Frank,I’ve just turned 60, stand 5’ 8” and never was a long hitter (It now takes my 4 hybrid to reach the green from 150 yards). My question is in the area of hybrids and fairway woods. I have 3 and 4-wood styled hybrids in my new set, and 5 and 7 fairway woods from my previous set. I’d like to know in descending order the longest club to the shortest in relative distance.
Now to my pressing need. You have convinced me to work on my putting game, and my next step is to purchase a Frog. I often 3-putt from twenty-five feet. I find a 34” shaft on the putter works best for my back as opposed to a 33”; however; I’m not sure this would match with your recent suggestions. I also had questions on the center positioned shaft on the Frog.
I think the best way to answer your hybrid-fairway wood question is to explain the differences in design and the effect of these differences. An iron with a loft of 24 degrees (a 4-iron, dependent on manufacturer) has the same loft as a 24 degree hybrid and a 9-wood.
As forgiving as the 4-iron may be, the hybrid of the same loft has a higher Moment of Inertia (MOI), a center of gravity (c.g.) farther away from the face and the shaft is about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches longer. For this reason it will hit the ball higher than the iron and about 5 to 10 yards farther. It is also more accurate and easier to hit than the iron and that is why I strongly recommend that 99% of us replace long irons with hybrids, starting the set at a 5 or 6-iron.
The fairway wood when compared to the hybrid of the same loft, has a higher MOI, a c.g. slightly farther back from the face and the shaft is generally about two inches longer than the hybrid. This will in turn hit the ball higher than the hybrid and because of the shaft length hit the ball about 10 to 15 yards farther. It is more forgiving because of the high MOI but less accurate than the hybrid because of the additional shaft length.
Greg, these are the differences but you may find – based on your swing and the club you choose – some variations from what I have given. For this reason and until the manufacturers sort these differences out for a new set make up you will have to do it for yourself based on what you need to fill the distance and the shot types you like.
Regarding putters; you are right in that I do recommend a shorter putter which allows you to release the tension in your arms but not at the expense of getting a sore back. When you practice your putting, you should always stand up after a couple of putts or better yet between each putt.
As far as a center shafted putter is concerned, these are becoming more popular and accepted especially in the face balanced versions and mallet headed design. You can get a heel shafted mallet with similar properties to the center mounted because the shaft axis is in the same plane as the center of the face and the c.g. but the shaft is bent to attach at the heel. Which ever you choose, it is personal preference which is important.
We have been led to believe that a blade putter (toe-heel weighted with a goose neck hosel) is the best but in fact these putters are probably most suited to the very best players who don’t make any mistakes. For the rest of us (99%) a mallet and center shafted makes intuitive sense.
I hope this has helped you and thanks again for your kind comments.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org