Your Equipment How Long


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

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Every week we will select the best question and Frank will send one lucky golfer a personally signed copy of 'Just Hit It'. Last week's lucky winner was Jimmy with his question about the differences between hybrids and fairway woods.
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How Long to Keep Your Equipment
Hi Frank,

Enjoy your column every week! I've seen your advice several times for people to stick with their equipment for a number of years as long as they are comfortable with it. And not to jump every year at the new technology. I can appreciate this and see your point. But I often wonder if you are making any assumptions as to how many rounds per year a person is playing?
In other words, I can see if someone plays only 5 times a year, that their equipment should last quite a few years. But what about for those of us who are lucky enough to play a little more often? We are lucky enough to get between 65-75 rounds in per year... plus who knows how many driving range sessions on top of that.
So are there any guidelines you can give us to how many rounds a driver, a set of irons, and the wedges can get before you start to see a deterioration of performance? Also factoring in say 1-2 range sessions a week as well?

This is a question, which I have been asked a few times, and the answer is not totally adequate for all situations for every golfer.
As far as your irons are concerned you don't have to worry too much about changing them every year in fact every two or three years should be fine. The only concern you should have is wearing down the face if you practice a lot, and play 50 or more rounds a year on very sandy turf. Most turf will not affect the grooves for several years.
With your wedges -- real wedges not today's PW which is actually a continuation of the set and has the loft of, and used like, a nine iron of thirty years ago -- you do need to pay some attention to the grooves. If you are a single digit handicap and have the ability to control the spin the around the greens with you 52 degree and 60 degree lob wedge, and practice a lot with these clubs then you may notice some deterioration in spin because of worn grooves after a year, especially if the soil on your course is very sandy. If you use your Sand Wedge out of the rough frequently then you should have the grooves checked every year because many shots out of the sand will increase the wear factor. If you don't use your Sand Wedge (generally 56 degree loft) out of the rough often then don't worry about it for three or four years. A bunker shot almost always has sand between the ball and the club face and thus the grooves play little part in the ball performance on the green from a sand shot.

If you are on the PGA Tour or think that you could be if you only had the time, AND have enough money not to be of concern then you can change your wedges, the 52 Gap wedge and the 60 Lob Wedge every year. The problem with doing this is that you will lose an old friend and the associate confidence and performance that new grooves may not be able to replace.
When it comes to your driver, this is not going to wear out unless you hit more than 10,000 drives at 110 mph head speed, on the sweet spot. This is about 400 rounds of golf.
You should, however check the face with the straight edge of a credit card every six months to see if it starts to become flat or concave. If so then it may be time to change. In most cases a perceived loss in distance has more to do with the swing than the club or just the fact that the magic is starting to wear off.
Have fun and keep supporting our game.
Retiring Golf Balls
I do not hit the ball very far and usually pretty straight. For these reasons plus the forgiveness of the course I play on most of the time, I can go many rounds, 5-10, without losing a ball.
When should I retire a ball and start using a new one?
Thanks and I enjoy your column.

It is good to hear of someone who can play 10 rounds without losing a ball. You must be on a course, which is appropriately designed for your skill level or you have decided to swallow your ego and play from the right (a more friendly) set of tees.
If this is the case, it is truly refreshing as I address this particular issue with some zeal in my recently published book Just Hit It. If more of us want to enjoy our game we need to tackle some of the issues, which are having a detrimental effect and discouraging new golfers from participating and existing golfers from playing more. Slow play, cost and the intimidation factor are the major deterrents. To be able to play ten rounds without losing a ball you must be enjoying your game. Also I am sure that from these tees you are able to par any hole with your best shots. Par should be achievable and if not move forward to the next set of tees.

I am sorry, for going on about some of the problems, the game is facing, but I feel very strongly about this issue. In the book, I also address the question you asked about how long a ball should last.
Todays multilayered balls -- if stored at a reasonable temperatures -- will last many years without any detrimental effect on performance. Playing a ball with a driver impact speed of about 90 mph -- not bad for most of us mortals -- the ball will last for at least 20 rounds without concern about resilience changes. However, I do caution you that the aerodynamics of the ball can be significantly altered by scuffmarks on its surface and even mud and dirt in the dimples. So clean your ball whenever you have an opportunity to do so. If the surface is showing signs of wear then it is time to retire your ball to the shag bag. In your case Paul, as long as you stay in the fairway -- no bunkers or cart paths -- ten rounds should be close to the surface wear limit (not a bad inning for a ball).
Thanks for the question and giving me a chance to mention my book, which I know you and many others will enjoy, and our game will be the ultimate beneficiary. I am personally signing the first 25 orders recieved this week. Click Here to order.
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
Frank Thomas