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QA Time for Changes

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
I always enjoy reading anything you write either on the GC e-mail site or in magazines, and I totally respect your opinion. You recently advised a gentleman to keep up with the latest technology in perhaps 5-year increments. I play with X12 irons, steel shaft, which were custom fitted for me in 1999, and I appear to be losing distance as I get older ( Im 62). I love these irons (I only use the 5 thru PW, as I have a hybrid to replace the 3 & 4 irons), but I often think I should consider a newer version of this club, or go to graphite shafts. I have a new 460 driver and 5-wood (2004). When I look at the X18s or X20s, they dont appear to be so different from my X12s as to warrant the cost involved. Are they?
-- Art

The comment I love these irons tells me a great deal, as well as I appear to be losing distance as I get older (I am 62). At 62 you are only maturing, not getting old. The distance you are losing is not because of your clubs, which are a good set of irons and well made. The fact that you love them is more important than anything ' almost.
Iron technology has not changed as much as driver technology in the last ten years, and you know this because you have a two-year-old driver and 5-wood (which should do well for another several years).
Really, the only way to increase the distance with your irons is to increase your head speed. The newer models will not do this for you.
A graphite shaft will probably help because this will lighten the club without decreasing the head weight, which is the business end of the club. When a manufacturer substitutes a graphite shaft for a steel shaft, the swing weight will decrease several points so he (the manufacturer) increases the length of the club by inch to compensate and keep the swing weight the same. This somewhat defeats the purpose, but not completely. This increase in length may allow you to get a few extra yards without any increase in effort, but with a slightly longer club you will also decrease your ability to control the shot a little.
What I have suggested a few times before is that as we mature we need to get to the gym and do some stretching and flexibility exercises. This will allow you to increase your range of motion, which we lose as we mature, and will do more for your distance than any club including a new driver can.
Art, the newer iron clubs you mention wont hurt you at all, but dont expect any significant improvement in distance. Your X-12s probably need to be re-gripped, but I would not recommend that you swap out these good friends, which you love so much. If they werent working for you, then I might suggest a change for both real and psychological reasons. New clubs always hit the ball farther ' or so it seems. Give your X-12s an extra waggle for me.
-- Frank
I really enjoy your columns. It is so refreshing to hear the truth you have taught us on equipment. It has saved me a lot of money. My question for you is about the grooves on the irons. I am a 14 handicapper and strive to improve my game. I was browsing through eBay and noticed a listing for a groove sharpener. I have a set of Mizuno MX-20 irons, forged clubs. I notice the grooves have flattened a slight bit on the edges in my wedges, more so than the other irons. If I were to purchase the groove sharpener and use it, what effect would it have if I incorrectly deepen the grooves or widen them? What is the rules on grooves -- would it make my clubs illegal if this were to happen? Would it affect the play of the ball?
I have never had much spin on the ball when it lands on the greens, but I believe that's more my swing than the grooves. I believe strongly in staying within the rules of the game and do not want to improperly alter my equipment to improve my game; it would only be cheating myself as well as those I play with.
Keep up the good work. I really enjoy your columns.
-- Dean

First, thank you for you kind comments, I am pleased to help. With regard to grooves and the other questions you have asked, let me try to answer them together.
If you decide to sharpen the grooves yourself, you are risking not doing it correctly and may violate the rigid and precise groove specifications. (See Rule 5 c in Appendix II, which I authored about 20 years ago and modified about 15 years ago.The specs seem to be doing a good job, though there are some rumblings about changing them because the some of the pros on tour get out of light rough too easily. For heavens sake, just grow the rough for them and cut it down a little for us; the grooves will not be so important or have as much effect.)
Rule 4-1 b. Wear and Alterations states in part that (a)ny part of the club that has been purposely altered is regarded as new and must, in the altered state, conform with the rules.If it becomes non-conforming because of wear through normal use (we all know what this means, so dont try to wear finger slots in your grip with sand paper), there is no violation.
My suggestion is not to try to reshape the grooves yourself. There are a number of club makers who have the equipment to do this and make sure the grooves conform in the altered state.If you are not one to put much spin on the ball anyway, as you have mentioned, then dont worry, you are probably not going to get any different effect with the slightly modified version.
Good luck, and sign up as a Frankly Friend by clicking here and we will keep you informed whenever we have a new set of Q&As. I will also let you know when my book will be available. I think you are going to enjoy it very much.
-- 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