QA Importance of Putter Lofts

By Frank ThomasOctober 17, 2006, 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 letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
 
Frank
I bought a new putter and putting on a recently dressed green, the ball started skipping 10 - 12 inch gaps and skipped 14 times before it made it to the cup. What actually makes the ball roll with less skipping and even though you have your own putter, is there a brand which will prevent this skipping?
Thanks,
Mike in Michigan

 
Mike,
Thank you for mentioning the fact that I do have my own putter, and if I may say so, it is a very good putter but even this will not affect the bouncing on the green which you describe.
 
Let me explain. As soon as the ball leaves the face of any putter with a couple of degrees of loft (essential to get it out of the depression on the green surface in which it always settles) it will first leave the ground just a very small amount with a slight degree of back spin. As soon as contact is made with the green surface the friction will cause the ball to skid and slide for a short period of time, it will then start rolling.
The distance from impact to when it gets pure roll will depend on how hard you hit it. As long as this process of backspin, skidding, sliding and then rolling is consistent for each impact at each speed, you don't have to worry about it.
 
Some putters are more consistent than others depending on the MOI (Moment(s) of Inertia), the center of gravity location and balance. But once the ball starts rolling with a certain speed and direction, nothing about the putter which struck the ball will affect its movement. The surface of the green will dictate the movement of the ball. In your case, the newly dressed green has a lot more bumps and ruts than you can see.
 
The only real chance you have to influence the direction of the ball, once it is in motion, is to talk to it and use a little 'Body English' as it approaches the hole.
 
For more on the Anatomy of a Putt, please visit Anatomy of a Putt.
 

Hi Frank,
Can you give me an easy low tech way to determine if my irons have the correct lie for me. I'm a 48 yr. old 14 handicap lefty. I have a very low shot regardless of the club in hand. It does get hard sometimes to get a ball to stop. My clubs are about 9 yrs. old.
Thanks, Pete


 
Pete,
I must tell you that the method to measure the lie angle is pretty low tech anyway but I will try to help simplify this even further. First the low trajectory you have will not be affected to any measurable degree by changing the lie angle, so don't expect this to happen.
 
You must, however, know that the correct lie angle is very important. If the lie is too flat then the line which is perpendicular to the face which should be pointing toward the target will be pointing to the right and the ball will go to the right and fade a little similarly if the lie is too upright then the ball will go to the left and draw. So lie is important and
probably the most important variable when fitting clubs. The next is the shaft flex, but we can discuss this some other time.
 
Now for the low-tech lie measurement method. Get a piece of 1/4 inch plywood, about 24 x 10 inches in size. Next get some Duck tape and attach a piece to cover the sole of your 6-iron, or the club you intend to measure, (an incorrect lie angle will create more of a directional deviation from the intended line with the short irons than the longer irons). Use a Sharpie
marking pen to color the duck tape so the entire sole is colored. Now using
the heel of the club or a hammer hit the plywood to create a small dent into
which the ball will rest.
 
Next, on the range (not in your living room) hit a ball off the piece of plywood with a full swing and check to see where the scuff mark is on the duck tape (assuming you made contact with the plywood). If this scuff mark is toward the heel then the lie angle is too upright and the ball should be going left if you have not countered this with a special swing maneuver. Do this a few times and if you consistently come up with a ball mark in the same spot (off center), and the ball is flying left for a heel scuff and right for the toe scuff, then find someone who has a bending machine and get it adjusted. A lot of big retail stores have an official lie board (not this Frankly Home Depot version) and a bending machine to make this adjustment for you. On the other hand if the scuff mark is in the center of the sole and the ball is flying approximately where you intend it to fly
then no bending is necessary and you have saved some time and perhaps some money, and can be proud that even you have been able to check the lie angle for yourself. How much more low-tech can you get?
 

Frank,
Thank you for the information you provide on the Golf Channel site and your own website. It is helpful because I am becoming confused with all the new equipment being introduced and all the technical stuff they talk about. My question is; why do some of the new big drivers not have grooves on the face?
Mark Vester

 
Mark,
The reason for this is twofold. First drivers don't need grooves as these markings play no part in the spin off a clean, dry, low lofted surface. Second and most important is the fact that the face is so thin that cutting grooves into the face will weaken it, especially in the sweet spot area where there is maximum flex during impact.
 
