Q A Dont Give Up on Your Driver


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 given up on drivers and find I can be competitive and almost adequately long using my Callaway Hawkeye VFT 3 wood. I am now searching for a replacement club that will add distance without sacrificing accuracy. I understand there is no COR limit for 'fairway woods' so nothing prevents a manufacturers from producing fairway woods with a COR exceeding their drivers. Do any manufacturers make woods with COR's exceeding 0.83? Is there any data showing which clubs are the high COR 'fairway' woods? -- P. Hoefler

Mr. Hoefler,
There are a number of people who are moving in your direction because they are not getting the manufacturer's implied rewards from their new drivers.
Don't give up yet, but try a driving club with a 15+ degrees loft. They are now available from some of the major manufacturers and other smaller lesser known companies. This is about the same loft as your 3-wood so should give you as much and more off the tee than your 3-wood. Make sure this is shorter than the drivers presently being sold i.e. it should be about 43 to 44 inches long. The head should be reasonable big (about 400+ cc) to give you the forgiveness you need and the shaft flex should be an R-flex or more flexible if your swing speed is about 75 mph and especially if you feel you are fighting the club i.e. having to hit it hard to get it to work.
Unfortunately I think that the USGA is going to apply the same COR restriction on all clubs so don't look for any advantage from a higher COR from more lofted clubs than is available from drivers.
For your information a higher COR up to approximately 0.86 from the limit of .830 will probably not give you a noticeable advantage in distance increase unless you are a very skilled player, or believe it will. Believing is always an important ingredient in getting more distance.
Once you get your new 15 degree 'driver' 43 inches long I am sure you will notice improved performance and then keep your 3-wood for the fairway shots. Thereafter the only way you will increase your distance is by doing some strength and flexibility exercises to increase your range of motion. This will allow you to swing easier with a lot more control and add yards to your drives.
Love your column. Recently you answered a question about marking a line on the ball and the problems this may cause. I am concerned about the answer. Please elaborate. -- Dale, Hawthorne, CA

You and a few other friends have the same concern and in reading my answer again I can see where there may be some confusion. For this I apologize and will be a little more careful next time. Let me clear up the confusion:
There is no problem with marking a ball with a line or any other markings.
Also you may align the line on the ball with the target line while on the putting green or on the teeing ground.
My concern about a line being a circumferential one (all around the ball) was not about a possible rules infraction but rather the psychological effect it might have on you as a golfer when looking down at the ball in the fairway (which you are not permitted to move) only to see the line on the ball pointing to the left OB stakes. This is what I meant by: 'If it is not distracting when the ball in the fairway and the line is not aligned with the intended line of flight then placing a stripe all around the ball is not a problem with the rules,' which is certainly confusing.
I hope I have now cleared this up. SORRY about this.... I will be more careful in the future. To compensate for this lack of attention on my part I will give you some inside scoop and let you in on a secret about what is 'Frankly the Best' ball.
Go to my Newsletter http://www.franklygolf.com/ffnewsletter_april_06.asp and see how 3,697 of our Frankly Friends rate golf balls they use. Any of which you can mark a line on without concern.
I am an 11 to 12 handicap player, age 63, and hit a fair ball. I feel as though I should be playing to at least an 8 or 9 handicap, not more than a 10. My biggest problem is that I tend to hook my iron either off the fairway or off the tee. I have tried to weaken my grip with some success. I was wondering if the lie of my clubs could be the problem. Do I need a flatter lie or a new swing? -- Larry Turi

If you hit a 'fair ball' as you say then in most cases I would first look at the lie angle which if it is wrong needs to be flatter than you have it. A more upright lie will tend to make the shot go left as well as draw the ball slightly. If you find the lie angle is correct (using a lie board) then my next suggestion is to try a stiffer shaft. Sometimes a flexible shaft will tend to make the ball go left is your timing is slightly off. If none of the above work then get someone to look at your swing as it may not be an equipment problem.
Mr. Thomas,
I will assume this is a commonly asked question. People always tell me that the golf balls I use at the range don't go as far as 'regular' balls. I too find this to be true, especially with my woods. The two ranges I go to use Top-Flite and Pinnacle range balls. I know these balls are constructed differently. Is there a general rule of thumb for determining how much yardage I might be losing? I've found it to be almost one club difference. ' Todd, Akron, OH

The range balls are generally slightly different in construction in that they will have a more durable cover and paint layer. A combination of these differences will affect the distance slightly but not more than the 10 yard difference between clubs. Some manufacturers will make balls specifically for the range which are shorter by as much as 20 to 30 yards than a standard ball. This is done with a less resilient core and a change in the aerodynamics properties. These balls don't feel very good but do serve a purpose of range length limitations.
I think that the racing stripes on the range balls make them play so much better. This is the only plausible explanation as to why I seem to hit balls so much better on the range than on the course.
Can you tell us amateurs how to tell the difference between a 90 and 100 compression ball? For instance, when attempting to purchase the Titleist ball, what is the difference between the ProV1 and the ProV1x? Or the Nike Platinum and the Nike Black? This all too confusing and is this a marketing ploy by the manufactures? The Callaway HX models too are confusing. Settle this ambiguity once and for all. -- Steven Gee

Don't worry about compression... it no longer means what it used to when balls where made with a liquid center and rubber windings and a balata cover. Compression was then related to ball speed and distance but no longer. Manufacturers don't use it anymore and it is not a distance related property.
Those days are long gone but for your information balls such as the Titleist ProV1 and ProV1x are right up there in the 90+ range but balls which are better performers for most of us such as the NXT Tour have very soft cores and a compression gage will register about 60 to 70 for these balls. So the word 'compression' when it comes to balls is now extinct.
If you are interested in finding out more about the golf balls on the market today and how other golfers rate them, I would urge you to check out the link I gave you above http://www.franklygolf.com/ffnewsletter_april_06.asp to find out what other golfers consider to be 'The Best Ball'. You can also help us rate what are 'Frankly the Best' wedges! Thanks in advance for this support.
Hey Frank,
I put in many hours of practice at a local driving range (Astroturf). About two months ago, I thought I was pretty good with my Sand Wedge. I always felt a sense of pride when I hit the balls with my SW because I could get good air and good aim.
Now I've been less confident hitting my SW. When I hit the balls, 80% of the time, there's almost no air and it takes a sharp turn to the right. I really don't know what I'm doing wrong, 'Frankly' it's frustrating. Please help me out. ' Adrian

Hitting balls off artificial mats is inclined to give you a false sense of confidence simply because you are not able to take a devastating divot which on natural turf immediately tells you that you made a mistake. May I suggest that if you are going to practice off artificial mats, which in some cases is your only option, then make sure you hit the ball at the same time or after you hit the mat not the mat first. Generally you can hear which comes first. This will at least make sure that you are making good ball contact when practicing. This should help and you will probably do a lot better when you take your game to the course. I don't think this has anything to do with your wedges.
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