Q A Quarters and Engineers

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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
 
Dear Frank,
I cut my putter down from 35 to 33, and afterwards it felt too light. I taped some quarters to the back and liked it better. Is it legal for me to use the putter with the quarters taped on? -- Charlie Smith


Charlie,
This is a good news bad news story. The good news is that you have managed to find the weights which make your putter feel comfortable by using the quarters. The bad news is that these are not considered fixed and adjustment can be readily made, as well as they may become loose during a round and on top of this they may also be considered as external attachments. All of which are good candidates for violating Appendix II 1a and 1b. of the Rules of Golf, the penalty for which is disqualification.
 
What I suggest is that you find the equivalent amount of lead tape and substitute it for the quarters. Adding lead tape is permissible and an exception. Make sure that you use the tape on a spot that is not on the striking surface and is applied for the sole purpose of adding weight.
 
This is weighty question but we can get around it.

Mr. Thomas,
Has the weight of the driver clubhead become lighter over the years, or has it stayed at roughly 200g? Golfers are constantly told to swing 80% to encourage proper balance, tempo and consistency, but golfers are also told to get their swing speed higher for maximizing distance. Since the club is delivering a Force to the ball, should the clubheads weight also be customized along with the shaft flex and length, since F=MA where A will be near constant for an 80% swing? My hypothesis is: if the fitness of the golfer allows, a heavier head with a stiffer shaft, to allow proper dynamic loading and transfer of force to the ball, is the optimal fitting for distance. A variation of this idea seems to be the strategy of the Perfect Driver. Thanks for your time, and I really enjoy your column. -- Chris (engineer & golfer, in that order)


Chris,
Club head weights have not changed much over time, and 7 ounces or about 200 grams seems to be the weight we have settled on as being most comfortable. This has not changed even though new clubs have a higher COR than before.
 
For a simple explanation of COR click on www.franklygolf.com and under Frankly Speaking you will find this and other really fun stuff for regular golfers and not just engineers like you.
 
It has been found based on some research that the optimum head weight is between 5 and 10 ounces. The head is not he only thing we are swinging and in fact the shaft, grip, arms and even the shoulders are contributing to the amount of force we have to overcome to make the motion. The book Search for The Perfect Swing by Alastair Cochran deals with this subject in some depth. Based on a formula using head weight, ball weight, head speed before impact and COR (Coefficient of Restitution) the ball velocity can be determined for various head weights.
 
Using the higher COR in todays drivers, it is interesting to see that the ball speed is a little less than the head speed if the head weighs the same as the ball. This ball speed goes up to 1.52 times the head speed if the club head weighs 8 ounces (227grams) and only 1.66 times head speed if it goes up to 16 ounces (454 grams). And only 1.8 times head speed for a head weight of 256 ounces. Not a good return for the amount of energy needed to generate the same head speed.
 
Bottom line Chris, is that you need to start at about 7 ounces (about 200 grams) and tweak it each way until you feel comfortable. Unfortunately shaft flexes and shaft weight may interfere with your experiment and need to be accounted for in your comfort conclusions. After 400 years of experimentation (trial and error) we have almost got it right. So work on the shaft flex first, using the standard head weight.
 
Frank,
I just purchased a new club set after my last set was stolen. During the fitting process we spent a lot of time making sure the lie angle was correct for my new irons. My fitter used sole tape and ball flight methods to tweak the final results. When my set arrived I was somewhat surprised to see the lie angle and shaft length for my two hybrid irons (3 and 4), 3 wood and driver all appear to be 'off the rack dimensions' given that my irons have a Plus 2 degree from standard and plus 1/2 inch in length.
 
If lie angle is such an important part of the fitting process for irons, wouldn't the same hold true for the rest of the set, up to and including the driver? -- Wes

 
Wes,
The lie angle is important for irons especially as the loft increases. When your clubs have lofts less than 20 degrees they are not customized for lie or much else, either out of convenience to minimize the inventory, the manufacturing process or that it matters less with the lower lofts. Maybe all of the above. As you understand when you have an unfortunate lie on the course where your ball is substantially above your feet you must aim to the right because the lie presented to the ball is very upright and the direction of the line drawn at right angles to the face is pointing to the left. This is more so with more loft. A 2-iron will not need to be aimed as far right as a wedge from the same lie.
 
I sometimes find it hard to believe that we are advised by manufacturers to get exactly the right length and will sometimes be told that an extra or inch is required. This sort of customizing makes us feel good and special. But when it comes to drivers one size seems to fit all.
 
If your 6-iron is too long for you by an inch, how on earth are you going to hit your 5- iron, which when customized to be an inch shorter, is now the same length as the 6-iron used to be?
 
Bottom line, check your shaft flex for all clubs and lie angles for lofts above 20 degrees and dont be too concerned about the long irons, hybrids of fairway woods or the big stick.
 
Frank,
I am a left-handed golfer trying to correct a slice, if I use lead tape on my driver, do I put it on the toe or the heel? -- Sharon

 
Sharon,
As a left handed golfer your slices are from right to left. Applying lead tape is similar to correcting this by changing weights in the driver.
 
Before we go into any details you must know that if your slice is bad then a weight change is not going to do the trick. The weight ports in some of the latest drivers are for tweaking purposes only. Only a lesson resulting in a swing change can help a slice or hook.
 
For some of the better golfers who want to give the driver a draw bias, they will move the weights to the heel of the club. This does two things: First it makes it easier to rotate the club about the shaft into the impact zone. If you try to swing a club by gripping it at the head end it is easier to swing than gripping it at the grip end because the weight, when gripping it in a conventional manner, is farther away from the hands.
 
Second, by moving the weight to the heel one also moves the center of gravity (c.g.) toward the heel away from the center of the face. So when you hit the ball in the center of the face, the head will tend to twist about the c.g. and thus give the ball a little draw spin. This is the same as hitting the ball on the toe of a standard weighted head. This is called the gear effect.
 
You should know that for this phenomenon to be effective you need to hit the ball consistently on the same spot on the face of the club (not something most of us are capable of doing on a regular basis).
 
Changing weights is good to tweak a club as Phil Mickelson did at the Masters where he carried two drivers, as he didnt want to change his swing to give the ball a slight draw or fade, it just a little in both cases.
 
Weight ports are a good idea but not to solve swing problems. The same applies to lead tape.
 
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