Your Equipment How Long

By Frank ThomasMarch 18, 2008, 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

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Every week we will select the best question and Frank will send one lucky golfer a personally signed copy of 'Just Hit It'. Last week's lucky winner was Jimmy with his question about the differences between hybrids and fairway woods.
To reserve your own copy of 'Just Hit It', please Click Here We are now shipping! The first 50 copies ordered this week will received a signed copy, direct from Frank.
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How Long to Keep Your Equipment
Hi Frank,

Enjoy your column every week! I've seen your advice several times for people to stick with their equipment for a number of years as long as they are comfortable with it. And not to jump every year at the new technology. I can appreciate this and see your point. But I often wonder if you are making any assumptions as to how many rounds per year a person is playing?
In other words, I can see if someone plays only 5 times a year, that their equipment should last quite a few years. But what about for those of us who are lucky enough to play a little more often? We are lucky enough to get between 65-75 rounds in per year... plus who knows how many driving range sessions on top of that.
So are there any guidelines you can give us to how many rounds a driver, a set of irons, and the wedges can get before you start to see a deterioration of performance? Also factoring in say 1-2 range sessions a week as well?

This is a question, which I have been asked a few times, and the answer is not totally adequate for all situations for every golfer.
As far as your irons are concerned you don't have to worry too much about changing them every year in fact every two or three years should be fine. The only concern you should have is wearing down the face if you practice a lot, and play 50 or more rounds a year on very sandy turf. Most turf will not affect the grooves for several years.
With your wedges -- real wedges not today's PW which is actually a continuation of the set and has the loft of, and used like, a nine iron of thirty years ago -- you do need to pay some attention to the grooves. If you are a single digit handicap and have the ability to control the spin the around the greens with you 52 degree and 60 degree lob wedge, and practice a lot with these clubs then you may notice some deterioration in spin because of worn grooves after a year, especially if the soil on your course is very sandy. If you use your Sand Wedge out of the rough frequently then you should have the grooves checked every year because many shots out of the sand will increase the wear factor. If you don't use your Sand Wedge (generally 56 degree loft) out of the rough often then don't worry about it for three or four years. A bunker shot almost always has sand between the ball and the club face and thus the grooves play little part in the ball performance on the green from a sand shot.

If you are on the PGA Tour or think that you could be if you only had the time, AND have enough money not to be of concern then you can change your wedges, the 52 Gap wedge and the 60 Lob Wedge every year. The problem with doing this is that you will lose an old friend and the associate confidence and performance that new grooves may not be able to replace.
When it comes to your driver, this is not going to wear out unless you hit more than 10,000 drives at 110 mph head speed, on the sweet spot. This is about 400 rounds of golf.
You should, however check the face with the straight edge of a credit card every six months to see if it starts to become flat or concave. If so then it may be time to change. In most cases a perceived loss in distance has more to do with the swing than the club or just the fact that the magic is starting to wear off.
Have fun and keep supporting our game.
Retiring Golf Balls
I do not hit the ball very far and usually pretty straight. For these reasons plus the forgiveness of the course I play on most of the time, I can go many rounds, 5-10, without losing a ball.
When should I retire a ball and start using a new one?
Thanks and I enjoy your column.

It is good to hear of someone who can play 10 rounds without losing a ball. You must be on a course, which is appropriately designed for your skill level or you have decided to swallow your ego and play from the right (a more friendly) set of tees.
If this is the case, it is truly refreshing as I address this particular issue with some zeal in my recently published book Just Hit It. If more of us want to enjoy our game we need to tackle some of the issues, which are having a detrimental effect and discouraging new golfers from participating and existing golfers from playing more. Slow play, cost and the intimidation factor are the major deterrents. To be able to play ten rounds without losing a ball you must be enjoying your game. Also I am sure that from these tees you are able to par any hole with your best shots. Par should be achievable and if not move forward to the next set of tees.

I am sorry, for going on about some of the problems, the game is facing, but I feel very strongly about this issue. In the book, I also address the question you asked about how long a ball should last.
Todays multilayered balls -- if stored at a reasonable temperatures -- will last many years without any detrimental effect on performance. Playing a ball with a driver impact speed of about 90 mph -- not bad for most of us mortals -- the ball will last for at least 20 rounds without concern about resilience changes. However, I do caution you that the aerodynamics of the ball can be significantly altered by scuffmarks on its surface and even mud and dirt in the dimples. So clean your ball whenever you have an opportunity to do so. If the surface is showing signs of wear then it is time to retire your ball to the shag bag. In your case Paul, as long as you stay in the fairway -- no bunkers or cart paths -- ten rounds should be close to the surface wear limit (not a bad inning for a ball).
Thanks for the question and giving me a chance to mention my book, which I know you and many others will enjoy, and our game will be the ultimate beneficiary. I am personally signing the first 25 orders recieved this week. Click Here to order.
Frank 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
Frank Thomas

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

@radiosarks on Twitter

Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

“You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

“He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

“I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

“I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

“I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.


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Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.