QA My Take on Grooves

By Frank ThomasNovember 21, 2006, 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
I really do enjoy your column and I know that you will be able to answer my question about grooves on wedges. Do new sharp grooves make a difference to the spin on the ball when I hit the ball from a tee? -- Jim, N.C.

The answer is NO they dont. If you have a sandblasted face this will probably do as much or more to increase the spin than a grooved face. When you are hitting out of the rough then grooves do matter and the better defined they are the better off you are to get some spin on the ball. The rough condition will always reduce the spin from a wedge when compared to a dry condition but from deep (4 to 6 inch) heavy rough it doesnt matter what ball you play or configuration of grooves you have on your wedge.
This is the point I have tried to make in my Frankly Friends Newsletter this month (click here to read). The USGA has more important things to worry about than thinking about changing the groove configuration because some pros are able to get out of the rough relatively easily with out too much concern about being there. My proposal is to lengthen the rough for those situations where this is important. The upheaval of changing groove specifications is not worth it. Read the newsletter and tell us what you think by voting.
Why do we 'average' golfers have to be subjected to the current rage of super fast greens? Greens with undulations or swales as we call them - OK. It discourages me, and I can only speak for myself. Also, there is too much variation of green speeds between courses.
If the Pros can only separate the men from the boys by playing on pool tables or glass so be it.

Why do we 'average' golfers have to be subjected to the current rage of super fast greens? Greens with undulations or swales as we call them - OK. It discourages me, and I can only speak for myself. Also, there is too much variation of green speeds between courses.
If the Pros can only separate the men from the boys by playing on pool tables or glass so be it.
I just read your study on 'Growing the Game' and liked it. This subject should be added. And I am not a 'bad' putter. -- Ken, Texas

There is no doubt that fast greens in combination with severe undulations, do not help the cause of trying to make the game more enjoyable for the average golfer. The game is not growing and in fact participation is flat having fallen for some time. There are some projections that the number of course closings will, for the first time in nearly 70 years, match the number of new course openings.
Based on our research study report (see Growing the Game by clicking here) we have confirmed what most of us know, that the game not only takes too long to play 18 holes, but costs too much and most of us are not deriving as much pleasure from playing as we used to. One of the reasons for this is that in many cases we are playing from the wrong set of tees. The survey of over 18,400 golfers from 44 countries around the world (largest survey on this subject ever done) also show that we seem to overestimate the distance we drive the ball by 30 to 40 yards.
Also courses designed for scratch golfers are too challenging for the average golfer even though the tees are set forward. This forward tee position does little to ease the tough approach shots, which again are designed to challenge very good golfers.
Ken, you are right that fast greens with undulations have had a detrimental affect on the enjoyment factor for a lot of golfers.
When in 1976 I redesigned a device to measure the speed of greens (I called it the Stimpmeter because I worked with a concept originally developed by Eddie Stimpson in 1935) I also developed an instruction brochure with suggested speeds for average play. These have been exceeded by a significant amount.
This has come about for two reasons; the ability to make greens faster without ruining them and this was spurred on to attain bragging rights for having the fastest greens around. This is not good for many golfers as it presents an inappropriate challenge, which spoils the round in many cases.
I will certainly include this issue in Phase II of the research study, which is in the fund raising stage at this time. I'll also have more to say about this subject in my soon to be completed book.

Thanks for your interest and concern about the game that a lot of us enjoy so much.
If you are serious about improving your game, rather than just wanting to improve your scores, is it better to be hitting a 'more forgiving iron' OR is it better to learn to hit a less forgiving iron correctly?
Thanks for your opinion. Lori

This is a tough one. Let me say that there are not too many golfers who really want to improve their game through hard work and practice. It is easier and less time consuming to go out and buy a forgiving set of clubs that will forgive our miss hits and work almost as well as those clubs designed for the pros.
There is nothing better than hitting the sweet spot on a blade iron but also nothing very exciting about missing that spot. So to improve your game (skills) you should probably strive to use a set which is a little better than you are and keep moving up as your skills improve. It is not much fun hitting bad shots and forgiving clubs reduce this somewhat. But they also make you lazy in that you rely on the forgiveness and this reduces the incentive to improve your skills. Forgiving clubs will probably keep you playing the game for fun but blades will definitely give you a good measure of how much you need to work on you game to improve your skills.
I have been under the impression that in tournament golf (pro or am) that the same make and compression ball had to be used throughout the round, but I have been told by a fellow golfer that there is no rule requiring this. What is the official rule? -- JB
What you are referring to is what is known as the One Ball Condition.
This is a Condition of the competition as established by the committee in charge of the event. It (the committee) may or may not adopt the condition. If it does then the competitors must be so advised.
For competitions involving expert players there are some conditions, which are recommended by the USGA, and you can find these in the rule book. These include using only Driver Heads, which are listed as having been tested, and conform. Also the competitors may use only a ball listed on the conforming list. The other condition recommended for expert players is the One Ball Condition which should state; During a stipulated round the balls a player plays must be of the same brand and type as detailed by a single entry on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls.
If posted, this means that the committee has decided to enforce this, or those Conditions of the Competition and the penalty for violation of any of these specific conditions is disqualification in stroke play.
The Rules of Golf only require that you play with conforming equipment. However, to be sure that it does conform the USGA has provided a list on its website referring to clubs and balls which have been tested and found to conform. This doesnt mean that others dont conform, but to be sure, the committee may choose to post the list and the condition.
The background behind the adoption of this rule is lengthy but in essence it is designed to prevent golfers from taking advantage of the performance differences of various balls for specific conditions which confront them on different holes. For example, using a low flying ball into the wind or a high spinning ball on a par three hole etc.
JB, unless you are in a competition where these conditions are posted you dont have to worry about them. The PGA Tour and many State and College events including all USGA championships adopt this condition.
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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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.