Bunkers and Launch Monitors

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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
 
Frank, I enjoy your column and the help tips.
 
I have two questions:
 
Is it true that the pro is assessed a one stroke penalty if the caddy does not rake the trap properly (or not at all)?
 
And, with all the volunteers available for golf tournaments these days, why would the PGA (TOUR) want caddies raking sand traps when volunteers could do it, and probably an excellent job as well?
 
Thanks,
Norm

 
Norm,
 
It is not true that the professional player is assessed a one stroke penalty if he/she or their caddie does not rake the bunker properly or even not at all.
 
Not raking the bunker on tour doesnt happen very much but if it did, I have been told (by an Assistant Tournament Director) that there may be some disciplinary consequences in the form of a write-up and a fine assessed.
 
I have on many occasions at pristine courses found that inconsiderate golfers -- Big Foot we call them -- have not even attempted to rake bunkers after excavating holes deep enough to bury an empty six-pack, the consumption of which was probably the cause of the problem in the first place. This sort of inconsideration has no place on a golf course and is a violation of basic etiquette 101.
 
Some people believe that bunkers should be a hazard. However, the way in which they are prepared and so well raked today makes the bunker a preferred spot for the ball to come to rest, rather than the surrounding rough. Certainly, this is the case at many of the US Open sites.
 
In Scotland we find that most of the bunkers have their edges mowed and banked creating catchments two or three times the size of the bunker itself, so that any ball tending in that direction will surely find it way into the sand. This makes the bunker a hazard to avoid and is one of the main differences in bunker design and course setup between the US and UK.
 
Jack Nicklaus at his Memorial tournament has bunker rakes with every second tooth missing. This creates a raking pattern, which is consistent but will still be a hazard and which might draw a half stroke penalty. This is a great move in the right direction.
 
The pro tour is one place that you will rarely find bunker-damage not repaired but I think the caddie and the golfer are still responsible and not the volunteers who are already the main support system of many events.
 
Norm I know you will enjoy my book Just Hit It which is presently at the printers and will be available on our site soon. To sign up to be alerted when its available click here, enter your name in the box, and click 'Book' in the menu of options.
 
Thank you for supporting the cause.
-- Frank
 
TGC has taken coverage to the 21st century with TrackMan. When looking for a new driver should one settle on a preferred ball first? I have found quite a difference in ball speeds with the two I like. Should we pick the Chicken or the Egg first when looking for a new driver in 2008?
-- Ken

 
Ken,
 
First, I am surprised that you have found quite a difference in ball speeds between the two balls you like. The top premium multilayered balls are very similar in ball speed at various head speeds as are ball speeds for the softer balls.
 
It is therefore possible that two different ball construction types have slightly different speeds at the same head speed. However, these ball speed differences are not significant enough to be of concern when selecting your driver.
 
You really should settle on a single ball type, which best suites your game. At higher head speeds, you can use the harder core multi layered ball with a soft cover, and at lower head speeds, a softer core ball may be a better choice.
 
The type of ball you choose when using a launch monitor to select a driver, is not critical. However, this should be of good quality. Then follow the general guidelines to determine if you have the correct launch conditions for your head speed (click on: http://www.franklygolf.com/tgc/launch.asp to see the table).
 
The object is to get the ball launched at its optimum angle and spin rate for a particular head speed to get maximum distance. In fact when developing this table ball speeds were used but there were few devices which measured ball speed, so the head speed, which was easier to measure and is closely related to ball speed is used.
 
Ken, dont worry about the ball you are using in the launch monitor until you are a scratch or better player and then use the ball you play with on the course or at least one of similar construction.
 
Unfortunately launch monitors are considered by some the solution to all of our problems. This is not the case and we should use them as a general guide and then work on our swing to achieve greater consistency.
 
Hope this helps.
-- Frank
 
Frank,
 
First of all, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer all of our questions. I really appreciate and enjoy your column.
 
My question is in regard to bounce and distance on my wedges. I carry a 56 and 60 degree wedge. Last year I bought new wedges. (Titleist Vokey SM 60.04 & 56.10) I used to play Nike's that I bought when I first took up the game about 5 years ago, they were a 56 & 60 degree also, but I am not sure what the bounce was.
 
I used to hit the old Nike clubs 125 and 100 yards respectively for the 56 and 60 degree wedge. With the Titleist wedges I am down to 100 and 80 yards. I can reach my old distances but I have to severely alter my swing and put the ball way back in my stance. As you can imagine, it is not nearly as consistent this way.
 
So basically what I am wondering is if having less bounce on the club can cause the loss of distance.I was thinking that if I have less bounce now, the clubs may be sliding under the ball more and thus loosing some of the energy transfer. I know that some of the distance loss may be attributed to more spin. The Vokey's seem to spin much more. I am just wondering which is the bigger contributor and how to address the problem.
 
I know I can fill in the gap with another wedge, but would prefer to not to. I like to keep an extra hybrid in the bag instead.
 
Thanks,
-- Jake

 
Jake,
 
I can assure you that bounce has little to do with the difference in distance between your two two different sets of wedges. I assume you are making a relatively clean pass at the ball with both clubs.
 
Your older wedges will most likely have a 10 to 14 degree bounce on the 56 degree wedge (designed primarily as a sand wedge) and a 6 to 8 degree on the 60 degree wedge (lob wedge). This is close enough to the bounce on your existing wedges not to be the cause of any performance differences.
 
The only reason why you may be getting from 20 to 25 yard differences in distance with the same lofted wedges (assuming a clean strike) is not the bounce but probably one of the following reasons:
 
1) A difference in head speed or
2) A difference in conditions i.e. out of the light rough with your older clubs and dryer conditions with your newer wedges, i.e. a flyer conditions and/or
3) Worn grooves i.e. not milled with the older clubs creating a flyer more often than with your new clubs, or
4) A club length difference (which I doubt, but this needs to be verified).
 
What I suggest is that you first inspect the grooves on both sets of wedges, then check the lengths and finally test them side by side, rather than comparing how you remember hitting the older set in the past compared to how you are hitting your new clubs.
 
The last thing I would suggest is not to get hung up on these differences. A 100 and 80 yard distance is very good for a 56 and 60 degree wedge respectively. Use a 52 degree wedge to fill the gap in distance between the 56 and your PW. These are your scoring clubs and consistency is better than the increase in distance you are looking for.
 
Hope this allows you to bounce back from your dilemma.
-- Frank
 
Frank Thomas new imageFrank 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