QA Does Plumb-Bobbing Work

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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,
 
Does plumbing a putt really work? Some pros do this and some of my playing partners claim it works. I tell them that if they think it works, it works, but they are wasting their time. What is the truth?
 
Thanks,
--Fred

 
Fred,
 
I am glad you asked this question, as I have had the same conversation many times.
 
The answer is that plumb-bobbing a putt only works if you meet the following conditions:
 
1) First, the ground you are standing on and the entire surface between you, the ball, and the hole are on exactly the same slope (incline).
 
2) Second, that you plumb bob correctly.
 
The correct method of Plumb-bobbing is to make sure that the extended line from the hole to the ball is directly below the eye you are sighting with when standing with your legs apart as if to form an isosceles triangle from your two feet to your sighting eye. The putter is then supported at the butt end and allowed to swing freely, then viewed from the position where it is seen to be in a vertical plane. The hand supporting the putter is then moved so the ball is hidden by the lower end of the shaft. The hole will appear to be left or right of the upper portion of the shaft depending on the slope of the green. If right, then the ball will break to the right. The amount of break is indicated by how far away the hole appears to be from the shaft.
 
This method is not used very often even by the best golfers in the world. They do, however, see something that might help by holding the shaft up in a vertical plane. In some cases its simply the establishment of a vertical line that provides a reference to judge slopes and undulations on the green rather than just the hole-ball relationship. In other cases it may only be a pre-shot routine to calm them down. I recall seeing a golfer who won many majors holding both ends of the putter, presumably to provide a straight line between the ball and the hole and identify tufts of grass or blemishes on that line at which to aim.
 
Fred, you are right that if your buddies think it helps it probably will, but dont ask them what theyre looking at, as youll probably get a different answer each time.
 
Hope this give you a different perspective on this subject.
 
Frank
 
Frank:
 
When the women had their (British) Open at St. Andrews, the 17th Hole was changed from a Par 4 to a Par 5. Was this done for this tournament only, or will it apply when the men's (British) Open is played there?
 
In tennis, women have to win 2 sets in order to win a Singles Championship, while men need to win a third set to get that title. If similar changes are made in golf, do you feel it is fair when a woman wants to play in a men's tournament, such as the Masters?
--Ralph

 
Ralph,
 
You ask a very good question and one which could be very provocative, so let me tread lightly.
 
The 17th on the Old Course at St. Andrews has always been a par 5 for women.
 
One piece of information that not every golfer is aware of is that if a man and a women play from the same set of tees and shoot the same score every day, they will not have the same handicap. The man will have a handicap approximately 5 strokes higher than the woman.
 
This is because the course rating is different for men and women not because different tees are being rated. This does cause a problem when one is trying to compare skill levels between men and women based on handicap. It is a statement of fact that the average woman does not hit the ball as far as the average man, so the course rating system tries to take this into account by assigning different values by gender for the same tees. (Remember that your handicap is based on the difference between your score and the course rating, not the courses par.)
 
The most important thing about golf is that we enjoy our game and to do this we need to choose an appropriate challenge. In many cases, this means selecting the correct set of tees to play, which will not only allow us to attack the hole with some confidence but to return a respectable score, rather than fearing every hazard as a near-insurmountable problem. I believe you should play from a set of tees where par is a reasonably attainable score on every hole.
 
People played golf for hundreds of years before anyone thought to assign a par to a hole. Some of the best and most famous holes in tournament play are really half-par holes that can lead to dramatic swings with birdies and eagles as well as pars and bogeys. Think about the two par-5s on the back nine of Augusta National, or drivable par-4s like the 10th at Riviera or the 17th at Oakmont; their real par value for the pros is about a half-stroke less. At the Road Hole, 4 is a good score, whether you call it a par or a birdie.
 
Keeping track of scores above and below par is just a way of judging whos ahead in a tournament when the players havent played the same number of holes. At the end, all that matters is who has the lowest total. Lorena Ochoa shot a wonderful 287 for four days on the Old Course. It doesnt really matter if we call it 5 under par (with the 17th as a par-5) or 1 under, does it? The only important thing is that it was four strokes better than anybody else.
 
In the case of the 17th hole on the Old Course at St. Andrews, this is one of the most challenging and famous holes in golf. Changing the tee location would absolutely ruin the hole, so they decided to call it a par-5 ' which is how it played at some mens Opens, too, as late as 1960.
 
Referring to the last part of your question, I think that if a woman has the appropriate skills to compete and potentially win, she should not be discriminated against because of her sex. She should have an opportunity to play in any golf event she chooses once she fulfills the skill requirements. First, however, and most important to the woman herself who seeks this opportunity, she should be properly qualified and avoid being exploited.
 
I hope I have scored Par with this answer.
 
Frank
 
Frank:
 
Is there a weight restriction on drivers?
--Edward

 
Edward,
 
Thanks for the question. It is probably the shortest question I have had for a long time.
 
The short answer is NO. There is no restriction on the weight of a driver or any other club in the bag -- YET.
 
I say yet only because the USGA has not yet considered it something to control in an effort to show that they are doing something. There seems to be a movement to limit all sorts of dimensions and properties because they can, rather than providing any evidence that these limitations will be good for the game.
 
I have repeatedly asked for a definitive explanation of the problem the USGA is trying to solve by introducing new limits on equipment, and more importantly for some evidence that the game will be better off after they adopt these new restrictions.
 
Here are some of the things theyve restricted lately: height of a tee; size of the club head; MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the head of a driver; length of a driver (but not a putter). Theyre also considering a regulation on changing the size of the groove in the club face. All these proposals have their roots in an attempt to control the performance of Tiger Woods and his colleagues. Theyve been undertaken without any evidence that the hardship and undue effect each would have on the average golfer is justified. Specifying a limit on the weight of a driver would be equally pointless and equally unjustified.
 
We need to support the USGA and hope that it will review some of these rulings and provide some evidence that they will make our game better.
 
Frank
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank 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