QA Face Angles and Hybrids

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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

I am a 16 index. With a few exceptions, drivers for the average R-Flex guy like me come manufactured with a face closed about 2.5 degrees to 'help' us keep from slicing. Given this closed face angle, is it still possible to work the ball (especially a power fade) despite whats built into the club head? If the closed face angle is hard to fade (& draw?), would I be better off buying a driver that has a neutral (i.e. square) face angle, so I can work the ball better? I understand the pros use drivers with the face open about 0.5 degrees.

Best regards,
Stan


Stan,
The most common bad shot for the higher handicap and beginner golfer is a slice, which results from a bad swing. As you note, many manufacturers try to help these golfers hit straighter shots by providing a band-aid in the form of a closed-face driver. This doesnt really do the golfer any favors, since it locks him/her into this swing when the proper solution is to correct the swing in the first place.

If, for instance, a golfer with a bad slice buys a 3-degree closed (or more) driver and starts hitting the ball a little straighter with his bad swing, he may be happy until he makes a good swing and hits the ball dead left. Or he may decide to see a professional and take a lesson that will most likely correct his ailment, allowing him to get rid of the slice and hit the ball more efficiently and with more distance. Using a 3-degree closed face will then result in a duck hook. So hell have to trade in the old driver if he can, or be out $450 or whatever he paid for the band-aid driver, and then get a new one with a neutral face (+/- one degree).

You are quite right in your assumption that you should get a neutral face driver if you want to fade or draw the ball and are able to hit a straight shot at will.

I dont believe that any golfer should limit his potential by buying a band'aid closed face driver when what they really need is a lesson that will probably cost a fifth as much as that new club. He should then find a driver that will get the ball in the air at the best angle for his swing speed. This will be about 13 to 14 degrees for a swing speed less than 85 mph.

If the manufacturer of your choice doesnt offer a neutral face, then get onto the internet and find one who does. Most of the bigger drivers will perform similarly, so get the one with the neutral face and the shaft flex that best suits you. For swing speeds in the 85 mph range a regular flex shaft is a good first choice. For more on swing speeds and optimum launch conditions click here.

Stan, stick to your neutral-faced guns.
Frank

My question relates to ball trajectory. I recently switched to a 10.5 degree TaylorMade R5 driver with an Aldila stiff mid-flex shaft with a firm tip. I hoped to find the promised land of increased distance. Now my ball trajectory has increased to high-mid to low-high. The ball carries in the neighborhood of 240 to 260 but has little roll.

To reduce spin off the driver and add some roll to my drives, would I be better off changing my drivers current shaft to a high-flex stiff shaft to lower the trajectory, or go to a 9-degree loft with a regular mid/low flex point with mid-firm tip?

I am approximately 6 feet tall, have a swing speed of 90 to 100 mph with a smooth swing tempo and half to three-quarter backswing, and play to a single-digit handicap. I am 51 years and have been playing for 30 years.

Jack


Jack,
The first thing I would like to say is that 240 to 260 yards carry is very good for a 90 to 100 mph swing speed. This is something that most of us would envy. If you are not happy with the trajectory (i.e., its too high) and want more roll, then first try to tee the ball a little lower. This will increase the spin rate, which is not good, but will also decrease the launch angle. If the spin rate is not too high, then the trajectory will be lower and the angle of descent into the fairway will be less and you will get more roll. The carry distance will also be reduced somewhat, but this is to be expected. The next thing to try is the 9-degree loft if youre happy with the shaft you presently have. A stiffer shaft will lower the trajectory a little, but I doubt the difference will be worth losing the good feel you have with your current shaft.

The average roll on reasonably firm, flat fairways is about 25 yards, so if youre playing on soft fairways you shouldnt change a thing; you truly are doing about as well as you can given your club head speed.
Good luck and keep it flying.
Frank

Frank,
After reading this weeks question about hybrids, I had a question: Are hybrids irons or woods? Are there hybrid irons and hybrid woods? Could you explain the difference?

Doug


Doug,
A hybrid is a cross between a wood and an iron. They are starting to look more like fairway woods, but theyre still in a category by themselves. They are thicker from the face to the back than an iron, which positions the center of gravity farther back from the face. This does two things: it increases the MOI (Moment of Inertia) about the vertical axis and also on the horizontal toe-heel axis, though not to the same extent as a wood. This gives the hybrid wood-like forgiveness properties that are better than the equivalent iron, with a lower trajectory than a wood but still higher than the iron.

A hybrid is generally an inch or two shorter than the similarly-lofted wood, but to 1 inch longer than the same-lofted iron. This gives you more control than you would have with the wood, but it is still more forgiving than the iron it replaces.

I believe that we will soon start seeing a morphing/merging of hybrids and fairway-woods, as hybrids are still looking for an acceptable place in a real set of clubs and shouldnt be considered just utility clubs. Acceptance into an established family is not easy, but give the hybrids some time to adjust and snuggle in, and then all will be fine.

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