QA Wind Effects and the Moon

By Frank ThomasMay 22, 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,
All golfers have there own way of adjusting to the force and direction of the wind when playing a shot. On TV a player may miss a green by a large distance and the announcer will say something about how the breeze just came up.
Has anyone ever done an in depth scientific study about the effect that wind speed has on a golf ball? For instance: Has anyone ever determined the difference in yards between 2 identical 7 irons, one hit with no wind and the second hit into a 20 mph wind. I realize there are many, many variables - but I've never even heard anybody mention an approximation. They say, 'about a one club breeze'. . . there's got to be more science than that? God, we went to the moon!
Really like your column Thanks for your time

Because of the lack of wind on the moon, there was no need to study the effect of the wind when Alan Shepard hit his golf shot using an iron head that snapped into the end of an extension pole used to collect moon dust samples. Soon after he donated this club to the USGA, he and I were huddled under an umbrella having been caught in a rain storm at a US Open, when he asked me if this club conformed to the Rules of Golf. My answer was, 'The equipment rules do not apply on the moon.'
With today's sophisticated trajectory simulation programs, it is relatively easy to understand the effect of wind from any direction. As rule of thumb, a head wind will hurt you a little more than a tail wind will help.
For guidance purposes taking a 250 yard drive as an example; a 2 mph tail wind will help you gain about 2 yards whereas the same speed head wind will hurt by about 2 yards.
When you increase the wind to 10 mph the tail wind will help increase the distance (all else being equal) by about 9 yards but the 10 mph headwind will hurt by 13 yards.
The trick for a golfer is first to get a good reading on the wind direction and the speed. This is not easy as the surface wind where he tosses up some blades of grass is not necessarily the same as the wind speed or direction 50 to 100 feet up off the surface that the ball sees.
Wind turbulence causing eddies are real and are hard to read or take into account when planning for a short iron shot. There might be a head wind when you launch the ball but when the ball reaches its peak 3 to 5 seconds later, it may experience a tailwind condition. I think that the 17th at the TPC and 12th at Augusta are made additionally difficult just because of turbulence in the wind and quirky wind gusts.
Jim, the real problem is not that aerodynamicists are unable to calculate the effects of wind but rather we golfers find it difficult to determine the wind speed and direction correctly. It is generally a good idea to keep an eye on the treetops while you are playing or the flag under the blimp if it is floating low around your foursome. Only if you are out in the open will tossing some grass help give you a general idea of wind direction and speed where you are.
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Hope this helps
Hi Frank,
I play with a Cobra 380 cc driver that is probably three years old. I like it and hit it pretty well. I am just wondering if a newer 460cc driver would add distance to my drives or are they designed more to straighten out tee shots? Thanks, Frank.

Whenever you make a good friend consider yourself very fortunate. Friends, true friends, are hard to come by so hang on as long as you can. Do not let your Cobra 380 know that you are even thinking about getting a new driver. You may be asking for trouble and never know how it will react.
If you are hitting the ball well with the 380 and the launch conditions are in the right ball park (to see a guideline to optimum launch conditions click here ) then don't change a thing. Matching another club to your liking and swing style may take some time and may not yield any measurable increase in distance. If you hit the ball on the sweet spot and the launch conditions are good then the only thing a new 460 will give you is the comfort in knowing that you have a little bigger sweet spot but you will not get any more distance from pure impact.
The 460 driver has a higher MOI (Moment of Inertia) than your 380, but may not have any more spring like effect from a sweet spot impact. So ball speed should be about the same. Unfortunately, most of us don't always hit the sweet spot every time so the extra little bit of forgiveness we get from a 460 may be helpful but not at the expense of losing the confidence you have developed in the 380.
It is becoming harder to design really significant performance improvements into drivers, and even though the changes being made are moving in the right direction they are not going to make a significant difference and especially if you are close to optimum conditions with your existing driver.
An intangible factor, which is more important than almost any other, is confidence. If you have confidence now, don't do anything to detrimentally affect it by getting another driver.
If you decide to try another driver, which is not a bad idea, if only to find out how lucky you really are with what you have, please dont do it in front of your 380.
If you don't tell, I won't.
In your recent newsletter I thought you had a great assessment of the EMD (Electronic Measuring Devices) subject and nice overview of the options in the market. If we play this game with pro type ambitions, why should we be denied similar opportunities to know where we are on the golf course and what we have in front of us? I have yet to hear someone make a comment that a pro or an amateur or whoever played well or won for any reason other than they played the shots required. You still have to make the play, knowing what you need to do is an opportunity we should all enjoy.
Thanks for a great Q & A.
-- Doug

Thanks for your comments.
With regard to my newsletter concerning EMDs (Electronic Measuring Devices), (Click here to read), I am pleased to advise you that the USGA adopted a LOCAL RULE allowing the use of these devices as of Jan. 2006 (see below).
The Local Rule allowing the use of distance-measuring devices will be available for use by Committees beginning Jan. 1, 2006. Decision 14-3/0.5 Local Rule Permitting Use of Distance-Measuring Device allows a Committee to establish a Local Rule permitting players to use devices that measure distance only.
The concern is that this has been limited to events out with USGA competitions and qualifying rounds
Even though the USGA will not adopt this Local Rule in its championships in 2006, it recognizes that state and local golf associations, tournament committees and individual golf courses may choose to adopt it.
The question I raised is; If the exact same distance information is available to participants in USGA championships and PGA TOUR events, by other means, why should use of such electronic devices not be permitted? Is the method alone, by which the competitor obtains the distance information important?
Certainly, EMDs do have the potential to speed up play and if this is realized then use of these devices may be very important to the game.
The good news is that the USGA has stated that; However, the Association will review the matter annually.
Therefore, the question to my readers, which can be answer at the conclusion of the newsletter, is: Should the USGA, R&A, PGA of America and the PGA TOUR permit the use of Electronic Measuring Devices (EMDs) -- which provide the same information the players already get -- in competition?
Your input and a summary of your comments will be sent to those who can effect a change.
Doug, for you it has been done, but for the superstar, they or their caddie still need to pace things out. Hope this helps give you a better insight as to how well the USGA is progressing.
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
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”