QA Does a Driver Lose Its Pop

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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
 
Frank,
 
Billy Mayfair
Billy Mayfair speaks up in 'Ask Frank,' Monday, Oct. 29 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (WireImage)
Two of my golfing buddies think drivers lose their pop after a certain amount of time. They've come up with some possible causes but aren't really sure (loss of trampoline effect due to metal fatigue, or the shaft loses flexibility).
 
Would you expect a driver to lose distance over the span of about a year (assuming the golfers swing doesn't change)?
 
Thanks,
--Iver

 
Iver,
 
If we are talking about one of the Biggest BigIR17XQuin Sasquit Ti/Comp drivers or even one of the standard versions that have been around for a few years, all of which are designed to the limit of COR (trampoline effect), and your swing speed is in the normal to high range (85mph to 105 mph), then you should not be concerned about it losing its POP.
 
Im assuming that the club head and shaft are not production anomalies that should have been rejected on their way through the quality control department, and that the club is otherwise designed to specifications. If it is from a reputable manufacturer, then it should last for at least five years under reasonably heavy use. This means playing 30 to 40 rounds of golf a year and going to the driving range about once a week.
 
The face will not lose its pop -- i.e., resilience or ability to spring back during impact. The shaft will not lose flexibility in any gradual manner. When a graphite shaft fails, it is a catastrophic failure that ends up with the grip still in your hands but the head somewhere in the bushes or down the fairway. The fatigue properties of shafts are very good. Even steel shafts made of high strength steel will not lose their oomph.
 
You can test to see if a driver face has started to collapse. Place the straight edge of a credit or business card against the face. The face should have a noticeable bulge and roll (i.e., be convex). If the face is flat and a little concave, then you do have a potential problem. Nowadays this is very much the exception, though that was not the case in the very early days of titanium drivers.
 
Iver, I think your buddies need to do a little deeper self-examination of their swings if they believe their clubs are not working as well even though their own efforts havent changed. There is no sound technical evidence that will let them off the hook.
 
It is amazing how well a driver works for the first several weeks (or even months, depending on how much you paid for it). I find a new club improves my game right up until the point when my mind, which has lulled into the belief that all is right in the world of golf, reawakens and starts to interfere with my swing. This is a real phenomenon known as the Placebo Effect, experienced by even the very best players.
 
I do not believe it is the club or shaft that has lost its pop, but rather the depletion of the magic powers most new drivers have designed into them.
-- Frank
 
Frank,
 
I really enjoy reading your Q&A every week, so please keep it going. My question relates to the effect that air temperature has on ball flight. I've noticed that a 20 degree F difference in temperature can substantially affect the distance on my shots. In some cases, I've even found this when playing on consecutive days when the temperature is very different, I need to be careful about club selection. How does temperature impact the ball? Is there an ideal temperature range that golf balls are designed to be played in?
 
Thanks,
--Brendan

 
Brendan,
 
Many golfers -- even the pros -- don't pay enough attention to the air temperature when selecting a club for a particular shot. The ball temperature also affects its resilience properties, but not as much as the air temperature. As air temperature increases, the air becomes less dense, and this is why it is more difficult for airplanes to take off on hot days than cold days. The lift forces are reduced in hot (less dense) air, as are the drag forces -- and the overall effect is that balls will travel farther on hot days than cold days.
 
A general rule of thumb is to estimate a 2 to 2.5 yard difference for every 10 F. So at 40 F, the ball will travel about 10 to 12 yards less than at 90 F. In combination with your decreased body temperature, which will have some effect on your swing, this could add up to something significant -- at least one to one and a half clubs difference in your selection. Hope this helps warm you up for the next cold day on the course.
-- Frank
 
Dear Frank,
 
Thanks for the great column each week. I am using an 11-degree Big Bertha 460 driver with a regular flex shaft (off the rack stuff) and I fight a pretty pronounced hook several times per round. I went to a local golf shop with the idea of trying a Titleist 907 D1 which has a straight face instead of the 1 degree closed Callaway. One of the staff at the store suggested that I try a stiffer shaft. I haven't had my swing timed in a while, but as I am almost 60 years old I would guess I'm somewhere in the low to mid 80's. Would the stiffer shaft help the hook? What might be result on the shots where the hook doesn't show up? Also, as you suggest, I grip down on the 45' shaft since I'm only 5'7' tall. Does gripping down affect the stiffness of a shaft? Thanks for any light you can shed on this tunnel.
--Mark

 
Mark,
 
First, thank you for your kind comments about the column. I am pleased to see you are using an 11 loft on your driver. Most of us dont appreciate how much of a friend loft is. I am not as pleased to hear you are using a closed-faced driver. I believe that if we have a swing flaw, it is better to try to change our swing than to find a band-aid to compensate.
 
Unfortunately, most manufacturers know that golfers want to buy a fix rather than work on it, so they generalize and assume (rightly in most cases) that golfers who need more loft are less skilled and generally slice, so they design closed faces for clubs with lofts higher than 10 or 11 degrees.
 
The fact that you are, in general, hitting the ball straight except for the occasional but pronounced hook means that there is a lapse in your swing and/or you are on the edge of a hook at any time. If you are going to be erratic, it would be better that the norm be straight with an occasional draw and fade. If the shaft is too flexible, then when you do lose it on occasion, the ball will generally go left (assuming youre right-handed). So a stiffer shaft may help, as will a straight-faced driver.
 
You should also get a shorter driver rather than continuing to grip down on the shaft. If the occasional hooks come when you are tempted to grip the drive at its full length, then you have the answer. When you do grip down, the effective stiffness of the shaft increases, but not enough to worry about.
 
Bottom line: move your normal drive (with the occasional draw or fade) toward the center line of the fairway by using a shorter driver and a straighter face angle. A stiffer shaft may help, but for your swing speed an R shaft should be fine. Stay with the 11 loft, and if you have a chance to get a swing check up, do so.
 
By the way, a straight drive is generally more efficient with fewer energy losses, so it will go farther. A draw is sometimes the result of a toe impact; the toe is generally traveling faster than the heel or the sweet spot, so you may gain a little more ball speed with a lower flight. This does on occasion result in a little more roll and overall distance.
 
I hope this is a tunnel lighting answer.
-- 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