QA Wind Effects and the Moon

By Frank ThomasMay 22, 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
Dear Frank,
All golfers have there own way of adjusting to the force and direction of the wind when playing a shot. On TV a player may miss a green by a large distance and the announcer will say something about how the breeze just came up.
Has anyone ever done an in depth scientific study about the effect that wind speed has on a golf ball? For instance: Has anyone ever determined the difference in yards between 2 identical 7 irons, one hit with no wind and the second hit into a 20 mph wind. I realize there are many, many variables - but I've never even heard anybody mention an approximation. They say, 'about a one club breeze'. . . there's got to be more science than that? God, we went to the moon!
Really like your column Thanks for your time

Because of the lack of wind on the moon, there was no need to study the effect of the wind when Alan Shepard hit his golf shot using an iron head that snapped into the end of an extension pole used to collect moon dust samples. Soon after he donated this club to the USGA, he and I were huddled under an umbrella having been caught in a rain storm at a US Open, when he asked me if this club conformed to the Rules of Golf. My answer was, 'The equipment rules do not apply on the moon.'
With today's sophisticated trajectory simulation programs, it is relatively easy to understand the effect of wind from any direction. As rule of thumb, a head wind will hurt you a little more than a tail wind will help.
For guidance purposes taking a 250 yard drive as an example; a 2 mph tail wind will help you gain about 2 yards whereas the same speed head wind will hurt by about 2 yards.
When you increase the wind to 10 mph the tail wind will help increase the distance (all else being equal) by about 9 yards but the 10 mph headwind will hurt by 13 yards.
The trick for a golfer is first to get a good reading on the wind direction and the speed. This is not easy as the surface wind where he tosses up some blades of grass is not necessarily the same as the wind speed or direction 50 to 100 feet up off the surface that the ball sees.
Wind turbulence causing eddies are real and are hard to read or take into account when planning for a short iron shot. There might be a head wind when you launch the ball but when the ball reaches its peak 3 to 5 seconds later, it may experience a tailwind condition. I think that the 17th at the TPC and 12th at Augusta are made additionally difficult just because of turbulence in the wind and quirky wind gusts.
Jim, the real problem is not that aerodynamicists are unable to calculate the effects of wind but rather we golfers find it difficult to determine the wind speed and direction correctly. It is generally a good idea to keep an eye on the treetops while you are playing or the flag under the blimp if it is floating low around your foursome. Only if you are out in the open will tossing some grass help give you a general idea of wind direction and speed where you are.
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Hope this helps
Hi Frank,
I play with a Cobra 380 cc driver that is probably three years old. I like it and hit it pretty well. I am just wondering if a newer 460cc driver would add distance to my drives or are they designed more to straighten out tee shots? Thanks, Frank.

Whenever you make a good friend consider yourself very fortunate. Friends, true friends, are hard to come by so hang on as long as you can. Do not let your Cobra 380 know that you are even thinking about getting a new driver. You may be asking for trouble and never know how it will react.
If you are hitting the ball well with the 380 and the launch conditions are in the right ball park (to see a guideline to optimum launch conditions click here ) then don't change a thing. Matching another club to your liking and swing style may take some time and may not yield any measurable increase in distance. If you hit the ball on the sweet spot and the launch conditions are good then the only thing a new 460 will give you is the comfort in knowing that you have a little bigger sweet spot but you will not get any more distance from pure impact.
The 460 driver has a higher MOI (Moment of Inertia) than your 380, but may not have any more spring like effect from a sweet spot impact. So ball speed should be about the same. Unfortunately, most of us don't always hit the sweet spot every time so the extra little bit of forgiveness we get from a 460 may be helpful but not at the expense of losing the confidence you have developed in the 380.
It is becoming harder to design really significant performance improvements into drivers, and even though the changes being made are moving in the right direction they are not going to make a significant difference and especially if you are close to optimum conditions with your existing driver.
An intangible factor, which is more important than almost any other, is confidence. If you have confidence now, don't do anything to detrimentally affect it by getting another driver.
If you decide to try another driver, which is not a bad idea, if only to find out how lucky you really are with what you have, please dont do it in front of your 380.
If you don't tell, I won't.
In your recent newsletter I thought you had a great assessment of the EMD (Electronic Measuring Devices) subject and nice overview of the options in the market. If we play this game with pro type ambitions, why should we be denied similar opportunities to know where we are on the golf course and what we have in front of us? I have yet to hear someone make a comment that a pro or an amateur or whoever played well or won for any reason other than they played the shots required. You still have to make the play, knowing what you need to do is an opportunity we should all enjoy.
Thanks for a great Q & A.
-- Doug

Thanks for your comments.
With regard to my newsletter concerning EMDs (Electronic Measuring Devices), (Click here to read), I am pleased to advise you that the USGA adopted a LOCAL RULE allowing the use of these devices as of Jan. 2006 (see below).
The Local Rule allowing the use of distance-measuring devices will be available for use by Committees beginning Jan. 1, 2006. Decision 14-3/0.5 Local Rule Permitting Use of Distance-Measuring Device allows a Committee to establish a Local Rule permitting players to use devices that measure distance only.
The concern is that this has been limited to events out with USGA competitions and qualifying rounds
Even though the USGA will not adopt this Local Rule in its championships in 2006, it recognizes that state and local golf associations, tournament committees and individual golf courses may choose to adopt it.
The question I raised is; If the exact same distance information is available to participants in USGA championships and PGA TOUR events, by other means, why should use of such electronic devices not be permitted? Is the method alone, by which the competitor obtains the distance information important?
Certainly, EMDs do have the potential to speed up play and if this is realized then use of these devices may be very important to the game.
The good news is that the USGA has stated that; However, the Association will review the matter annually.
Therefore, the question to my readers, which can be answer at the conclusion of the newsletter, is: Should the USGA, R&A, PGA of America and the PGA TOUR permit the use of Electronic Measuring Devices (EMDs) -- which provide the same information the players already get -- in competition?
Your input and a summary of your comments will be sent to those who can effect a change.
Doug, for you it has been done, but for the superstar, they or their caddie still need to pace things out. Hope this helps give you a better insight as to how well the USGA is progressing.
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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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x