Lets Be Frank


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Stocking Up on Wedges

Dear Frank,
I recently read your article in the New York Times about the new groove rule and how it is unfair to 99.5 percent of the golfing population. I couldnt agree more. That said, it doesn't appear as if the USGA is going to retract the new rule.
That leaves us average golfers with a few choices: 1) We can spend several hundred dollars stocking up on enough of today's model wedges with the square grooves to last us until 2024 (This option doesnt seem plausible to most, especially in the present economic conditions with the price of most wedges being $100 or more.); or, 2) we could keep the same wedges we have now until 2024 (But if we did that, the extra spin of the square grooves would be negated due to wear.); or, 3) we can buy wedges made after 2009 with less groove volume, which would reduce the spin we put on the ball.
Although I don't particularly like any of these options, I am probably leaning toward spending the money. However, I hit a lot of balls on the range as well, as play several times a week, so my grooves wear out quite quickly. If I wanted to keep ideal performance I may need to replace my wedges every one or two years and then I would be looking at spending over $2000. My question is, what would you recommend to someone like myself who hits balls a lot and who wants to keep fresh grooves on his wedges? Should I bite the bullet and spend the money?

I really don't know what advice to give you with regard to your fundamental question. If the USGA is going to ban the existing grooves anyway ' something you believe to be an inevitability ' then we really do have a problem, not with the action but the lack of consideration for the average golfer. There has been a complete lack of transparency regarding the request for evidence that there really is a problem or that the new rule will solve it. This leads to a lack of respect for the body, which purports to represent golfers and the game as a whole. If we (all golfers) don't respect the USGA then the game suffers.
I would suggest that, because you're probably going to need a new set of wedges every three seasons and you have 14 years before you are disqualified for using your existing clubs, that you stock up on at least three sets of irons (specifically, your wedges) before the manufacturers stop making them as of January 1, 2010.
The upside is that if the USGA comes to its senses, and decides that the change is inappropriate ' except, possibly, for the very elite where a local condition of competition can be adopted ' and rescinds the rule, then you will be ahead of the game with sets of wedges to spare. Fortunately, wedge technology is not changing very much so your clubs will still be state-of-the-art in 14 years and will conform then and beyond.
Dan, I sincerely hope that the USGA rethinks this change. Maybe you and your friends should write to the USGA asking them to provide evidence that the game will benefit from the change, and if it is not available rescind the rule change.
I am a firm believer that common sense will prevail; it just takes some time to manifest itself.
' Frank

Make Room for a New Driver

As I looked at your drawing of optimum launch conditions, I was wondering the significance of how high the ball is teed. Does the height the ball is teed affect the launch conditions? If my driver is 9.5 degrees, can I get the same result of using a 13- degree driver if I just teed the ball higher?

Your question about how to get a 9.5-degree driver to perform like a 13-degree driver to get closer to the optimum launch conditions is more complex than I have space for in this answer. I can, however, give you some general idea of the problem you face, if you don't want to admit yourself to a swing hospital for some major surgery.
Let's assume that that you have a swing speed of about 90 mph and are looking for a launch angle of about 13.5 degrees with a spin rate of about 2,500 rpm. With your 9.5-degree driver you are probably getting close to the right spin rate but about an 11- degree launch angle. If you tee the ball higher and the contact point is a little above center (on the clubface) you will decrease the spin rate, because of the vertical gear effect, and increase the launch angle by a degree or so. This will be the best you can do with your 9.5 driver, even with a more flexible shaft.
I don't think that you will be able to achieve what you are looking for with the driver you have, but you'll also overshoot the mark with a 13-degree driver by increasing the launch angle to about 14-plus degrees with a spin rate of 3,500 rpm. These conditions are required for someone with less than 80 mph swing speed. I suggest that, if my assumptions are correct, you should look for a driver with a loft of 10.5 degrees.
Actually, 10 degrees is fine but few of these are made because of the pure marketing reasons I discussed last week. I suggest that you look for a 10.5-degree driver of last year's model which will work very well and cost a lot less than the latest model.
Good luck.
' Frank
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Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to helping golfers. Frank 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 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