Do clubs lose their power?

Updated: May 21, 2004, 11:43 AM ET
By Frank Thomas | Golf Digest

Much of the terminology for drivers (thin titanium walls, larger sweet spot, better trampoline effect) sounds similar to that used for a baseball bat. Does a driver become "dead" -- the performance decreasing over time -- like a baseball bat? -- Timothy Wiley, Austin, Texas
When you hit a golf ball, the clubface bends or deforms at impact. The clubhead will change in performance only if that bending at impact goes beyond the yield point of the metal and doesn't fully recover to its normal resting position. It's like the difference between a fishing rod and a copper pipe. The fishing rod recovers; the copper pipe stays bent. Unless you have a colossally fast swing, the performance of your driver should stay the same over time. As for shafts, a lot of people think that steel shafts get softer and more flexible over time. If anything, the opposite is true.

Has the USGA explored standardizing dimples -- number, size or depth -- to better normalize the game? What would be the effects of such regulation? Nearly all other sports take pains to regulate the geometry of the ball; why not golf? It seems dimple design would be a simple, easily measured factor that could be used to impose natural limits on the game. -- Edgar M. Oshika, Northridge, Calif.
It's a nice idea, but not a very practical one. The USGA has never seriously considered dictating dimple specifications. It would be extremely difficult to enforce -- the dimples of every single make of ball would have to be measured, and it would limit the ability of ball manufacturers to produce balls with different characteristics. It's much easier to measure the overall performance of the ball, instead of it's specifications. It would be like your state deciding not to have speed limits on the highway, but to limit the engine size of the cars instead.

The grip on my putter needs replacement. I have never replaced a golf grip before, but I went out and bought a Sport Pride putter grip. What's the most effective and easiest way to do this? -- Frank Chao, Park Ridge, Ill.
Let's be Frank about this; changing a grip isn't too hard if you follow these steps. First, fix the putter in a vice with the toe pointing up and the grip end toward you. The vice should be well padded so you don't scar the putter head or shaft. Take a box cutter and carefully make a slit along the side of the existing grip down to the shaft. Peel the old grip off and clean off any old tape or glue. You will now need to spiral wrap some double-sided masking tape over that portion of the shaft. Make sure that the end of the shaft is covered and closed by the tape to prevent too much fluid entering it during the next step. Now, half fill the grip with lighter fluid or gasoline, keeping your finger over the hole in the end of the grip. Slosh the fluid back and forth inside the grip, pinching one end. Pour the fluid from the grip over the tape making sure it's well covered. The fluid you use will make the sticky tape slippery for a short period of time, allowing the grip to slide onto the shaft. Once the grip is all the way on you can remove it from the vice to straighten it out with the putter resting in its normal address position. Now, I don't recommend you change your own grip, but if it's something you want to really get into, contact and get the proper equipment and detailed instructions.

I have been wondering why a 5-wood is supposed to, and does, go so much higher in trajectory than a 2-iron, or, say, an 18-degree hybrid club. I don't think it's the center of gravity, because my rescue club, which has a very low CG, doesn't nearly get the ball anywhere near as high as my 5-wood. -- Johnson Chiu, Canada
Your 5-wood has about three degrees more loft than a 2-iron, but more importantly the center of gravity is behind the shaft, not in line with it. The dynamic loft (loft as presented to the ball just before impact) is probably also more than that of the static loft (loft when you address the ball). Hope that helps.

All other factors being equal, does less loft on a driver mean more distance? For example, with a solid swing and a square clubface at impact, would a 9-degree driver send the ball farther than a 10-degree driver? -- Erin Furey, Cleveland, Ohio
This depends on your swing speed and the angle at which the clubhead approaches the ball. With a lower swing speed it is generally better to get the ball launched higher, so use more loft to get more distance if that's the case. For high swing speeds, the optimal launch angle for maximum distance is 12-13 degrees (most pros hit their 7- or 9-degree drivers slightly on the upswing).

Frank Thomas, former USGA technical director, is now chief technical advisor for Golf Digest.

Do you have a question or comment for Frank? Send your inquiries to with the word "Thomas" in the subject field. Frank will answer the best questions in this space.

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