You will notice that many clubs have a good size area in the center of the face left un-grooved.
 
The durability of even these new clubs depends on how hard you hit them. A head speed of 120 mph is considered a hard impact and at this impact speed, all on the sweet spot, you can expect the club to last for something less than 10,000 impacts. At this point or earlier the face will start flattening and the COR will start going down.
 
So don't get the face of your driver grooved.
 
Frank,
Let's be Frank about this, is the Driving distance the pros hit the ball
going to continue to increase as it has in the past? And why do I not seem
to be hitting the ball any farther?
Larry Schneider

 
Larry,
The second question is easier to answer than the first. You do not swing the club as fast as the pros do and probably like me, do not hit the sweet spot as often as they do.
It requires at least these two things to get the distance they do.
 
Now for the first question. The average driving distance on tour was 255 yards in 1968 and this kept increasing at a rate of about 1 foot per year for almost 30 years. In 1995 Titanium was introduced because manufacturers were having structural failures in the steel drivers. The heads were getting too big and the shell thickness of this hollow structure was too thin.
 
This change in material resulted in the unexpected bonus of a spring-like effect. (see Frankly Speaking at www.franklygolf.com for more information about COR)
 
Even though I wrote into the rules in 1984 that a club shall not have a spring like effect the USGA (under legal pressure) permitted it. This change allowed the ball to spring off the face faster and with less spin and with the newer ball construction allowed the pros to approach the optimum launch conditions which are high launch angle and low spin. This was never available to Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer with the equipment they had. This in turn increased the average driving distance by about 7 to 8 feet per
year. The driving distance jumped from 265 to 288 yards in less than ten years. I am pleased to say that there are some limiting Laws of Nature which are coming into play and we will only see more distance from increased club head speed. This is a matter of athleticism which needs to be earned not purchased as has been the case in the last ten years.
 
The pros have gained the most from these advances but this is now flattening out. Hard work will now be required to gain more distance.
 
Frank 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 letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
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After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...

Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.

Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.

A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.

So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray


On the difference between this week and last week ...

There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.

Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.

At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard


On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...

Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.

Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.

Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell

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Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:39 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.

Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”

Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.

“Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”

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Casey comes up short (again) to Bubba at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:07 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Staked to a four-shot lead entering the final round of the Travelers Championship, Paul Casey watched his opening tee shot bounce off a wooden wall and back into the middle of the fairway, then rolled in a 21-foot birdie putt off the fringe.

At the time, it appeared to be a not-so-subtle indicator that Casey was finally going to get his hands on a trophy that has barely eluded him in the past. Instead it turned out to be the lone highlight of a miserable round that left the Englishman behind only Bubba Watson at TPC River Highlands for the second time in the last four years.

Casey shot the low round of the tournament with a third-round 62 that distanced him from the field, but that opening birdie turned out to be his only one of the day as he stalled out and ultimately finished three shots behind Watson, to whom he lost here in a playoff in 2015.

Casey’s score was 10 shots worse than Saturday, as a 2-over 72 beat only five people among the 73 others to play the final round.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I mean, I fought as hard as I could, which I’m proud of,” Casey said. “Not many times you put me on a golf course and I only make one birdie. I don’t know. I’d be frustrated with that in last week’s event, but it is what it is.”

Casey led by as many as five after his opening birdie, but he needed to make a 28-foot par save on No. 10 simply to maintain a one-shot edge over a hard-charging Watson. The two men were tied as Casey headed to the 16th tee, but his bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 combined with a closing birdie from Watson meant the tournament was out of reach before Casey even reached the final tee.

Casey explained that a “bad night of sleep” led to some neck pain that affected his warm-up session but didn’t impact the actual round.

“Just frustrating I didn’t have more,” he said. “Didn’t have a comfortable swing to go out there and do something with.”

Casey won earlier this year at the Valspar Championship to end a PGA Tour victory drought that dated back to 2009, but after being denied a second victory in short succession when he appeared to have one hand on the trophy, he hopes to turn frustration into further success before turning the page to 2019.

“I’m probably even more fired up than I was post-Tampa to get another victory. This is only going to be more fuel,” Casey said. “I’ve got 12 events or something the rest of the year. So ask me again in November, and if I don’t have another victory, then I will be disappointed. This is merely kind of posturing for what could be a very good climax.”

