QA The Lure of Launch Monsters

By Frank ThomasSeptember 26, 2007, 4:00 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
Our survey last week asked our readers if they put an identifying mark on their ball to avoid confusion or possible lost ball penalty.
Ninety-five percent say they do put some form of identification mark (as suggested in the rule book) on their ball.
Those who chose to make additional comments indicated that the predominant reason they marked their ball was to avoid confusion. To read some selected comments which you might find interesting and/or amusing, click here.
Pat Perez
Pat Perez has some question on the next 'Ask Frank,' Monday Oct. 1 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (Wire Image)
Last year I upgraded to a 460 cc driver and loved it. I purchased a regular flex shaft and then had 1/2' cut off of it because I felt the shaft was too long. I had never gone to a launch monitor, but I was able to do so recently to try to find a ball that fits my game from the perspective of this driver (that someone will have to pry out of my cold dead hands some day). The results astounded me. According to the launch monitor, my clubhead speed at impact is between 104-106 mph.
Is a regular-flex shafted driver too flexible for my swing speed? I have looked online, and the recommendation Ive found is that I should have a stiff flexed shaft (one even recommended X-stiff, but I definitely don't want to change the characteristics of this club that much). I am reluctant to alter anything about this club, but should I consider reshafting, or demo-ing a club similar to this only in stiff flex? If I do reshaft, or replace this driver with another of the same brand, should I go and have 1/2' cut off the length as I did when I first purchased this beauty? How much of a difference will the flex of the shaft make on my shot dispersion? I am happy with the distance I get with the Regular flex shaft, and pretty happy with the shot dispersion (but I don't think anyone would complain if he could hit the ball closer to the target on a regular basis).
Another question that comes to mind is, if I move to a stiff flex shaft, will I lose distance, or possibly gain distance?
The thing that is a real pickle for me is that before I bought this driver, I couldn't stand over a ball with a driver with a lot of confidence (even if this is only in my head, since golf is 90% mental and 10% mental), so I really don't want to change that.
Thanks, and any advice you can give me would be great.

I really want to thank you for your question, because it shows how often we can be influenced by guidelines or by someone who wants to refit us to something different.
You bought your driver, shortened it, and now love it. What more can anybody ask for?
Then you decided to check your swing speed on a launch monster and found that it was higher than recommended for the shaft flex you have in the club you practically sleep with (youre the one who brought up the cold dead hands business).
My strong advice is, PLEASE DONT DO ANYTHING. You are happy with the distance and dispersion you now have. Trust your instincts and enjoy what you have going for you. I believe that when you find what fits comfortably, you are ahead of the game. Dont let guidelines or anything else affect your choice. Only you know what feels good.
Advances in technology over the last ten years or more have had a significant influence on performance, so your upgrade was appropriate, but these improvements are slowing down to a crawl. For this reason, I believe you will not have to consider getting a new driver for at least five years or more.
You have done the right thing, now have fun and dont let anybody influence you into changing the properties of what you have.
There is nothing more important than confidence in your equipment.
Sleep tight.
-- Frank
I went against the norm and recently purchased a square-headed driver and am just working with it and trying to dial it in. Is the setup for this driver different -- do you tee the ball higher or lower or just the standard way? Or are there any different variations when using this driver?

You have asked about how best to introduce yourself to your new big funny looking driver. I would suggest that you set up to it the same way you would to any driver. Do this on the practice range if you have an opportunity, and then start making adjustments if you feel there is something wrong with the ball flight.
These clubs will perform a little differently compared to a five-year-old driver, but not much differently than last years model. They will certainly look different and this may take more getting used to than any differences in feel or performance. The sound will have some effect on the way it feels. Unbelievably, most of our feel sensation is influenced by what we hear. Various tests have been performed in which a subject wearing earplugs has been surprised at how different a club or impact feels compared to when the plugs are removed. With some of these new big square drivers, you may need earplugs.
Just set it up in the usual way with the same tee height etc. and see how it performs. You should not expect any difference in distance compared to last years model when you hit it on the sweet spot. If you miss the sweet spot, you may be able to observe a difference, certainly if youre comparing it to a five or ten year old driver. There will be a slight difference in the way the square driver arrives at the impact position. The higher MOI and the rearward location of the center of gravity (c.g.) is what may cause this difference, but this will not be as obvious if youre comparing it to last years model. If you find it performing so differently that you cant get used to it, you may want to consider a change in the shaft flex. The sound will be the biggest change, however.
Dont get discouraged too soon. Only when you have hit a number of drives should you consider changing your set up or other conditions. Every new driver, be it a square driver of just another type of similar design, will feel different, just as a new car will when you first get into it and take it for its first spin around the block. The human body is very good at adapting to relatively small differences. As you get used to that new car and the way it drives to the course, you also get used to the new driver on the course. This is generally why its better to put off making small adjustments to your clubs until after the introduction phase is over, not rush to make a change right after you first shake hands.
Hope this helps you to make a new good friend.
Hello, Frank,
Everything I read in the golf magazines states that you should be measured for your clubs. However, everywhere I go the salespeople tell me that its not true and I can buy the clubs off the rack (sort of speaking).
I hope this doesnt sound sexist, but is this because I'm female? I'm 5' 3 1/2 and am told that the standard Ladies clubs that are in the store will fit me and nothing else needs to be done.
Mind you, they never watch me swing or have me try any clubs, so whats the deal?

Hi Anna,
I dont know what your handicap is, but being female is not or should not be the reason you are being told that an off the shelf set is OK for you.
After many years, manufacturers have found that the specifications for a ladies set are generally very good for most female golfers. (The same is true for men.) You will need to make sure the shaft flex is good for you; start with the most flexible shaft, and move towards a stiffer one, stopping when it feels good to you. If your handicap gets down into the single digits, then it may be time to think about tweaking your clubs as you will be hitting more consistently and appreciate subtle changes, but even then there may be no need to change from the standard set. When you get to be a scratch golfer, then you may find that some of the sets designed for men may be appropriate, with only some slight tweaks. Many of the LPGA players are playing with these sets because they swing harder and are able to hit the ball a long way.
Nobodys trying to discriminate against you. Theyre trying to save you some money by not selling you something you dont need. It would help a little more and provide you with some confidence in their recommendation if they learned more about your skill level and your particular swing.
Because I have not addressed this specific issue before, it is not an off the shelf answer. There are some very good ladies clubs out there. Happy shopping!
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
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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)

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Wie's goal to reach goals: Just. Stay. Healthy.

By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2018, 3:30 pm

Michelle Wie’s player bio should come with medical charts.

Her caddie would be well served if he could read X-rays as well as he reads greens.

Remarkably, Wie will begin her 13th full season as a pro when she tees it up Thursday in the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Wie is only 28, but on some days, she must feel like she’s going on 40.

It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage. Her body has too often been like an exotic sports car, a sleek and powerful machine capable of thrilling rides ... when it isn’t sitting it in the shop for weeks for repairs. There’s been one breakdown after another, spoiling her rides.

That’s why one burning desire trumps all others for Wie as she begins this new year.

“Being healthy, staying healthy, it’s my No. 1 priority,” Wie told “I hired private physios at the end of last year, to work on my body. I’ve been working with my doctors in New York, and they’ve been doing a great job of getting me to a place where I’m pain free.

“For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good and pretty healthy. I’ve got little aches and pains from hitting so many balls over the years, but I’m really excited about starting this year. I feel really driven this year. I just want to be healthy so I can build some momentum and be able to play at 100 percent.”

Wie would love to see what she can do in an injury-free, illness-free year after all the promising work she put into rebuilding her game last year. She seemed on the brink of something special again.

“We worked last week, and Michelle looked really, really good,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It’s quite impressive the way she’s hitting the ball. She is hitting it long and feeling good about her game. So, the main goal really is to see if she can go injury free.”

After winning twice in 2014, including the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie battled through a troublesome finger injury in the second half of that year. Hip, knee and ankle injuries followed the next year. She didn’t just lose all her good momentum. She lost the swing she grooved.

Wie rebuilt it all last year, turning her draw into a dependable fade that allowed her to play more aggressively again. She loved being able to go hard at the ball again, without fearing where it might go. The confidence from that filtered into every part of her game. She started hitting more drivers again.

And Wie found yet another eccentric but effective putting method, abandoning her table-top putting stance for a rotating trio of grips (conventional, left-hand low and claw). She would use them all in a single round. It was weird science, but it worked as she moved to a more classic, upright stance.

“It’s not pretty, but it’s working,” Stacy Lewis said after playing with Wie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer.

Wie said she’s going back and forth between conventional and left-hand low now.

“I can’t promise I’ll stay the same way all year,” Wie said. “But even with different grips, I stayed with the same putting philosophy all year. I want to keep doing that.”

Leadbetter calls Wie a rebel in her approach to the game. She’s a power player, but she carried a 9-wood and 11-wood last year. She says the 11-wood will be back in her bag this week. Her unorthodox ways go beyond technique, strategy and equipment. She’ll be sporting pink hair come Thursday.

“She has never been orthodox,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

Wie looked as if she were poised to make a run at her fifth career title last season. She logged six finishes of fourth place or better the first half of the year. She contended at the ANA Inspiration, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

And then a neck spasm knocked her out of the U.S. Women’s Open.

And then emergency appendectomy surgery knocked her out for six weeks at summer’s end. It kept her from playing the year’s final major, the Evian Championship.

“I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.”

Over the last three seasons alone, Wie has played through bursitis in her left hip, a bone spur in her left foot and inflammation in her left knee. She has battled neck spasms and back spasms. There have been platelet rich plasma injections to aid healing, and there have been too many cortisone injections for her liking.

There also have been ongoing issues in both wrists.

In fact, Wie, who broke two bones in her left wrist early in her career, is dealing with arthritic issues in both wrists of late. She underwent collagen injections this off season to try to be more pain free.

“I’ve had to pull back the last couple years, restrict the number of balls I hit, not practice as much as I would like, but I was able to put in a lot of work this offseason,” Wie said. “I’m excited about this year, but I’ve been smart about things.”

Leadbetter says he has been focusing on injury prevention when working with Wie. He worries about the stress that all the torque she creates can have on her body, with her powerful coil and the way she sometimes likes to hold off shots with her finish. His work, sometimes, is pulling her back from the tinkering she loves to do.

“Everything we do with her swing now is to help prevent injury,” he said.

Leadbetter relishes seeing what’s possible in 2018 if there are no setbacks.

“Michelle would be the first to admit she hasn’t reached anywhere near her potential,” Leadbetter said. “We all know what she is capable of. We’ve had fleeting glimpses. Now, it’s a matter of, ‘OK, let’s see if we can really fulfill the potential she’s had from a very young age.’

“She’s really enthusiastic about this year. She can’t wait to get back in the mix.”

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How Rahm can overtake DJ for OWGR No. 1 this week

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 2:50 pm

Editor's note: Information and text provided by Golf Channel's Official World Golf Ranking expert, Alan Robison.

Despite having fewer worldwide wins, fewer top-5 finishes, fewer top-25 finishes and more missed cuts over the past two years, Jon Rahm is poised to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win in this week’s Farmers Insurance Open. 

The Rise of Rahm is meteoric, but how is this possible? After all, Rahm has five worldwide wins vs. eight for Johnson in the same span? 

We’ll start with the raw numbers over the 104-week cycle of the Official World Golf Ranking. These numbers include a win for Rahm in this week’s Farmers (the only way he could get to No. 1; DJ is not playing):

  Dustin Johnson Jon Rahm
Events   46 40
Wins  8 (1 major, 3 WGCs) 5 (3 PGA Tour, 2 Euro)
Top 5 finishes   20 16
Top 10 finishes  26 19
Top 25 finishes  37 26
MC or 0 OWGR Pts earned  4 7

Johnson leads Rahm in every possible category, so you may be wondering, again, how is Rahm replacing DJ possible? 

To understand this, you would need to understand the Official World Golf Ranking, which is all about the power of math, a recency bias and the divisor.

The ranking system can feel a bit overwhelming, so here are a couple of topline bullet points:

  • The ranking is a 104-week period (two years) that evaluates a player’s performance.
  • Events are given a certain weight and bigger events have a higher point total.
  • Majors are worth 100 points to the winner. The Players champ is given 80 points. From there, you will see events weighted in the 70s for most WGCs, down to 24 for PGA Tour events opposite WGCs and majors.
  • The number assigned to an event has to do with the quality of field – the more top 10/20/50/100 players that are in a field, the higher the weighting.

Next, you can look at how recent the event was to determine its true value to a player. Dustin Johnson’s 2016 U.S. Open victory was given 100 points, but now he’s only receiving 23.9 percent of its original weight. Conversely, Rahm’s win at the CareerBuilder Challenge was only worth 40 points, but because it happened on Sunday, he’s receiving the full allotment of points.

Why is DJ getting 23.9 percent of his U.S. Open total? Doesn’t that seem arbitrary? Actually, the OWGR has an intricate formula to determine the value of events. Any event a player has started in the previous 13 weeks is given full value. For the remaining 91 weeks, events drop off at a rate of 1.09 percent until they eventually fall off. Here’s an example:

  • Event 25 weeks ago: 86.96 percent of value
  • Event 50 weeks ago: 59.78 percent of value
  • Event 75 weeks ago: 32.61 percent of value
  • Event 100 weeks ago: 5.43 percent of value

With a win at Farmers, Rahm would have three victories and a runner-up finish inside the last 13 weeks.  That would total to 175.60, given full-point value. After this week, DJ would only have three events in the last 13 weeks and those finishes are T9-win-T14, for a total of 67.32.

Rahm is taking advantage of the full value for three of his five professional wins.

There is still one more important piece of the formula and that’s the divisor.

The OWGR has determined that each player must have a minimum number of events and a maximum number of events, in order to protect players.

For instance, when Rahm won the Farmers a year ago he received 54 points. It was his 13th event and if 13 had been his divisor he would have had an OWGR total of 4.15, immediately placing him inside the top 20. Instead, to be more fair, it’s divided by the minimum number of 40 events played, giving him 1.35, which was around 110th (Rahm, though, had received enough points in his other 12 events that his win moved him to 46th in the OWGR at the time).

The maximum number is as important as the minimum. Many players compete in up to 60 events over the course of two years. Instead of hurting them by counting every event, the OWGR only counts the 52 most recent events in the 104-week cycle.

Why is the divisor so important? Because math. If a player wins a major (100 points) and has the minimum divisor, that major is worth 2.5 points (100/40). A player winning that same major who has the max divisor (52 events) only gains 1.92 points.

In the case of Rahm and Johnson, it’s Rahm who is taking advantage of his divisor in attaining maximum value for his play. Here’s a table of what it would look like after this week (again calculating for a Rahm win) to help explain:

  Dustin Johnson Jon Rahm
Total points earned:  960.82 557.26
OWGR valued points 493.08 433.39
OWGR divisor/events 46 40
Projected OWGR after Farmers 10.72 10.83

What’s amazing about these numbers is that Rahm is still maintaining 77.78 percent of his original value on the points that he’s earned. As we said earlier, three wins are 100 percent. His Irish Open win is 81.82 percent, while even his 2017 Farmers victory is still earning 56.5 percent of its original value.

On the other side, DJ is only maintaining 51.3 percent of his total points earned.

And there you have it. The math favors Rahm, who is still on the outset of his career. Eventually, it will hurt him. But, for now – and right now – Rahm has an opportunity to take all of these numbers and turn them into the world’s No. 1 ranking.

To do that, the scenario is quite simple: Win this week.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.