QA Tee Length Club Forgiveness

By Frank ThomasJuly 18, 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
First I'd like to say that as an amateur clubmaker, I always enjoy your column and spots on TGC. I read your thoughts on the USGA's U-groove ruling, and thought about something that I hadn't considered: Tee length. Is it possible that the stupendous driving distances the pros hit the ball could be controlled by mandating a 1-inch tee? If so, that would be a marvelous solution to preserve the game. The PGA TOUR could hand out marked official spec tees to players at each tournament. I would think this would cause minimal impact to the equipment industry.

Morris Hatalsky
Three-time Champions Tour winner Morris Hatalsky asks about graphite shafts in 'Ask Frank,' Monday, July 23 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (WireImage)
Thank you for your kind remarks. With regard to tees (pegs, not the teeing ground), there is no reliable research that I have seen to support or justify the 4' length limitation the USGA has placed on tees. There is also no data to suggest that the distance pros hit the ball could be controlled by restricting tee length.
For many years, the standard tee length was 2 inches. Today, it seems to be 2 3/4 inches, either because it is what golfers feel they want or because it leaves more room to print the name of the golf course and the logo on the tee shaft.
I am not sure that the average distance on tour would be significantly reduced if a 1 inch tee was mandated by the PGA TOUR.
What I find amusing is that as soon as the tee length limit of 4 ' was adopted, many tee manufacturers decided to make tees 3.9 inches long because they mistakenly believe (or golfers incorrectly infer) that every time the USGA sets a limit it must be important, and that something close to the limit must be as good as possible.
A 4-inch tee is cumbersome to carry in your pocket and will easily pierce your leg, finger, or anything else that gets in its way. In order to use it reasonably, you have to insert about 2 inches or more of it into the ground, because an efficient tee height is just over 1 1/2 inches above the surface of the teeing area, positioning the center of the ball about 2 1/2 inches above the ground. Even the 2 3/4 inch tee tends to be 'disposable' or 'for one time use only,' as it is almost always breaks when you hit a drive off it because it's inserted so far into the ground. Golfers may think that an even longer tee will increase their distance, but skying a few shots will bring them back to earth (about 1 1/2 inches away) in a hurry.
Peter, I don't think a 1inch tee would do it. 'No Tee' probably would, but this won't fly.
Hope this helps
Does a golf club 'forgive' a bad swing, poor alignment, poor posture, and a bad grip? Wouldn't most golfers benefit more from lessons from their local PGA professional rather than spending money on the 'high tech' craze that's swept the game? I've tried several 'game improvement' irons in particular, but nothing works like hitting the ball in the middle of the club face on the intended line to the target. I always come back to the type of forgings I grew up with. I'm 60 years old and my handicap fluctuates between 7 and 14 all year long depending on how well I chip and putt. If these clubs are so forgiving, why haven't handicaps improved over the last 10-15 years? I enjoy your writing and your expertise.

A forgiving golf club is one that will reduce the effect of an imperfect impact for those of us who do not always hit the sweet spot, but it will not correct a bad swing.
Unfortunately, no matter how much we believe in magic, there are few if any clubs that will make you swing better. The exception is a well-fitted club when compared to a badly fitted club - one that is too long or short (by several inches), too heavy (by several ounces), or too stiff. Notice that a club has to be extremely ill-fitted to make a significant difference.
Yes, technology has made some wonderful strides to help us enjoy our game a little more, and most of these advances have happened in the last ten years or so. We are all the same at times, in that we believe there is a little magic around the corner, something we can buy to improve our game and not have to work for it.
Buying a Formula One car will help us get around the track a little faster, but we really do need a lesson on how to drive it first.
You're absolutely right that most people who keep buying new clubs looking for magic would be better off giving a fraction of that money to their local pro for a series of lessons. Clubs today are more forgiving, but they can't provide complete absolution.
-- Frank
Thank you for taking the time to give us this column of great information. Recently, I started playing golf again, and was surprised to see all of the game improvement equipment, everything was larger than the equipment I played in the early 90's. My question is, when aligning the super size irons and woods, do you actually align the ball to the middle of the club face or slightly off center closer to the player?
Thank you again,

Thanks for the kind comments, I do appreciate them. When it comes to aligning the clubface with the ball, it really doesn't matter where it is addressed, but it is vitally important at impact. There are a number of things going on just before impact that affect club head orientation relative to the ball; these are dependent on shaft flex, center of gravity (c.g.) of the head, MOI of the head, and most important your swing speed and all sorts of other stuff.
The head will droop at impact and have a completely different lie angle than at address. It will orient (square) itself differently depending on the MOI of the head relative to the shaft axis. It will present a different loft to the ball depending on the c.g. location in the head -- so trying to compensate with your address position is not a 'one size fits all' solution.
To avoid trying to deal with all the dynamic forces and their effects, my suggestion is as follows: Mark a -inch circle on the ball with a Sharpie. and position the ball so that the mark is where impact will occur (at the back of the ball opposite the target line and a little below center). Carefully note how you align your new big club (driver or iron) at address and see how this correlates with the impact point (mark) on the face after you hit the ball, using your every day (hopefully repeating) swing.
If the mark is in the center of the face then you have your answer; if not, try to make some adjustment at address to alter this impact position. This may help guide you in adjusting your address position to compensate for your swing dynamics and those of the new equipment, and/or at least develop some consistency in your setup at address.
I have seen some golfers set up to the ball, then start their swing from the top without addressing the ball or making a backswing (taking something from baseball), and this has been relatively successful. It is amazing how well the brain instructs the body based on some visual feedback, moving the club into the correct position to meet the ball most effectively. This move will be influenced by your experience with a particular club.
Wayne, you've asked a very good question, but it is really more personal and up to you to do some experimenting once you get used to the feel of the new club. Every new thing takes a little getting used to.
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
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'Putting Stroke Whisperer' helps get McIlroy on track

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 9:39 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – During a charity event a few years ago Brad Faxon was asked what he’s thinking about when he putts. A hush fell across the green as everyone within earshot eagerly awaited the answer.

