QA Why Putts Lip Out

By Frank ThomasOctober 10, 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
Dear Frank,
Fred Funk
Fred Funk joins Frank on 'Ask Frank,' Monday, Oct. 15 at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (WireImage)
I have always played standard lie golf clubs, even though I am 64 tall (stubborn rejection of technological advancementI just switched from persimmon heads last year). I recently bought a new set and had them adjusted by my favorite local pro. He measured me and told me I needed three degrees upright! So, he adjusted them, I took em out, and I hooked every iron for fourteen holes. I tried to swing much more steeply than I was used to, and it seemed to work pretty well.
Heres the question: could a flatter swing with more upright clubs produce hooks? I'm willing to swing more steeply; I just want to make sure that I have figured out the right reason for my hooks before I make a swing change.
Thanks for your time,

Stubborn Ben,
I am not surprised that your favorite local pro gave you clubs with 3-degree upright lies on your new set of irons. He wanted to get back at you for being so stubborn and not switching to metal woods sooner.
There is no doubt that if you have a good swing and are reasonably happy with the ball flight, a 3-degrees change to your lie angle will dramatically affect your results.
If the lie is too upright it will produce a draw (or in your case, a hook). I am not sure that I would recommend you change your swing plane to adjust for the hook when you know exactly what is causing it. I say this assuming that you have a grooved swing and your favorite local pro hasnt tried to correct it for you. He has probably been so upset with you for being so stubborn about your driver that he didnt notice the flaw (if you have one) in your swing plane.
Now that you have worn out the off-road tires on your golf cart by spending so much time in the left woods, your pro may want to review your swing and the lie angle on your set.
For your height you probably do need a different lie than standard, so make friends again with your pro and get things sorted and dont wait so long to take advantage of some of the recent advances that have been made in technology.These advances are becoming fewer and farther between, so you shouldnt feel you have to make frequent changes, but go with the ones that have passed the test of time. Otherwise, who knows what your favorite local pro will do to you next?
This one is out of left fairway.
-- Frank
Hello Frank,
Can you please explain why a putt lips out of the hole? Is it because it is going too fast or because it is rolling with sidespin instead of end over end? And, of course, how do I keep it from happening?!
-- Anne

If the ball is directed toward the center of the hole at the correct speed, it will fall into the hole, touching the back of the hole-liner on its way to where it truly belongs -- i.e., the bottom of the cup. This is our final objective when we tee it up on every hole.
If it is going too fast, it will bounce off the back edge of the cup and over the hole. So speed is important; when you practice putting, on your misses the ball should end up about 12 to 18 inches behind the hole, which would indicate that even though you didnt have the right line at least you had the correct speed. The odds are that if you are short with your putts, they will not go in, so try to get enough speed on the putt to get it at least over the edge of the hole or a little beyond it.
Now when your line is slightly off and the ball rolls around the edge only to lip out, it is because, for that line (an off-center near miss), it was going too fast. If the ball is moving more slowly, it could fall in the side door or even do a 180. It has nothing to do with sidespin, which you may have put onto the ball immediately after impact.
Putts begin with backspin or sometimes with no spin, which come from an upward stroke and little to no loft on the putter. I recommend that putters have a 4-degree loft, because this will lift the ball out of the depression in which it has inevitably come to rest on the green. A lower lofted putter may drive the ball into the rim of this slight depression and tend to make it jump, which may deflect it slightly off line. A 4-degree loft will control the very small amount of backspin off the putter and avoid any inconsistent initial jumping.
Click here for a little better understanding of what happens to the ball after it leaves the putter. From this description you will see that soon after impact the ball starts sliding and then takes on pure forward spin. Even if you have applied a little side spin during impact, this will very soon be overcome by the friction of the grass (rolling friction) and the forward motion of the ball. By the time the ball reaches the hole even on very short putts it has pure forward spin, sometimes referred to as overspin.
Anne, lip outs are purely a matter of direction and speed and have nothing to do with sidespin. Thank you for asking the question; now you can give your friends, who believe that it has something to do with sidespin, a little lip of your own.
-- Frank
Dear Frank,
I recently played a company tournament where they gave complimentary balls with the company logo on them. This got me wondering if the logo will affect the performance of the ball, or if the ball will react the same as those without an extra logo?
-- RJ

Let me assure you that the only way the logo on a ball will affect your performance is if the logo on the ball is that of a competitor to your company, which was paying for the outing. It is not a good move to have a Coke logo on your ball at a Pepsi-sponsored outing.
I had the same question when I was directing all the ball testing at the USGAs Research and Test Center. We had to make sure that each ball was impacted on the same spot, and that we knew which ball was which, so we used a Sharpie to mark the balls with up to five numbers and/or letters. I wondered if the additional ink would affect the balls behavior in flight, so we devised a special test to orient the markings and compared these performances against the same make and model ball with no markings. We applied significantly more ink than would be used for any company logo. The results showed no difference in performance. The aerodynamics of the ball are affected by dirt in the dimples, and this could cause the ball to fly off line by several yards or more depending on how much is there, but the ink in a logo wont affect its flight.
If youre playing in competitions, be aware that any additional markings on a ball cannot substitute for the original markings used to identify the ball for placement on the Conforming List. If they are, it would be considered a different ball, and if you use it when the Golf Ball Conforming list is a condition of the competition, you would be subject to disqualification.
Greg Norman called me in during the 1996 Hartford Open where he was in the lead after the first day. He had noticed that the ball he was using had markings slightly different from a similar ball on the conforming list. I confirmed that the markings were slightly different, and he then disqualified himself. He kept calling me for the next week or so, never questioning the ruling that he knew was correct, but concerned about whether the ball itself conformed to the specifications in the rules. I was able to assure him that the performance of the ball did conform. I was impressed that Greg was so worried about the possibility that he had used a nonconforming ball, even after he had already called attention to his own possible violation and then disqualified himself.
Maybe this is what golf is all about, and one way it distinguishes itself from other sports. So keep your ball clean, RJ, and the only time you need to be concerned about the logo is if its the wrong one.
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
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After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

Each week, 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.”