QA Tee Length Club Forgiveness

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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
 
Frank,
First I'd like to say that as an amateur clubmaker, I always enjoy your column and spots on TGC. I read your thoughts on the USGA's U-groove ruling, and thought about something that I hadn't considered: Tee length. Is it possible that the stupendous driving distances the pros hit the ball could be controlled by mandating a 1-inch tee? If so, that would be a marvelous solution to preserve the game. The PGA TOUR could hand out marked official spec tees to players at each tournament. I would think this would cause minimal impact to the equipment industry.
--Peter

 
Morris Hatalsky
Three-time Champions Tour winner Morris Hatalsky asks about graphite shafts in 'Ask Frank,' Monday, July 23 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (WireImage)
Peter,
Thank you for your kind remarks. With regard to tees (pegs, not the teeing ground), there is no reliable research that I have seen to support or justify the 4' length limitation the USGA has placed on tees. There is also no data to suggest that the distance pros hit the ball could be controlled by restricting tee length.
 
For many years, the standard tee length was 2 inches. Today, it seems to be 2 3/4 inches, either because it is what golfers feel they want or because it leaves more room to print the name of the golf course and the logo on the tee shaft.
 
I am not sure that the average distance on tour would be significantly reduced if a 1 inch tee was mandated by the PGA TOUR.
 
What I find amusing is that as soon as the tee length limit of 4 ' was adopted, many tee manufacturers decided to make tees 3.9 inches long because they mistakenly believe (or golfers incorrectly infer) that every time the USGA sets a limit it must be important, and that something close to the limit must be as good as possible.
 
A 4-inch tee is cumbersome to carry in your pocket and will easily pierce your leg, finger, or anything else that gets in its way. In order to use it reasonably, you have to insert about 2 inches or more of it into the ground, because an efficient tee height is just over 1 1/2 inches above the surface of the teeing area, positioning the center of the ball about 2 1/2 inches above the ground. Even the 2 3/4 inch tee tends to be 'disposable' or 'for one time use only,' as it is almost always breaks when you hit a drive off it because it's inserted so far into the ground. Golfers may think that an even longer tee will increase their distance, but skying a few shots will bring them back to earth (about 1 1/2 inches away) in a hurry.
 
Peter, I don't think a 1inch tee would do it. 'No Tee' probably would, but this won't fly.
 
Hope this helps
Frank
 
Does a golf club 'forgive' a bad swing, poor alignment, poor posture, and a bad grip? Wouldn't most golfers benefit more from lessons from their local PGA professional rather than spending money on the 'high tech' craze that's swept the game? I've tried several 'game improvement' irons in particular, but nothing works like hitting the ball in the middle of the club face on the intended line to the target. I always come back to the type of forgings I grew up with. I'm 60 years old and my handicap fluctuates between 7 and 14 all year long depending on how well I chip and putt. If these clubs are so forgiving, why haven't handicaps improved over the last 10-15 years? I enjoy your writing and your expertise.
 
Sincerely,
--John

 
John,
A forgiving golf club is one that will reduce the effect of an imperfect impact for those of us who do not always hit the sweet spot, but it will not correct a bad swing.
 
Unfortunately, no matter how much we believe in magic, there are few if any clubs that will make you swing better. The exception is a well-fitted club when compared to a badly fitted club - one that is too long or short (by several inches), too heavy (by several ounces), or too stiff. Notice that a club has to be extremely ill-fitted to make a significant difference.
 
Yes, technology has made some wonderful strides to help us enjoy our game a little more, and most of these advances have happened in the last ten years or so. We are all the same at times, in that we believe there is a little magic around the corner, something we can buy to improve our game and not have to work for it.
 
Buying a Formula One car will help us get around the track a little faster, but we really do need a lesson on how to drive it first.
 
You're absolutely right that most people who keep buying new clubs looking for magic would be better off giving a fraction of that money to their local pro for a series of lessons. Clubs today are more forgiving, but they can't provide complete absolution.
-- Frank
 
Frank,
Thank you for taking the time to give us this column of great information. Recently, I started playing golf again, and was surprised to see all of the game improvement equipment, everything was larger than the equipment I played in the early 90's. My question is, when aligning the super size irons and woods, do you actually align the ball to the middle of the club face or slightly off center closer to the player?
 
Thank you again,
--Wayne

 
Wayne,
Thanks for the kind comments, I do appreciate them. When it comes to aligning the clubface with the ball, it really doesn't matter where it is addressed, but it is vitally important at impact. There are a number of things going on just before impact that affect club head orientation relative to the ball; these are dependent on shaft flex, center of gravity (c.g.) of the head, MOI of the head, and most important your swing speed and all sorts of other stuff.
 
The head will droop at impact and have a completely different lie angle than at address. It will orient (square) itself differently depending on the MOI of the head relative to the shaft axis. It will present a different loft to the ball depending on the c.g. location in the head -- so trying to compensate with your address position is not a 'one size fits all' solution.
 
To avoid trying to deal with all the dynamic forces and their effects, my suggestion is as follows: Mark a -inch circle on the ball with a Sharpie. and position the ball so that the mark is where impact will occur (at the back of the ball opposite the target line and a little below center). Carefully note how you align your new big club (driver or iron) at address and see how this correlates with the impact point (mark) on the face after you hit the ball, using your every day (hopefully repeating) swing.
 
If the mark is in the center of the face then you have your answer; if not, try to make some adjustment at address to alter this impact position. This may help guide you in adjusting your address position to compensate for your swing dynamics and those of the new equipment, and/or at least develop some consistency in your setup at address.
 
I have seen some golfers set up to the ball, then start their swing from the top without addressing the ball or making a backswing (taking something from baseball), and this has been relatively successful. It is amazing how well the brain instructs the body based on some visual feedback, moving the club into the correct position to meet the ball most effectively. This move will be influenced by your experience with a particular club.
 
Wayne, you've asked a very good question, but it is really more personal and up to you to do some experimenting once you get used to the feel of the new club. Every new thing takes a little getting used to.
Frank
 
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