Q A Cheap Balls Forgiving Irons


Frankly GolfEditor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
I have a question that has bothered me for years. If I buy a sleeve of golf balls at a discount store am I getting the same ball that I would buy at a pro shop? -- Edward Akers, Benld, Il.

The answer is 'Yes' on condition that it has the same (identical) name and markings. The manufacturers do not make special balls for the retail outlets with the same marking as those you find in the pro-shop. The reason for this is that the balls are submitted to the USGA for conformance testing and listed according to the markings.
If the performance differences are intentionally different the ball when 'check tested' may be found to violate the rules or even be considered a different ball.
I have been considering new irons for a while now, it is well documented that new irons can be more forgiving, and new woods can be more forgiving and add distance, but it is unclear to me if new irons can add distance.
Right now I have a set of Ping Zing 2s, and I am considering a set of Callaway x-18s, can I expect more distance as well as forgiveness? How much of a difference should I expect if any? I have also heard that the lofts for clubs is changing, so I wonder if I do get more distance will the trajectory suffer as a result. Meaning if I hit my 7 iron 150 yards, will a new set allow me to hit a 7 iron 160 yards but with a 6 iron trajectory? -- Tyler Postlewait, Portland, Oregon

First you must understand the forgiveness is not related to distance as long as you hit the sweet spot. In fact this is one of the reasons why the pros do not need game improvement clubs because they always hit (almost always) the sweet spot. Distance using irons, is directly related to the loft of the club and the club head speed, all else being equal with your swing. If you order a new set of forgiving irons do not expect any improvement in distance if the lofts and shaft lengths are the same. You may get a slightly different trajectory with some forgiving clubs because of the center of gravity is father back than in blades (not very forgiving clubs) and this compared to a blade may affect distance. But comparing one forgiving club for another, don't look for distance difference in irons. If the 7-iron doesn't hit the ball far enough then take out the six.
Forgiveness or MOI (Moment of Inertia) is a matter of weight distribution in the club head.
Go to http://www.franklygolf.com/ffnewsletter_jan_06.asp to read an easy to understand explanation on in the most recent 'Frankly Friends Newsletter'. The concept of 'Forgiveness' or MOI is basically the same for both irons and woods and will as the word implies be forgiving of miss-hits. A bad shot will not deviate as much in direction and distance when hit from a high MOI club as it will from a low MOI club but at the same time the difference between a really good shot and a miss-hit will feel that different. This is what the pros don't like about really forgiving clubs.
Mr. Thomas,
When I hear the distance the Pros are getting from lets say an 8 iron, is it really an 8 iron as we amateurs know it? -- Don Eaton

This is a subject which has always intrigued me. Ever since manufacturers decided we should have sets of clubs rather than pick them out of a barrel with funny names (starting in the late 1920s but was in full swing by the end of the 1930s) numbers have been used. This was for the purpose of identifying the club more easily for an intended situation confronting the golfer. This numbering system soon developed into an unwritten standard along with the associated lofts and lies. This honorable standard existed until in the early seventies, in an effort to market an iron as being superior to a competitor's, the standard lofts were secretly changed to provide more distance. This was then the downfall of the unwritten standard.
Today's 8-iron is approximately equal in loft to that of a six iron in the early seventies and almost 3/4 inches longer than it used to be. The numbering system is purely for convenience to the golfer.

What you are seeing today regarding 8-iron distances is a combination of a migration away from the common lofts to very much stronger lofts, increased lengths, increased talent on the Tour which results in increased club head speed and also misinformation either about the distance actually hit or the actual club used.
Hope you will be able to sleep better tonight.

My grandson age 15 is going to be buying new clubs this year. I have suggested that he go where he can be fitted for them. My friends think I'm nuts saying that he will out grow them shortly and have to buy another set soon. They also say that clubs off the rack will be sufficient for now. My question is what do you suggest he do? -- John Blomsness, Cumberland, WI

This depends on the stature of you grandson and the speed he swings the club. Some 15 year olds are big enough to handle a full size set and if this is the case then I would suggest that you start with a standard set. If his swing speed is more than about 85 to 90 mph then ask for a regular flex shaft. This set should be fitted for lie angle but otherwise he should be OK even if he grips down a little on the shaft. If he is small for his age and swings slower than 70 mph then I suggest that you try a set with similar specs to those of a ladies set which are a little lighter and with a more flexible shaft and even about an inch shorter per club. Again this set must be fitted for lie angle.
My impression is that your grandson is an accomplished golfer because of his interest in buying a new set so this is an important choice and you don't want to significantly compromise his game during these important development stages because of cost. There are some good second hand sets or some older models which will be good for him.
Good luck and watch him grow into a full set which only he will be able to say feels good. Obviously hitting the ball well is a good indication that the set feels good and fits well.
Mr. Thomas,
Should most players carry more lofted woods and hybrids instead of a 15 degree 3 wood that most players have problems getting airborn ? -- Hag1MAL1

The answer depends what problems you are having. I would suggest that if you are having problems with your long irons then definitely move to hybrids and get rid of the 3 and 4 irons.
As far as the woods are concerned, you need a driver; and the loft will generally depend on your club head speed. Approximately 400 +cc 9 degrees for high swing speeds and up to 460 cc 15 degrees for low swing speeds (less than 70 mph). Then you need a fairway wood which you can launch off a fairway which is generally about 13 to fifteen degrees of loft. This is your distance fairway wood.
Next you may want to have a 5- wood which will launch the ball about as far as the three-hybrid but with a slightly higher trajectory. This club will be at least one and a half inches longer than the longest hybrid. The answer is you will need to mix and match depending on your game but use the above as a general guide.
Frank 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@thegolfchannel.com