QA Thoughts on the Long Ball


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

With all the discussion lately of using a 'Tour Ball', I wonder about something. Wouldn't a dead ball, or slower ball be more forgiving, inviting even harder swings, rather than the opposite? (If you wanted to force players to be more disciplined with their swing, you might consider a 'minimum spin ball') If you can't hit the ball as far, you can't get into as much trouble, and in addition, a slower ball is less vulnerable to aerodynamic forces created by sidespin. Hitting the ball harder carries its own risks, and this is at the heart of course management. Penalizing a player who has developed a high speed swing seems unfair. Remember, it's harder to hit a 25 yard wide fairway at 300 yards than at 270 yards (about 4.7 degrees vs. 5.2 degrees). -- Steve, Philadelphia, Pa.

P.S.: My own expedient solution would be to plant bushes or build mounds to force players that hit really wild shots to scramble. Trees take too long to grow. Thick rough is penal, but today's players seem willing to risk it. But bushes provide an extra risk factor for the player to weigh when he's at the tee box. I do think trees are the best defense, because they can knock a ball down, but as I said, they take a long time to grow.


I, too, have a major problem with any talk about rolling the ball back 25 yards or even a 'Tour Ball.'
We need to set up courses for major events more strategically and this year at the U.S. Open demonstrated that this can easily be done without otherwise tricking up the course. We don't have ruin the course for the members for the intervening 6 to 10 years between championships.
As far as a dead ball is concerned I am not in favor of any sort of bifurcation of the rules with regard to different performance standards for equipment. This is impractical and not the solution.
I would like to draw your attention to the results of the most extensive survey ever conducted in golf which Frankly Consulting conducted as part of a 'Growing the Game' project.
Also see my article published in the Op Ed section of The New York Times at
I hope this will give you an insight as to my feelings on this subject.
Thank you for your concern.

Hi Frank,
One thing has always puzzled me. According to everyone, having your irons set for the proper lie is important, but hardly anyone talks about the lies for fairway woods. As you are often hitting the ball with a fairway wood as it lies on the fairway, I would assume that having the proper lie angle is almost as important as having the proper angle in your irons. But the only manufacturer that I have seen mentioning it much is Ping.
Also, I assume that because you tee up the ball when you are using your driver, the lie angle is not as important, but does not having the club at the proper lie when it strikes the ball impart a significant, disadvantageous spin? -- Regards, Randall Kido


It is very important to get the lie angle correct for your particular swing with your irons especially the lofted irons. When it comes to a loft of 15 degrees (average three wood) the lie angle being slightly off doesn't have much effect on the trajectory. As far as the other fairway woods are concerned these are also not sufficiently lofted to be affected by the lie angle so don't need to be adjusted and have been made to suit the average lie angle for most golfers. Probably as important, these clubs are not designed to be adjusted. It is a convenience to the manufacturer not to increase the inventory by an extra half a dozen different lie angles. The short hosel and, in many cases the bore through shafts makes it difficult to adjust lie angle without damaging the club.
As far as a driver is concerned the loft of this club is generally less than 15 degrees and thus the lie angle is not a major factor as long as it suites the average golfer.
Hope this helps.

Training Aids Clarification
Hi Frank,
Your Q&A section on The Golf Channel web site, you stated that the momentus could be carried in the bag because it complies with the rules regarding club design. Surely the momentus isn't compliant since it comes with a moulded grip designed to teach grip mechanics which breaks rule 4-1 b. Is this correct ? Roan McLeod, U.K.
Hello Frank,
I was reading an article on the conforming issues of the Momentus Swing Trainer and if you carry it during a round, it's to be considered one of the 14 clubs. I have one of the originals, with the large grooves and dots on the face. My brother has a newer one, which they did change the face. Now for the question. Supposing that my Trainer is not conforming and my brothers is, if we both carry them during a round of golf, where the trainer is the 15th club in both bags, should one or both of us incur penalties?
Now for a twist. Both of our swing trainers are the traveler models, which break down in the middle. You unscrew it and can stow it in a bag for traveling. If we were to break it down and carry it in a pocket of the golf bags, would we still incur penalties?
I play in lots of tournaments and this is the first time I had ever known of this issue. I would like to be within the rules of golf so your advice is welcomed.
Thanks, Jeffrey Portman, St Louis, Mo.
Is using a swing doughnut around the bottom of your club when you are in the middle of a round illegal? I typically use one on the first tee as a warm up.

But lately I have been thinking of doing it during the round to help keep my swing in the slot. -- Thanks, Bert McKeehen

Gentlemen - Ron, Jeff and Bert,
You and some other readers of my Q&As have asked very similar questions and I would like to clear this up. The issue is whether or not the club (training aid) has a head with which you can strike a ball. If so then it must conform to the rules and is counted as one of the 14 clubs. You may swing any conforming club during a round to keep warm, even if this is the primary purpose of the club.

If, however, it violates any of the equipment rules and you carry it then you are subject to the penalty of disqualification. So if the grip does not conform or in Jeff's case it is broken down into two pieces, these are both considered non-conforming clubs and if you carry either of these in your bag you will suffer the disqualification penalty for merely carrying the club even though you don't use it.
Bottom line is don't carry a club (training aid which can be used to strike a ball) in you bag if it doesn't meet the equipment specifications.
Bert, using a split doughnut shaped weight on your club during a round is a violation as is using a weighted head cover for the same purpose. But using two clubs to keep the muscles warm is not.
Hope this resolves any questions arisen from my previous answer.

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