QA Time for Changes

By Frank ThomasNovember 21, 2007, 5:00 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
I always enjoy reading anything you write either on the GC e-mail site or in magazines, and I totally respect your opinion. You recently advised a gentleman to keep up with the latest technology in perhaps 5-year increments. I play with X12 irons, steel shaft, which were custom fitted for me in 1999, and I appear to be losing distance as I get older ( Im 62). I love these irons (I only use the 5 thru PW, as I have a hybrid to replace the 3 & 4 irons), but I often think I should consider a newer version of this club, or go to graphite shafts. I have a new 460 driver and 5-wood (2004). When I look at the X18s or X20s, they dont appear to be so different from my X12s as to warrant the cost involved. Are they?
-- Art

The comment I love these irons tells me a great deal, as well as I appear to be losing distance as I get older (I am 62). At 62 you are only maturing, not getting old. The distance you are losing is not because of your clubs, which are a good set of irons and well made. The fact that you love them is more important than anything ' almost.
Iron technology has not changed as much as driver technology in the last ten years, and you know this because you have a two-year-old driver and 5-wood (which should do well for another several years).
Really, the only way to increase the distance with your irons is to increase your head speed. The newer models will not do this for you.
A graphite shaft will probably help because this will lighten the club without decreasing the head weight, which is the business end of the club. When a manufacturer substitutes a graphite shaft for a steel shaft, the swing weight will decrease several points so he (the manufacturer) increases the length of the club by inch to compensate and keep the swing weight the same. This somewhat defeats the purpose, but not completely. This increase in length may allow you to get a few extra yards without any increase in effort, but with a slightly longer club you will also decrease your ability to control the shot a little.
What I have suggested a few times before is that as we mature we need to get to the gym and do some stretching and flexibility exercises. This will allow you to increase your range of motion, which we lose as we mature, and will do more for your distance than any club including a new driver can.
Art, the newer iron clubs you mention wont hurt you at all, but dont expect any significant improvement in distance. Your X-12s probably need to be re-gripped, but I would not recommend that you swap out these good friends, which you love so much. If they werent working for you, then I might suggest a change for both real and psychological reasons. New clubs always hit the ball farther ' or so it seems. Give your X-12s an extra waggle for me.
-- Frank
I really enjoy your columns. It is so refreshing to hear the truth you have taught us on equipment. It has saved me a lot of money. My question for you is about the grooves on the irons. I am a 14 handicapper and strive to improve my game. I was browsing through eBay and noticed a listing for a groove sharpener. I have a set of Mizuno MX-20 irons, forged clubs. I notice the grooves have flattened a slight bit on the edges in my wedges, more so than the other irons. If I were to purchase the groove sharpener and use it, what effect would it have if I incorrectly deepen the grooves or widen them? What is the rules on grooves -- would it make my clubs illegal if this were to happen? Would it affect the play of the ball?
I have never had much spin on the ball when it lands on the greens, but I believe that's more my swing than the grooves. I believe strongly in staying within the rules of the game and do not want to improperly alter my equipment to improve my game; it would only be cheating myself as well as those I play with.
Keep up the good work. I really enjoy your columns.
-- Dean

First, thank you for you kind comments, I am pleased to help. With regard to grooves and the other questions you have asked, let me try to answer them together.
If you decide to sharpen the grooves yourself, you are risking not doing it correctly and may violate the rigid and precise groove specifications. (See Rule 5 c in Appendix II, which I authored about 20 years ago and modified about 15 years ago.The specs seem to be doing a good job, though there are some rumblings about changing them because the some of the pros on tour get out of light rough too easily. For heavens sake, just grow the rough for them and cut it down a little for us; the grooves will not be so important or have as much effect.)
Rule 4-1 b. Wear and Alterations states in part that (a)ny part of the club that has been purposely altered is regarded as new and must, in the altered state, conform with the rules.If it becomes non-conforming because of wear through normal use (we all know what this means, so dont try to wear finger slots in your grip with sand paper), there is no violation.
My suggestion is not to try to reshape the grooves yourself. There are a number of club makers who have the equipment to do this and make sure the grooves conform in the altered state.If you are not one to put much spin on the ball anyway, as you have mentioned, then dont worry, you are probably not going to get any different effect with the slightly modified version.
Good luck, and sign up as a Frankly Friend by clicking here and we will keep you informed whenever we have a new set of Q&As. I will also let you know when my book will be available. I think you are going to enjoy it very much.
-- Frank
Fall for the FrogFrank 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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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. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."