QA Distance is No 1

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Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Dear Frank,
 
I have lost distance with my driver as I approach 60. My swing speed is 90-92 and I am using a Ping G5. Am I swinging too slow to benefit from the trampoline effect, and if so, is the softer face hurting my distance? Should I be using an old-fashioned 'hard-faced driver? Thank you
-- Craig

 
Craig,
 
It seems the number one thing we all want is distance. Some manufacturers are now increasing the length of drivers to help give golfers what they want, without concern for the effect this may have on accuracy. I have suggested that a snakebite kit should be included with these new $500 drivers, just in case we encounter a vicious reptile while looking for our stray-but-tremendously-long drives.
 
One straight big boomer gives bragging rights for some time, and we seem to treasure it more than a reasonable score. We also treat our best drive (or five-iron, for that matter) as our normal distance for the club. How many times do we pull the five when we should be using a four or hybrid, just because one time in the past we hit the five 170 yards? Thereafter every 170-yard shot sends a message to our ego-befuddled brain to pull the five.
 
Sorry about this, Craig, but I had to get it off my chest. Now for the real answer: You are certainly not swinging too slowly to benefit from the spring-like effect. At your swing speed of 90 to 92 mph, you are a very good candidate to take advantage of this phenomenon to its max. All the big titanium drivers you will find in any retail store have the maximum COR (Coefficient of Restitution) and almost as much forgiveness (MOI) as is available. (Go to my site and click on Equipment and then Useful Articles to find an easy explanation of COR, MOI, and all sorts of other fun stuff at www.franklygolf.com. While youre there, sign up as a Frankly Friend to get alerts when other good stuff is available.)
 
When you start losing distance, in most cases it has nothing to do with equipment other than the kind you were born with. Stretching and flexibility exercises will increase your range of motion and increase head speed (not yours but the club heads) by as much as 5 mph. This will give you more distance than any new club you can buy.
 
Even if your swing were substantially slower, the thin-faced drivers wouldnt cost you distance, they simply wouldnt help you as much as they would at higher speeds. Theres no need to move backwards in technology as you lose speed; give yourself all the advantages that physics allows, both in distance and in forgiveness. The Model T Ford was great in its day, but it just wont hack it now. Dont even think about it.
 
Have faith and stretch a little every day; you will be surprised what it will do for you and your game. Sixty years old is not good for football, but not at all bad for golf. You still have a lot of time for fun on the course.
-- Frank
 
Frank,
 
The rules for conforming equipment are not always crystal clear. Nor is the reasoning for them. Why is it a big deal for there to be a minimum of 1 1/2' between grips when using a putter with two grips? It seems much ado about nothing. But I could be mistaken.
 
Thanks for your column too, Frank.
-- Glen

 
Glen,
 
I am glad you enjoy my column. The issue about the spacing between putter grips is interesting and relates to another part of the same rule in Appendix II, Section 3 Grip.This states in part that '(t)he grip must not be molded for any part of the hands' and '(g)rip must not have any bulge or waist.'
 
Unfortunately, when I rewrote the rule in 1984 I did not contemplate two grips on putters. In 1992, I added that two grips were permitted for putters, and used as a guideline a separation of 1.5 inches. I considered this sufficiently large not to create a waist into which you could place (wrap) your finger to assist in exactly positioning your hands on the grip ' i.e., to keep it from being 'molded for the hands.'
 
Subsequently this guideline has been incorporated into the rule, and without it we would be allowing a waist and perhaps eventually have to accept molded grips as well. I don't think molded grips (really molded) are good for the game, though they are good for beginners to get the feel of a specific recommended way to hold a golf club. Sometimes the rules don't make sense and we need to address these from time to time, but this one ' even though it seems odd by itself -- can be considered a block in the road to prevent other bad things from happening.
 
I hope this makes some sense.
-- Frank
 
Frank,
 
Is there an advantage to using a heel-shafted versus a center-shafted putter other than personal preference? I have been told that it has to do with which eye is dominant to the golfer. Any putting help is greatly appreciated.
 
Thanks,
-- Larry

 
Larry,
 
Ive heard suggestions that there is a difference between using an offset putter vs. a non-offset putter, depending on left- or right-eye dominance, but Ive never seen any real evidence to demonstrate that it makes any measurable difference. From my experience, the shaft location -- center or heel mounted, offset or non-offset -- is very much a matter of personal preference.
 
In some offset putters, you might see more of the orthogonal aiming line along the full length of the head (if there is one), but with a center-mounted straight shaft, the shaft itself will help in lining up. It is all about personal preference. In one of the center straight shafted configurations of the Frankly Frog Putter, there is a 10-inch line up the shaft which is a very subconscious reference line making alignment a little easier.
 
When it comes to shaft fitting, I have found that shaft length is the most important aspect for putters. Most golfers use putters that are too long for them. This adds to the source of error associated with the up and down movement in the stroke, resulting in inconsistent results.
 
If the putter is face balanced, it does not matter where the shaft is mounted in the head. If it is not face balanced, and the straight shaft is mounted in the heel or center, the rotation speed of the sweet spot may vary. However, once impact starts, the inertia about the various axes of the putter head takes over, influencing the movement of the ball on a mis-hit. The shaft plays no role.
 
If you are ever in the Orlando area, you may benefit tremendously by making an appointment to visit our Frankly Frog Putting Studio.
 
Hope this helps.
-- Frank
 
Fall for the FrogFrank 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@franklygolf.com