Doctoring Clubs on Tour

By Frank ThomasJune 18, 2008, 4:00 pm
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 Harry, with his question about the US Open.
To reserve your own copy of 'Just Hit It', please Click Here We are now shipping!
Please also note new international shipping options for those outside the US. Thanks to all who have ordered over the last few weeks!
Doctoring Clubs on Tour
Just read your Q&A regarding spin on US Open rough. In turn this reminded me of something Ian Baker Finch said during the Masters about players having the grooves of wedges set up more aggressively. I have asked before about alterations to equipment and I will ask again in light of the US Open now being played. Alterations to equipment in other sports have occurred and have perhaps been used at the highest professional level. We know that baseball pitchers have doctored balls. Batters have been found using corked bats.
So, whats to stop the tournament players from some type of doctoring, innocent or otherwise? Before you answer, perhaps the better question is how would anyone ever know? Does the USGA inspect all the entrants equipment? NASCAR inspects the winning drivers car to make sure everything was on the up and up.
Sorry for the oratory but I think others may wonder about this as well. It may be a gentlemens game but that doesnt mean it is played entirely by gentlemen.

The bottom line is there is nothing to stop the players from doctoring their equipment before a round of golf other than the fact that it is a violation of the rules. In most cases, the player will ask an official if a modified club conforms and it will then be tested on site. If not and he/she plays with it, the penalty is disqualification and if this violation was intentional the player may lose their privilege to continue to make a living as a professional.
During a US Open, in my capacity as technical director of the USGA, I was asked frequently by players to check a club for its conformance to the rules. In most cases, this happened during the practice rounds because the player had modified his club or a fellow competitor suggested that there might be a problem. If the test resulted in a decision that the club did not conform then corrective action would be taken or if the discovery took place during the event the player would disqualify himself as a result of the infraction during the event.
The responsibility to call a rules infraction on himself is an obligation of the golfer and this is where golf differentiates itself from many other sports. Often when out of sight of other golfers or an official ( who is there only to help the player) a golfer will unintentionally do something, which requires that a penalty stroke(s) be added to his score. This he calls on himself and announces to a fellow competitor or an official as soon as possible.
When a referee becomes part of the game and takes on the responsibility of calling all infractions -- be they in play or regarding the equipment used -- it relieves the competitor of this responsibility and he/she no longer has any obligation to monitor him/herself regarding the rules.
In many other sports, violating the rules -- only if detected, and called by a referee -- results in a penalty. It is with these sports that a sharp-eyed referee or onsite testing is required, as the player has no obligation to call infractions on him/herself. In fact it is almost an obligation ' so as to gain an advantage -- to see what one can get away with, without the infraction being detected.
The integrity of our game is at stake when we start testing equipment on the first tee or introduce any form of drug testing on golfers. A Rules book covering the playing and equipment rules and within which it states clearly that any form of performance enhancing substance is not permitted, is sufficient. Otherwise we imply that golfers are dishonest and by introducing an outside monitor to enforce the rules, immediately relieves the golfer of his self-monitoring obligation, which is what golf is all about.
A golfer who deceives others also deceives himself and will soon be ostracized by those who love and respect our game.
Thanks for the question and allowing me to express my very personal feelings about protecting the integrity of our game.
Benefits of Graphite in Irons
Having lost some distance at age 67 I'm looking for some improvement with my irons by trying lighter shafts, in this instance Graphite. However, one of the guys at the local golf shop said I wouldn't necessarily improve distance with lighter shafts. He said other factors come in to play as well. I am under the impression that increased club head speed will increase distance whether it be iron or wood. I am well aware that I need to hit the ball in the middle of the club to get maximum distance but if I do that won't I get improved distance with the lighter shafts? Thanks for you consideration. I enjoy your website.

You are correct in your assumption that by changing to graphite shafts (i.e. lighter shafts) in your irons you will generate higher head speeds and more distance assuming that all else is equal.
Not that you asked but the reason for this is that you will decrease the overall weight of the club and this decreases the MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the system which makes it easier to accelerate the club if you apply the same forces. The MOI of the club as a whole (the system not just the head which relates to the forgiveness of miss-hits) is another property which has not been talked about very much but is an additional means of matching clubs in combination with frequency and overall weight.
Technically it is a measure of the resistance to angular acceleration about the axis you are swinging the club. Unfortunately, this axis changes throughout the swing. However, if you swing with the same forces each time with a lighter shafted club you will be able to generate increased head speed. Thats the GOOD news.
The BAD news is, because manufacturers dont want to offer a different head weights for their graphite shafted option but they do want to maintain a similar swing weight (about 1 or 2 points lighter for graphite) they increase the length of a graphite shafted club by about of an inch and charge $25 more per club. The normal difference in length between a six iron and a five iron is an inch.
What this increase in length does is make the club slightly less accurate; it increases the MOI of the system a little ' partially reversing the decrease in MOI by changing to the lighter shaft ' but increases the head speed because of the added length.
The bottom line is that even with these slightly compensating factors you should get greater distance because you will get increased head speed. Dont look for 25 yards increase but you will improve your distance with lightweight graphite-shafted clubs compared to traditional steel-shafted irons.
Otherwise if you are interested in 10 to 15 yards increase in driving distance or just extra distance with your irons, you need to sign up at a local gym and work on strength and flexibility exercises. This form of exercise will increase your range of motion and ' based on studies performed ' increase the head speed of a driver about 5 mph adding at least 10 yards to your drives. The gym visit will probably cost less, and give you greater improvement in distance, than a new driver. In the mean time, take advantage of what graphite has to offer in irons.
Thanks for your kind comments and I am pleased that my weekly Q&A has been informative.
If you are not a Frankly Friend please sign up by clicking here so we can alert you whenever we have some new fun information.
Good golfing.
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

Getty Images

Watch: Gary Player tires people out with sit-ups

By Grill Room TeamJune 24, 2018, 11:33 pm

Well all know Gary Player is a fitness nut, and at 82 years young he is still in phenomenal shape.

