Frank Thomas Nails It 300 Yards Down the Middle

The Gear Guy Speaks: Ex-USGA Expert Frank Thomas Says Golfers Pay Too Much for Too Little

He is not a pessimist. “The game will always be here, because it’s the most bewitching and beguiling game that man has ever devised,” he told me during a recent visit to his office and putting studio. “But the thing that concerns me is how commerce now dominates golf and is trying to squeeze the last dollar out of its most avid customers rather than trying to open the game up to more participants. If the goal is to improve the overall health and enjoyment of the game, that’s the wrong direction.”

A big part of the problem, he believes, is the disproportionate attention paid to the tiny percentage of players who compete at elite levels.

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In the last 30 years, Mr. Thomas contends, there have been only three innovations that had a major, beneficial impact on the game. The first, led by Karsten Solheim at Ping, was perimeter weighting on putters, irons and, later, metalwoods, which helps keep shots on line by preventing clubheads from deflecting as much on off-center strikes. The second was graphite shafts, which make clubs lighter and thus easier to swing faster. (He believes that in time graphite shafts will become nearly as common in irons as they now are in woods.)

The third innovation, spring-like effect in driver heads, came about by accident and, in Mr. Thomas’s opinion, was regrettable. “In the 1990s clubmakers started using titanium in drivers because it was lighter and stronger than steel and they could make the clubheads larger. That made them more forgiving, which was the purpose. But then they discovered that the big heads were hitting the ball farther, too, because of the trampoline effect it got from the thinner, bigger clubfaces,” he said. For pros who swing at 115 mph and make perfect contact, the added distance is 8 to 10 yards from increased ball velocity alone.

There’s lots more really good practical advice there; go read the whole thing. And click on his website: www.franklygolf.com

Unless you like spending $1800 on clubs to hit the ball further into the rough than you do now. Totally up to you.

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