QA The Playability of Blades


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

Hi Frank,
I recently purchased a set of 1995 Hogan Apex blades with the red line and the word 'forged' under the Ben Hogan. I hit them really well even though they are a small blade. Has there been much change over the years in blade irons? Would there be any advantage to looking into a new set of Apex clubs? -- Thanks, Dennis Sobolewski Monrovia, CA

If this is a semi cavity back iron and the red line is under the words 'Hogan' and 'forged,' it is the Edge GCD Tour model introduced in 1996 model. The company may have started the introduction in 1995. This is a good iron and more forgiving than some of the other models that Hogan has produced. If the red line is under the word 'Ben' and the word 'forged' under 'Hogan,' then it was introduced in 1978. It is a blade style and less forgiving than the GCD model.
If you hit your irons well then don't expect magic from a new set.
Yes, the technology has changed for the better in irons and they come in a range of playability factors. About 300 irons are listed on my site in different playability factors categories with suggested use by skill levels. See and search under Maltby Playability Factor. This is only a guideline.
Of greatest importance is that you feel comfortable with your irons and this will develop confidence. If you are happy with your present set of irons, then stay with them but it doesn't hurt to look around anyway. However, don't expect a significant difference in performance, as the technology in irons has not changed much, other than clubs have become a little more forgiving and are thus a little easier to hit. Check my website for some options to look for.

Dear Frank,
Due to a series of health problems, it has now been five years since I last played golf. I have a new hip and two 'stents' in my aorta. I am in my early 70s and I am anxious to get back to the game and need new equipment. When I played my last game, my handicap was 12 and I was hitting it long and straight with a titanium driver (which now matches my hip), 4,5,7,and 9 graphite metal-woods and graphite irons.

Please advise as I am anxious to place an order and get started. -- Thanks, Barbara Wright

Congratulations for getting through the health problems and even more so getting back into the game. Nobody can tell you that this game isn't one of the most addictive ever. Let's be frank, you will take a little time to get back to your 12 handicap, but don't let that affect you.
I would suggest that you start with your woods and get one of the newer titanium drivers with a high COR (see my website under 'Frankly Speaking' to learn more about COR). Most of the new drivers are at the limit so you don't have to worry. Choose a driver with a loft of about 14 and hang on to your 4,5,7, and 9 woods for now. Iron technology has not changed so much in the last 10 years, so these are still OK for a while. You should, however, try one of the newer soft core balls such as the Precept XP3, the Titleist DT Solo or Callaway HX Pearl.

When you get into the swing of things again then think about looking at some irons but you don't need them now. Well done and welcome back.

I have an average swing speed of 85-90mph with a driver. I am a 12 handicap. I probably drive the ball around 200 yards. I have stiff shafts in all of my clubs. It may be an ego thing that I just like the idea of having stiff shafts.
Do you think I am losing distance and/or accuracy by having stiff shafts rather than regular? Your insight regarding club and ball technology is the most interesting to see on T.V. and read on the web. Your information is a real help to many golfers. Thanks, Frank. -- Jeffrey W. Harris

Thanks for the kind words.
Yes, I do think that you are losing both accuracy and distance by sticking to a stiff shaft, which satisfies your ego but is not conducive to a good consistent swing. If the shaft is too stiff for your swing speed then you will find that the good shots are normally associated with a really hard swing. The rest of the time, and certainly when you get tired, you will be fighting your clubs to get them to perform. This creates tension and an inconsistent badly timed swing. Timing is more important to consistency and distance than almost anything else. So if you want to improve both accuracy and distance, use the correct shaft flex - which in your case is probably a regular flex. Try this out and put your ego back in the bag. Real men do use Regular flex shafts and find that their scores improve along with it.

Your advice re: shorter drivers is great and should be of prime interest to those who believe that longer shafts beget longer drives. In our group I have the shortest driver (43.5) and out-drive all but one guy and my drives are on the fairways.
My question is, do you think that Michelle Wie's wayward drives are because of the length of her driver? Also Tiger Woods seems to hit more drives that go awry than in his earlier days as a pro, when he was using a 43.5 inch driver.

Always enjoy reading your column and your answers on TV. -- Wilfred Ogawa, Kaneohe, Hawaii

I believe that Michele Wie's driver is 46 inches, which if this is the case makes it more difficult to control. I believe that Tiger was accurate and still very long early in his career with his 43.5 inch steel-shafted driver.
If you can have more confidence in your swing by using a shorter-shafted driver, you will swing better, have improved timing and gain all the distance you would achieve by using a longer shaft, which may not be so accurate. Well done to you, but don't let anybody know your secret.

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