QA The Truth About Distance


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

I realize that on the surface this question seems to have little to do with equipment. However you have exposed the average player's ignorance in regards to our knowledge of how far we actually hit the ball and so I'm coming to you with this one.
I'm a single digit handicapper, currently a 4, which means that I'm often directed by the score card at the courses I play to use the back tees. The reality is that I only carry my driver 230 and the back tees on most courses in South Florida are over 7,000 yards. I notice that LPGA pros, who hit the ball on average around the same distance as I, have plus handicaps and the course that they play are set up at about 6,400 yards. I'm asking because my friends are always trying to get me to move further back and I end up hitting lots of 4 woods, hybrids and 4-irons into greens. I'd much prefer giving them a few more strokes and playing from a set of tees that gives me a chance to use all of the clubs in my bag.
I hope that you can educate us on this matter even if it is on the fringes of what you normally write about. -- Thanks, Rev. Kevin L

Rev. Kevin,
You have pushed my hot button on this one. Please review the report on Growing the Game which covers this issue at This is an analysis of 18,400 responses to our survey, which is part of our research to determine why golfers quit playing the game and what their preferences are about course design.
Unfortunately what you have experienced is a significant factor to be contended with when it comes to fixing the problem. Golfers seem to think they are not only better than they actually are but hit the ball farther than they do and as a consequence tend to play courses about 500 to 600 yards longer than suits their game.
It is good to aim a little higher and keep challenging yourself but the game is not only a personal evaluation of oneself but a form of entertainment at the same time. One should feel good and reasonably well satisfied after the game: not beaten up every time. If we would only play from a shorter set of tees (about 6,200 yards for the average golfer 12 to 20 handicap) we would not only have a more enjoyable round but also play in less time. The time it takes to play is the second most important reason given for quitting the game.
Rev. Kevin, suggest to your friends to move up a tee and when they lose fewer balls, spend less time on the course, smile a little more and are more excited than ever to come back again, ask them to spread the word for the sake of the game.

Dear Frank
I have a putter, center shafted and 35 inches long. I am considering cutting it down to 34 or 34 inches. How will this affect the loft or lie of this putter? -- Mark Johnson

Cutting the putter down will not affect the loft at all. As far as the lie is concerned if you were choking down on your putter before you thought about decreasing the length then this too will be unaffected. The lie on most putters is about 71 degrees which will satisfy most golfers if the length is correct for them.
It is good to have a radius on the sole of the putter (when viewed from the front) to accommodate slight differences in body posture or certain ball position preferences. This radius will also prevent the toe or heel of the putter from snagging when there are severe undulations and uneven lies on the green.
The trend is toward shorter putters and straighter arms so you are moving in the right direction.

All variables being equal, i.e., same length, same shaft, same ball, same everything, what would I gain and what would I lose if I changed from a 320cc driver to a 400 cc driver? Same question if I move to a 460 cc driver. -- Joe

Unfortunately all variables are rarely equal, but if they were and you hit the ball on the sweet spot every time, the 320, 400 and 460 will do the same thing for you assuming each club had the maximum COR allowed.
(click here for an easy to understand explanation of COR).
There is no relationship between performance and size if you hit the sweet spot each time but there is a difference if you dont. The bigger clubs generally have a higher Moment of Inertia (MOI) which is more forgiving of miss-hits.
The difference in performance between the 320 and 460 is not very much but we seem to want to believe that bigger is always better.
The reason why so many clubs are at the size limit is because it is there.

Hi Frank,
Do graphite shafts lose their flex or other qualities as time goes by? I have irons which came with graphite which I bought new in 1992 and was wondering how well they stand up over time. -- Joe, Charleston, S.C.

Graphite shafts do not lose their flex unless they have been damaged or badly worn. You dont have to worry about the shafts in your irons but I do suggest that you look into a newer set as yours are 14 years old. Even though technology hasnt changed very much in irons you may be better off looking around anyway. You will certainly want to look at a hybrid or two to replace your long irons. If you go to my website you will find the results of our survey in which we asked our Frankly Friends to rate their own hybrids and give us some information about which clubs they replaced. We also asked why they selected their hybrids and also their handicap range.
If you sign up as a Frankly Friend by clicking here we will alert you whenever we have this type of interesting information available and/or when our newsletter is published each month.
Good luck and dont worry about the shafts.
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