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
Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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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.