QA Judging Distance in the Cold

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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
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Last week, I answered a question sent in by Jim, asking if the time had come for two sets of equipment performance rules: one for the elite and tour players, and another for the common folk of golf (99% of the golfing population).
 
Within hours I was inundated with e-mails from our readers -- concerned golfers -- who for the most part support a single set of rules for everybody, but dont want to see restrictions placed on the equipment we use to address real or imagined problems caused by a very few.
 
If our guardians feel the guys on tour need to be reined in, there are ways to do it that wont change the performance standards of our equipment. However, if they insist on making such regulations, then our readers seem inclined to suggest that a separate set of rules may be required.
 
Some readers pointed out that there are already different playing rules for the pros. This is true, but most of these are local rules such as: the one ball rule; the conforming ball list; a five-minute grace period when youre late for your starting time; no practice on the putting green just played, as well as relief from T.V. towers and spectator stands which most of us dont have to worry about.
 
These local playing rules, adopted at the pro events, are different from the conditions of our games, but we dont worry about those. However, when the equipment performance rules are changed because of what the pros can do, and all of us may be affected, then we react differently and seriously consider whether its time to divide the rules. There dont seem to be any good options here for people who believe there should only be one set ' as I do.
 
It seems to me that if some reining in of the pros is needed, a less intrusive way would be to create a local rule limiting the elite competitors to 10 clubs, while we continue to carry up to 14. Nothing would change in how the clubs perform, but the pros would be challenged to perform similar feats utilizing fewer tools. I would also like to see strategic course setup options that would more appropriately challenge the best in major competition. This seems to be a better alternative than disrupting and rolling back the performance of the equipment and thus inviting us -- the common folk (99% of golfers) -- to call for two sets of rules.
 
Because this subject has become so provocative, I decided to get your opinions by providing a four question vote.
 
To participate, click here and give me your votes, and your thoughts if you feel so inclined. Next week I will summarize your input.
 
Thank you,
Frank
 
Frank,
 
I really enjoy reading your column. I have learned much about the science of the game while receiving some practical insights into playing and equipment. My question today revolves around the wedge game and how many wedges to carry. I am currently 52 years old, a traditionalist type player (forged, muscle back irons, pear players-shape fairway metals and drivers) with a 2.8 index. Just this year I switched from only carrying a 48-degree PW and a sand wedge of 56 degrees to carrying wedges of 48, 53, and 58 degrees. This combination seems to work well for me, but I am wondering if I should be carrying a 60 instead of the 58, or even changing my set configuration to a 51/53, 56, and 60. What insight and/or advice can you give me regarding the choices that would give me the most versatility in the short game? Thanks very much and keep up the good work. I hope that I get a chance to meet you in the future.
--Mike

 
Mike,
 
Thanks for you kind comments.Your question is one many lower handicap golfers ask me and themselves, because loft specs and set makeup have changed quite a bit over the years and the selection of wedges (the scoring clubs) has become more important.
 
As you know, what used to be a 9-iron (or even a weak 8-iron) is now a pitching wedge. This move away from the unwritten loft standard is about the only way (other than adding some length, which is also done) to create a marketable performance difference between irons. This has happened over the last 30 years in an effort to prove that one manufacturers iron set hit the ball farther than his competitors clubs. They did this by changing the lofts of the set (giving a 7-iron the loft of a 6, a 6-iron the loft of a previous 5, and so on) without advising the consumer -- but the Sand Wedge stayed at 56 degrees of loft, which is a good loft for a SW but now meant a gap of about 10 degrees between the unchanged SW and the reworked PW.
 
Pitching wedges are generally about 46 degrees today, and in the short irons (wedges), you want about 4 degrees between consecutive clubs. You say that you used to carry a 48-degree PW and a 58-degree wedge. The 58 is presumably your SW, so obviously with this 10-degree difference you have a gap that needed to be filled and the 53 was a good choice.
 
Remember that the SW is a utility club specifically designed for sand shots. It can be used in other situations but this carries some consequences; its significant bounce (approximately 14 degrees) increases to an effective bounce of 17 degrees if you open the face for a lob shot, and this bounce angle will do what a bounce angles are meant to do, i.e. bounce. Not what you want from a fairway lie.
 
If you feel the need for a lob wedge and are happy with the wedges you presently have, then get one with a 60- or 61-degree loft but low bounce, about 6 degrees. This club can then be used for the lob shots and do what your SW is not designed to do very well.
 
My advice is to hold onto the wedge set you have, which you say works so well, and add a proper lob wedge rather than trying to evenly space the lofts in all of these wedges.If you lob this one around in your mind for a bit I think it will land softly.
-- Frank
 
Dear Frank,
 
Thank you for you for your straight talk about equipment. It is really helpful to us amateurs to have an unbiased opinion when selecting equipment; otherwise it becomes which vendor has the most convincing salesmen. For example, every driver will enable you to hit it farther than every other driver.
 
My question concerns cold weather play - how to estimate how much distance I will lose as the temperature drops. If I can hit my # 3 Iron 180 yards in 85-degree temperatures, how far will it go as the temperature drops every 10 degrees?
 
Thank you.
-- Charles

 
Charles,
 
Before we get to the temperature thing, let me assure you that most of the drivers today have reached the limit as far as MOI and COR are concerned. As a result, they are all good, as long as you are close to the optimum launch conditions for your clubhead speed. So it has become something of a hype issue.
 
Some manufacturers are now trying to demonstrate improved performance by increasing the shaft length of their drivers. This is not a good move because a longer club is harder to control; this change does nothing for your score but quite a bit for your ego on that rare occasion when you catch it sweet and the club head and direction are as intended.
 
(See http://www.franklygolf.com/Speak/equip_articles.html for explanations of MOI & COR and other useful easy to understand technical terms).
 
As far as temperature is concerned you can expect a maximum difference of about 2 yards in carry for every 10 degrees F change in temperature. Colder air is more dense, so the drop in air temperature will decrease your distance. Ball temperature will also affect distance but not as much as air temperature.
 
Take an extra club for every 50 degreesdecrease in temperature.Hope this helps. Maybe you should just come to a warmer climate.
-- 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