QA Adjusting Lie Angles

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Editor'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,
You have helped golf so much; thanks.
I was told that by golf retailers, I should not try to adjust the lie angles of my driver or fairway woods. Some pros say they have done this. Why can you adjust irons but not woods? -- John

 
John,
Woods have less loft than irons and as a result the lie angle is not as important as it is for the lofted irons so you dont really need to adjust the lie angle. If you have the correct length, then dont worry about lie on the driver or long fairway woods. But another reason for the recommendation not to adjust the lie, is because the hosel is very short and in most cases a bore-through shaft, (a shaft which goes into the cavity of the head and/or through the head to the sole). You will probably damage the club if you attempt to make a lie angle change. Some woods can be adjusted a little and this should be done by someone who knows what they are doing, but it is not recommended.
 
Some pros have made some slight changes to their woods but they dont pay for their clubs and these changes are just tweaks. Hope this helps.

Hello Frank,
If you are to err on grip size, which is better, larger or smaller?
Thank you for your help, LK

 
LK,
I dont recommend you err at all. It is easy enough to get the correct grip size and most important is that you are comfortable. Only you really know what feels good and comfortable for you. Some of the best pros on the tour have smaller than recommended grip size even though they have fairly large hands. So if you are having a problem turning the club into impact then err on the side of a smaller grip.
 
The recommended size is, when gripping the club with the left hand (assuming you are right handed) the middle fingers are making contact with the meaty portion of the base of the thumb. This is a guideline and a starting point. Remember, feeling comfortable is always a good recommendation.

Frank,
Firstly, your columns and opinions are excellent and a must read. No one offers such an informed and balanced perspective. I could read your material all day long.

This spring I purchased a 460 cc driver (last year's model) from a very well known brand and am hitting it a ton. At 53 years of age, 270 yards in the air places me at heaven's door. I thought I'd try the fairway woods from the same model year, hoping to find the same gains there too. My problem is that I can't get anywhere near the improvement with the fairway woods as I can with the driver. At $250 per club Canadian, that's a lot to shell out for little in return.

I understand the technology gains that are built into today's modern drivers. The proof is clearly there. But I wonder whether the fairway woods have really improved that much. Amazingly, my old titanium fairway woods from the same manufacturer look almost identical, even though they are 5-7 years older. The head sizes are about the same and the shape is very close.

Am I right? Have improvements to fairway woods been much less significant? If I hit a 5-wood 200-210 yards, a new model has to give me all of that and more. Otherwise I'm better off saving my money.

Are improvements in fairway woods mostly hype? Are buyers getting taken for a ride?

Thanks Frank. Keep on writing!
 
Phil Burden
Vancouver, B.C

 
Phil,
First, thanks for the kind comments. Second you are right; technology has not affected fairway woods as much as it has drivers. The reason for this is relatively easy to understand. If you read my simple explanation of COR (Coefficient of Restitution) on my site - FranklyGolf.com - you will better understand that this is the advance in technology which has given drivers such a boost in distance.

One of the reasons why this has been possible is because of large heads and the size of the face which acts like a trampoline. The larger face (a little more than two inches in height) the more efficient the trampoline. And because the sweet spot is in the middle of the face, to make good contact with the ball it must be teed up.

As it is not permissible to tee up the ball in the fairway (for most of us) the face height is smaller to make sure that sweet spot and the low center of gravity are in line with the contact point on the face. For this reason it is hard to design a very efficient trampoline in the smaller profile on fairway woods. Also there is less reason to seek more distance off these clubs. With your drive of 270 + yards you should be able to reach most par 5s with your existing 3-wood.
 
Dont be sucked in with promises of significant improvements in distance with the fairway woods.
 
Fairway woods and irons have not changed significantly in the last ten years other than the introduction of the hybrid.
 
Glad you have found a good driver but even technology in these clubs has almost come to an end so hang on to what you have and use the extra cash for lessons.
 
Frank,
Do you feel that average golfers 12-24 handicap would be better served by graphite shafted irons? I am puzzled by the slow acceptance of graphite in irons. Since pros and low handicappers overwhelmingly choose steel, are higher handicappers following their example to their own detriment? Or is it that the advantages in irons are not enough to offset the extra cost. -- Pat Gilmore from Omaha

 
Pat,
Graphite shafts have a place in your bag as they are lighter and will allow you to swing the club at the same speed with less effort.
 
If we swung a little easier with our steel shafts we would probably perform better anyway but the physics is there, which will allow us to benefit from using a good set of graphite shafts. I think the pros will be moving toward graphite in the future but slowly. They are so good that they dont need too much more help. I believe that Scott Verplank is using graphite shafts in his irons as are a number of senior players.
 
Having said this I must warn you that any major improvement will be a result of a comfort thing more than a major advance in actual distance from the physics point of view. So dont expect to lower your handicap by five strokes just because you change to graphite. You may improve because you have more confidence in your swing rather than a performance difference because of shaft properties.

The swing feel is all important and graphite may improve this.
 
I suggest that you try this out for your self if you have the opportunity to test two similar flex shafts one of graphite and the other of steel with the identical head. You should also know that most graphite shafted club sets are about to an inch longer than their steel counter-parts.
 
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