QA Quieting the Big Bang

By Frank ThomasAugust 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
 
I have a favorite pitching wedge that's a couple of years old and seems to have lost some 'bite' off of the face. While I know that the grooves may well be worn a bit, would it be possible/feasible to have the face lightly re-sandblasted to restore some of its 'tooth'?
 
Thanks.
--Bill

 
Bill,
 
Nick Price
Nick Price questions what the USGA will do to limit driver distance on 'Ask Frank,' Monday, Sept. 3 on GC at 11:00 p.m. ET. (Wire Image)
The grooves in your wedges will certainly wear down if you have been using these clubs for some time, especially out of the sand or sandy soil conditions on the range or elsewhere.
 
There are a few things you can do to restore the bite in your wedge. I would suggest that you contact GolfWorks.com or call them at (740)-328-4193 to find out what you need to do. Dont try to do this yourself without the proper tools. The face must first be belt-sanded to clean up and flatten the surface. This removes a thin layer of material from the surface, but not enough to affect the club weight significantly. The grooves are then reworked (milled) into the face. If the club was forged, then it has to be re-chromed, but most wedges are investment cast from stainless steel so this will not be necessary.
 
You should also know that under completely dry conditions where there is no grass between the face and the ball, grooves dont matter and a sand blasted face will provide enough friction to give you as much spin as any set of grooves. It is out of light rough -- i.e., 1 to 3 inches deep and not too dense -- that grooves affect performance and the type of groove makes a difference. When the rough is both dense and 3-inches deep or more, the groove type is no longer important. Therefore, if its under the light rough conditions that youre finding your wedge has lost its bite, then the steps above will do something to restore its performance.
 
A worn groove may still be used in the worn state BUT you should know that once you modify the clubface it is considered as new from a rules point of view and must conform with the very specific groove and other specifications drawn by the USGA. This is only important if you choose to play by the rules. I am an advocate of playing by the Rules of Golf, but I am finding it difficult to support some of the rules changes recently adopted or in the proposal stages.
 
The USGA has proposed a change to the groove specifications that would reduce the size of the groove by 50%. They believe that Tiger and his colleagues are not finding the light rough very much of a penalty or even a hazard. In a recent Golf World article, a USGA official in the equipment department implies that long rough is too much of a hazard and adds,That isnt golf. The rough isnt supposed to be a hazard. This was cited as the reason why we should not grow longer rough for the pros instead of changing the groove specs.
 
So if this is true, everybody who has played golf and has considered rough a hazard, (anywhere from a to a full stroke penalty) is wrong because rough isn't supposed to be a hazard.
 
It is this type of logic and reasoning that has diminished my ability to fully support some of the recent changes and proposals, which I believe will detrimentally affect millions of golfers unnecessarily.
 
More importantly, there is no evidence provided that these changes will make the game better; as a result, I fear such decisions will lead to an erosion of support and confidence in the USGA from its constituents, which is very bad for golf. If this proposed change in the standards for grooves in everyones irons is adopted, the USGA will force all golfers either to buy new clubs or to knowingly break the rules.
 
Bill, if you think that the bite in your wedge is not what you want, by all means treat your clubface or have someone do it for you. I dont know if youll find a lot of difference in performance, but youll feel more confidence with a club you know you like. Unfortunately, all of us are facing the loss of our favorite clubs if the USGA decides to take a bite out of the enjoyment of our game by adopting the new groove rule.
 
This is not groovy.
Frank
 
Frank,
 
I have a new square-headed driver. It sounds like an aluminum bat when you hit it.
 
Is there anything that can be done to it?
--Tony

 
Tony,
 
I think this is the nature of the beast. Theres not much you can do to the head without changing its performance properties. The sound can be dampened if you drill a small hole in the head and inject a light urethane-like foam to fill the cavity. This, however, is not recommended; it will increase the weight of the head, and will rob your friends of the opportunity to give you a hard time about noise pollution whenever youre on the course. There are other obvious solutions, which I am sure you may considered. These are:
 
a) Trade it in for another large forgiving head, one that doesnt alert the entire golf course when youve hit another drive.
 
b) Collect the earplugs provided by many airlines on overnight flights. These, if inserted, correctly will help in two ways: save your own ears while decreasing the volume to your inner ear and muffle the castigation from your fellow competitors, but more importantly prevent your jerking wince just before impact in anticipation of the explosive sound of impact.
 
c) Dont use this driver and position it over your mantelpiece to remind you of the purchase. This, however, would be a waste of money and not permit you the thrill of believing that the decibel level of impact relates directly to the increased distance you get.
 
Sorry to be so unhelpful in this case, but Im afraid you must live with this sound if you want to continue to use it without changing its performance benefits -- or at least those claimed in the promotional brochures.
 
I hope this answer sounds right.
 
Frank
 
Hi Frank,
 
Great column!!! Which type of hybrid is better: one that is flat faced like an iron, or one that is more like a fairway wood with bulge and roll? Thanks for your help.
--James

 
James,
 
I believe that most hybrids are now being made with a bulge and roll, even though this will vary in radius. (The bulge is the radius across the face from the toe to heel and the roll is the radius from the top to the bottom.) The reason for this is that the center of gravity (c.g.) is farther away from the face in hybrids than it is in most irons.
 
This deep location of the c.g. will put a sidespin on the ball when you hit it on the toe of the club, tending to give the ball a slight draw trajectory. This is called the gear effect, and its very pronounced when the c.g. is even farther back from the face, as in drivers. In clubs with a large face (up and down) and a c.g. deep into the center of the head, the roll also has a gear effect. A ball hit on the upper portion of the face will have less spin than one hit on the bottom of the face.
 
During impact, which only lasts .00045 of a second (220 times shorter than it takes you to blink your eye) the club head will twist about its c.g. if its mis-hit -- i.e., off the sweet spot. (It will not twist about the shaft, as many believe. Thus the shaft and any of its properties such as torque, stiffness, kick-point or weight play no part in the way the ball flies once contact has been made between the club face and the ball.) The purpose of bulge and roll are to give the ball a little nudge in a direction away from the center line when youve hit the ball off-center. This sounds like a bad idea, but it helps compensate for the gear effect: if your ball is going to draw from a toe-hit, you want it to start a little farther right, so the draw spin will bring it back to the middle where you want it. Hope this bulge and roll will keep you rocking down the fairway.
 
Frank
 
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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.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.”