QA Green Speeds at Augusta

By Frank ThomasApril 4, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
Dear Frank:
With The Masters coming up this week I was wondering about green speed and how this is determined for this championship. The greens are always so slick and scary looking!! I read that you were involved with the Stimpmeter and thought that maybe you could answer my question.
Thank you,

Yes, I was involved with the Stimpmeter. In 1976 I re-designed a device that had been developed in 1935 by Eddie Stimpson but rejected by the USGA at that time. The original was not very consistent in its readings. I first tried out two very elaborate designs of my own, which turned out to be good but clumsy, and dependent on the skill of the operator. I then took Eddie's concept and redesigned it, and since the conception was his I called it the Stimpmeter, which was what he had called his.
A ball is positioned in a slot at the top end of a 'V'- grooved aluminum beam. The beam is slowly raised until gravity pulls the ball out of the slot and it runs down the groove onto the green. The distance it rolls from the end of the Stimpmeter on a flat portion of the green is the speed of the green, measured in feet. It is very consistent, simple, and now used around the world.
In 1977, I asked our agronomists at the USGA to measure greens during their visits to various clubs. They returned data that I analyzed to try to develop some standards for green speeds. This proved to be 66 for everyday play at golf courses, and 8' 6'' for average competition play. For championship play in 1977, 10' 6' was considered fast. To reach that speed, we had to double or even triple cut the greens; we made sure that if the greens were undulating we would keep the speed somewhat slower.
In 1998, at the Olympic Club in San Francisco during the US Open the fairways were running at 6' 6'. Not only had significant agronomic changes taken place, but mowers designed for greens were being used on the fairways. Today, if you want to roll the greens and really shave them down, you can get them as fast as 15 feet, as was the case at Bethpage Black on the Sunday of the Open in 2002.
The green speed at Augusta National is a secret, but whatever it is it should be fair and very much dependent on the undulations of the green. You never want to have the ball accelerating past the hole from any direction; if it does, then either the hole location is inappropriate or the speed is too fast. A ball should be able to stop close to the hole when putted from almost any location on the green. This does not mean it should be easy to do, but it should be possible. With the above in mind, there is quite a responsibility on the shoulders of the individual in charge of dictating green speed and hole locations. I suspect the greens for the Masters will be close to 12 feet.
For more on the Stimpmeter please click here.
Hope this helps,
Thank you for sharing your experience in a weekly column. I look forward to reading it every week.
I have a question regarding moment of inertia and I haven't been able to find the answer. What, if any, effect does the length of the club and the loft of the club head have on MOI?
Thanks, Frank,

The MOI (Moment of Inertia) is a measure of the resistance to angular acceleration -- in other words, twisting. (Click here for an easy explanation of MOI).
You can experience this by holding two weights (20 lbs) close to your body, one in each hand, and twist your torso quickly through about 180 degrees. Now stretch your arms out and try to twist again. This time it will be more difficult to twist quickly, and, once you get started twisting it will be more difficult to slow down. What you have done by moving the weights away from your body (the axis of rotation), is to increase the MOI.
This is why cavity back clubs have a higher MOI than blades and are more forgiving of mis-hits -- because they dont twist as easily. The weight has been moved to the outside perimeter of the head. Similarly, in hollow metal wood clubs, all the weight is distributed into the shell, so they also have a high MOI. The result is that the club head doesnt twist easily on off-center impacts, and so imperfect shots fly straighter.
Only now can I answer your specific question. If you are talking about the MOI of the head itself, then changing the length of the club or the loft will have no effect on the MOI of the head.
You should, however, also understand that the measurement of MOI is based on the axis of rotation, which in the case of the club head alone is its center of gravity. If we try to measure the MOI of the club as a whole -- the shaft, grip and head -- and the axis of rotation is at the grip end, then the length of the club makes a big difference.
Try to hold a club at the head end and swing the grip. Now reverse this and hold it at the grip end and swing the head. It will be much easier to swing the grip than to swing the head. This is because the head is heavier than the grip and at some distance away from the axis of rotation (your hands). The MOI is different. Thus, by changing the length of the club you are also changing the MOI of the club as a whole -- but not changing the MOI of the head itself.
I hope this helps you better understand MOI, which every body talks about but now you understand.
Your following comment really got my attention:
DON'T add weight to the butt end of the club to achieve a certain swingweight. This is done sometimes in club fitting to make the customer happy, but it does absolutely nothing for you.
I have been reading a lot about MOI fitting, and each article seems to indicate adding weight to the butt is the magic fix. Grip manufacturers are even selling grips with a special feature for adding weight. Whats the real story on MOI fitting?

Matching by MOI of the club is normally done by making a measurement about a specific axis somewhere close to the grip end of the club. If this is based on the last foot or so before impact, the point would be about 4 inches above the grip end, as this is the instant center of rotation in this segment of the swing.
Adding weight to the grip to change the MOI of a club is not very effective. This should be done by changing the weight of the head or lengthening the club.
Adding weight to the grip end is the equivalent of wearing a heavier glove or even a wrist watch. This does change the MOI of the first lever -- i.e. the arms, with the attached hands -- but does nothing for the MOI of the club if we are placing the axis of rotation in the vicinity of the hands.
If adding weight to the grip really worked wonders, dont you think after 400 years of trial and error we would have discovered this before now?
My position is, if it feels good, try it. Adding weight to the grip end will certainly increase the hand mass and the MOI of the first lever. But since the club head path changes its radius of rotation throughout the downswing, I dont know the value of this particular form of balancing for MOI, since it is wholly dependent upon what axis of rotation you are using as a basis for measurement.
In general, I do not see how butt weighting can be the magic fix, or how it is going to have a significant effect on performance.
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
Getty Images

Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

Getty Images

Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

@kharms27 on Instagram

Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

Getty Images

McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.