QA Swing Speed Secrets

By Frank ThomasJune 27, 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
Dear Mr. Thomas:
I recently picked up a copy of Golf Digest and saw the swings of Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes featured. According to the article, both players swing the club (the driver) at the same speed: 126 MPH. However, Bubba Watson's average ball speed is 194 MPH while J.B. Holmes's average ball speed is 182 MPH.
My question, then, is if both players swing the club at the same speed (126 MPH) how come they have different ball speeds and hit the ball different distances? Wouldn't it be logical that if they share the same swing speed they would subsequently share the same ball speed and hit the ball the same distance? Is there anything that we can learn from this? Thanks! -- Tim Davis, Wadsworth, Illinois

Your question is very timely as I have addressed this issue in my June Newsletter on my website
First I think that the ball speed of 194 seems to be very high for a head speed of 126 mph. One can expect a ball speed of about a 1.5 times the head speed when hit on the sweet spot at swing speeds of about 110 mph. But even if the head speeds are the same the impact point may be different and ball speed may be affected. As far as distance is concerned this will be affected dramatically by the launch conditions. One set of launch conditions may be at the optimum for that ball and its speed and the other set no where close. This can make the difference of 10 to 15 yards. Hope this helps.
I can never remember, when adding lead tape, do you add it on the toe for a hook, or the heel for a slice, etc. Or do you buy three drivers like Phil!! -- Jeanie Matherly

Don't try to correct you slice or hook by shifting weight in your driver. These adjustments are to tweak your ball flight from a fade to straight or a draw to straight when you are hitting the ball consistently on the center of the face as in Phil's case.
If you add tape to the head you will need to add a significant amount to affect the flight but you will also affect the balance of the club. Adding tape to the head will increase the swing weight and the feel of the shaft etc. So make these adjustments with lead tape only if the club was too light to begin with or if you shortened the club by an inch or more. The better way is to find a club with weight ports and different weighted screws.
Assuming you know all this; if you change the weight to the heel ports you will do two things:
a) First, it will move the center of gravity (c.g.) closer the heel and allow you to take advantage of the gear effect by putting draw spin on the ball. This you know from hitting the ball on the toe of your driver which results in a slight draw (not a hook). This does not happen with clubs with the c.g. close to the face as in irons.
b) Second, because the weight has been moved closer to the heel (shaft) closing the face will be easier than if the weight was concentrated on the toe, so the face may be presented to the ball in a slightly closed position than it would with the weight on the toe.
Hi Frank,
I realize you're a very busy man, but I'm new to golf and am shopping for my first set of clubs. I have a Golfsmith around the corner and a small father and son shop that just made a set for a friend at a super price. I also ran across the Pinemeadows site for clone clubs and I like what they have to say and admit it appears they may have the best deal for me. I am on a budget being semi-retired and would really appreciate any advice you could give me. If it's any help I am very strong and in top physical condition.
Respectfully, Dudley Epps

If the clubs you refer to are legitimate club designs and models from component parts manufacturers then some of these clubs are very good and cost a lot less than the premium models. Watch out for counterfeits of brand names though.
I would also suggest that you look for a set of premium clubs which are a one or two years old. Generally these are marked down and because the laws of physics don't change every time a new model is introduced they will work very well. Technology has changed especially for woods in the last ten years but irons have not changed at the same pace. So a set introduced since 2000 may be your answer.
As this is your first set, I suggest that from your iron set you leave out the 3 and 4-iron. Start your set with a 5-iron to PW and a get a good sand wedge and a very good forgiving putter. A driver with a 44 inch shaft and a fairway wood (3 and/or a 5-wood) should work with a 26 degree hybrid. Your choice of irons should be from the Ultra- or Super- Game Improvement category. See for a complete listing of more than 300 irons types and models.
Dear Frank,
I currently play a 9* stiff shafted driver which carries about 260 yards and stops; there is little or no roll. I used to have other drivers, which rolled another 25-30 yards. What factor affects roll off of a driver? Is it the head design, the swing or shaft? Would a session on a launch monitor help me find a driver that carries as far but also rolls?
Thanks, Dave

If you carry the ball 260 yards then this would normally result in a roll of about 25 yards, on a fairway of average hardness. So the final distance should be close to 285 which is only a couple of yards short of the tour average.
Roll depends on incoming angle and ball speed. You have one of two problems; either the initial launch angle and/or the spin rate is too high. For your swing speed you should probably be launching the ball at about 12 degrees with a spin rate of 2,500 rpm. To achieve these conditions which will be optimum for you may have to;
a) decrease the loft and/or
b) get a lower spin ball and/or
c) Hit the ball a little higher on the club face. This will decrease the
spin an increase the launch angle.
You may have to switch to an X-stiff shaft but make this your last move.
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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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.