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Bubba thrives in his comfort zone

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:02 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – The 1:20 p.m. pairing Sunday at TPC River Highlands spanned the spectrum on the PGA Tour. In one corner stood science. Bryson DeChambeau, whose quantitative approach to golf seemingly knows no bounds, was looking to add another victory after winning a playoff earlier this month at Jack’s Place.

On the other side was art.

Bubba Watson doesn’t float golf balls in Epsom salt to identify minor imperfections. He doesn’t break out a compass to find the slightest errors in the Tour-supplied pin sheet. Even when he texts caddie Ted Scott, he prefers to use voice text rather than rely on his admittedly sub-optimal spelling.

But strolling along one of his favorite landscapes, Bubba the artist came out on top. Again.

Watson is in the midst of a resurgent season, one that already included a third victory at one of his favorite haunts in Riviera Country Club. It featured a decisive run through the bracket at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and a return to the leaderboards at Augusta National where he fell short of a third green jacket.

It only makes sense, then, that he’d build upon that burgeoning momentum at the Travelers Championship, where he earned his first PGA Tour victory in 2010 and Sunday joined Billy Casper as the tournament’s only three-time champ with a final-round 63 to catch and pass Paul Casey.

This is a place where Watson can bomb drives by feel and carve short irons at will, and one where he officially put his stamp on the best season to date on Tour.

“His hand-eye coordination is by far one of the best I’ve ever seen,” DeChambeau said. “You’ve got me who was just struggling off the tee, and he’s just swiping shots down there. It was cool to watch. I wish I could do that. I probably could do that, but I just don’t feel like I’d be as consistent as he is.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Consistency wasn’t an apt descriptor a year ago, as Watson went from two-time major champ to completely off the radar. His world ranking, which began last year at No. 10 and is now back up to No. 13 after he became the first three-time winner this season, fell as far as 117th before his win at Riviera in February.

Watson attributes much of the turnaround to a change in health. Never really one to tip the scales, he lost 25 pounds in a three-month span last year while battling an undisclosed health concern. After putting some of the weight back on, he’s now able to focus more of his time and energy on fine-tuning one of the Tour’s most distinctive approaches.

“Anytime any of these guys kind of get comfortable with just being them, and golf is secondary in a sense, it helps them reach their potential,” said Scott. “I think the hype and the pressure can sometimes put things out of sort. And right now he’s just very comfortable with who he is as a person, and I think in his life. It helps him relax on the golf course.”

What Watson doesn’t prefer to mention is the equipment change he made that serves as a not-so-subtle line of demarcation. The southpaw turned heads at the end of 2016 when he agreed to play a colored Volvik ball on Tour during the 2017 season, only to watch his results fall off a cliff. A return to the Titleist ball he previously used has coincided with some of the best results of his 12-year career.

“I don’t think it has had any (role) in my success,” Watson said. “My clubs weren’t going the distance that I used to. I couldn’t shape it the way I want to. Luckily for me, I know the problem, and the problem was with health and not all these other things.”

But regardless of the true source of his turnaround, Watson is back to doing what he does best. That includes carving up the handful of venues that most fit his unique eye, be they lined by thick kikuyu rough outside Los Angeles or dotted with menacing water hazards outside Hartford.

The artistic touch was on full display with his final swing of the day. Facing exactly 71 yards to a pin tucked barely over the edge of a yawning bunker on No. 18, Watson laid the face open on his 63-degree wedge and hit a cut shot that spun and checked to inside 3 feet.

“Teddy put his arm around me, like, ‘That was an amazing shot,’” Watson said. “He’s seen a lot of shots, he’s been out here for many years. So for him to realize it, and other players to text me and realize it, it was special.”

While it seemed at the time like a shot that gave Watson a glimmer of hope in his pursuit of Casey, it ultimately turned out to be the final highlight of a three-shot victory. It’s the type of shot that few, if any, of his peers can visualize, let alone execute with such exact precision with the tournament hanging in the balance.

It’s the type of shot that separates Watson – the quirky left-hander with the pink driver who openly talks about his struggles with on-course focus and abhors few things more than trying to hit a straight shot – from even the best in the game when things are firing on all cylinders.

“The skills have always been there, as you know. But he’s just more relaxed now,” Scott said. “And when these guys, obviously when they enjoy it, they can play at their best and not get too stressed.”