Lets be Frank

By Frank ThomasNovember 19, 2008, 5:00 pm

Straight Talk on Shafts

Frank, Your column is the bomb! Love it. Here's the question.
Is the high end shaft used in an OEM club the same as the high end shaft sold at the component companies? Why do I have to pay almost $200.00 for a shaft as a component when I can get the complete club for not much more? Are they cutting corners on the high end shafts used in OEM clubs or is the volume of shafts that they sell to the big OEM companies so great that they can use an expensive shaft without driving the price through the roof?
I cannot tell any difference in performance between an expensive shaft pulled from an OEM club and the component version of the same expensive shaft and I am in the clubfitting business
I appreciate any light you can shed on this problem

Thank you for the kind comments about the column.
Your question turned into three questions very quickly and I will try to answer them all together.
Many golfers believe that, the more they pay for something the better it is. This may be the case in other walks of life but not necessarily in golf. If the performance differences between a really expensive shaft and the high'end standard, provided by the OEM are not noticeable then it doesnt make too much sense to go for the very expensive component unless it feeds your ego.
None of the major manufacturers would assemble their high'end clubs with a shaft, which did not compliment the club. After many years of experience, reputable manufacturers have found that certain shaft properties work well for the majority of golfers. As a club maker, you of all people should be able to detect minor differences in performance between shafts. Trust what you know and feel because in this case you are right.
For some very picky golfers, there are a variety of shaft types, offered by the manufacturer, from which he or she can choose when ordering their new set. When I say picky I mean a golfer who knows the differences in performance ' or thinks he knows the difference. Manufacturers do get volume discounts but nowhere near the difference between what they pay for a good shaft and what the expensive components cost
The very best golfers can detect very small differences in shaft properties, which may affect their performance but these golfers play golf for a living and need to tweak their equipment every now and again. In some cases they tweak for the sake of tweaking or use bad days as an excuse to make changes.
Most of us are unable to tell the difference between a $30 shaft and a $300 shaft other than by looking at the price tag. However, buying the most expensive product often makes us feel good and feeling good always helps the psyche. If you believe strongly that something new will help then it probably will as long as it is not too far from the norm ' the placebo effect.
It has taken us about 400 years ' through the evolutionary process ' to arrive at a point where the combination of shaft flex, length and head weight really work well. New materials dont change this much and the standard equipment is very good for 90% of us, however it is important to select the correct shaft flex.
Dont get suckered into buying distance because there is not much more of it available, no matter what some ads claim. Steve I hope this helps

More Distance From Your Irons

Like so many others I have truly enjoyed Just Hit It and always look forward to your weekly e'mail. I appreciate your contributions to the game.
The question I have is this:
While I usually get pretty good distance from my driver and woods (230 yards average for the driver and about 200 for my three wood), my iron distance is, proportionally, not as good, say 135'140 for a 7 iron. At the age of 65 and playing for only six years I feel I need every advantage I can get. So I lengthened my irons by about an inch and now find Ive added some distance to them and also have the option to choke down for more control when needed.
It seems to work, but I wonder if I should have been satisfied with the shorter distance. Lengthening the irons almost works like having an extra club or two in the bag.
What do you think?
' Bill

Thanks for the kind comments and I am pleased you enjoyed the book Just Hit It.
In lengthening your irons, about an inch you have done several things:
First, you will be getting a little increase in head speed, which will give you at least 5 to 10 more yards. You have also increased the swing weight about six points, which will make the club feel a little heavier and slow your swing a little as the MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the club as a whole ' when swinging about the grip axis ' has increased. All of this assumes you used the same heads and did not remove any weight by grinding them down or drilling holes in the head ' not recommended but you dont know what to expect when a GET (Golf'Equipment'Tweaker) gets a drill in his hands or has access to a grinding wheel.
Second, you have decreased the stiffness of the shaft, assuming you used the same shaft type. The combination of this and the fact that the shaft is one inch longer than the original club will make the club feel different.
Normally the manufacturer would make a six iron about 37.5 inches long, with a loft of about 30 degrees and a swing weight about D0 to D2. You, however, now have a 38.5'inch six'iron with a loft of 30 degrees and a swing weight of D6 or so, and a shaft stiffness approaching an R'flex if the original was an S'flex.
The lie angle ' assuming no adjustment is made ' will be a little more upright than the new length calls for and so you will be tending to draw the ball slightly more than usual. If you choke down an inch then you will have the original specs and it should perform in a similar manner to the original.
Yes, you do have the flexibility of choking down but I dont think that it is worth the effort to install an extra length shaft, because when you grip it properly, everything gets a little out of whack and you have in essence a dysfunctional club. Manufacturers have ' in the most part ' taken care of the variables of length, lie, effective stiffness, and weight for the clubs in your set.
So, my advice is, if you are not getting the distance you like out of your six'iron then; a) go to the gym and become more flexible and/or b) take out you five and then Just Hit It.
Hope this helps

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Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to helping golfers. Frank is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. 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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
Frank Thomas
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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”