QA Importance of Putter Lofts

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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@thegolfchannel.com
 
Frank
I bought a new putter and putting on a recently dressed green, the ball started skipping 10 - 12 inch gaps and skipped 14 times before it made it to the cup. What actually makes the ball roll with less skipping and even though you have your own putter, is there a brand which will prevent this skipping?
Thanks,
Mike in Michigan

 
Mike,
Thank you for mentioning the fact that I do have my own putter, and if I may say so, it is a very good putter but even this will not affect the bouncing on the green which you describe.
 
Let me explain. As soon as the ball leaves the face of any putter with a couple of degrees of loft (essential to get it out of the depression on the green surface in which it always settles) it will first leave the ground just a very small amount with a slight degree of back spin. As soon as contact is made with the green surface the friction will cause the ball to skid and slide for a short period of time, it will then start rolling.
The distance from impact to when it gets pure roll will depend on how hard you hit it. As long as this process of backspin, skidding, sliding and then rolling is consistent for each impact at each speed, you don't have to worry about it.
 
Some putters are more consistent than others depending on the MOI (Moment(s) of Inertia), the center of gravity location and balance. But once the ball starts rolling with a certain speed and direction, nothing about the putter which struck the ball will affect its movement. The surface of the green will dictate the movement of the ball. In your case, the newly dressed green has a lot more bumps and ruts than you can see.
 
The only real chance you have to influence the direction of the ball, once it is in motion, is to talk to it and use a little 'Body English' as it approaches the hole.
 
For more on the Anatomy of a Putt, please visit Anatomy of a Putt.
 

Hi Frank,
Can you give me an easy low tech way to determine if my irons have the correct lie for me. I'm a 48 yr. old 14 handicap lefty. I have a very low shot regardless of the club in hand. It does get hard sometimes to get a ball to stop. My clubs are about 9 yrs. old.
Thanks, Pete


 
Pete,
I must tell you that the method to measure the lie angle is pretty low tech anyway but I will try to help simplify this even further. First the low trajectory you have will not be affected to any measurable degree by changing the lie angle, so don't expect this to happen.
 
You must, however, know that the correct lie angle is very important. If the lie is too flat then the line which is perpendicular to the face which should be pointing toward the target will be pointing to the right and the ball will go to the right and fade a little similarly if the lie is too upright then the ball will go to the left and draw. So lie is important and
probably the most important variable when fitting clubs. The next is the shaft flex, but we can discuss this some other time.
 
Now for the low-tech lie measurement method. Get a piece of 1/4 inch plywood, about 24 x 10 inches in size. Next get some Duck tape and attach a piece to cover the sole of your 6-iron, or the club you intend to measure, (an incorrect lie angle will create more of a directional deviation from the intended line with the short irons than the longer irons). Use a Sharpie
marking pen to color the duck tape so the entire sole is colored. Now using
the heel of the club or a hammer hit the plywood to create a small dent into
which the ball will rest.
 
Next, on the range (not in your living room) hit a ball off the piece of plywood with a full swing and check to see where the scuff mark is on the duck tape (assuming you made contact with the plywood). If this scuff mark is toward the heel then the lie angle is too upright and the ball should be going left if you have not countered this with a special swing maneuver. Do this a few times and if you consistently come up with a ball mark in the same spot (off center), and the ball is flying left for a heel scuff and right for the toe scuff, then find someone who has a bending machine and get it adjusted. A lot of big retail stores have an official lie board (not this Frankly Home Depot version) and a bending machine to make this adjustment for you. On the other hand if the scuff mark is in the center of the sole and the ball is flying approximately where you intend it to fly
then no bending is necessary and you have saved some time and perhaps some money, and can be proud that even you have been able to check the lie angle for yourself. How much more low-tech can you get?
 

Frank,
Thank you for the information you provide on the Golf Channel site and your own website. It is helpful because I am becoming confused with all the new equipment being introduced and all the technical stuff they talk about. My question is; why do some of the new big drivers not have grooves on the face?
Mark Vester

 
Mark,
The reason for this is twofold. First drivers don't need grooves as these markings play no part in the spin off a clean, dry, low lofted surface. Second and most important is the fact that the face is so thin that cutting grooves into the face will weaken it, especially in the sweet spot area where there is maximum flex during impact.
 
You will notice that many clubs have a good size area in the center of the face left un-grooved.
 
The durability of even these new clubs depends on how hard you hit them. A head speed of 120 mph is considered a hard impact and at this impact speed, all on the sweet spot, you can expect the club to last for something less than 10,000 impacts. At this point or earlier the face will start flattening and the COR will start going down.
 
So don't get the face of your driver grooved.
 
Frank,
Let's be Frank about this, is the Driving distance the pros hit the ball
going to continue to increase as it has in the past? And why do I not seem
to be hitting the ball any farther?
Larry Schneider

 
Larry,
The second question is easier to answer than the first. You do not swing the club as fast as the pros do and probably like me, do not hit the sweet spot as often as they do.
It requires at least these two things to get the distance they do.
 
Now for the first question. The average driving distance on tour was 255 yards in 1968 and this kept increasing at a rate of about 1 foot per year for almost 30 years. In 1995 Titanium was introduced because manufacturers were having structural failures in the steel drivers. The heads were getting too big and the shell thickness of this hollow structure was too thin.
 
This change in material resulted in the unexpected bonus of a spring-like effect. (see Frankly Speaking at www.franklygolf.com for more information about COR)
 
Even though I wrote into the rules in 1984 that a club shall not have a spring like effect the USGA (under legal pressure) permitted it. This change allowed the ball to spring off the face faster and with less spin and with the newer ball construction allowed the pros to approach the optimum launch conditions which are high launch angle and low spin. This was never available to Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer with the equipment they had. This in turn increased the average driving distance by about 7 to 8 feet per
year. The driving distance jumped from 265 to 288 yards in less than ten years. I am pleased to say that there are some limiting Laws of Nature which are coming into play and we will only see more distance from increased club head speed. This is a matter of athleticism which needs to be earned not purchased as has been the case in the last ten years.
 
The pros have gained the most from these advances but this is now flattening out. Hard work will now be required to gain more distance.
 
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