QA Thoughts on the Long Ball

By Frank ThomasSeptember 12, 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

With all the discussion lately of using a 'Tour Ball', I wonder about something. Wouldn't a dead ball, or slower ball be more forgiving, inviting even harder swings, rather than the opposite? (If you wanted to force players to be more disciplined with their swing, you might consider a 'minimum spin ball') If you can't hit the ball as far, you can't get into as much trouble, and in addition, a slower ball is less vulnerable to aerodynamic forces created by sidespin. Hitting the ball harder carries its own risks, and this is at the heart of course management. Penalizing a player who has developed a high speed swing seems unfair. Remember, it's harder to hit a 25 yard wide fairway at 300 yards than at 270 yards (about 4.7 degrees vs. 5.2 degrees). -- Steve, Philadelphia, Pa.

P.S.: My own expedient solution would be to plant bushes or build mounds to force players that hit really wild shots to scramble. Trees take too long to grow. Thick rough is penal, but today's players seem willing to risk it. But bushes provide an extra risk factor for the player to weigh when he's at the tee box. I do think trees are the best defense, because they can knock a ball down, but as I said, they take a long time to grow.


I, too, have a major problem with any talk about rolling the ball back 25 yards or even a 'Tour Ball.'
We need to set up courses for major events more strategically and this year at the U.S. Open demonstrated that this can easily be done without otherwise tricking up the course. We don't have ruin the course for the members for the intervening 6 to 10 years between championships.
As far as a dead ball is concerned I am not in favor of any sort of bifurcation of the rules with regard to different performance standards for equipment. This is impractical and not the solution.
I would like to draw your attention to the results of the most extensive survey ever conducted in golf which Frankly Consulting conducted as part of a 'Growing the Game' project.
Also see my article published in the Op Ed section of The New York Times at
I hope this will give you an insight as to my feelings on this subject.
Thank you for your concern.

Hi Frank,
One thing has always puzzled me. According to everyone, having your irons set for the proper lie is important, but hardly anyone talks about the lies for fairway woods. As you are often hitting the ball with a fairway wood as it lies on the fairway, I would assume that having the proper lie angle is almost as important as having the proper angle in your irons. But the only manufacturer that I have seen mentioning it much is Ping.
Also, I assume that because you tee up the ball when you are using your driver, the lie angle is not as important, but does not having the club at the proper lie when it strikes the ball impart a significant, disadvantageous spin? -- Regards, Randall Kido


It is very important to get the lie angle correct for your particular swing with your irons especially the lofted irons. When it comes to a loft of 15 degrees (average three wood) the lie angle being slightly off doesn't have much effect on the trajectory. As far as the other fairway woods are concerned these are also not sufficiently lofted to be affected by the lie angle so don't need to be adjusted and have been made to suit the average lie angle for most golfers. Probably as important, these clubs are not designed to be adjusted. It is a convenience to the manufacturer not to increase the inventory by an extra half a dozen different lie angles. The short hosel and, in many cases the bore through shafts makes it difficult to adjust lie angle without damaging the club.
As far as a driver is concerned the loft of this club is generally less than 15 degrees and thus the lie angle is not a major factor as long as it suites the average golfer.
Hope this helps.

Training Aids Clarification
Hi Frank,
Your Q&A section on The Golf Channel web site, you stated that the momentus could be carried in the bag because it complies with the rules regarding club design. Surely the momentus isn't compliant since it comes with a moulded grip designed to teach grip mechanics which breaks rule 4-1 b. Is this correct ? Roan McLeod, U.K.
Hello Frank,
I was reading an article on the conforming issues of the Momentus Swing Trainer and if you carry it during a round, it's to be considered one of the 14 clubs. I have one of the originals, with the large grooves and dots on the face. My brother has a newer one, which they did change the face. Now for the question. Supposing that my Trainer is not conforming and my brothers is, if we both carry them during a round of golf, where the trainer is the 15th club in both bags, should one or both of us incur penalties?
Now for a twist. Both of our swing trainers are the traveler models, which break down in the middle. You unscrew it and can stow it in a bag for traveling. If we were to break it down and carry it in a pocket of the golf bags, would we still incur penalties?
I play in lots of tournaments and this is the first time I had ever known of this issue. I would like to be within the rules of golf so your advice is welcomed.
Thanks, Jeffrey Portman, St Louis, Mo.
Is using a swing doughnut around the bottom of your club when you are in the middle of a round illegal? I typically use one on the first tee as a warm up.

