QA Size DOES Matter

By Frank ThomasAugust 22, 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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
 
I was under the impression that if one took a driver head and simply kept changing shafts---with different lengths, torque, flexes, etc'you would eventually find a shaft that would make the ball go farther (assuming you always hit the same ball with each new shaft). Now, I am told that swing speed will not change very much at all with the different shafts. Which is it? I am 65 years old, have a single digit handicap, (and have since I was a kid). Would going on a launch monitor and hitting different balls, always with the same driver, produce one ball that would go farther? I currently use a Callaway HX Hot ball, and I hit it between 245 and 255 yards. Thanks for any help.
--Hank

 
Hank,
 
Driving distance is related directly to clubhead speed. By changing shaft flex, kick point, weight and torque, you may be able to make some relatively small changes to the launch conditions, but more importantly you will, by trial and error, find the shaft that you feel most comfortable swinging consistently and thus the one in which youll develop some degree of confidence. This may take some time, and it could be expensive. This confidence, however, often leads to an improved swing, and a better swing will in turn generally lead to increased distance.
 
If you change shaft length, you will be able to generate more club head speed, but you do this at the risk of losing accuracy and control. All that the vast majority of us need is a standard shaft, choosing only the flex rating that best suits our swing speed.
 
To increase your distance, assuming you dont want to change your swing, you need to optimize your launch conditions for your particular head speed (Click here for the guidelines of head speeds and launch conditions). If you want to increase your carry distance, launch the ball higher and decrease the spin rate, though this will not give you maximum overall distance under average turf conditions.
 
To change your launch conditions, you should first work with the loft of the driver, then your impact position on the clubface. Higher impact will produce less spin and a higher launch angle. After that, you can then experiment with ball type, and last work on shaft kick point etc. for minor tweaking. Before you get to the point of such tweaking, though, you need to be hitting the ball very consistently; otherwise youre just spinning your wheels.
 
If you are now hitting the ball 245 to 255 yards, you shouldnt be too concerned about messing with club properties, but rather work on your flexibility and strength. This will increase your range of motion and stamina, which will allow you to maintain your current very good driving distance for years to come.
 
Hope this helps,
Frank
 
Frank,
 
Most of my golf is played on relatively flat greens that probably roll about 10 on a Stimpmeter. I find that when I play greens with more contour and more speed (12 and up), I am totally out of synch. Im a six handicap and consider myself a good putter until I get to fast greens with pronounced contour. I know Im not alone in this dilemma, but do you have any suggestions? Does a lighter putter help?
 
Thanks,
--Fred

 
Fred,
 
When I introduced the redesigned Stimpmeter in 1977 (the concept was originally developed by Eddie Stimpson in the 1930s, and I called it the Stimpmeter in his honor), the average green speed for everyday play at most municipal golf courses and country clubs was 6' 6'.
 
I developed a table at that time recommending that 6' 6' was good for everyday speed, but for competition play 8' 6 ' was a good speed. In major competitions the speed should be around 10 ' 6' for average undulations, but faster for flat greens and slower for greens with significant undulations. If the greens are too fast, for any number of reasons, you limit the number of places on the green where the cup can be cut.
 
Agronomic practices have improved so much, and new techniques have been developed to speed up greens without destroying them, that its no longer a challenge to speed up greens. In fact, fairways can now approach the texture and speed of greens as we remembered them many years ago. At the 1998 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, I measured the speed of the fairway on one hole and found it was 6' 6'. It was being cut with triplex mowers designed originally for greens; this is no longer unusual for championship play.
 
Fortunately, some common sense has become part of the process of deciding how fast to make the greens. The undulations and general slope of the green are increasingly being considered. 12 feet on the Stimpmeter is too fast for most greens, and if there are any significant undulations then a speed of 12' is an out-and-out mistake.
 
Fred, there is absolutely no need to get a lighter putter for fast greens; all you need is a consistent putting stroke with a slow rhythm. Since youre a good putter, you know that the distance you take the putter head back on the backstroke should be the only variable for different length putts. On faster greens you simply need to reduce the length of the backstroke. Putts on fast greens will break significantly more than on slow greens for the same slope, so this too should be carefully considered.
 
Hope this gets you back into synch.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
 
I thought I read somewhere that the depth of a golf club head from the face to the back could not exceed the width across the face. It seems to me that there are quite a few putters that do not conform to this.
--Thomas

 
Thomas,
 
You are partially right in your assumption about the dimensions for a club. The distance from the toe to the heel must be greater than from the face to the back. When I rewrote this rule in 1984, it carefully specified that the measurement be made from the vertical projections of the outer most points of the toe and the heel and the face to the back. The heel for traditionally shaped heads (woods, etc.) is defined .875 inches above the ground when the club is at address. In putters, generally the measurements are taken at the outermost points of the heel and the toes and face and back. Thomas, Im not surprised that you think there are many putters that dont conform with this rule, but in fact they just look that way.
 
I wouldnt feel too bad about this, because I too on many occasions thought that a specific putter did not conform because it was too deep from the face to the back, but when I made the measurement I found I was mistaken. It is an optical illusion that fools us in many cases.
 
Im sure there are some putters that dont conform out there, but fewer than you think, and certainly none that were submitted to and approved by the USGA. Our eyes often fool us in golf; this is one of those times.
 
Keep on looking.
Frank
 
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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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.