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QA Rules for Different Players

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
Has the time come for two sets of rules: one for us, the common folk of golf, and another for the elite members of the PGA Tour?
-- Jim

I truly thank you for the question, which has been considered by many.I think we are all feeling frustrated with the way that we, 99+% of the golfing population, are being affected by some of the very questionable recent proposals by the USGA to limit equipment performance.This frustration leads to a seemingly obvious solution: bifurcate the rules.
I feel very strongly about this, as do the USGA and R&A in their recent Statement of Principles:
The R&A and the USGA continue to believe that the retention of a single set of rules for all players of the game, irrespective of ability, is one of golf's greatest strengths.
Golf is unique in that amateurs and professionals play on the same course at the same time with and against each other. In excess of 8,000 golfers enter the qualifying stages of the U.S. Open; at what point, when qualifying for an elite competition, would the rules switch from the everyday set to the elite set? If an elite ball is introduced, when are you required to use it? State and Local qualifying for the Championship? State events? What about the rounds at ones club where golfers establish the handicap that is a part of their qualifications?
Other than the practical side of this, about 35 million people around the world play golf, and its integrity has its foundation in a reasonably good understanding of and adherence to a single set of rules. We admire and aspire to be like the very elite and best of us. As spectators, we fantasize that we could be what we see, if we only had the time ' and this feeling is reinforced by some of our outstanding feats on our own courses every now and again. If there were two sets of equipment rules, this relationship would crumble and our extraordinary feats would feel less meaningful.
I have proposed a ten club rule for the elite golfers in high-level tournament play (.001% of the golfing population), which could serve to rein them in (if this is really necessary) and make them more effectively exhibit their wonderful skills. This proposal is a form of bifurcation of the rules, but not of the all-important equipment rules that affect all of us, and therefore it would not sever the relationship we have with our superstar heroes.
The real issue, however, is that all of the recently adopted equipment rules or proposals stem from a belief that the performance of the elite is creating a problem. Without evidence that the game will be better after the adoption of such proposed changes ' better for all of us -- we must rightfully question the logic and rationale for the potential disruption, and ask whom the guardians are truly representing.
The specific concern is distance at the Tour level, and the governing bodies in their Statement of Principles go on to outline some factors that contribute to improved distance, including improved athleticism, coaching, conditioning, equipment, etc.They then state:
The R&A and the USGA will consider all of these factors contributing to distance on a regular basis. Should such a situation of meaningful increases in distances arise, the R&A and the USGA would feel it immediately necessary to seek ways of protecting the game.
This means that 99% of golfers are not being considered in the ruling bodies decisions. My concern is that if we (most golfers) are affected by equipment restrictions to relieve a problem that exists at the elite level only, then we may well choose not to follow those restrictions. This would not be good for golf.
Jim, stay on the course. I believe the USGA will soon turn the corner and do what is in the best interests of the game. I do not believe it is necessary to divide the rules between the professionals and the rest of us. One set of rules has been good enough for over a hundred years. It still is today.
-- Frank
Hello Frank,
I started playing golf very recently, as the country I moved from did not have many facilities for golf. I'm in the process of buying my first set of golf, clubs, but I'm a bit confused when it comes to the fairway woods and the hybrids. Frank, what is the difference between them, and which one should I go for? Kindly help.
-- David

The hybrid club is now close to being perfected and it definitely has a place in every serious golfers bag. It works differently than a fairway wood because it has an MOI (Moment of Inertia) that is slightly less, its center of gravity (c.g.) is positioned low and to the rear but not as far back as on the fairway wood, and in most cases it is much shorter than the comparable fairway wood -- about 2 to 2.5 inches shorter.
Because of these differences, the Hybrid will hit the ball with a lower trajectory than the fairway wood, and will be more accurate because of the difference in the length of the club, making it easier to control but shorter in distance than a fairway wood of similar loft.
As compared to an iron, the hybrid of similar loft is more forgiving because of its higher MOI and rearward positioned and low c.g. It will hit the ball a little higher and farther than an iron with the same loft. It is also about to 1 inch longer than the iron.
The shaft flex of a hybrid should be the same as the iron it is replacing. If you select a graphite shaft (not a bad choice) be aware that with every graphite shaft the length is increased by 1/2 inch compared to its steel counterpart, to compensate for the lighter shaft weight and to maintain the same swing weight.
The bottom line is that every serious golfer should have at least one hybrid in his bag. To make room for it (or them) you will need to drop one of your fairway woods (preferably the 5- or 7-wood) and/or the 3 and 4 iron. The 4-hybrid (22 to 24 degree loft, depending on the make) will not allow you to hit that low-under-the-branches shot as well as the regular 4-iron, so it may be a good idea to keep this club in the bag for when you need a low iron trajectory.
If you are going to get two hybrids and presently have a 3-iron, then go for the 21 and 24 degree and dump the 3-iron and a wood. In general, hybrids augment your collection of fairway woods and irons; they dont replace the woods completely. Most golfers who love their hybrids use them to substitute for hard-to-hit long irons.
Hope this will help in your selection.
-- Frank
Dear Frank:
It has taken me 74 years to figure out that one's physical fitness is probably the single most important factor in being able to play a decent round of golf. After bypass surgery and five years of fitness-and-strength training I play better now than I did when I was a younger man. Having said that, equipment has played a big part of the improvement. I have taken advantage of the technology over the years and recently traded in my old forged blades for a set of Adams senior clubs with a 4- and 5-hybrid and beefed up 6 through PW. I have had a nagging question over the years, however, about shaft length because I am 5' 6' and getting shorter every year it seems. Are off the rack clubs ok for the shorter person, or do they require adjustment? Will choking up accomplish the same thing? Thanks. I enjoy reading your insight into the game.

When you were younger, you probably didnt need to go out of your way to become physically fit. As we move through life and our normal athletic activities change and we slow down, thats the time when we need to go out of our way to do something extra to keep the body in shape. Experiments show that a three-month stretching and strengthening regimen (not too vigorous) can in many cases increase your range of motion by making you more flexible and a little stronger, increasing your club head speed by about 5 mph. This is more than any new driver can give you in improved distance -- about 15 extra yards, all else remaining the same.
As far as club length is concerned, a standard length set should be fine for your stature, but as your swing speed decreases you should consider using more flexible and even lighter-weight shafts in your irons.
Joe, well done on the fitness/strength thing, but do keep up with technology changes. This does not mean change your clubs every year, but every five years or so is a good rule of thumb. And get a good putter and take a lesson.
Next time youre in Orlando, come and visit our Frankly Frog Putting Studio. I know you will shave stokes from your score and have more fun on the greens. See for details.
Hope this helps
-- Frank
Fall for the FrogFrank 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