QA Grip It and Putt It

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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
 
Hello Frank,
 
Chris DiMarco
Chris DiMarco stops by for 'Ask Frank' Monday, Nov. 5 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (WireImage)
When putting a short putt, I often 'choke down' on the putter, so that one or more of my fingers, are on the shaft, below the grip. Some players claim that it is against the rules to grip a putter in this matter. I have searched the USGA Rules and have not been able to find any such rule. What say you?
 
Thank you,
-- Bob

 
Bob,
 
First let me tell you that there is no violation if you grip the club with one hand on the shaft.
 
When I was proposing new rules or modifying existing rules, the object was to make sure the intent of the rule was unambiguous. If we could get away with this alone, then it was better to leave it right there and not be too specific.
 
Too many specifics invite innovators to find a way around the intent. If people understand the intent, then they generally know when it is being violated, and self-policing leads to better adherence than detailed specifications, which never manage to cover every potentiality or loophole.
 
When we did employ specifications to control the use of equipment, we tried to make it awkward to use the instrument in a manner that was not considered traditional, whatever that means.
 
Using a long putter standing upright, with the putter locked to your chest, is in the minds of some not traditional. To prevent this (as some would like to), it would be better to limit the length of the putter rather than to dictate how players may use such a club.
 
Once a putter has been approved, you can use it almost any way you want to. The limitations are that you hit, not push, the ball with the head of the putter. You must also have both feet on the same side of the putting line when your ball is on the green. This both-feet issue does not apply to any other stroke; you can make a chip shot between your legs if you find this easier than a conventional stroke in certain circumstances. Clubs are not designed for this type of stroke and it is awkward, but its not a violation.
 
There is no requirement that a club have what wed call a grip. Whatever portion of the shaft that is designed to be held by the player is considered to be the grip, along with any material added to it for the purpose of obtaining a firm hold.
 
Be assured that you can grip the putter however you wish, so long as you hit the ball and dont push it.
-- Frank
 
Hi Frank,
 
I was looking over some new wedges the other day and saw some powerful advertising raving about a new kind of deeper, sharper 'U' groove. I thought I heard that the USGA was coming out with new regulations that would mandate a return to 'V' shaped grooves. Would that render these new inventions as non-conforming? I don't want to buy a club that will soon be outlawed!
 
Thanks for the info.
-- Dave

 
Dave,
 
You have just pushed one of my hot buttons. Because some of the pros on TOUR are bombing the ball as hard as they can and dont seem to find the rough (light rough) much of a penalty, the USGA has proposed that the groove specification should be changed to make such wayward shots more treacherous.
 
A common-sense solution -- growing the rough a little longer and working on more strategic course setup for major events -- seems to be out of the question. One USGA senior staff member involved in proposing the change has answered the question about growing the rough by saying, That isnt golf. The rough isnt supposed to be a hazard.
 
With this type of thinking, I ask, can there be any sound justification for this proposed change, which would require 100% of all golfers to change their clubs because there may be a problem at the highest skill level (.001% of the golfing population)? Scores on TOUR have not changed for the last 20 years and remain at just over 71.25 strokes per round. There seems to be an awful lot of concern that driving accuracy has decreased by about 4% in the last seven years without affecting scores.
 
Unless someone shows some sound evidence that the game will be better off after this proposed change, I find it hard to endorse it as something we should expect or accept from USGA, the guardian of our game. It does appear, however, that there has been some reconsideration of the proposal, based on some further introspection and serious questioning from many quarters.
 
For a more detailed explanation of the proposal, see this link, which was part of my newsletter in March this year: Click here
 
Dave, dont be too concerned about your wedge, as even the questionable proposal carries with it a lengthy grace period for you and me.
 
Become a Frankly Friend and I will keep you informed.
-- Frank
 
Dear Frank,
 
The marketing departments would have us believe that each year there is a significant breakthrough in driver performance. I would like to know if, instead of continuing to use my Big Bertha ti 454 from a couple of years ago, I will actually see any improvement by changing to a new composite/Ti head. I very much like the Aldila NV shaft I use now and would have it placed in the new driver as well. Would I actually see a difference in distance and consistency, or is the only significant gain the extra profit for the manufacturer?
-- Bernard

 
Bernard,
 
I am sure that not everybody will want me to answer this question, but Lets be Frank.
 
Believe it or not, the Biggest Big Bertha produced in the mid 1990s was 290 cc -- and now your Big Bertha Ti 454 is almost twice that volume. The Biggest Big Bertha was one of the first titanium drivers with a spring-like effect. It had a spring-like effect (click for a detailed explanation) of close to the present limit of COR, even though the Rules explicitly prohibits this:
 
Rule Appendix II 5.Club Face a.General the face of the clubhead must not have the effect at impact of a spring..
 
This rule, which I wrote, was adopted in 1984.
 
To be fair, the manufacturer was not fully aware of the fact that this club had a spring-like effect. The big head was designed to make the club more forgiving, and steel was both too heavy and the face collapsed on impact when it was made too thin. Titanium was used as a substitute for the steel, and because of the thin and strong resilient face, it happened to have the effect of a spring at impact.
 
Subsequently, and after the rule was compromised but not changed to permit some spring like effect (i.e. no smoking -- but six cigarettes is OK), the manufacturers have perfected this phenomenon right up to the limit. This is what gives you the increased distance off sweet-spot impacts, in combination with better launch conditions and the new multilayered balls.
 
So, you may ask, where else can they go? As far as distance is concerned, the answer is, Nowhere.
 
They can, and have, increased the effect of this spring to a wider area on the face and increased the MOI (Moment of Inertia) to help those of us who dont always hit the sweet-spot. The improvement in performance is, however, small compared to what happened when changing from steel to titanium and the following five or more years perfecting this effect.
 
Bottom line: Your Big Bertha Ti 454 is a good club and there is really no need to change it at this time, especially in light of the fact that you have made good friends with this club and have found a shaft you like. I assume also that you are launching the ball close to its optimum for your head speed.
 
Good friends are hard to find, so look after them and treat them well and they will respond in kind. Bernard, dont let your Ti 454 know about this e-mail, it is just between you and me.
-- 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