That's why it was incredible to see two mere mortals like us try to keep up with him in a sit-up competition at the BMW International Open.

Watch the video below.

The guy in blue makes the smart decision and bows out about halfway through. But give the other guy an "A" for effort, he stuck with Player for about 60 sit-ups, and then the nine-time major champion just starts taunting him.

Getty Images

Japan teen Hataoka rolls to NW Ark. win

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 11:07 pm

ROGERS, Ark. - Japanese teenager Nasa Hataoka ran away with the NW Arkansas Championship on Sunday for her first LPGA title

The 19-year-old Hataoka won by six strokes, closing with an 8-under 63 at Pinnacle Country Club for a tournament-record 21-under 192 total. She broke the mark of 18 under set last year by So Yeon Ryu.

Hataoka won twice late last year on the Japan LPGA and has finished in the top 10 in five of her last six U.S. LPGA starts, including a playof loss last month in the Kingsmill Championship.

Hataoka began the round tied with Minjee Lee for the lead.

Austin Ernst shot a 65 to finish second.

Lee and third-ranked Lexi Thompson topped the group at 13 under.

Getty Images

Tour investigating DeChambeau's use of compass

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 10:09 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Bryson DeChambeau’s reliance on science to craft his play on the course is well known, but he took things to a new level this week at the Travelers Championship when television cameras caught him wielding a compass while looking at his yardage book during the third round.

According to DeChambeau, it’s old news. He’s been using a compass regularly to aid in his preparation for nearly two years, dating back to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October 2016.

“I’m figuring out the true pin locations,” DeChambeau said. “The pin locations are just a little bit off every once in a while, and so I’m making sure they’re in the exact right spot. And that’s it.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But social media took notice this weekend, as did PGA Tour officials. DeChambeau explained that he was approached on the range Saturday and informed that the Tour plans to launch an investigation into whether or not the device is allowable in competition, with a decision expected in the next week.

It’s not the first time the 24-year-old has gone head-to-head with Tour brass, having also had a brief run with side-saddled putting earlier in his career.

“They said, ‘Hey, we just want to let you know that we’re investigating the device and seeing if it’s allowable,’” DeChambeau said. “I understand. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.”

DeChambeau won earlier this month at the Memorial Tournament, and the Tour’s ruling would not have any retroactive impact on his results earlier this year. Playing alongside tournament winner Bubba Watson in the final round at TPC River Highlands, DeChambeau shot a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for ninth.

“It’s a compass. It’s been used for a long, long time. Sailors use it,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just funny that people take notice when I start putting and playing well.”

Getty Images

Bubba fires 63 to win his third Travelers title

By Nick MentaJune 24, 2018, 9:52 pm

Bubba Watson fired a final-round 63 to storm from six back and steal the Travelers Championship. Here’s how Bubba came from behind once again at TPC River Highlands.

Leaderboard: Bubba Watson (-17), Stewart Cink (-14), Beau Hossler (-14), J.B. Holmes (-14), Paul Casey (-14)

What it means: This is Watson’s 12th PGA Tour win, his third of the season, and his third Travelers title. Watson picked up his first Tour victory at this event in 2010 – when he also came from six back – and won again in 2015 in a playoff victory over – guess who – Casey. Thinking he might need a round of 60 to scare the leader, Watson made eight birdies, the last of which came on the 72nd hole, giving him the outright lead by one. A short while later, Casey would bogey the 16th and 17th to end the drama and allow Bubba to breathe easy. With the win, Watson becomes the only Tour player to win three times this season. He moves to third in the FedExCup points race, behind two-time winners Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.

Round of the day: Cink’s round was a stroke better, but Bubba earns this title for winning the title. The left-hander made the turn in 2-under 33 and then ripped off five birdies on his back nine to take the clubhouse lead, which he wouldn’t relinquish.

Best of the rest: Cink looked as though he was going to record the second sub-60 round at the Travelers in the last three years. The 2009 champion golfer of the year played his first 10 holes in 7 under par on the par-70 layout. Cink added three more birdies but also added two bogeys to settle for 8-under 62, tying the round of the week. The 45-year-old has finished T-4 and T-2 in his last two starts.

Biggest disappointment: Casey (2-over 72) began the day up four and couldn’t close. Even par on his round through 15 holes, he missed a 4-footer for par on 16 and found the water off the tee at 17, ending his chances. The Englishman, who ended a nine-year Tour winless drought earlier this season at the Valspar, is now 1 for 4 with a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.

Shot of the day: Watson’s wedge from 77 yards at the 72nd hole, setting up his eighth and final birdie of the day.

Quote of the day: “That’s the best shot you ever hit.” – caddie Ted Scott to Bubba Watson on his approach at 18