Frank talk: defining kick point in shafts; how forged and cast irons differ; rating practice balls

Frank Thomas

What creates more carry: a high-lofted driver with a high kick-point shaft or a low-lofted driver with a low kick-point shaft?

Tom Kirsch, New Bern, N.C.

This is my favorite type of question because both answers can be correct. A high “kick point” means the shaft bends during the swing at a point slightly closer to the grip (with less bowing toward the tip of the shaft). A shaft with a low kick point bends slightly closer to the clubhead so there’s relatively more bowing. A shaft with a high kick point can generate a low ball flight because the clubhead tends to maintain its loft at impact. Increased bowing from a shaft with a low kick point might add loft at impact. To increase your launch angle–and carry distance–you can increase the loft of your driver, but additional loft can increase spin, and more spin can decrease distance. Because a shaft with a low kick point tends to increase loft at impact, you can slightly decrease the loft of your driver and still launch the ball at an ideal angle and avoid distance-sapping spin. The ultimate answer is to find the combination that creates the lowest spin with the highest trajectory. For a swing speed of 100 miles per hour, it’s ideal to have a launch angle of about 15 degrees and a spin rate of 1,500 revolutions per minute for maximum carry (about 13 degrees and 2,200 rpm for maximum overall distance). My advice: Find a reliable launch monitor (visit to find one near you). You’re probably better off experimenting with loft angles, low-spinning balls and longer tees to get the ideal trajectory. Adjusting the kick point is a final refinement. One more thing: Ashaft with a high kick point tends to feel a little firmer than a shaft with a low kick point.

What’s the difference between cast and forged irons, especially for high-handicappers?

Jonathan Ow, Redwood Shores, Calif.

A cast club is formed by pouring liquid metal into a mold. A forged club is made by heating the metal and then forming the shape by hammering or using a hydraulic press. If the design of the clubhead is the same, there should be no substantial difference in performance. You should be less concerned about whether a club is forged or cast and more concerned about how forgiving it is. Generally speaking, it is harder to forge certain game-improvement designs in irons (like a deep undercut cavity, for example), so you could say that there is greater variety in game-improvement cast clubs than in forged models.

No one can clearly tell me what “practice” balls are. Are they lower compression, defective or just as good as new?

Jeff William, Melbourne, Fla.

They are the same in all respects to the ones you can buy in the golf shop, other than the added stamp of the word “PRACTICE.” Like most X’d-out balls, these would conform to the Rules of Golf. However, in competition, the committee might stipulate that balls must be on the U.S. Golf Association’s list of conforming balls, and therefore, balls with “PRACTICE” stamped on the side would be disallowed. Some touring pros insist that the practice balls they use on the range be the same brand and type as those they use in competition. This is a good indication of the quality of these practice balls.

Frank Thomas, technical director of the USGA from 1974-2000, is Golf Digest’s Chief Technical Advisor. E-mail him at

COPYRIGHT 2005 Golf Digest Companies

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