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Launch it Higher!


Dear Frank,
 
After reading your book and your column regularly and loving your very insightful explanations I just couldn't hold back my questions.
 
How does altitude affect the optimum launch conditions for a driver? Let me explain my situation. I live and play golf here in Ecuador at an altitude of 9000 feet, so the aerodynamic conditions are completely different than at sea level. From what I can deduce: due to the lower lift and drag properties of the thin air a driver would have to generate more spin and have a higher launch angle to achieve optimum conditions but I was wondering if you can shed some light into the matter.
 
And a following more specific question: As Ecuador is not known for its abundance in golf stores, let alone launch monitors I wanted to take advantage of a future trip to the U.S. to test out some new clubs and I wondered: How should I choose a driver loft for 9000 feet once I have found my optimal value at sea level?
 
And as all good things come in three: Can you please recommend a loft/shaft stiffness to start testing for me (Have those 9000 feet in mind). Swing speed is 90 to 100mph, at the moment I play with 9.5 (I know now it's low, but two golf pros suggested it) stiff shaft driver. I hit 200 to 230 yards with a fairly low trajectory and relatively lots of roll (if I hit the fairway).
 
Thank you for your time and keep up the good work,
-Michael

 
Michael,
 
You are correct. Due to the lower density of the air at an altitude of 9,000 feet, the ball needs to spin a little more and be launched a lot higher compared to sea level to give you maximum distance (optimum launch conditions).
 
At 100 mph head-speed you will gain about 40 yards in total distance at 9,000 ft compared to sea level, if you launch the ball at about 16 to 17 degrees compared to 13 degrees at sea level. A spin rate of 3000 rpm is good and for your head speed get a driver with a stiff shaft and loft of about 15 degrees (which is about the max. available).
 
You should understand this assumes the temperature remains the same. Unfortunately, as you increase in altitude you decrease in temperature, which will have a detrimental effect on distance because the air is more dense at colder temperatures but not enough to be of major concern. Just keep your body warm and hit it high in warm humid weather at altitude (9,000 ft) and you will gain about 35 yards over your 240 yards at sea level drives.
 
Just a reminder when the air becomes humid, at any altitude, it will be less dense because water vapor molecules made up of hydrogen and oxygen have a lower molecular weight than nitrogen and oxygen molecules, which they are replacing. Nitrogen and oxygen make up about 90% of the air we breathe so replacing these with lower weight molecules will make the air less dense.
 
Humid air is therefore lighter, not heavier and this results in less lift on the ball but also less drag. So on high humidity days launch the ball a little higher.
 
Hope this helps...if you want some to read some more answers to golf equipment questions, click here to order a copy of 'Dear Frank...' my new book which is a compilation of answers to golfer's questions that I have answered over the years.
 
-Frank
 

Special Balls for Putters


Hi Frank,
 
First let me say that I am a new owner of a Frankly Frog putter! I have used both blade and mallet style putters in the past [most recently using a ' TMMC (full name redacted) putter] and am your stereotypical 'feel' putter. I have avoided sight lines and the like on a putter for a very long time. However, after reading some of the testimonials on your site, I thought I would take a chance and, wow, am I pleased! I am consistently hitting my putts along the line that I want (although I still need some green-reading prowess!!) and my distance control is good on putts of any length. In addition, my pulls and pushes seem to be reduced...new club'itis? Perhaps, but my confidence on the green has increased many-fold thanks to the frog.
 
Now my question.....
 
Based on today's designs, is there an optimum ball for the Frog (or for any style putter)? Meaning, based on the materials used and machined faced qualities, is there a particular type of ball that would get the most out of the design? Hard cover? Soft Cover? Three piece? Two piece?...etc.
 
Thank you for sharing your ideas and your technology!
 
Best Regards,
-Kevin

 
Kevin,
 
Thank you for the kind comments about the Frog Putter. You can request a download of a free putting guide by clicking here and make sure you take advantage of the putting tips provided. This will really keep you on track; give you something to practice and enhance your success and confidence on the green.
 
With regard to a special or optimum ball to be used with the Frog, please remember that you are not permitted to change balls during the play of a hole unless it is so damaged as to be declared unfit for play. With this in mind select the ball type you feel most comfortable using tee to green and make sure you use this ball type during your putting practice.
 
There was no specific ball which I had in mind when designing the Frog.
A suggestion which will help your putting, is when you get onto the practice putting green to calibrate your stroke before a round during your warm up - this is not practice but getting a feel for the green speed and building confidence - take only one ball onto the practice green. Read each putt using your pre-shot routine and hole it out every time - no matter how short the putt may be. This will remind you to follow a plan and stick to your pre-shot routine when you are on the green during your round.
 
Kevin, becoming a good putter takes a little work but by following good instruction to improve, will help the rest of your game because you build more confidence on the green and carry this to the next tee. Of course, it also helps to have a good putter.
 
I am pleased you have discovered how well a good putter works.
 
-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