Imagine having the chance to quiz Leonardo da Vinci about the creative process, or Ben Hogan on the finer points of ball-striking. Arguably the best putter of his generation, if anyone could crack the complicated code of speed, line and pace, it would be Faxon.

Faxon mulled the question for a moment, shrugged and finally said, “Rhythm and tempo.”

If Faxon’s take seems a tad underwhelming, and it did that day to everyone in his group, the genius of his simplicity was on display last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Before arriving at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy ranked 124th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, losing .1 strokes per round to the field. In fact, he’d missed the cut a week earlier at the Valspar Championship when he needed 58 putts for two days and made just a single attempt over 10 feet.

It’s one of those competitive ironies that having the weekend off turned out to be just what McIlroy needed. He went home to South Florida to work on his game and ran across Faxon at The Bear’s Club.

Although Faxon’s take on the art of putting was probably more involved than it had been a few years earlier, he seemed to have touched on all the right points.

“Freed up my head more than my stroke,” McIlroy explained. “I sort of felt like maybe complicating things a bit and thinking a little bit too much about it and maybe a little bogged down by technical or mechanical thoughts.”

Earlier in the week McIlroy had a slightly different take on his putting turnaround at Bay Hill, where he led the field in strokes gained: putting, picking up 10 shots for the week, and rolled in 49 feet of putts over his last five holes to end a victory drought that had stretched back to the 2016 Tour Championship.

“Just playing around with it. Seeing balls go in in the front edge, trying to hit them in the left edge, the right edge, hit them off the back of the cup,” he said on Thursday. “Just trying to get a little bit more feel into it and a little more flow.”

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If that doesn’t exactly sound like an exact science, welcome to the Faxon way. In recent years, he’s become something of F which is no huge surprise considering his status as one of the game’s best on the greens.

Between 1991, the year he won the first of eight Tour titles, through 2005, the year he won his last, Faxon ranked outside the top 20 in putting average just four times, and he led the circuit in that category three of those years. But in recent years he’s come into his own as a putting guru.

“The first clinic I attended that a Tour player gave, it was Hale Irwin, and he talked about rhythm and tempo, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear more than that,” Faxon explained. “I thought there would be more technical stuff. I thought it was the default phrase to take pressure off the player, but the more I’ve learned about teaching the best players in the world don’t have many complicated thoughts.”

Faxon’s career has been nothing short of impressive, his eight Tour titles spanning two decades; but it’s his work with players like McIlroy and Gary Woodland that has inspired him in recent years.

A man who has spent his life studying the nuances of the golf swing and putting stroke has created a teaching philosophy as simple, or complicated depending on the player, as rhythm and tempo.

“He teaches me, which is a good thing. He doesn’t have a philosophy,” Woodland said. “I was around him a lot in 2011, 2010, it’s unbelievable how well he can relay it now. He has video of a million guys putting and he’s one of the best to do it, but he can show you that you don’t have to do it one certain way and that was good for me.”

For Woodland, Faxon keyed in on his background as a college basketball player and compared the putting stroke to how he shoots free-throws. For McIlroy, it was a different sport but the concept remained the same.

“We were talking about other sports where you have to create your own motion, a free-throw shooter, a baseball pitcher, but what related to him was a free-kicker in soccer, he mentioned Wayne Rooney,” Faxon said. “You have to have something to kick start your motion, maybe it’s a trigger, some might use a forward press, or tapping the putter like Steve Stricker, sometimes it’s finding the trigger like that for a player.”

Faxon spent “a good two hours” with McIlroy last weekend at The Bear’s Club, not talking technique or method, but instead tapping into the intuitive nature of what makes someone a good putter. Midway through that session Faxon said he didn’t need to say another word.

The duo ended the session with a putting contest. Putting 30-footers to different holes, the goal was to make five “aces.” Leading the contest 4-2, Faxon couldn’t resist.

“Hey Rory, after you win Bay Hill this week you’ll have to tell the world you lost to Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” Faxon joked.

McIlroy proceeded to hole three of his next four attempts to win the contest. “I’m going to tell everyone I beat Brad Faxon in a putting contest,” McIlroy laughed.

Maybe it’s the way he’s able to so easily simplify an exceedingly complicated game, maybe it’s a resume filled with more clutch putts than one could count. Whatever it is, Faxon is good at teaching. More importantly, he’s having fun and doing something he loves.

“I have a hard time being called a teacher or a coach, it was more of a conversation with Rory, being able to work with someone like Rory is as excited as I’ve ever been in my career,” Faxon said. “It meant much more to me than it did Rory.”

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Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

“I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

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Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

“We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.

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Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

“I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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In a statement, the PGA Tour said, “While we do not comment specifically on security measures, the safety and security of our players and fans is, and always will be, our top priority. Our security advisors at the Tour are working in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to monitor, review and evaluate the situation and implement procedures as needed. We encourage all spectators to review the PGA Tour's bag policy and prohibited items list, available at, prior to arriving at the tournament."

Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

“It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

“There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

“You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

“It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

“It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.