Legality of the Long Putter

By Frank ThomasFebruary 26, 2008, 5:00 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 Dave, with his question regarding talented junior golfers and the best way to help them and their parents.
To reserve your own copy of 'Just Hit It', please Click Here
Legality of the Long Putter
For several years I have been watching tour pro's use a belly putter or one of similar design. I also see it on my home courses. Does touching the body with a club, other than the hands, constitute fair golf? Personally, I would like to see any shot where the club comes in contact wtih the body be banned. Please share with us your thoughts on this practice.
-- Fred

To your question, Does touching the body with a club, other than the hands, constitute fair golf? relates to a subject, which has been debated for hours and maybe days on end. I think we may better phrase this question by asking if it is a traditional stroke.
For years we have used the phrase traditional and customary with regard to rulings on our equipment but rarely when ruling on the type of stroke used. The croquet style putting was banned because it was not traditional and there was a feeling -- without much evidence ' that it was an advantage to Sam Snead. I think non-traditional part ruled the day as it is easier to justify and more difficult to challenge than limited data to demonstrate a potential advantage.
The problem the USGA faces as rules makers is that if it adopts a rule, this must first make intuitive sense to golfers and then reasonably easy to enforce. In general the USGA has not tried to dictate how a piece of equipment should be used but rather to adopt specifications for equipment which would make it awkward to use it in an inappropriate ' non traditional manner. Many think that the USGA should have placed a limit on the length of a putter, which would eliminate -- to a major degree -- the style you find difficult to reconcile with real golf.

I think that there is evidence that the long putter and the belly putter style of putting eliminates several degrees of freedom, which in turn eliminates the errors associated with those degrees of freedom thus making the style more efficient. There are however, problems like losing some potential feel and the being chastised on occasion by your buddies if you miss a putt.
Fred, as much as your proposal has been discussed, the difficulty in monitoring this overshadows the problems associated with it offending people or the advantage it will provide. Many golfers have stayed in the game because of the long putter. Maybe this is good.
Shelf Life of a Driver Shaft
How often should a shaft in a Driver be changed? What is the shelf life of a shaft ?

The answer is never, unless it is broken.
Now for the short answer;
The shaft -- modern steel or graphite -- in your driver will not wear out. It will not change its flex properties nor will you need to change it, if it matches your swing speed and you are comfortable with the way it is behaving of course and you dont stress it beyond the yield point. Generally this will result in catastrophic failure ' i.e. a broken shaft.
One of the charming things about golf is that we are always looking for the magic club and inclined to blame our equipment for our own flaws.
Every now and again, you may need to change equipment just to keep you in that comfort zone of knowing that technology is not passing you by. Remember, however, that good friends are sometimes hard to make and you need to respect the friends you have. Certainly dont let them know you are looking around.
I think I have answered the second part of your question; there is no known shelf life for a shaft.
Hope this helps
Attitude or Altitude
I live in the Columbus, Ohio area, and frequently travel to the South Carolina coast and to the western coast of Florida, near Tampa, on golf vacations. When playing golf on these coasts, the golf ball doesn't seem to fly as far as in Columbus. When the PGA Tour played the International in Colorado, I heard that the players could hit the golf ball approximately 10% farther due to the thinner air in Colorado. Now, I know that the International was played at approximately 5,000 feet above sea level, and Columbus is nowhere near that altitude, but can you approximate the distance that the change in altitude will have on the golf shot between Columbus, Ohio and sea level in South Carolina and Florida?


Columbus Ohio has a listed elevation of 902 feet above sea level. This will have some effect on your ball flight simply because the air is less dense. The trajectory will not be as high as it would be at sea level all other conditions being equal but this is only different by about two or three feet. The reason is that the lift properties are less but the other contributing factor is that the drag properties are also less. This low drag force and less lift will tend to give you a slightly lower trajectory in the air and a faster ball speed when the ball lands on the turf. The lower angle at which the ball impacts the fairway (if you hit the fairway) and the speed it is going will affect the overall distance.
Rough calculations show that because of elevation change alone between Columbus Ohio (902 feet elevation) and Tampa (close to sea level) the ball should travel, in total about 5 yards father in Columbus, for a 250 yard drive, all else being equal. The hardness of the turf and height of fairway cut will also plays a very important part in the bounce and roll distance.
Kent, the normal changes in barometric pressure, from 30 in/Hg to 29 in/Hg, as pressure zones move in or out of the area in Tampa or Columbus, will have the same effect on the distance of your drives.
We need to understand that these differences exist and if possible take them into account, but also recognize that even Tigers ball finishes on average about 28 feet from the hole when hitting shots from 175 yards out.
In many cases, we would be better off by going to the longer club and hitting it a little softer, than taking our best estimate about what we think we can do ' on our best days ' with a specific club and adjusting for a few yards.
It is a wonderful thing, however, to hit the ball perfectly sweet and having made the right calculations and getting it to stop exactly where we intended it to stop. Dont let the lack of understanding of the effect of altitude to come between you and perfection.
I try to describe what the addictive forces are in our game, in my book Just Hit It released about a week ago, and am sure you will find this of some interest and fun to read. For more information Click Here
Attitude as well as altitude is an important part of our wonderful game.
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

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.