins Game that he files his grooves square. I've not been able to find out how to do that. -- Thanks, John (Vancouver, BC)

I would not recommend that you try to modify your grooves yourself. The maximum width of the groove is just a little larger than the thickness of two standard business cards, and if you are able to scrape away some metal it will be very tricky to do this within the bounds of the rule.
On the other hand, this doesnt mean that you should not try to keep them clean. To do this I suggest that you use a sharp tee which will penetrate the groove and clean the groove. For your information, you should know that the shape of the groove is irrelevant if the interface between the ball and the club is dry and no grass intervenes. It is only in the presence of grass at this interface that the groove plays a part in the spin imparted to the ball.
Tests have shown that when the rough is about 1 to 2 inches thick, different-shape grooves do have different effects on the spin of the ball with those of the U shape variety being most effective. This is most obvious when the edges of the grooves are well-defined. This is the reason why manufacturers are now machining the grooves of the wedges at the end of the manufacturing process. If the rough is three inches deep or more grooves, play no part in the ball control or spin process.

So leave it up to a professional club-maker who will have the correct tools to re-groove your wedges when they are worn down.
I seem to recall that in one of your past columns you talked about metal fatigue in older irons (15+yrs.) and that this can affect the playing characteristics of the club. Is it wise to get older shafts replaced in clubs that have treated you well or, is there such a thing in shafts as fatigue?
Jim Ruddy

If your irons are 15 years old, you dont have to worry about the shafts, as far as fatigue is concerned, if they have experienced normal impacts associated with striking a ball. A 15 year old set of irons is probably on the fringe of retirement, not because of the shaft but rather the design of the head as well as the wear and tear on the clubhead itself. Even though technology in irons hasnt made any major advances in the last twenty years, there have been some changes which you can benefit from if the set you now have needs some attention.
I would like to suggest that you visit my website and check the section Maltby Playability Factor. Here I have listed in excess of 200 different club types and models as guide as to what will suit you best, based on your skill level.
Dear Frank:
I'm 63 years old. I progressively moved away from stiff shafts and started hitting the ball much shorter. I changed back to stiff and I am more accurate and longer. I'm back to a 250-yard drive and 150-yard 7-iron. I'm happy.
My question all the hype on regular and senior shafts just a bunch of nonsense? -- Steve Kalman

No it isnt. Most of us are trying to use shafts which are far too stiff. The average handicap male golfer hits the ball 192 yards, even though he thinks he hits it 230 to 240 yards. In your case, you are considerably above average in length, and there is no doubt that because of your head speed which will result in 250-yard drives that you can very possibly use stiff shafts.
Unfortunately, even though the stiffer shaft may result in a little more accuracy, you will be fighting it if it is too stiff for you, and may find that the result you are looking for only comes when you are at full speed. As it is not good practice to swing as hard as you can all the time (or maybe never), you should drop down to a more flexible shaft and try to feel the shot and know where the head is at all times during the swing. If you cant tell where the head is during the swing, then you have lost the feel needed to make a consistent swing which will generally result longer more accurate shot.
Steve, at 63, you have just matured and there is no reason for you to start retreating as long as you remain flexible and stay fit. If you lose your range of motion, then either get to the gym or if you are stuck then is the time to look at the shaft flex change. The most important thing is that you should feel comfortable and change when you think it is time rather than be persuaded to do it because some of your buddies suggest that you are getting old and need a senior shaft.

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
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry