QA My Take on Grooves

By Frank ThomasNovember 21, 2006, 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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
I really do enjoy your column and I know that you will be able to answer my question about grooves on wedges. Do new sharp grooves make a difference to the spin on the ball when I hit the ball from a tee? -- Jim, N.C.

 
Jim,
The answer is NO they dont. If you have a sandblasted face this will probably do as much or more to increase the spin than a grooved face. When you are hitting out of the rough then grooves do matter and the better defined they are the better off you are to get some spin on the ball. The rough condition will always reduce the spin from a wedge when compared to a dry condition but from deep (4 to 6 inch) heavy rough it doesnt matter what ball you play or configuration of grooves you have on your wedge.
 
This is the point I have tried to make in my Frankly Friends Newsletter this month (click here to read). The USGA has more important things to worry about than thinking about changing the groove configuration because some pros are able to get out of the rough relatively easily with out too much concern about being there. My proposal is to lengthen the rough for those situations where this is important. The upheaval of changing groove specifications is not worth it. Read the newsletter and tell us what you think by voting.
 
Why do we 'average' golfers have to be subjected to the current rage of super fast greens? Greens with undulations or swales as we call them - OK. It discourages me, and I can only speak for myself. Also, there is too much variation of green speeds between courses.
 
If the Pros can only separate the men from the boys by playing on pool tables or glass so be it.
 

Frank,
Why do we 'average' golfers have to be subjected to the current rage of super fast greens? Greens with undulations or swales as we call them - OK. It discourages me, and I can only speak for myself. Also, there is too much variation of green speeds between courses.
 
If the Pros can only separate the men from the boys by playing on pool tables or glass so be it.
 
I just read your study on 'Growing the Game' and liked it. This subject should be added. And I am not a 'bad' putter. -- Ken, Texas

 
Ken,
There is no doubt that fast greens in combination with severe undulations, do not help the cause of trying to make the game more enjoyable for the average golfer. The game is not growing and in fact participation is flat having fallen for some time. There are some projections that the number of course closings will, for the first time in nearly 70 years, match the number of new course openings.
 
Based on our research study report (see Growing the Game by clicking here) we have confirmed what most of us know, that the game not only takes too long to play 18 holes, but costs too much and most of us are not deriving as much pleasure from playing as we used to. One of the reasons for this is that in many cases we are playing from the wrong set of tees. The survey of over 18,400 golfers from 44 countries around the world (largest survey on this subject ever done) also show that we seem to overestimate the distance we drive the ball by 30 to 40 yards.
 
Also courses designed for scratch golfers are too challenging for the average golfer even though the tees are set forward. This forward tee position does little to ease the tough approach shots, which again are designed to challenge very good golfers.
 
Ken, you are right that fast greens with undulations have had a detrimental affect on the enjoyment factor for a lot of golfers.
 
When in 1976 I redesigned a device to measure the speed of greens (I called it the Stimpmeter because I worked with a concept originally developed by Eddie Stimpson in 1935) I also developed an instruction brochure with suggested speeds for average play. These have been exceeded by a significant amount.
 
This has come about for two reasons; the ability to make greens faster without ruining them and this was spurred on to attain bragging rights for having the fastest greens around. This is not good for many golfers as it presents an inappropriate challenge, which spoils the round in many cases.
 
I will certainly include this issue in Phase II of the research study, which is in the fund raising stage at this time. I'll also have more to say about this subject in my soon to be completed book.

Thanks for your interest and concern about the game that a lot of us enjoy so much.
 
Frank,
If you are serious about improving your game, rather than just wanting to improve your scores, is it better to be hitting a 'more forgiving iron' OR is it better to learn to hit a less forgiving iron correctly?
 
Thanks for your opinion. Lori

 
Lori,
This is a tough one. Let me say that there are not too many golfers who really want to improve their game through hard work and practice. It is easier and less time consuming to go out and buy a forgiving set of clubs that will forgive our miss hits and work almost as well as those clubs designed for the pros.
 
There is nothing better than hitting the sweet spot on a blade iron but also nothing very exciting about missing that spot. So to improve your game (skills) you should probably strive to use a set which is a little better than you are and keep moving up as your skills improve. It is not much fun hitting bad shots and forgiving clubs reduce this somewhat. But they also make you lazy in that you rely on the forgiveness and this reduces the incentive to improve your skills. Forgiving clubs will probably keep you playing the game for fun but blades will definitely give you a good measure of how much you need to work on you game to improve your skills.
 
I have been under the impression that in tournament golf (pro or am) that the same make and compression ball had to be used throughout the round, but I have been told by a fellow golfer that there is no rule requiring this. What is the official rule? -- JB
 
JB,
What you are referring to is what is known as the One Ball Condition.
 
This is a Condition of the competition as established by the committee in charge of the event. It (the committee) may or may not adopt the condition. If it does then the competitors must be so advised.
 
For competitions involving expert players there are some conditions, which are recommended by the USGA, and you can find these in the rule book. These include using only Driver Heads, which are listed as having been tested, and conform. Also the competitors may use only a ball listed on the conforming list. The other condition recommended for expert players is the One Ball Condition which should state; During a stipulated round the balls a player plays must be of the same brand and type as detailed by a single entry on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls.
 
If posted, this means that the committee has decided to enforce this, or those Conditions of the Competition and the penalty for violation of any of these specific conditions is disqualification in stroke play.
 
The Rules of Golf only require that you play with conforming equipment. However, to be sure that it does conform the USGA has provided a list on its website referring to clubs and balls which have been tested and found to conform. This doesnt mean that others dont conform, but to be sure, the committee may choose to post the list and the condition.
 
The background behind the adoption of this rule is lengthy but in essence it is designed to prevent golfers from taking advantage of the performance differences of various balls for specific conditions which confront them on different holes. For example, using a low flying ball into the wind or a high spinning ball on a par three hole etc.
 
JB, unless you are in a competition where these conditions are posted you dont have to worry about them. The PGA Tour and many State and College events including all USGA championships adopt this condition.
 
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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
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J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

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The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

He is just four shots off the lead.

“I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

“He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

“It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

“I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

“It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

“I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

“It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

“He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

“I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

“I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

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List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

And he has plenty of company.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

And there was another guy four shots behind.

Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

He went with the 5-iron.

''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.