QA Titanium Magic Wedges

By Frank ThomasApril 24, 2007, 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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank:
Please settle an argument for us: At the same loft, same weight, same length, same swing speed, would a Titanium clubface fly the ball farther than a regular steel face? If so, what is the downside of using a Ti faced iron? Loss of control, less spin, or both?
 
Thank you,
Jerry

 
Jerry,
Please understand that titanium is not in itself a magic material that will make everything right in your world of golf. Some have made implied claims that titanium in the cover of a golf ball will increase the distance. In fact, titanium dioxide is used in the cover of balls -- as it is in toothpaste ' because its what makes white paint white. It has no effect on performance, but such is the way of marketing.
 
The answer to your first question is YES. A titanium face in a wood club does have properties which allow a spring-like effect to be designed into the club by having a extremely thin face. Steel doesnt have these same properties. If the spring-like effect (COR) Coefficient of Restitution is increased to the limit of .830 then you can expect (all else being equal) about 5 mph increase in ball speed. This will equate to about 12 yards or so. But because other launch conditions are also affected this could have an even greater effect on yardage. See COR made easy by clicking here.
 
Titanium in irons as you have described, if used purely as a substitute for steel, will make the club head lighter, because the density of titanium is less than that of steel. If you make the head the same weight by making it thicker or bigger and all else is equal, then the balls speed off the face will be the same. Under the conditions you describe -- same loft, length, weight, and swing speed ' the distance will be the same.
 
Generally titanium is used in the design of iron clubs for two or more reasons:
a) to allow for a better weight distribution -- i.e., to increase the MOI (forgiveness) by moving more weight from the face to the perimeter and back of the head as well as to help move the c.g. (center of gravity) back away from the face; and
b) to design a spring-like effect in the face of the iron to increase the ball speed.
 
Increasing MOI is a legitimate advance that can be helpful but expensive. But trying to design spring-like effect into the face of an iron is in my opinion a waste of time. It is possible, but in order to take advantage of it you must hit the ball high in the center of the face, which is not normally the spot where most of us make contact when the ball is on the ground.
 
If there is a designed spring-like effect, then the ball will come off the face faster, so you will gain a little increase in distance. But so what? If you arent hitting your 6-iron far enough, why not just take out your 5-iron instead? Thats why we have different clubs in our bag.
 
The other reason for using titanium in irons is to market the product. This too is an expensive move for relatively little real gain.
 
I hope I answered your question and settled the argument. If there was any money involved and you won, buy your buddy a beer.
 
Frank,
I carry a 3 handicap, and while I choose my equipment carefully and always based on the advice of a professional, Im struggling with what wedges should be in my bag. I currently carry three: sand, gap and pitching wedge.
 
Im in the market to replace all three and wonder what advice you would give for going through the process of selecting the right clubs. One area that Ive been reading about is getting the bounce right for my gap and sand wedge. This coupled with what loft is right and countless other questions has me confused. Please un-confuse me!
 
Thanks,
Don

 
Don,
Dont feel bad about being confused. Your wedges are very important; these are your scoring clubs, along with a very good and forgiving putter, so making the right selection is important. Dont dump your existing wedges until you have had an opportunity to assess what you need. These may fit into the gap that manufacturers have created for all of us.
 
For your information, todays PW is very much part of the iron set and not merely a utility club the way it used to be. It has a loft of about 46 degrees, which was the loft of a weak 8-iron about 35 years ago. Wedges are designed for specialty and short approach shots to the green or to get out of the problem areas in which we sometimes find ourselves.
 
When manufacturers started to violate the unwritten standard for lofts associated with specifically numbered clubs in an effort to hype their irons (declaring that their clubs hit the ball farther than everybody elses), they started de-lofting the entire set except for the sand wedge, which has remained at about 55 degrees. The PW, which was 50 to 52 degrees in the mid 70s, now has a loft of 46 degrees or even less in some cases. This leaves a gap of nearly ten degrees between the SW and the PW. Traditionally the difference between consecutive clubs in short irons has been 4 degrees, so we can fit about two clubs between the todays so-called PW and the SW.
 
This change has created the need for a gap wedge (GW), which should have about 4 degrees more loft than your pitching wedige. If the PW is 46 degrees, then the GW should be about 50 degrees. This still leaves you with about 6 degrees between this GW and the SW, which may be awkward if you want to maintain a 4-degree difference between wedges (though this is only a guideline). You may also want to select a 54, and increase the SW to 58. These new GWs would be used for pitching and controlled chipping when you dont have a lot of green to work with.
 
I have a 48 degree PW, and so Ive added a 52-degree and a 56-degree wedge. Because the 52 is really my PW, I have an 8 degree bounce, which is a good all-round bounce for my skill level (5.0 Hcp index). When I hit a normal full shot with my 52 degree, I can count on about 85 yards of carry. I use this as my approach wedge as well as for those short shots I want to spin from the fairway or light rough.
 
I use the 56 with a 14-degree bounce as my SW, which is a good bounce for most Sand Wedges. I can open the face of this from soft lies or out of the rough to pop it up. This is enough bounce to enable the club to slide through the sand without digging too deeply.
 
I dont carry a lob wedge, because I can do most of what I need to by opening the face of my 56-degree SW. For those who want and have a place for the lob wedge, Id suggest that you not get any more than 8 degrees of bounce, and in some cases a little less unless you are also using it as an SW. I do, however suggest that you practice with your lob wedge, and I dont just mean taking practice swings during a round.
 
Don, check the loft on your PW and fill the gap between it and your SW evenly, making sure you have enough bounce on the wedge that will be your main weapon out of the sand. For more on selecting a wedge please click here.
 
Hope this helps.
Frank
 
Hello Frank,
I am currently playing a Cleveland Launcher Comp driver, 9.5 degrees with a Fujikura Tour Platform 26.3 X-flex shaft. I was fit 2 years ago, and at the time my launch monitor numbers were really good. I recently got refit for irons and was able to sneak in a dozen shots with my driver just to check up on the launch numbers. The average launch numbers from this fitting were as follows:
 
Average carry: 263 yds
Swing speed: 112 mph
Ball Speed: 159.9
Spin (RPM): 3371 & -168 side spin
Launch Angle: 13.8
 
Basically I hit it real high (which I like) but I get very little roll. Do you have any suggestions on what I could do as far as changing shafts and/or lofts to get the spin rate and launch angle down to somewhere around the 2,700 RPM and 12 degree range? The guy who has fit me for the last 5 years is over an hour away and charges a lot for a fitting, and the other options in my area are not that good. I really want to update my driver or get a new one, but I dont know where to go with this. I like hitting it high (it gets me over trees on the many doglegs on my home course), but a little roll would help! Thanks for your help.
Martin

 
Martin,
Frankly speaking, you cant have everything.
 
You can change your launch conditions a little to get more roll by decreasing the loft of your driver. At your swing speed you should be launching the ball at about 12 degrees, and with less loft on your drive you will also reduce the spin to something closer to optimum, which is 2,200 to 2,500 for you. This will not, however, allow you to get over those trees you talk about unless you develop some trick shots.
 
My next suggestion is to get two drivers to cope with each of the conditions you are going to encounter. Dump one of your long irons to make room for the extra driver. I personally would prefer to add a hybrid and /or a short iron to my set than increase the number of drivers but it all depends what makes you happy.
 
Frank
 
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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
Getty Images

Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

Getty Images

Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

Getty Images

Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

Getty Images

Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”