QA Finding Extra Distance

RSS

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@thegolfchannel.com
 
Dear Frank,
I have been playing golf now for approximately one year and my average score is right at 100. Like most golfers I am looking for a driver that is easy to hit and yet can carry the distance off the tee box. I average 220 ' 235 yards with my present driver. Please help me find a driver to improve my distance. Thanks, Alan Bullock

 
Alan,
You are now hitting the ball about 30 yards farther than golfers of average ability i.e. 27 handicap golfers. The average male golfer hits the ball 192 yards but believes he hits it 230 -240 yards. Obviously there are some golfers in this skill range which hit the ball a lot longer than the average as there are some who hit it shorter.
 
Unfortunately if you are using one of the larger titanium drivers produced in the last couple of years there is little you can do to gain much more distance other than optimize your launch conditions.
 
If you are getting about 230 yards but not launching the ball at the optimum conditions then there is some potential to gain distance.
 
If you review my article covering this subject I am sure you will be able to gain a few extra yards. The article is published in this months Newsletter at www.franklygolf.com. I hope this will help you and others with the same question. Unfortunately there is no magic bullet: it is now all a matter of basic physics.
 
Spring to ball from shaft
 
Dear Frank,
Does the shaft flex or the kick point of the shaft affect the amount of spring imparted on the ball? If so, how? Thanks! - Juan Gmez-Canseco

 

Juan,
The answer is no and let me explain why.
 
It only takes about .00045 of a second from the time the club first makes contact with the ball to the time the ball leaves the club face, the two bodies have traveled only of an inch.
 
During this time about 1500 lbs of force is being applied to the ball and it will accelerate from 0 to 160 mph.
 
During impact the shaft may as well not be connected to the head. It is the mass, velocity and MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the head which dictate what happens to the ball and how it is launched. The shaft plays no part in how the ball leaves the face of the club.
 
Most of the twisting or vibrations you first feel from the collision between the club head and the ball are long after impact has occurred and the ball has already left the face and is about 1 foot away from the club.
 
The only thing that is important just prior to contact with the ball is the club head velocity, direction and orientation and the golfer controls this through his only connection to the head i.e. the shaft. The shaft is very flexible and deflects very little during impact.
 
It is the face of the club head only, with a little help from the frame of the face, which imparts the spring-like effect to the ball. This phenomenon is most often exhibited when using a large titanium driver.
 

Progressive sets
 
Frank,
What are your thoughts on iron sets that gradually change from cavity-backed to blade as loft increases? I have been told that this is the new trend, does it really work. - Christian

 
Christian,
This is a very good new trend because in a traditional set of clubs the longer and less lofted irons are more difficult to hit well, than the shorter irons. The reason for this is that the MOI (Moment of Inertia) is lower on the less lofted and lighter iron heads. To learn more about MOI visit my website by clicking here
 
In the past 25 to 30 years club makers have discovered that increasing the MOI of clubs makes them more forgiving of miss hits and have designed this into clubs designed for the average golfer. The pros hit the ball on the sweet spot more often than the rest of us and therefore dont need this forgiveness as much. We have listed about 300 types of clubs on my website into five categories of forgiveness or playability. This is the Maltby Playability Factor listing.
 
The thing is that as traditional iron head designs become more lofted in the short irons they get heavier and a little bigger and become easier to hit and are more forgiving and playable.
 
It is quite possible that most of us can use the same wedge Tiger uses but very few of us can use his 3-iron. So designers have made the longer irons as playable as possible and have progressively morphed these to a traditional design head for the wedges.
 

What to look for in wedges
 
Frank ,
I am a 15 handicap golfer and a little confused about wedges and what to look for. I am told by one friend that I need a Gap wedge and other golfing buddy that I need a Lob wedge. Who is right? - Rob

 
Rob,
I am glad you asked the question as it is something a lot of golfers want to know. If you read my latest Newsletter (click to read) you will not only see what to look for in wedges but also see what how our Frankly Friends have rated the wedges on the market today.
 
Below is a summary of what to look for:
 
LOFT: This is a critical component of wedge selection. It dictates the distances you are capable of hitting the ball with that particular club. So make sure that all your wedge lofts work together so you have a club for the shots you will be presented with on the course.
BOUNCE: Can be your friend or foe! Make it your friend by understanding that if you generally play in soft conditions you require more bounce on your wedges compared to hard conditions. Your Sand Wedge -- or that wedge you will most often use out of the sand -- definitely needs bounce to assist you in getting out of the bunker and this should be about 14 degrees.
LENGTH AND BRAND: All your wedges should be around the same length (anywhere from 35-35 inches). They should also be the same brand and model if possible. This will assist you with a consistent feel and performance off the clubface.
GROOVES: Make sure that the grooves are not worn down on those wedges you will be using to approach the green and where you need good ball control. The grooves on the Sand Wedge if used only out of the sand are not as important to keep in good shape as the rest of your wedges, because in almost every case sand is the interface between the ball and the club from a bunker and the grooves play only a small part.
 
Hope you find this useful.
 

Frank 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@thegolfchannel.com