QA Forged vs Cavity

By Frank ThomasJuly 25, 2007, 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
Love the column... Thanks!!! My question: With all else equal (swing speed, loft, shaft, hitting the exact sweet spot, etc), do forged blade irons provide more distance than other irons such as cavity backs?

John Bland
John Bland asks Frank about golf ball technology in the next 'Ask Frank,' Monday, July 30 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC.
Thanks for your kind comments. Your question pre-supposes that all else is equal. If this is the case, then the answer is NO. There will be no difference in distance. The fact that a club is forged doesn't make any difference to the ball speed, launch angle or spin. If you hit a blade (usually forged) on the sweet spot and all else is equal, at impact the cavity-back club (usually cast) will not produce any different results. The problem is that all else is not equal, because in most cases the center of gravity (c.g) of the two clubs is in a slightly different location, and so the way the club head is presented to the ball will almost always be a little different.
If, however, the design and shape of two clubs, one forged and the other cast, is identical then the answer remains NO. Back in the early 1970s, a manufacturer made up two iron clubs with identical shapes. One was created by a casting method, and the other was forged. Both were chrome plated to avoid any observable differences. Pros were asked to hit each club to determine which was forged and which was cast; the manufacturer concluded from the tests that even these golfers could not tell the difference. So if you believe the test results, not even feel was different.
The answer is cast in stone, not forged to blend neatly with some of our beliefs.
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Hope this helps.
As a new subscriber to GOLF CHANNEL, I just recently started reading your column and enjoy it immensely. My question concerns custom fitted irons and woods. I wonder if getting a set of clubs that has a different length and lie is really that much of an advantage over standard lie and loft sets. I am about 5' 6' and have a clubhead speed of 92 -96 mph with the driver. Would I be better off spending the money on the latest and greatest off the shelf or a less expensive but custom fitted set? I also wonder why only irons seem to be subject to this, as I have yet to see anyone offering custom lie and length on woods. Keep up the great work!

I am not a big fan of rigorous custom fitting clubs for the average golfer. Now before the custom fitters get mad, let me say that custom fitting is a good idea if its done by someone who knows exactly what theyre doing, and its being done for a reasonably good golfer. However, an off-the-shelf set with the right flex shaft and possibly a slightly adjusted lie angle (if necessary) is all the fitting most of us need. (The manufacturers know this, so they manufacture their standard sets with specifications that have proven over the years to be very good for most golfers. I sincerely believe that 90% of the standard sets of clubs are better than 90% of the golfers who intend to use them.)
Only the better golfers who hit the ball consistently can take advantage of the kind of tweaks that rigorous fitting provides -- i.e., 1/4 inch changes in length, two swing weight points here and there, a flex point change or a 10-gram change in shaft weight, one degree open face bend, etc. Putting aside the question of whether most of this stuff really matters, can you be sure that your swing on the course day after day is the same as the one you demonstrated for the club fitter? Until youve reached that level of consistency, paying for an extensive fitting session doesnt make much sense. Most of us need a good set of lessons more than we need a rigorously fitted set of clubs.
There is no doubt that lie angle, shaft flex, and loft (for drivers) are important for all golfers, but this is as much 'fitting' as most of us need. These are properties that will make a difference we can feel in our performance.
In selecting a set off the shelf, with a little expert guidance, you can generally find a set with the right shaft flex. Standard length clubs work for most of us, unless we are abnormally different in height from the average (i.e. +/- 5 inches or so). The lie angle will affect performance if its wrong for you by more than a couple of degrees, so you should check this periodically and make adjustments if necessary. The proper lie angle depends on your swing plane, which may be affected by your height, and is most important in the lofted irons.
The real concern I have is that many people who tell you that you need to be fitted really just want to sell you a new set of clubs when they could easily adjust your existing set instead. The fact that drivers are not designed to be custom fitted tells me that one size fits all actually works most of the time.
For those who can afford it and have the consistency to take advantage of it, going for a detailed custom fitting should result in a set that closely fits your needs. It will do wonders for your psyche and make you feel special, which will help build your confidence. The downside is that you wont be able to blame your equipment for errors in performance.But really, Rob, the performance differences are extremely small between custom-fitted clubs and an off-the-shelf set.
Thats my custom answer, and I hope it helps relieves the pain.
With the club manufacturers reaching the limits on drivers, how important does the shaft become, and how can a person determine the correct one?

I like your question because it recognizes that there are some limitations that nature controls in golf, not the USGA. We are reaching those limits when it comes to drivers.
Even if there were no limitations on clubs and balls in the Rules of Golf, I would estimate that equipment innovation could add only about 8 to 10 yards from where we are today, as long as golfers keep swinging clubs at the same speed. Faster head speed will always give you more distance, even if the gains are diminishing as head speeds increase. Golfers on average may simply be getting better -- although Jack Nicklaus 45 years ago had a clubhead speed comparable to that of Tiger Woods today. He could have driven the ball the same distance as Tiger if he had had today's equipment.
The average driving distance on the PGA TOUR (one of the best golf test laboratories in the world) has increased about 25 yards (from 265 yards in 1995 to 289 yards in 2006) over an 11-year span without any measurable increase in skill on the part of the players. This has been the most significant increase in distance over such a short period of time in the history of the game. The reason for this is primarily the spring-like effect in clubs permitted by the USGA, and secondarily the performance of the multi-layered ball that has allowed golfers to launch drives at or close to their optimum conditions. This could not be achieved with a wound ball and persimmon head. To answer your question, the shaft is not any more important now than it has been in the past. This does not mean it isnt important, just that its influence is no greater since the recent leveling off in performance of driver heads.
Find a shaft that allows you to feel where the club head is, and that you are in control of it during your swing, and stick with it. By far the most important specification in a shaft is its flex; many golfers use shafts that are too stiff, because they believe thats what better players use. Start with a more flexible shaft and work your way towards the stiffer ones, rather than starting out too stiff and settling for one you can barely control. Comfort is most important in a shaft, so don't get out of your comfort zone chasing a few extra yards. A lighter shaft allows you to increase your head speed while swinging with the same effort, or to attain the same speed with less effort and more control.
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
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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”