QA How Long is Too Long

By Frank ThomasFebruary 13, 2007, 5:00 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
Hi Frank:
Would you mind addressing the 48' golf shaft compared to the 43-44' shaft? I currently use a 50' shaft, and I think that the new maximum length is 48'. I read an article in one of the golf magazines that indicated that the 48' shafts actually hit the ball farther and had better dispersion. I know that I'm 20-30 yards longer with my shaft than any standard-length shafts that Ive tried on the driving range.

I don't know how far you hit your drives now, but Im sure that when you really time your 50-inch shafted driver correctly, hit the sweet spot, and have the face pointing in the right direction, you get that 20 yards youre talking about. My guess, however, is that this is probably not a very common occurrence. If there wasnt such a sizable tradeoff between distance and accuracy in the longer shafts, then every driver sold today would be 48' (which is the maximum length allowed under the current Rules of Golf).
I believe that a 44 inch shaft is close to optimum for distance and accuracy. Tiger Woods used a 43 -inch driver for a long time, and the average on the PGA TOUR is a little over 44 inches long. Some golfers who have very slow swings and excellent timing may benefit from using a longer shaft, but most of us have to choose between bragging rights from the occasional long drive and having to buy the beer after each round.
Greater consistency with a shorter driver will build more confidence and in turn lead to a better swing and generally longer and straighter drives.
Too long is not good for drivers.
Hello Frank:
I have been using hybrid clubs for quite some time. I currently have a 19,- 21-, & 24 degree hybrid, and just purchased a 28 degree Hibore from GolfSmith. The catalogue advertised the club as a 28 degree 6I. When I received the club it was marked as a 28 degree 5I instead.
Apparently I am not the only one confused with this situation. In doing research to purchase the right club, I noticed a great deal of difference in how the companies are correlating the hybrids loft to the equivalent iron it is replacing. I was looking for a club to hit in the 160-to-170 range. This 28 degree hits the mark, even though it is, according to Cleveland, a 5 iron replacement.
What makes for these differences in how companies manufacture and market these clubs? All this drives home the idea that it does not matter what distance anyone else hits their 5 iron; its how far I hit it that counts. Same for each club in my bag, except the putter.
Best regards,

The hybrids are still finding their rightful place in the set. Manufacturers are a little reluctant to replace the irons with hybrids for the standard set, either because they dont know how this will be received or because they want to sell you more clubs by making you buy the regular set and then add the hybrids. Generally the hybrid numbered club has a loft similar to the same numbered iron it is intended to replace. The problem with lofts is that these could vary as much as five degrees --from 23 degrees to 28 -- for different models of 5-irons even from the same manufacturer.
The numbers on the hybrids are just a guideline. I would consider a 19 degree hybrid as a replacement for my 3-iron, with a 24 degree club replacing my 4-iron. If this holds up, then your club with 28 degrees of loft would be a 5 hybrid, even though the average cavity back 5-iron is about 25 degree in loft.
Really, though, what youve discovered is exactly correct: it doesnt matter what the number is on the club, whats important is that you know what that number means for you as far as distance is concerned. The numbering system and the lofts associated with it made up an unwritten rule or code for years, but that changed in the early 70s, when manufacturers started strengthening the clubs to make golfers think they were hitting the ball farther with the same numbered club. Today the numbers are just a personal convenience. Everybody should get out and test how far they hit each club before playing any serious game with a new set.
As far hybrids are concerned, choose the ones that will fill the gap between your woods and the longest iron you hit comfortably and consistently. For more on hybrids please click here.
Mr. Thomas,
Are the Callaway Fusion irons more forgiving than the Callaway X-18 irons? I am a 5 handicapper and have used the X-14's for 5 years with a regular Rifle shaft. I have been pleased with the X-14's, but, like all golfers, I am always wondering if there is something better. Should I switch to the Fusions? If yes, what shaft should I get?

If you are pleased with the X-14s, dont change. Iron technology is not changing very much; its the fashion side thats alive and well. The laws of physics dont change as rapidly as the marketing people would like. The technology of metal woods has made significant advances in the last 10 years, but this too is slowing down. Fashion is starting to take the leading role there as well.
We are close to peaking in terms of performance improvement from equipment; significant advances in equipment performance are fewer and farther between. We all believe in magic, which is fun, but when it comes to a real improvement in performance youll be better off in doing some stretching exercises and spending some of those dollars on a lesson or two. Dont give up on a good old friend. This doesnt mean you cant look around, but dont let your faithful X-14s know youre looking.
Stay with a good thing for as long as you can. Confidence is worth more than any new set of clubs.

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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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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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.