QA Driver Blues Divot Talk

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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@franklygolf.com
 
Mr. Thomas,
 
I am a relative beginner to the game and a 15 handicapper. My natural shot is a slight draw, except with my driver, which is completely unpredictable. I hit everything from push slices to snap hooks with it, and I rarely hit a fairway. I have had it for about a year and have still not figured it out. Do you have any suggestions?
--Scott

 
Scott,
With a 15 handicap and a slight draw on your shots you are on your way to a lower handicap soon. It seems that only your driver is holding you back. There could be a number of problems I cant judge without seeing you, but I think what youre experiencing is the same thing many of us have gone through.
 
When it comes to pulling out the 'big stick' we are inclined to apply the big-stick mentality at the same time; GRIP IT AND RIP IT. This is most likely what is contributing to the erratic behavior of this club (bad shots are almost always blamed on the club, not the way we swing it). So first you should make sure youre swinging with the same power and tempo you use with the other clubs ' no less, but no more. If the driver continues to misbehave, then I would suggest that you try two things; check the shaft flex for your swing speed (it may be too flexible), and check the shaft length (it may be too long).
 
I have advocated the use of shorter drivers for some time. We have all been sucked into using longer drivers by manufacturers who know that we only remember the occasional long good shots -- distance is marketing magic ' and not the more frequent wild ones. For this reason, many of the standard drivers, 'The Big Sticks,' come with shafts that are as long as they can get away with. A longer shaft means more club head speed, but it also means less control. Think about it: You probably have all the control you need when you hit your 3-wood, because this club is a manageable length, not because it has attended a good behavior school.
 
Scott, try a stiffer shaft, and while youre at it shorten up on it about an inch or so. You may have to add a little lead tape to the club head, but try it first and then adjust for the weight. If you want to find out approximately what to expect, choke down on your current driver the next time you hit balls on the range and see if this fixes your 'big stick' problem.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
 
Everyone talks about how one needs a high bounce angle in soft conditions and a low bounce angle in firm conditions, but no one defines high bounce and low bounce. Consequently, my questions are, What is the range of bounce angles that would be appropriate for...
...a sand bunker?
...the fairway?
...a lie where the grass is an inch higher than the ball?
 
Also, is there a way of estimating by about how much the bounce angle is increased if the club face is opened a moderate amount?
 
--Jason

 
Jason,
Thank you for this question. It seems that we become so engrossed in talking about these things that we forget to define our terms so that everybodys operating from the same base of knowledge.
 
The bounce angle is the angle the sole makes with the horizontal when the club is in the normal address position and the shaft is in the vertical plane. This bounce on the club sole acts like a wedge (not the golf club) between the club and the ground, preventing it from digging in after the club first makes contact with the ground.
 
The bounce is generally only pronounced on the shorter irons. It will be about 1 degree for the three-iron, gradually increasing to 7 or 8 degrees on the PW. Some larger soled clubs that are designed to be especially forgiving of potential fat shots from the fairways -- so-called Ultra Game Improvement clubs -- have a radius on the sole that does almost the same thing as bounce.
 
I would recommend for most golfers that they have 14 degrees of bounce on the Sand Wedge, and about 8 degrees on the PW and Gap Wedge if you are going to be playing average firmness fairways, but no more than 6 to 8 degrees of bounce on the lob wedges. Too much bounce on the lob will cause problems off hard fairways or short firm grass around the green. For this shot you dont need bounce, which will literally make the club bounce off the ground and belly the ball over the green or into the cart girls soda collection on the next tee.
 
From 1 inch rough you should use the club you feel most comfortable with to cover the distance you want to hit the ball, taking into account that the grass will decelerate the club reducing the distance. Because the ball will generally be sitting on a cushion of grass instead of directly on the harder ground, bounce is not much of a factor either way.
 
When you open the clubface of a wedge, you increase the bounce effect by the same amount as the increase of the loft of the face. This is another reason its not a good idea to have much bounce on the Lob wedge, which is often used in an open position creating more loft(and even more bounce) than the degrees stamped on the sole.
 
Hope this helps and you are now ready to bounce into action with your wedges.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
After another terribly frustrating round, my buddy lamented (among other things) the fact that he does not take a proper divot. After explaining the basics about hitting down on the ball, I also added that we both play with wide-sole super game improvement irons that are designed to resist digging. For this reason, I myself have been pondering switching to irons designed for mid-handicappers. Is my reasoning correct, or was I just trying to console a dejected partner?
--JJ

 
JJ,
I dont think the type of the divot is as important as how the ball leaves the club face. Launching the ball well is all that counts. Taking a divot is more dangerous than not, because the chances of hitting the ground before you make contact with the ball is a real potential problem if you are taking any sort of significant divot.
Dont worry about the divot as many good golfers do not take much of a divot with the long irons. The irons you have should fit your needs so dont change unless you feel you are being held back-- not because of the quality of the divot.
Hope this helps,
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