Skip to main content

Open QA Charting Greens

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
Tiger Woods is preparing for this year's U.S. Open by charting the greens at Oakmont. How does one go about 'charting' the greens at a golf course? Is there any information you can share with me on how to do it? I know my home course but wouldn't mind knowing it even better.Thank you.
Sincerely yours,

Dave Eichelberger
Dave Eichelberger asks about faster ball velocity in 'Ask Frank,' Monday, June 18 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (Getty Images)
The best way to chart your home course greens is to survey them to determine the exact elevations and slopes and develop a topographical map of the green. I dont think this is what Tiger did at Oakmont. This survey technique will tell you the break from any location based on the change of slope, giving you an idea of how much break to expect. I dont recommend you do this on the weekend.
Most of us have played most of the normal hole locations on our home courses, so we have a general idea of what to expect from different spots on the green, but sometimes we forget. We also rely on our caddie, if we have one, to help read the green. (We somehow put a lot of faith in the caddie even if this is his first job for the summer; it may even be the first time he has seen the course!)
If you are serious and want to chart your home greens, I would suggest that you select zones where the hole locations are most often cut. Roll the ball across these zones many times in different directions (also not on the weekend) and watch how they break. Youll want to record this in some detail on a representative sketch of the green for future use. Referencing your notes is not a violation of the rules. You may also want to roll a ball across the full length of the green in a few directions and record how it breaks as it approaches the zones youve already charted.
Theres no substitute for experience, seeing the breaks on a day-to-day basis like a good caddie does, but you can learn a lot from a little creative visualization. As you approach the green, try to picture how water would drain off the green after a sudden heavy downpour. This will help determine the general breaks, which will follow the water flow. I find this to be helpful. Unfortunately this doesnt work well on a flat green with subtle breaks, which I find are some of the hardest greens to read.
I believe Tiger spent some time putting to various locations on each green at Oakmont while he (or Steve) made some good notes. Well see if it helped him this week.
Frankly Speaking, first let me thank you for the information you provide on your website and through the questions you answer weekly. They are great. My question is about the US Open. From what I read, this event is going to cost the USGA about $16 million to conduct. Does that sound right? And how do you think the course is going to be set up?
Thanks and keep up the good work.

Joe, thank you so much for your kind remarks. I would like to let you know that the website has just been upgraded to make it even easier to navigate and find the fun stuff you are looking for. Check it out here. You can also see my brief answer to you on our new video feature by visiting the Q&A section on my site.
As far as the cost to put on the Open, I dont have the numbers but I do think you are in the ballpark. But dont feel sorry for the USGA, as it will make about $40 million on the event, showing a net of about $25 million. The US Open is one of the better-organized sporting events in the world, and in the past there have been more cameras on site than at the Olympics. The USGA does a very good job of running the Open and so it should. It is the golfing highlight of the year.
As far as course setup is concerned, I think it will be very fair but tough. The rough will be long enough to cause the long hitters a few moments of concern before using their drivers with abandon. The greens will be fast. The greens at Oakmont are always fast: When I introduced the Stimpmeter in 1977, I used green speed data from 35 states to develop a guide-line table for average weekly play. I had to discard Oakmonts data from the analysis because it was what we call an outlier, an anomaly. It was about four feet faster (10.5 on the Stimpmeter back then) than the other clubs that had been measured.
For a championship such as the US Open it will not be difficult to get the speeds up to 13, 14, or more. I think the problem will be to figure out how to slow them down from what the club members would like them to be. It can be a problem to prevent the club members from influencing the course setup. They want it as tough as possible.
I dont think we will see a 63 at Oakmont this year.
Thanks again Joe for your comments, and make sure you check out the newly made-over site.
Your column and your answers to questions posed are a great benefit. My question is, can you explain the concept of placing weights on the driver in multiple positions and how they may help in controlling ball flight?

There are several reasons one would change weights and their location on a driver or other club head.
The first is to change the overall weight, which changes the swing dynamics and balance of the club. Increasing the head weight will increase the swing weight, and also the systems MOI (Moment of Inertia) about the swinging axis. The swing axis changes throughout the swing, so its a complex engineering problem to try to determine how to modify the weight for maximum efficiency through the entire swing.
Generally, in measuring the system MOI one uses the axis of rotation as the point about which the club head is rotating when its at its highest velocity, which is during the last foot or so before impact. This axis point is about 4 inches above the end of the grip. This is only important if youre trying to make the swing dynamics of the club feel the same for each club in the set. Its a little better than using swing weight for this purpose, because weighting the club at the grip (even if just by wearing a wrist watch) changes the swing weight but doesnt affect the MOI very much.
A lot of golfers and manufacturers are talking about MOI these days, but what theyre referring to is the MOI of the head only, with the center of gravity (c.g.) as the axis.
The MOI is generally understood to be a measure of forgiveness of the head. The farther the weight is from the c.g., the harder it is to start the club head rotating, so off-center hits arent as badly affected as with a club with a lower MOI. (For more information and an easy-to-understand explanation of MOI, click here
Changing weights in the head -- which has become popular, or at least advertised, in the last several years -- is not generally done to change the overall weight or the MOI of the head, but rather to change the location of the c.g. This is done to affect the spin on the ball. If you move the c.g. toward the heel of the head and still hit the ball on the same spot on the face, then the club head will twist around the c.g. and give the ball a slightly different spin.
Lets take an example. Youve seen how an impact toward the toe will give you a slight draw spin because of the gear effect. So if you shift weight to the heel, which moves the c.g. toward the heel, then at impact the club head will twist around this inside c.g. and center impact on the face may react just like a slightly toed impact. This is what is called a draw biased weighting; you can get the same effect in reverse (fade bias weighting) if you shift the weight toward the toe.
In addition, relocating weight to the toe will make it a little more difficult to close the face, adding to the fade. Thats why, even apart from the c.g. effect, building an open or closed face creates a further fade or draw bias.
My suggestion is not to mess with weight relocation until you are hitting the ball consistently in one spot ' ideally, the center of the face. If you have a swing flaw, it is better to visit your teacher rather than tinkering with weights to try to solve it.
Quite a weighty subject, isnt it? Hope this helps
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