Q A Inside the Two Driver Debate

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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
 
Frank,
Did Phil win because he had the best game for the week or because had the most tricked out bag for the week?

In baseball they are talking about asterisks on Maguire, Sosa, and Bonds home run records because of performance enhancing substance that gave them enhanced performance, should their be an asterisk on Phil because of equipment enhanced win? Remember, there was no official ban against these substances when the baseball guys were juicing. Do you think enhanced equipment to help you draw or fade to defeat the added length and angles was what Augusta had in mind with all the changes? Was the goal to identify the best player or the best equipped player for the week? -- Frank S.

 
Frank,
What you saw at Augusta is an example of how technology has changed the game. A golfer like Phil Mickelson has taken advantage of this technology and decided to substitute one of his other clubs for a second driver. It is true that he did not have to change his swing very much to get two different results using different drivers. To do this successfully requires a great deal of skill -- something many of these pros have -- and a clear knowledge about how each driver works. I do think that Phil has the ability to pull off these shots without having to go to two different drivers but it just makes it a little easier for him to do it and it was obviously worth sacrificing one of the other 13 clubs.
 
I do certainly think we are entering a phase of the game when we should start thinking about how to decrease the gap between the long hitters and those who have other skills which are part of the game. Golf is not only a power game but one of finesse. Power is certainly a skill but should come with accuracy which would better define this as a skill.
 
Please read my article suggesting a proposed solution to some of our concerns. Specifically, how to better expose all the skills of our superheroes. This was published on April 6th 2006 in the OP-ED section of the NY Times, a copy of which you will find at www.franklygolf.com.
 
This proposal does not imply that the ten club rule or the change to course set-up should be adopted at all levels of golf but only at the pro level as an alternative for other recent suggestions which will tear the game apart.
 
Thanks for your concern.
 
Dear Frank,
I recently purchased a used TaylorMade R7 Quad. I love it! Now I am wondering about the configuration of the weights. I am told the current configuration is neutral.

When I am swinging well the shot that hurts me most is a big swinging hook. Lots of distance just too much right-to-left to keep the ball in the fairway. How would I change my configuration to soften the hook without causing a drive that would have been straight to move right? When I am not swinging well the shot that hurts me most is a straight push. Is there a configuration that will help me bring the ball back to the left?

Are the two of these configurations mutually exclusive of each other? Also, I would love a general description of how the different configurations will affect flight path! ' Tim

 
Tim,
First you have a major problem which I don't think adjustments to equipment can help.
Nothing will help a big swinging hook other than a swing change. Your problem sounds like a sporadic one which comes without notice. The only thing that seems to be predicable is that when you are swinging 'Well' you fear the Hook and when you are swinging 'Badly' you fear the Push. So let's start from here:
 
There isn't a single club which can solve both problems so do what Phil doesput two drivers in your bag and heel weight one for when you are swing badly and toe weight the other one for when you are swinging well.
 
To explain; the heel weighting will allow you to rotate the club more easily and bring the club to square or beyond square to closed a little and this will minimize the chances of a push. Also this weighting will move the center of gravity (c.g.) toward the heel which, if you hit the ball on the sweet spot will tend to give the ball a little draw bias because of the gear effect. You know about this gear effect because when you hit the ball toward the toe of the club under otherwise normal conditions it is inclined to draw and go a little farther because the toe is traveling faster than the heel at impact.
 
The reverse is true for toe weighting.
 
Maybe you can start a new trend and put three drivers in your bag a neutral for when you are swinging well but don't feel the swinging hook coming on, the heel weighted for when you fear the 'push' and toe weighted for when you fear the 'hook' shots.
If you get really driver happy, you could always add a couple of different lofts as well. That's another topic for another time.
 
Frank,
I'm perplexed, I look at the what's in the bag segment of golf digest and find that my average carry distance is very similar to most of the pros from 3 wood down, however I certainly don't average 300 yards per drive like most of them claim, 280 maybe. Could it be my driver? It's a new name brand with a stiff flex shaft 9.5 degrees of loft. My average club head speed ranges from 110 to 115, my ball speed peaks at about 164, my launch angle is usually 11 to 14 degrees and my spin rate is usually around 3000. Those are all good numbers right? I do find its the only club I use that I struggle with losing it to the right. Could I possibly need a stiffer shaft? -- Matt Hendon, Greenville S.C.


Matt,
First, most pros don't claim 300 yard average drives. In fact, the PGA TOUR average is 288 yards and the average head speed is between 100 and 115 mph.
 
It is only when the head speed gets to 115 mph AND the launch conditions are optimum will the drives approach the 300 yard mark.
 
So don't get depressed but do try to keep your launch angle down to between 12 and 13 degrees and the spin rate at 2,000 to 2,500 rpm and you should get a few extra yards with your driver.
 
If you are losing your drives to the right I think a more flexible shaft is needed not a stiffer shaft.
 
I have some PGA TOUR stats in a nice, easy to read format which I have been tracking over the years. Check them out at www.franklygolf.com.
 
There is still hope!
 
Hi Frank,
I am a 28 years of age business professional who is struggling to find time in my life to play the game. I used to play frequently as a younger man and even had my handicap down to the low single digits for a period of a few years. Life has not meant that I don't play or practice as much as I used to although I still find myself able to get around the course with an average score of usually 80. I have spent the last two years trying to find a driver for my game. I really like the technology in Taylor Made R7 clubs but am having trouble finding a shaft that will work for me. With a swing speed of around 98 to 102 (average) I find myself in between shafts and flexes too often. Are there things I need to look for in some of the higher performance after market shafts? I can't seem to find something that works for me; perhaps you have some suggestions of shafts you've used that may fit my profile? -- David McCutcheon

 
David,
For your swing speed you should be able to use an S-flex shaft and I suggest a driver length of 44 inches. This will give you more control with your driver and build confidence. This is so important because when you step up to the ball and the little voices in your head are saying YES then you will perform well. If you are uncomfortable with your driver the little voices are saying all sorts of things you shouldn't be listening to. If you find the S-flex only performs when you swing hard then definitely go for the R-flex and enjoy what the voices are saying to you.
 
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