QA The Playability of Blades

By Frank ThomasSeptember 5, 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

Hi Frank,
I recently purchased a set of 1995 Hogan Apex blades with the red line and the word 'forged' under the Ben Hogan. I hit them really well even though they are a small blade. Has there been much change over the years in blade irons? Would there be any advantage to looking into a new set of Apex clubs? -- Thanks, Dennis Sobolewski Monrovia, CA

If this is a semi cavity back iron and the red line is under the words 'Hogan' and 'forged,' it is the Edge GCD Tour model introduced in 1996 model. The company may have started the introduction in 1995. This is a good iron and more forgiving than some of the other models that Hogan has produced. If the red line is under the word 'Ben' and the word 'forged' under 'Hogan,' then it was introduced in 1978. It is a blade style and less forgiving than the GCD model.
If you hit your irons well then don't expect magic from a new set.
Yes, the technology has changed for the better in irons and they come in a range of playability factors. About 300 irons are listed on my site in different playability factors categories with suggested use by skill levels. See and search under Maltby Playability Factor. This is only a guideline.
Of greatest importance is that you feel comfortable with your irons and this will develop confidence. If you are happy with your present set of irons, then stay with them but it doesn't hurt to look around anyway. However, don't expect a significant difference in performance, as the technology in irons has not changed much, other than clubs have become a little more forgiving and are thus a little easier to hit. Check my website for some options to look for.

Dear Frank,
Due to a series of health problems, it has now been five years since I last played golf. I have a new hip and two 'stents' in my aorta. I am in my early 70s and I am anxious to get back to the game and need new equipment. When I played my last game, my handicap was 12 and I was hitting it long and straight with a titanium driver (which now matches my hip), 4,5,7,and 9 graphite metal-woods and graphite irons.

Please advise as I am anxious to place an order and get started. -- Thanks, Barbara Wright

Congratulations for getting through the health problems and even more so getting back into the game. Nobody can tell you that this game isn't one of the most addictive ever. Let's be frank, you will take a little time to get back to your 12 handicap, but don't let that affect you.
I would suggest that you start with your woods and get one of the newer titanium drivers with a high COR (see my website under 'Frankly Speaking' to learn more about COR). Most of the new drivers are at the limit so you don't have to worry. Choose a driver with a loft of about 14 and hang on to your 4,5,7, and 9 woods for now. Iron technology has not changed so much in the last 10 years, so these are still OK for a while. You should, however, try one of the newer soft core balls such as the Precept XP3, the Titleist DT Solo or Callaway HX Pearl.

When you get into the swing of things again then think about looking at some irons but you don't need them now. Well done and welcome back.

I have an average swing speed of 85-90mph with a driver. I am a 12 handicap. I probably drive the ball around 200 yards. I have stiff shafts in all of my clubs. It may be an ego thing that I just like the idea of having stiff shafts.
Do you think I am losing distance and/or accuracy by having stiff shafts rather than regular? Your insight regarding club and ball technology is the most interesting to see on T.V. and read on the web. Your information is a real help to many golfers. Thanks, Frank. -- Jeffrey W. Harris

Thanks for the kind words.
Yes, I do think that you are losing both accuracy and distance by sticking to a stiff shaft, which satisfies your ego but is not conducive to a good consistent swing. If the shaft is too stiff for your swing speed then you will find that the good shots are normally associated with a really hard swing. The rest of the time, and certainly when you get tired, you will be fighting your clubs to get them to perform. This creates tension and an inconsistent badly timed swing. Timing is more important to consistency and distance than almost anything else. So if you want to improve both accuracy and distance, use the correct shaft flex - which in your case is probably a regular flex. Try this out and put your ego back in the bag. Real men do use Regular flex shafts and find that their scores improve along with it.

Your advice re: shorter drivers is great and should be of prime interest to those who believe that longer shafts beget longer drives. In our group I have the shortest driver (43.5) and out-drive all but one guy and my drives are on the fairways.
My question is, do you think that Michelle Wie's wayward drives are because of the length of her driver? Also Tiger Woods seems to hit more drives that go awry than in his earlier days as a pro, when he was using a 43.5 inch driver.

Always enjoy reading your column and your answers on TV. -- Wilfred Ogawa, Kaneohe, Hawaii

I believe that Michele Wie's driver is 46 inches, which if this is the case makes it more difficult to control. I believe that Tiger was accurate and still very long early in his career with his 43.5 inch steel-shafted driver.
If you can have more confidence in your swing by using a shorter-shafted driver, you will swing better, have improved timing and gain all the distance you would achieve by using a longer shaft, which may not be so accurate. Well done to you, but don't let anybody know your secret.

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
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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”