Q A How to Increase Distance

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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
 
Hey Frank,
First off, I enjoy reading your column (Q&A), thanks for the valuable advice. Second, I am a 6 handicap playing with a Cleveland Launcher that is 400 8.5 degrees with an Aldila NV-X shaft. My driving distance is around 255 with an average swing speed of 102 MPH. I do not swing the club fast enough to necessitate an X flex, but it feels much more comfortable than the Stiff shaft (Fujikura Speeder 757) in my previous driver. In order to increase my distance off the tee, which Drivers (degree, shaft flex, etc) do you suggest that I demo. I have a fairly high trajectory and limited roll with an 8.5 so I am unsure where to go from here. Any help would be appreciated. ' Gus

 
Gus,
It seems that everybody is chasing more distance and will do almost anything to get it. Distance without accuracy is useless, if the object is to get the ball into the hole from the teeing ground in the fewest number of strokes. If you are only interested in bragging rights then this is a different matter. If so get a long driver (48 inches), tee the ball high and Rip it. Every now and again you will make good contact and will out drive your buddies and be able to talk about it while you are buying them beers at the 19th hole. Now that I have that off my chest lets address your specific question Gus.

To increase your distance you need to have higher ball speed, and/or optimum launch angle and spin rate for your swing speed and/or increase you swing speed by changing swing technique through better timing, increased strength and improved range of motion but this requires some practice and work in the gym.
 
Assuming the gym thing is not an option then you should be aware that your distance of 255 yards is very good for a swing speed of 102 mph. especially if you are not getting too much roll. You have a very good driver now with a good shaft and, if you are comfortable with the X-flex don't change.
The stiffer shaft will tend to keep the ball flight lower which is one of your concerns but check to see if this is the problem. You should try for a launch angle between 12 and 13 degrees with a spin rate of about 2,500 rpm.
 
You can lower spin rate by hitting the ball a little higher on the face but this will also tend to increase the launch angle. So if you do decide to move to a slightly larger headed driver with less loft (which I don't normally recommend) make sure you check this using a good launch monitor to get the launch conditions I have recommended.
 
I personally think that you are in good shape right now with your driver. Work on your fairway and short game and get a good putter and your handicap will drop significantly.
 
Frank,
I enjoy both your spot on the Golf Channel as well as your section in Golf Digest regarding equipment. It seems to me though that most viewers or readers throw you a lot of 'lay-ups' or 'puff balls' or your staff hands you questions that don't challenge the status quo.
 
What I would like to know is in regards to putters, and specifically putters with face inserts. When Len Mattiace won the Dave Pelz putting championship, he was asked about his putter, his stroke, his mental approach and many other attributes of his winning putting style. One of things that stuck me was he said that when he putted he tried to contact the golf ball at its equator with the leading edge of the putter face thereby rolling the ball with over spin. If you look at the putter he was using at the time, the insert never contacted the golf ball. For the putter head to contact the equator of the ball, the leading edge (or the putters lowest point on the face) creates the impact. If Len Mattiace is considered one of the World's best putters and his putting method doesn't use the insert of the putter, why are so many manufacturers using inserts? -- Paul W. Luchau, Littleton, CO

 
Paul,
I am always Frank and respond to questions which I believe will be of greatest interest to site visitors, reader and viewers but Frankly never avoid the hard ones, I can assure you.
 
If you contact the ball at the equator and the putter is traveling horizontally before impact the ball will not start with an over spin but will slide first and then start rolling.
 
If this contact is made above the center (equator) the forces imparted to the ball will drive it into the ground and it will tend to bounce up after impact. If, however, the ball is struck on the up stroke then it will tend to have less back spin than if the club was traveling horizontally. See the 'Anatomy of a Putt' on my site at www.franklygolf.com/Speak/anatomyofputt.asp.
 
I do not believe that many professional golfers (even the best putters) hit the ball on the leading edge of the putter face but rather try to hit it on the upstroke. The potential for error in hitting it on the leading edge is too great and therefore is avoided.
 
Some putters have inserts because the head material is considered too hard and it enhances the feel on these putters but putters are never designed so that contact is made on the leading edge which may be outside the insert perimeter.
 
