QA Grooves and 3-Wood Woes


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
I purchased a 460CC Cleveland 10.5 degree driver recently . I have seen significant improvement in my drives both distance and direction. I've only been golfing for 5 years and at the ripe age of 61 I need all the help I can get. I'm curious why the manufacturers haven't applied the same technology and size to the 3,5,7,9,11 woods?Seems like the next logical step in game improvement.
-- Robert

First let me say that the answer is a short one: Because you can't use a tee in the middle of the fairway.
Let me also tell you that I have been asked (in some cases strongly instructed) by many readers to forgo my New Year's resolution of keeping my answers short and sweet.
For this reason let me expand a little on my answer and give you the reason why the woods you refer to i.e. 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 are not as forgiving and do not have the same 'spring like effect' as your driver. As much as the designers would like this not to be the case, there are some constraints based on how the club is to be used and designed to perform. We know that for maximum distance, we should use our driver, which is designed with the assumption that we place the ball on a tee. Because of this advantage, this club can have a big face to give you maximum spring like effect (COR = .830). Generally, the larger the head the more forgiving it will be because of the larger Moment of Inertia (MOI) and the bigger the face the more effective the spring like effect. These two properties effectively increase the size of the sweet spot and forgive many of our swing errors.
The original Big Bertha had a face depth (top to bottom) of 1.5 inches. The limit on this dimension is as big as 2.8 inches -- almost twice the size -- from the sole to the crown. This allows for a very effective trampoline face to give you maximum ball speed for a given head speed.
Fairway woods are designed to be hit off the fairway, which means that the center of the ball will make contact with a spot a little above 3/4 of an inch above the sole (unless we hit it fat). It is difficult to design a whole lot of 'spring like effect' that low on the clubface. In addition, you need the center of gravity (c.g.) of the head to be somewhere in line with the ball at impact. These restraints require that the heads be smaller or at least shallower. As a result, they will not be as forgiving or hit the ball as far as your driver. I do suggest that you look at including a hybrid or two instead of your long irons.
Hope this helps in a better understanding of the fact that we can't have it all.
-- Frank
I have a question regarding grooves on the face of a driver. I know that most drivers these days don't have any grooves in the center of the club, but some drivers that are a few years old (and are much less expensive :) ) have grooves in the middle of the face. I am curious as to whether the grooves are going to significantly affect ball flight and/or impart more spin on the ball? I hover around an 11 handicap with a comfortable driver swing speed in the 95mph range.
Keep up the great articles.
-- Mark

The only reason for grooves on the face of a driver is that this it is traditional.' In some cases it helps visually align the club head. The effect on spin is minimal and if anything grooves on a driver may reduce the spin rather than increase the spin. The reason why we do not find grooves on the thin-faced drivers today is that the face is so thin that grooves will introduce unwanted stress points weakening the face, which may lead to early failure.
The average force applied to the ball during impact, which only lasts for .00045 seconds is about 1,700 pounds. One can imagine what this will do to the thin face of the driver. One of the many major stress areas is the center of the face and because of this removing the grooves reduces the potential for it to collapse during impact. Removing the grooves from this area is a good thing to do, so dont be concerned that there are none in todays huge drivers.
Your real concern should be to find a head cover to fit these monster drivers. One good thing about the size of these big driver heads is that if you get mad and throw your driver in the lake it will float so you can retrieve it when you calm down without having to use scuba gear.
Hope this helps
-- Frank
Before I ask my question, let me tell you about my level of golf. I currently have a 9 handicap. On average I can drive the ball about 290 yds. I just bought a new three wood from my local golf store with a stiff shaft. My old three wood has a x-stiff shaft. My typical shot path with my old three wood is a slight fade (which is normal for me) but the new three wood has a real strong fade. I need to change my swing path to compensate for the strong fade with the new three wood which, feels like it is lagging behind at impact more than my old club with the x-stiff shaft. My question is; do you think I should have the x-stiff shaft in my new three wood? The sales person that sold me the club thinks the opposite, he thinks the new three wood shaft (stiff) is too strong and that is probably why I have a very strong fade. I cannot get a full refund so I would like too know for future purchases if you think the shaft in my new three wood is not strong enough?
-- Mike D

I think the first question I would ask is; why did you get a new three-wood when the old one seems to have been working well? Second, when you bought the new one why didnt you get the same shaft flex?
Answers to these questions would help in analyzing the problem.
Generally, a flight path to the right is indicative of a shaft flex which is too stiff. This may not only be an overall shaft flex problem but also a kick point problem. In your case, a lower kick point may help solve the problem.
If the shaft tip section was more flexible it would bend a little more just before impact which, for a wood, will increase the effective loft angle and close the face a little and result in less of a fade. The center of gravity location may also be very different between the two heads, which will tend to affect the head presentation to the ball.
With your average driving distance being 290 yards (a little more than the average on the PGA TOUR) you would have a swing speed between 110 and 115 mph, which would normally place you in the a Stiff or X-Stiff shaft flex range for your woods.
May I suggest that you find out, and compare all the shaft specs, as well as the club frequency, swing weight and overall weight for each of the two clubs. This may answer your question.
For your next purchase take your old club (the one that works) to the store with you and test and compare the new and old on a launch monitor before you buy the new one.
I hope the old year fades away and the New Year brings you some great golfing.
-- Frank
Frank Thomas new imageFrank 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