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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
 
Frank,
I believe that the PGA Merchandise Show is becoming nothing more than a high handicapper's convention, and the better golfer (10 handicap and on down) is being left behind. All you hear is about how the weight is being shifted lower and to the rear of the club face (I know the market is higher handicappers since they make up more of the consumer market). Can you give me a preview of some innovations for the single digit handicappers in the coming year - especially in regards to irons?
 
One other question:
I currently play the Nike Forged Blade irons (2-PW), and even though you'll disagree with me, I know theyve helped my game and made me much more accurate. However, I'm considering a move to the Callaway X-Tour irons (2-PW). I hit these irons higher and much farther - I'm at least a club longer in this set. One thing I've noticed with cavity back irons (game improvement sets especially) is that though the ball is easier to get in the air, you can't work the ball as easily and yardage control is nowhere near as pin-point as with blades. I am worried that though the X-Tour irons are of a forged construction, the added distance will affect my yardage control. I am a 5 handicap, and this technology phenomenon has interested me for some time. Can you provide me with some insight?
--Eric

 
Eric,
The PGA Show is meant to be where manufacturers exhibit their new lines for the year and take orders. This year was my 38th show, and yes, it has changed quite a bit. The clothing lines have taken over, and I believe the show is good for them.
 
Because manufacturers are now introducing new models up to three times during the year, the show is not as enlightening as it used to be from an equipment point of view. Also, the larger retail outlets are starting to dominate in retail sales. It is inevitable that those outlets will concentrate on the higher handicapper, as he/she makes up a major part of the golfing population. Only 6% of male golfers have a handicap of 5 or less.
 
When it comes to innovations in irons for you, things havent changed much, so dont look for any magic. The Nike blades you have will behave a little differently compared to the X-Tour youre thinking about because they are inch shorter and the loft is two degrees more. For example, the Nike 6-iron has 33 degrees of loft and is 37.25 long; the Callaway X-Tour 6-iron has 31 degrees of loft (the X-20 Tour is even stronger, with 30 degrees of loft) and 37.5 inches long. This could explain the difference in the distance you are experiencing. The center of gravity is also a little lower for the X-Tour clubs. Because of the higher MOI for the X-Tour, you may find, as you say, a little more difficulty in working the ball than with the Nike blade. Most of the really good golfers select blades for this reason, and also because their performance ceiling is limited by game improvement clubs. These forgiving clubs make some bad shots feel reasonably good, so they wont provide the feedback when you miss it. This tends to make the golfer complacent and reduce the incentive to improve. For most of us this is OK, but for the very best being precise is essential.
 
As a low handicapper you will not benefit as much as a high handicapper from using some of the latest square headed drivers which are designed to be forgiving for off-centered impacts of some significance. Test these for yourself to determine if they have a place in your bag. For more on square drivers please visit my latest newsletter by clicking here.
 
Hope this has reinforced your intuitive and sound beliefs.
--Frank
 
Aloha Frank,
When Im at the range hitting balls -- especially with my driver -- I notice the ball seems to have a slight fade. But when Im on the course, my game ball (3-piece) has a draw. Can you tell me why this happens? I dont feel like I change my swing from range to course. Because of the different flights between balls I mostly work on tempo and contact while on the range.
Any info would be great.
Mahalo,
Ed

 
Aloha Ed,
There is no good reason for this to happen. Check your set up and/or the prevailing wind direction on the range. You might also try working on your tempo on the course and see if this does anything to solve the problem.
 
To make sure the ball is not the determining factor, I suggest that you play a round with range balls. First tell the pro -- and anybody else who might shoot you for using range balls on the course -- that youre conducting an experiment. Warn your golfing buddies about what youre going to do. If youre still hitting a draw on the course, you know its not the ball. Personally, I think my handicap is about five strokes better on the range. It may be those racing stripes on the ball. Let me know what happens.
--Frank
 
Hi Frank,
I really enjoy your segment on your game night. I have a complicated problem that I hope you may be able help me to dissect and analyze.
 
Two winters ago I fell on my left wrist and it was diagnosed as re-aggravating a break that occurred some years ago. I can still move it in all directions, but not as much as my right hand. Prior to that, I was playing to an 8 handicap.
 
Around that time, I got an equipment and swing analysis as well as couple of lessons. The instructor determined that my grips should have a little larger diameter and my lie angle should be adjusted upward, since I was hitting the ground with the toe of the club.
 
Shortly after getting my clubs adjusted, I developed a case of the shanks. Out of around 100 balls I hit in one practice session, I shanked about 35 of them. Naturally, I was going out of my mind. What did that instructor do to my game? I compensated and corrected the problem by flipping the wrist a little quicker though the impact zone, and while the shank still showed up here and there, I pretty much got used to the equipment or wrist position I had. Two years later, though, things are still not quite right, and Im searching for the cause.
 
I put back my old size grips on all my clubs and returned the lie angle of the irons, even though I'm still hitting it off the toe of the club. I did this to get back to square one. I knew from past experience I shouldnt change more than one variable in my equipment at a time, but decided to try the changes anyway. Im still recovering.
 
What happened? Could the wrist injury cause my clubhead to hit with the toe first because of the range of motion limitation? I don't seem to have a big problem with pushing the ball right, though it does go that way more than before; my previous ball flight was more of a slight draw to straight.
 
Please help,
Mike

 
Mike,
There is no way that I am going to even think about solving your shanking problem. Even typing this S word is bad for my psyche. I can say that theres no reason the equipment changes or injury should cause you to sh sh you know, that bad shot. Beyond that, I can probably help you with the grip size issue and the lie angle.
 
Because of your injury, you now have a new swing, and that means you need to do some recalibrating. Grip size first: make sure you feel comfortable when gripping the club. If it feels too big then it probably is. A thicker grip will reduce the wrist rotation slightly as youve surmised, and it will leave the face a little open at impact. Once you have selected a grip size that feels good to you, check the ball flight; if its to your liking then youre in business. If its off line, then check the lie angle using a lie board. If the scuff mark is in the center of the sole then the lie is correct. You can, however, influence the flight by changing the lie to be more upright for a more right to left flight and vice versa for the left to right flight. Once this has been done, then get a good teaching pro to look at your swing if the S word still happens too often.
Hope this helps
 
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