QA The Playability of Blades

By Frank ThomasSeptember 5, 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

Hi Frank,
I recently purchased a set of 1995 Hogan Apex blades with the red line and the word 'forged' under the Ben Hogan. I hit them really well even though they are a small blade. Has there been much change over the years in blade irons? Would there be any advantage to looking into a new set of Apex clubs? -- Thanks, Dennis Sobolewski Monrovia, CA

If this is a semi cavity back iron and the red line is under the words 'Hogan' and 'forged,' it is the Edge GCD Tour model introduced in 1996 model. The company may have started the introduction in 1995. This is a good iron and more forgiving than some of the other models that Hogan has produced. If the red line is under the word 'Ben' and the word 'forged' under 'Hogan,' then it was introduced in 1978. It is a blade style and less forgiving than the GCD model.
If you hit your irons well then don't expect magic from a new set.
Yes, the technology has changed for the better in irons and they come in a range of playability factors. About 300 irons are listed on my site in different playability factors categories with suggested use by skill levels. See and search under Maltby Playability Factor. This is only a guideline.
Of greatest importance is that you feel comfortable with your irons and this will develop confidence. If you are happy with your present set of irons, then stay with them but it doesn't hurt to look around anyway. However, don't expect a significant difference in performance, as the technology in irons has not changed much, other than clubs have become a little more forgiving and are thus a little easier to hit. Check my website for some options to look for.

Dear Frank,
Due to a series of health problems, it has now been five years since I last played golf. I have a new hip and two 'stents' in my aorta. I am in my early 70s and I am anxious to get back to the game and need new equipment. When I played my last game, my handicap was 12 and I was hitting it long and straight with a titanium driver (which now matches my hip), 4,5,7,and 9 graphite metal-woods and graphite irons.

Please advise as I am anxious to place an order and get started. -- Thanks, Barbara Wright

Congratulations for getting through the health problems and even more so getting back into the game. Nobody can tell you that this game isn't one of the most addictive ever. Let's be frank, you will take a little time to get back to your 12 handicap, but don't let that affect you.
I would suggest that you start with your woods and get one of the newer titanium drivers with a high COR (see my website under 'Frankly Speaking' to learn more about COR). Most of the new drivers are at the limit so you don't have to worry. Choose a driver with a loft of about 14 and hang on to your 4,5,7, and 9 woods for now. Iron technology has not changed so much in the last 10 years, so these are still OK for a while. You should, however, try one of the newer soft core balls such as the Precept XP3, the Titleist DT Solo or Callaway HX Pearl.

When you get into the swing of things again then think about looking at some irons but you don't need them now. Well done and welcome back.

I have an average swing speed of 85-90mph with a driver. I am a 12 handicap. I probably drive the ball around 200 yards. I have stiff shafts in all of my clubs. It may be an ego thing that I just like the idea of having stiff shafts.
Do you think I am losing distance and/or accuracy by having stiff shafts rather than regular? Your insight regarding club and ball technology is the most interesting to see on T.V. and read on the web. Your information is a real help to many golfers. Thanks, Frank. -- Jeffrey W. Harris

Thanks for the kind words.
Yes, I do think that you are losing both accuracy and distance by sticking to a stiff shaft, which satisfies your ego but is not conducive to a good consistent swing. If the shaft is too stiff for your swing speed then you will find that the good shots are normally associated with a really hard swing. The rest of the time, and certainly when you get tired, you will be fighting your clubs to get them to perform. This creates tension and an inconsistent badly timed swing. Timing is more important to consistency and distance than almost anything else. So if you want to improve both accuracy and distance, use the correct shaft flex - which in your case is probably a regular flex. Try this out and put your ego back in the bag. Real men do use Regular flex shafts and find that their scores improve along with it.

Your advice re: shorter drivers is great and should be of prime interest to those who believe that longer shafts beget longer drives. In our group I have the shortest driver (43.5) and out-drive all but one guy and my drives are on the fairways.
My question is, do you think that Michelle Wie's wayward drives are because of the length of her driver? Also Tiger Woods seems to hit more drives that go awry than in his earlier days as a pro, when he was using a 43.5 inch driver.

Always enjoy reading your column and your answers on TV. -- Wilfred Ogawa, Kaneohe, Hawaii

I believe that Michele Wie's driver is 46 inches, which if this is the case makes it more difficult to control. I believe that Tiger was accurate and still very long early in his career with his 43.5 inch steel-shafted driver.
If you can have more confidence in your swing by using a shorter-shafted driver, you will swing better, have improved timing and gain all the distance you would achieve by using a longer shaft, which may not be so accurate. Well done to you, but don't let anybody know your secret.

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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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.

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Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:18 am

All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.

“I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

“I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”

Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.

“This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.

Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.