October 30, 2008

Frank Talk

Our equipment guru, Golf Digest Technical Advisor Frank Thomas, has the answers to your questions. Click here to submit a question for possible use in this column and you could receive a signed copy of Frank's latest book, "Just Hit It: Our Equipment and Our Game." For more from Frank you can visit his site franklygolf.com. [Note: Each week submitted questions will be reviewed and the best one will receive a signed copy of Frank's book, "Just Hit It."]



PLAYING WITH A PRACTICE CLUB-CLARIFICATION

To: Gerald and Terry, (aka the Rules Police)

Ref: QA to Ron on Playing with a Practice Club

Both of you caught an error in my answer to Ron. I do this every now and again to see if you guys are really paying attention. Seriously I thank you for your input and for keeping such a close eye on me. I thought my answer to Ron: "You may declare a club out of play by saying so to your fellow players. It is suggested that you remove it from the bag, or store it upside down, so it is obviously not intended to be used after your declaration," implied to during a round once the discovery had been made.

My excuse -- if I need one -- is that in trying to address every situation (practice clubs/devices; warm up clubs; extra clubs) which conform, or those which don't, I lost sight of a critical part of the question. This was: did Ron need to go back to the car to dump the non-conforming or extra club before he started the round if he didn't want to incur a penalty?

Ron, unfortunately, cannot KNOWINGLY START a round with an extra club or a nonconforming club without incurring a penalty just by declaring it out of play. The rest of the answer seems to be in good shape but if not, I know I will again hear from the "Rules Police," Gerald and Terry. Only kidding guys -- I thank you for this input.

Sorry Ron if my answer mislead you. You will have to go back to the car if you don't want to incur a penalty.

To Gerald and Terry, I am going to send you a signed copy of my book as a prize for catching the error.

Frank

SPREADING THE WEIGHT AROUND

Frank, I have been playing golf now for about 4 years and I am really into the game. I have been playing about 3 or 4 times a week this summer, and think it might be time to upgrade my driver (and woods) from my discount brand hand-me-downs since I have an occasional slice off the tee...Well maybe a little more than occasional.

I have read about the draw biased clubs from Taylor Made and also moveable weight systems from other brands, but don't really think they will help improve my game. Wouldn't I be better off trying to improve my swing?

Are the moveable weights and draw biasing just gimmicks to get people to buy more equipment? It almost feels to me that using a club like that would be cheating -- maybe not cheating at golf but cheating yourself out of actually improving your game. Your thoughts?

Thank you,

--Joseph

Joseph,

I will try to get to all your questions with one answer to avoid spreading it around. Playing as frequently as you do, I hope you read the small print when taking up this game four years ago; "WARNING: this can be very addictive and difficult to give up."

Yes, it is time to get a new driver. The other woods -- if they work well and are in good shape -- may keep their place in your bag. Otherwise, think about some new fairway woods, such as a 3-wood and maybe a 5-wood.

As far as your driver is concerned, YES you would be much better off working on your swing, rather than trying to get a draw bias driver to solve a swing flaw. In addition, YES, to the fact that you will be cheating yourself by getting a band-aid to solve your problem which will require the purchase of a new driver if you ever corrected your swing and no longer needed the band-aid. A good swing correction is always the best solution. This will not only improve your outlook, confidence, and enjoyment, but it will improve your distance and accuracy. The draw biased drivers are designed to satisfy golfers who are looking for a quick fix. Unfortunately, the quick fix may not be as effective as advertized.

Those golfers who can benefit from the slight shift in the center of gravity to the heel of the club -- a draw bias club -- are the very good golfers who fade (not slice) the ball. They want to take advantage of the gear effect by hitting the ball away from the center of gravity toward the toe. Most of us have experienced this effect when missing the sweet spot toward the toe and the result is a slight draw.

The draw bias driver has the center of gravity shifted to the heel and you will benefit from this slight adjustment, and thus the gear effect, if you hit the ball on the sweet spot more frequently than most of us do.

Joe, get a lesson or two, and get a standard neutral driver. Last years model will do as the technology has not changed rapidly, and you can save a dollar or two then for your lessons.

Frank

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO HIT A 3-IRON?

Frank, why is it so difficult to hit a three iron?

--Stan

Stan,

Your question is to the point. It doesn't take up much space, is very short and is easier to answer than hitting a 3-iron. Try a 2-iron or even a 1-iron if you are really looking for a challenge. This is if you can find a 1-iron!

The 1-iron lost its place in the bag about 35 years ago -- soon after manufacturers started decreasing the unwritten standard lofts for irons. They did this surreptitiously in an effort to demonstrate how their irons hit the ball farther than the competitor's clubs. This trend created a 2-iron with the same loft as a 1-iron of old, and the 3-iron is now equivalent to the old 2-iron. Clubs are now about 4 to 5 degrees stronger than the same numbered clubs of the 1960's

There are no loft standards for clubs, as these are now somewhat dependent on the club head design. You will find that the trend of decreasing the loft is reversing a little because of the mass distribution in the club head of the more forgiving heads. These have a backward and low positioned center of gravity which is getting the ball up into the air more easily. As a result, the lofts are less than expected to compensate for the higher trajectory.

Your 3-iron, which you find so hard to hit, is probably one of the older blade-like designs without the forgiveness which is now afforded to the newer bulky, but more forgiving, cavity back designs. This bulkiness means that the Moment of Inertia (the forgiveness factor) is greater, but not as forgiving as an equivalent lofted Fairway wood or Hybrid. This makes the 3-iron more difficult to hit. If however, you hit your 3-iron flush (right on the sweet spot), it is as sweet as any shot can be.

My suggestion -- because we are not that good -- is to leave your 3-iron, and even your 4-iron, in the box they were shipped in, even if these are of the latest design. Use the space in your bag for a three and four hybrid. Hybrids will certainly do a very good job, which you expected your 3 and 4-irons to do.

Iron technology has not changed significantly in the last 10 years or so, but it certainly has changed since Jack Nicklaus was at his peak in the early 1960's, but he was able to hit a 2-iron very well. Ping introduced forgiving irons -- cavity back clubs -- in the late 1960's. This concept is now used in almost every iron club on the market designed for most of us who are not on the tour, or aspiring to get there. But even these long irons are more difficult to hit than hybrids.

Frank