Q A Lifespan of a 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
Hi Frank,
Love your column, great info. My question is how long would the C.O.R. of used brand name clubs hold up under normal playing conditions. I would like to purchase a used driver, but am leery. What else should I consider when shopping for used clubs or demos? Their cost could be 50% or more lower than new. -- Joe DiFruscio, Ontario, Canada.

I do know what you mean when if comes to the cost of new drivers. What I would like to suggest that you try to buy a model a year or two old as these will perform almost as well as the new ones. Technology is moving slower than it has been over the last ten years when we saw some significant changes. A club without any visible damage or a face which still has roll and bulge and not a flat spot in the center of the face (test this with the edge of a credit card) should be OK.
I would like to suggest that you click on to this link http://www.franklygolf.com/tgc/spring2.html to get a very easy to understand explanation of COR and also recognize that the Laws of Physics are starting to play a role in governing how much further technology can go. We are nearly there so last years model should be fine.
In the Whats In The Bag section, I often see references to players using prototype clubs. I believe years ago Greg Norman was disqualified in a tournament because he was using a prototype ball. If I remember correctly it was an update to a model currently on the approved list but the new ball had not yet been tested. If the equipment the pros are using are prototypes, what is done to ensure that they are conforming? Are they tested before each tournament? ' David

With regard to Greg Normans ball you are referring to, it was a ball which was about to be introduced by Maxfli and one Greg was testing. The product itself conformed but the identification number on the seam was different from that on the ball which was on the list. This was the issue. Greg called me and we discussed it at length and he then disqualified himself. His major concern was whether or not the ball conformed to the standards not the fact that it was not on the list and had to disqualify himself. Prototype balls are generally submitted for approval if there is any chance that they will be used in competition. The list of conforming balls is updated frequently and on the USGAs website. One must make sure if the conforming list is in effect (i.e. a condition of the competition) that the markings on the ball you intend to use are the same as those on the list.
Ever since I have switched to a large-headed driver I have cracked each one I have owned (total of 3 & counting) along the top where the face appears to be joined to the crown. The crack runs along the edge of the face. A number of golfers I know have had similar experiences. The make of club doesn't seem to matter. The clubs are most often under warranty but that's not the issue.

Why are the clubs failing and what's the answer? I play 1/week and practice at the range 2 - 3 times a week. I practice my irons way more than the driver. Is this the nature of the beast with 460cc or do the manufacturers still have some work to do? -- Geoff Whitehead, Delta, BC

I dont know how many impacts you usually make with your driver each month or your club head speed but in most cases at average speeds one should be able to make at least 10,000 impacts before there is any sort of deterioration of the face. The number of impacts obviously depends on the quality of the product, the material used and the method of construction. Generally if you are using a driver from reputable company a face collapsing should not be a problem but if this is some form of unknown flaw which results in a breakage the company will generally take care of the problem for you.
I do think that as club heads get bigger some of the challenges relating to the integrity of the head are increased. This is because, to maintain the light weight of the head (about 200 grams) the shell needs be reduced in thickness and this can create some design problems. Most of these have been overcome.
National brand named clubs, such as Callaway, Ping, etc., use the most advanced technology in clubs. Can similar technology be found in lesser known club manufacturers and if so what should one look for in terms of material. Some claim to make an exact clone of name brands. What is your take on these claims? -- Gil Little

There is no doubt that there are lesser known companies with clubs as good in performance and design as some of the big names. They may not have the promotional dollars to become as well known but there are many good small companies producing some very good quality and well designed products.
I would become very suspicious if told by someone that they are making an exact clone of a name brand. First they will probably be in violation of some patent laws and secondly it is probably of considerable lesser quality. This rings of knock offs to me. If it is a price issue which drives one to buy a knock off then I suggest that you just buy last years model and be comforted in knowing that it is the real thing. In most cases the difference in performance between last years model and the new version will be hard to measure.
You've probably already addressed this issue several times but I missed it. Could you please tell me if there is any performance difference in the Pro-V1x's and their X-out counter parts? I've been told that the only difference is cosmetic. I've been given a couple of boxes of the X-outs and am leery to use them. ' Erik, Milwaukee, WI

I am absolutely sure that the only reason that the ProV1x is marked as an X-OUT is because of cosmetics. You dont have to worry about it when it comes to performance. If a ProV1x is found, during the manufacturing process, to be faulty in performance it will be discarded immediately. There is a problem, however, if you want to use this ball where the List of conforming balls is posted as a CONDITION OF THE COMPETITION. In this case, as the ball with these X-Out markings has not been submitted for testing and inclusion on this list, you would be disqualified for playing with an X-Out ball, even though it may conform. This list is used in major competitions so unless you intend to play in the Masters or the U.S. Open or some State events etc. dont worry.
On Saturday, February 18, I was watching the ACE Tournament on the Golf Channel. On the 17th green, Hale Irwin missed a ten foot putt which went by the hole about six inches. Hale walked to the hole. With his feet and shoulders facing the hole, Hale reached across the hole and tapped the ball back into the hole.
Did Hale violate the Sam Snead rule against croquet putting? That rule prohibits putting when the ball is on a line between the player's legs. The spirit of the rule is intended to prevent a player from croquet putting the ball forward, but the rule does not seem to make an exception for putting towards a player's body. -- Jerry Hogan, Reno, Nevada

The line of the putt does not extend beyond the hole but it does extend from the hole to the ball and behind the ball along the line and if you stand on or astride of this line when making a stroke it is a violation of rule16-1e. But as the line does not extend beyond the hole (see definition Line of putt) Hale Irwin did not violate the rule. This is close enough to an equipment question as it has to do with striking a ball with a putter that I decided to answer it.
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