The Advantage of Long Putters

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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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Every week we will select the best question and Frank will send one lucky golfer a personally signed copy of 'Just Hit It'. Last week's lucky winner was Brian with his question about swingweight.
 
To reserve your own copy of 'Just Hit It', please Click Here We are now shipping! The first 25 copies ordered this week will received a signed copy, direct from Frank.
 
Please also note new international shipping options for those outside the US. Thanks to all who have ordered over the last few weeks!
 
The Advantage of Long Putters
 
Frank,

Anytime technical discussions arise about belly length or longer putters I always hear about the mechanical advantage these type of putters bring to
the player. The advantage is due to the effect of anchoring the butt end to the body reducing a degree of freedom. But, if the advantage is real, why isn't this type of putter the most common putter used? After all, the game is about reducing the number of strokes we take.
 
Richard

 
Richard,
It is confusing I know but let me try to resolve your dilemma. There are at least five degrees of freedom in the putting stroke. Those of major concern are:
 
1) The ability to move the club up and down off the ground surface
2) The breaking of the wrists during a stroke
3) The rotation of the putter about its longitudinal axis
4) The putter head movement toward and away from the body and
5) The putter head movement forward (forward swing) and backward (backswing)
 
These degrees of freedom all have errors associated with them, for example, if you allow the putter to move up and down off the surface of the green then there is an error associated with how much you lift it. Similarly if you break the wrists during your stroke then the potential error is, how much do you break your wrists and can you do it exactly the same way each time.
 
In putting we need to have control of these degrees of freedom and develop a stroke which tends to minimize the tendency to make the movement through some form of restriction not elimination. We have developed our motor skills over time by having but controlling degrees of freedom. We are inclined to lose what we refer to as feel, when we totally restrict or eliminate a degree of freedom.
 

The long putter and to some degree the belly putter eliminates the up and down movement, and the wrist movement. They both, because the wrists are out of play let the rotation do what the body (skeletal structure) dictates. Thus with three degrees of freedom eliminated we concomitantly get rid of the associated errors.
 
The long putter is therefore a very much more efficient implement and it has made good putters out of some horrible putters but there is no example of making a great putter out of a mediocre putter. We do need feel in putting and this is hard to develop if we eliminate the degrees of freedom needed for great feel.
 
Yes, the long putter is a more efficient instrument but don't go there
unless you have no other choice. Here at The Frankly Frog Putting Studio we conduct training sessions with long and belly putters as well as regular length putters.
 
That's the long and short of it.
 
Frank
 
A Guide to Reconditioning Grooves
 
Frank,
 
After many rounds and lots of practice the grooves on your wedges are naturally going to wear down. Can they be 're-grooved' rather than buying new wedges? Thanks.
 
Brian

 
Brian,
 
I have been asked this question many times and feel the need to be more specific about how to go about getting your grooves reconditioned.
 
First, let me say that using a hand-held groove tool is a risky way to recondition the grooves in your wedges. The reason is that as soon as you alter (recondition) the face of the club it is considered new and ruled on accordingly.
 
Rule 4 1-b. Wear and Alteration, states; A club that conforms with Rules when new is deemed to conform after wear through normal use. Any part of a club that has been purposely altered is regarded as new and must, in its altered state conform with the Rules
 
This means for example, even though the face is concave or the grip has indentations for you fingers because this is how it wore down through normal use, it is OK to use it without penalty but as soon as you start reconditioning the club it must be considered new.
 
A hand held tool will not only do a number on the grooves but will most likely render them non-conforming because of the tight specifications the USGA has for grooves, i.e. depth, width, ratio of groove-width to pitch, radius of groove edges and even groove straightness. These specs are difficult to maintain even for an accomplished custom club maker with a milling machine.
 
The question is; are you better off getting a new wedge rather than trying to recondition an old one?
 

First, dont try to recondition it yourself. Second, to get it done professionally may take up to six weeks depending on whether the club head is chrome plated or not. Most forged iron clubs made of mild steel, will need to be protected from rusting, which requires a layer of chrome to be deposited on the head after the grooves have been milled, rolled or stamped into the face. Some clubs are forged but made of stainless steel, which do not require chrome plating. These, as with most cast clubs can be re-grooved and do not need the additional protective layer of chrome.
 
To get your wedge i.e. the GAP or Lob Wedge (not your Sand Wedge which doesnt need sharp grooves to be effective out of the sand) re-grooved you can send it to GolfWorks. To get more details regarding how and where to send it call their toll free phone number (800) 848 8358. It will cost about $20 for a club that does not need to be rechromed which will include the shipping both ways. You can add another $12 if the club needs to be chromed. GolfWorks will make sure that the clubs conform with the rules.
 
In many cases, the lack of being able to get the ball to do Yo-Yo tricks on the green may have little to do with the condition of the grooves, but rather the condition of our technique.
 
We should also recognize that under dry conditions where there is not grass intervening between the ball and the club face ' off a tee or tight fairway -- a sand-blasted face will do as well as a face with brand new grooves. It is only when grass juice gets between the clubface and the ball that the grooves really start doing their thing. This only happens out of relatively light rough not the real juicy 4 stuff where it doesnt matter what type of grooves or condition of those grooves makes any difference.
 
So if you feel you need to recondition the grooves in your wedges because you dont want to give up an old friend call GolfWorks. If you would just like to make a change ' wedges dont change very much in style or shape --you can buy a new one which will cost about $110. If you do decide to buy a new wedge make sure it has the same specs, i.e. bounce, loft and lie as the good friend you are about to give up.
 
I do address this issue and many others in my book Just Hit It, so if you have the interest and need more information Click Here to learn more and order a copy. Thanks for supporting our game.
 
Frank
 

Impact of Body Weight
 
Frank,
 
This may be the dumbest question, but is there a transference of a person's body mass at impact through their connection through the club? I realize that 120 mph club head speed is 120 mph club head speed, but is there any possibility that the weight of a person can be transferred through the shaft and the club head? Most big time home run hitters are not small guys, and for those who are not big it might be said that they generate a great deal of power (not necessarily speed). Thank you.
 
Boris

 
Boris,
 
Unfortunately you cannot use this as an excuse to have a few more beers. Once you have been able to develop a certain head speed just before impact there is nothing more you can do to increase the ball speed, other than make sure contact is on the sweet spot.
 
For your information once impact starts between the club head and the ball the shaft may as well be severed from the clubhead for all it plays in ball speed or direction.
 
Hope this doesn't disappoint you in thinking that if you put on a little more weight it may help. Your timing (which may be affected by those extra beers) is much more important.
 
Frank
 
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@franklygolf.com
 
Frank Thomas