But lately I have been thinking of doing it during the round to help keep my swing in the slot. -- Thanks, Bert McKeehen

Gentlemen - Ron, Jeff and Bert,
You and some other readers of my Q&As have asked very similar questions and I would like to clear this up. The issue is whether or not the club (training aid) has a head with which you can strike a ball. If so then it must conform to the rules and is counted as one of the 14 clubs. You may swing any conforming club during a round to keep warm, even if this is the primary purpose of the club.

If, however, it violates any of the equipment rules and you carry it then you are subject to the penalty of disqualification. So if the grip does not conform or in Jeff's case it is broken down into two pieces, these are both considered non-conforming clubs and if you carry either of these in your bag you will suffer the disqualification penalty for merely carrying the club even though you don't use it.
Bottom line is don't carry a club (training aid which can be used to strike a ball) in you bag if it doesn't meet the equipment specifications.
Bert, using a split doughnut shaped weight on your club during a round is a violation as is using a weighted head cover for the same purpose. But using two clubs to keep the muscles warm is not.
Hope this resolves any questions arisen from my previous answer.

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

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''

Park's stumble creates wide-open finale

By Randall MellNovember 18, 2017, 11:46 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park didn’t turn the CME Group Tour Championship into a runaway Saturday at Tiburon Golf Club.

She left with bloody fingernails after a brutal day failing to hold on to her spot atop the leaderboard.

OK, they weren’t really bloody, but even the unflappable Park wasn’t immune to mounting pressure, with the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the money-winning title among the prizes she knew were within reach when she teed it up.

“It’s honestly some of the worst pressure,” Stacy Lewis said of CME week. “It’s so much pressure.  It’s just really hard to free yourself up and play golf.”

Lewis isn’t in the mix for all those prizes this year, but the two-time Rolex Player of the Year and two-time Vare Trophy winner knows what the full weight of this week’s possibilities bring.

“It’s almost nice to come here without all that pressure, but you want to be in that situation,” Lewis said. “It’s just really tough.”

Park is no longer in charge at Tiburon.

This championship is wide, wide open with a four-way tie for first place and 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Park is one shot back after stumbling to a 3-over-par 75.

Count Michelle Wie among the four tied for the lead after charging with a 66.

Former world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn (67), Suzann Pettersen (69) and Kim Kaufman (64) are also atop the leaderboard.

Kaufman was the story of the day, getting herself in contention with a sizzling round just two weeks after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Park is in a seven-way tie for fifth place just one shot back.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Lexi Thompson (69) is in that mix a shot back, as is Lewis (67), who is seeking to add a second title this year to her emotional win for Houston hurricane relief.

For Wie, winning the tournament will be reward enough, given how her strong rebound this year seemed derailed in September by an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie fought her way back from two of the most disappointing years of her career, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” Wie said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun. That’s when I play my best.”

All the subplots make Sunday so much more complicated for Park and Thompson, who are best positioned for a giant haul of hardware.

They have the most to gain in the final round.

Park has already clinched the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, but she can add the Rolex Player of the Year title, joining Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win both those awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978.

A fifth place finish or better could give Park the Player of the Year Award outright, depending what others do.

“There are a lot of top players right now at the top of the leaderboard,” Park said. “Keeping my focus will be key.”

Thompson can still take home the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy and the CME Globe jackpot. She needs to win the tournament Sunday to win Player of the Year.

Like Park, Thompson is trying not to think about it all of that.

“I treat every tournament the same,” Thompson said. “I go into it wanting to win. I’m not really thinking about anything else.”

The Vare Trophy for low scoring average is Thompson’s to lose.

Park has to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson on Sunday to have a shot at the trophy, and they are tied at 9-under overall.

The money-winning title is Park’s to lose. So Yeon Ryu has to win the tournament Sunday to have a chance to wrestle the title from Park, but Ryu has to pass 31 players to do so.

The CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot remains more up for grabs, with Thompson and Park best positioned to win it, though Jutanugarn is poised to pounce if both stumble. A lot is still possible in the race for the jackpot.

The pressure will be turned way up on the first tee Sunday.

“There is always that little bit of adrenaline,” Thompson said. “You just have to tame it and control it.”

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”