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Is the USGA Bailing out Manufacturers?


Dear Frank:
 
As the controversy surrounding the bailout of Wall Street still swirls, it is constructive to ask if the USGA is doing the same for the golf club industry. Their proposed changes would make millions of clubs instantly obsolete. A recall of illegal clubs will bestow on club manufacturers a captive market for 10s of millions of new sets of irons. It would be as though 50 million people woke up one day and decided to take up golf for the first time. Tell me this is not a dream for Callaway, TaylorMade and others.
 
Apparently big business rules the so-called regulators whether their address is Wall Street or Carlsbad, California. Think not? If big-time on-air golf analysts such as Johnny Miller or Nick Faldo would dare to question the logic or the motivation behind the move they would be out of their chairs faster than Tigers swing speed.
 
-Dennis

 
Dennis, and others who have made similar implications,
 
Let me assure you that, to the very best of my knowledge, the USGA is not trying to bail out the industry, mainly nested in Carlsbad. In fact, the USGA and the industry are more frequently at odds than singing from the same hymn book, as much as the USGA would like some to believe otherwise. No, this groove rule change is not a bail out but a very questionable move on the part of the USGA to correct a perceived problem, which unfortunately will affect, as you have said, millions of golfers. The phantom problem, as one major manufacturer describes it, is a result of the extraordinary performance of about 150 to 300 of the best golfers in the world and has little to do with grooves.
 
When we consider that there are about 25 million golfers, and declining in number, in the US and about 35 million golfers or more in the world, it does seem a little out of whack that 300 (less than 0.001%) have such an influence on how equipment rules should be rewritten affecting all of us. Especially when 99.99% of us are not even remotely contributing to, the phantom problem.
 
It is when this happens that golfers need to stand together and persuade the USGA and R&A that this global change does not make sense. If the perceived problem is as onerous as has been implied by such a disruptive and consequential change, should not the rule apply only to the elite golfers and for those events where the problem seems to have manifested itself? This can easily be done by adopting a Condition of Competition or local rule for specific events. This is not without precedent.
 
Yes, this may lead to a form of bifurcation of the rules but this is a better solution than detrimentally affecting all golfers who dont need any additional hazards to deal with in their pursuit of an enjoyable experience. Bifurcation will exist anyway with the groove rule change as adopted, as most of us dont have to change our clubs until 2024 even though all clubs manufactured after 2009 must have grooves half the size of the present legal grooves.
 
We dont have to abide by the rules and wont go to jail for not doing so. However it is better that we do abide by a code which lends order to our game especially if this code in its entirety makes sense. We really do need to support and respect the USGA but let them know when we believe that something is not right.
 
This respect has become a little more difficult to bestow of late, especially when the USGA refuses to present the information to justify the change. It also refuses to provide evidence, for our review, to show that the game will be better for the change. In fact, the USGA has refused after many requests to make this information available. We know how the lack of transparency can reek havoc to society, let not golf fall into the same trap. Golfers want the process to be transparent (see the results of the Groove survey we conducted by clicking here).
 
It would be good for golf and the USGA if it asked golfers for their input and opinion when changes of such significance were contemplated. This is what happened when there was consideration given to a proposed ruling on steel shafts in 1921; and again in 1931 when it changed the weight specification for a ball to 1.55 ounces, which lasted for one year, and again in 1938 when it restricted the number of clubs to 14. This is what we expect from our governing body, but things seem to have changed and we have moved away from a democratic form of governing the game.
 
We need to say something directly to the USGA, after all it is by consent of the governed that the USGA gets its authority. It needs to be reminded of this now and again if it expects adherence to the code it promulgates. In this case it should step lightly, as the integrity of the game is at stake.
 
Let us support the USGA and lobby for further consideration and transparency. Click here for my latest update and to see how you can help.
 
-Frank

Do You Have a Spine?


 
Frank,
My friends are head over heels into 'spining' their shafts.
 
I have not seen a lot of serious discussion on 'spining' was just wondering what your opinion is on the subject.
 
Cheers,
 
-Bob

 
Bob,
A spine in a shaft is an indication that you dont have a very good quality shaft.
 
Most of the time a spine is found in graphite shafts, which are flag-wrapped. This process is used to make the majority of graphite shafts. Flag-wrapping is when sheets of unidirectional fibers are cut at different angles to the fiber direction and then wrapped as a sheet around a solid rod, which eventually after curing is withdrawn forming the hollow center of the shaft. If these sheets overlap or dont meet properly they create a double layer of fibers or a gap in fibers down one side of the shaft. Because of the additional material or lack of material down one side, the shaft will bend more one way than another when you rotate it, something like a yardstick. This is what we call a shaft with a spine.
 
If this spine is very pronounced, it is better to orient it in a particular position (for example in the 3 oclock or 6 oclock position) relative to the head for greater consistency in performance.
 
Graphite shafts with multiple layers of flags in the wrappings or when produced by the filament winding process are a little bit more expensive but are very much more consistent in their bending properties if finished with care. They may have a spine but it is of such little consequence, that special orientation is unnecessary. This is the case for most steel shafts.
 
Spining a shaft may be necessary if it is a bad quality shaft but otherwise dont let somebody influence you into spending a bunch of money to spine good quality shafts. This would be equivalent to balancing your tires for 150 mph when the engine in your car can only push it to a max of 80 mph. Spend the money you would otherwise be relieved of for spining on a lesson or two or even a couple of cases of beer.
 
This should send a tingle down your spine.
 
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