Swing Speed and Launch Monitors

By Frank ThomasFebruary 28, 2006, 5:00 pm
Frankly GolfEditor's Note: This is the latest in a new weekly feature from Golf Channel Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
For a senior golfer (age 65) with slow swing speed (75-80 mph) do you recommend working with a launch monitor to determine the loft and shaft and anything else it would indicate? I really appreciate your answers, as they really are helpful to us senior hackers that love this great game. Keep it up. -- Rod White, Bloomington, Illinois

Generally you should be able to tell by looking at your launch conditions what loft of driver you need. By the way, launch monitors will only help confirm what you probably know anyway, based on observation of the distance you hit the ball and the height of the trajectory. The fact that you know your swing speed is 75-80 mph, you must have used some device to determine this or just estimated it from the distance you hit the ball. Try to get the ball launched as high as possible with your driver i.e. 14 degrees or so and you may need to get more loft on your driver to do this. Most of us are using drivers with lofts lower than we should have. Even the tour players are increasing the loft angles of their drivers with an average of a little over 9 degrees.
The other thing is that you dont need to use a premium ball, which allows the super stars to exhibit their talent, so go for a softer core ball. These will not only be much more efficient but give you more distance at your swing speed and cost about half that of the premium ball made by the same manufacturer.
It seems that everything you read about is 'swing speed', especially in your decision on what clubs to buy. Most golfers like myself can't afford to go to a golf pro to buy clubs and instead buy from other sources. Is there any other way (other than a swing monitor) to get an idea how fast you are swinging a club? -- Hank Hoffman, Albany, NY

If you hit the ball with your driver about 200 yards (make sure this is the case, not how far you think you hit the ball) and it is generally straight with a good trajectory then you will have a swing speed of about 85 mph. This would be about an average swing speed. If this is the case then you dont need a launch monitor to determine what clubs you need. Your first choice is a regular flex shaft and a driver with 11 or more degrees of loft. I like to see a 44 inch driver as this will keep you in the fairway more often and the average drive will then be longer than trying to get any roll out of the rough.
Next get a set of irons with R flex shafts and a forgiving cavity back head design. These clubs will be less expensive if they are last years models and almost as good as this years model. This is a very general guideline but what is most important, is that you feel comfortable swinging your clubs rather than trying to chase distance. The bottom line is that the longer you hit the ball the faster is your swing speed using the 200 yard distance as a bench mark. This assumes that your drives are straight with a reasonable trajectory.
I have no idea what my swing speed is (not really fast), I am 65 years old and now I have slowed down some due to age and flexibility (decreased backswing). My driver is 400cc 10 degree and my drives go rather high. Would it increase my distance if I used a driver with say an 8.5 or 9-degree pitch? -- Bob David, Rome, NY

If you have a slow swing speed the general rule of thumb is to launch the ball as high as possible. this means at about 14 degrees. At the same time, and to increase distance even more, you need to lower the spin rate to about 3,000 rpm. If your launch angle is higher than the 14 degrees then you can try a lower lofted driver. I would very much like to recommend that you speak to your doctor and see if you are in a position to do some strength and flexibility exercises. If you can improve your range of motion by becoming more flexible you will increase your driving distance more than changing your club. So check your launch conditions and stretch every morning after getting permission from your doctor.

I've been looking for someone to ask. In the past, I understand that the driving averages of players were based on 1-2 fairways that were measured and marked for that purpose on the PGA and the LPGA. Are current averages figured the same way? I know that they measure most, if not all, of the shots now. I've seen so many differing driving stats on players, for example at the Sony Open, where Bubba Watson startled the golfing world. If they only measure 1 or 2 holes, do they factor in whether the player is using a driver or a 3 wood, etc.? -- Vernon Wong, Honolulu, Hawaii

The PGA Tour driving distance averages are still based on two holes which are opposite each other, to take into account any wind conditions which exist. These holes are selected for their relative flatness and where the players will most likely use a driver. The measurement is made whether or not the drive is in the fairway. In the long term this is not a bad method as eventually if the golfer plays all four rounds he will develop eight data points per tournament. After ten tournaments or so with between forty and eighty data points the information becomes fairly reliable as an indicator of the golfers driving distance. There is no distinction made between whether the golfer uses a driver or a three wood or any other club. As mentioned before the holes are selected where the likelihood of using a driver is most probable. To check out some PGA Tour statistics that I have been tracking since 1968, follow this link: http://www.franklygolf.com/tgc/statistics.html
I'm looking to shorten my putter from 35 to 34. I have heard rumors that when you shorten your putter it throws off the dynamics and the weighting of the putter. Is there any truth to this, and if there is, is there a way to shorten my putter without throwing the weight or dynamics off? -- Curtis Lahey

Because your putter is not used in the same way as the rest of your clubs (i.e. a full swing) you dont have to try to match or balance it for swing-weight or frequency etc. Putters are very personal and when you find a good one stick with it. What you need is a well balanced putter which is forgiving in both the vertical and horizontal directions on the face. This would require a mallet style for maximum forgiveness. The head weight should be about 350 grams for a standard length, which is 34 to 35 inches for men and 32 to 33 for ladies. If you decrease the length by one inch from 35 to 34 the dynamics which are not that important, will not change significantly and you dont have to worry. If your putter is well balanced and sits right then this is all you need to worry about.
Some of the greatest golfers who putt well use a variety of different weights and putter styles but will generally have very similar weights for their drivers and the rest of their clubs. Try to grip down on your putter an inch or so to get a feeling for what it will be like to change from a 35 to a 34.
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 letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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.