Dear Frank,
I heard you speak several years ago when you were with the USGA. I laughed when your opening statement was 'Top Flite is the longest ball.' WHY? You said quote 'because it says so on the box.' I thought it was a great opening to an interesting subject.

You stated on The Golf Channel that you don't think there is much more that can be accomplished from the tech aspect of the golf club. Also, with restrictions being placed by governing bodies, what do you think the manufactures will do to continue to stimulate the customers and the game of golf? I mean how many things can you do to a club head, shaft and ball? ' David Powell

 
David,
Thanks for the kind comments. It is a fact that advances in technology which contribute to increased distance, such as we have seen over the last ten years, will be hard to come by in the future. The reason for this is that those factors contributing to distance i.e. ball speed, launch angle and ball spin have all reached - or nearly reached - their optimum. This is certainly the case for the pros. The average golfer is still trying to get those optimum conditions which best suit his/her ball speed and this is where we will still see some advances but these will not be half as significant as what we have already seen.
 
Follow this link http://www.franklygolf.com/tgc/spring2.html to get a better understanding as to why there is a limit to distance based on the laws of nature rather than any governing restrictions, unless you swing the club head faster but this you cannot buy in the store. The restrictions the USGA is placing on the manufacturers is to harness the long hitting pro but these are not doing what they anticipate, in fact these are only hurting the average golfer who, on average, only hits the ball 192 yards even though he thinks he hits it 230 yards.
 
Sorry to burst the bubble but it is always better to live and hope than to not believe in magic.
 
Frank,
I have been thinking it's about time to replace my irons. I have Hogan Apex irons that I've played for 6 years now. The first 2 years I was an Asst. Club Pro and practiced quite a bit. The last 4 years, I got my amateur status back, quit practicing, but I do play a lot (175 rounds last year).
 
I've been thinking that I need to replace my irons simply because of 'wear and tear', feeling that my grooves might be worn to the point that I'm losing some control of the ball (especially out of the rough). I still like my irons very much and am not that excited to spend money on new ones... but I also want to feel like I'm getting the most out of my game. What do you think? -- Kevin Donner, Payette, ID
 
P.S. I've also thought about sending them to Hogan to be refinished...is that a worthwhile option?

 
Kevin,
If you really like your Hogan Apex irons and have made good friends of them then don't give them up but get them refinished. I am surprised that they have lasted as long as they have with the amount of golf that you play. There is another option and this is to get another set of blades which are similar to your present set. These don't have to be this year's model in fact blade design technology has not changed much in the last decade or more, so a new set but two or three year old model will work very well and probably a lot less expensive than some of the new sets or to get your old set refinished. Make sure that the dynamic properties of your new set match your existing set i.e. shaft flex, frequency, weight, lie angle etc.
 
You will still need to practice but there is nothing better than hitting a blade on the sweet spot which most of us only fantasize about.

Dear Frank,
I am 71 and in fairly good condition. I now have a Taylor Made 360 XD driver and hit it quite well. Depending on the course around 200 to 220 yards in the air. I recently had my swing speed checked and my normal speed is 85 mph and when I really go after it I get up to 92 mph. I am using a regular shaft now and wonder if I should be going to an (a shaft) on my next purchase of a driver. I am thinking about either the new Taylor Made 460 r7 or the new Cleveland launcher (Ti 460). I hit the ball so good now and am hardly ever out of the fairway but like every one else I am looking to keep my present distance, as I get older.-- Don Lester

 
Don,
The distance you are getting with this driver the TM 360 XD at your head speed is great and the fact that, 'I HIT THE BALL SO GOOD NOW AND AM HARDLY EVER OUT OF THE FAIRWAY' I would not change a thing. Your distance is better than average for male golfers half your age. Having said this I think you may want to get involved in a strength and flexibility regimen after checking with your doctor. Experiments have shown that a greater range of motion from flexibility exercises and some strength exercises can add from 10 to 15 yards to your drives and this you will not find in a new driver.
 
The drivers you mention are very good clubs and will help a little if properly matched to your swing speed and I suggest that you stay with the same flex shaft for your swing speed and especially if you intend to do your workouts in the gym.
 
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